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Steve Bird

Kia National Championships of Motorcycle Trials

 

Loch Lomond 2 Day Trial

When a friend suggested that we enter the Loch Lomond 2 Day trial this year, in hindsight I perhaps ought to have done a little research before sending off my entry.

So, Friday morning my friend Chris and myself headed up North blissfully, unaware of what was about to come. The Trial is set in the hills high above Loch Lomond, and Saturday morning I set off on my bike towards section 1, a little nervous perhaps, but also exited at experiencing new terrain. The weather was perfect, there was hardly a cloud in the sky but a nice breeze to keep the midges at bay.

Here is where it all started to go wrong (yes, already), I somehow lost my scorecard before I had even reached the first section. After a short search I headed back to the start and thankfully they issued me a new card. I set off at pace quickly inspecting and riding the first couple of sections to try and catch my riding partner who had already reached section 3, about 2 miles away over the moors. With the panic looking for my scorecard, I did my second stupid mistake. I left my rucksack at section 1. This contained tools, emergency fuel, drink & crucially the 2nd scorecard for later sections. I had no option but to double back and fetch it.

The 4 mile extra ride put me well behind schedule, so it was a case of going full speed ahead, briefly inspecting the section, cracking on and hopefully I would catch up. However, this highlighted an issue that would prove my undoing all weekend. I simply don't have any experience of riding Scottish moorland. It is physically very demanding. I just don't have the technique, fitness and nerve to go fast enough for long enough. My riding buddy Chris has ridden in Scotland and other similar event many times before. Couple this to the fact that he is an ex British Enduro Champion and Centre Motocross Champion, you'll begin to understand he knows a bit about going fast. I just couldn't keep up and had to watch him effortlessly disappear into the distance. I hadn't trained for this and my fitness level was nowhere near good enough, already I was starting to pay for it.

The course itself was incredible, I have never seen such breath-taking views. The sections were mostly up a rocky streams or becks of varying types and after a shaky start I was starting to ride a little better. The severity of these sections was way harder than I had expected though, each one demanded maximum effort and concentration. The Saturday route was 45 miles long, entirely off road and almost exclusively across the wet boggy moorland, up and down the steepest of hills / mountains which just seemed to go on forever.

We had a time limit of 7 hours to complete the course. Try as I might, it was beginning to dawn on me, I wouldn't get in on time. Every 1 minute over the 7 hours incurs a 1 mark penalty. Over an hour late - Exclusion. I had no option but to keep any section inspection to an absolute minimum, even riding some sections without prior inspect at all. After about 5 hours I was starting to get cramp in my arms, towards the end of the sections my hands would lock onto the bars making riding impossible and crashes frequent. There were times when I thought about giving up, the physical exertion pushing my body so hard actually made me sick at one point. I didn't stop though and eventually made the time check at 7 hours 20 minutes, incurring a 20 mark penalty. At this stage I wasn't sure if that was good or bad, as this meant I'd have to do it all again the very next day!

Waking up Sunday morning I had aches and pains all over my body, but I had had a decent sleep, so I headed off to the start area for part 2. My spirits were lifted a bit before the start when Prosaw's Scottish Area Salesman, Frank Byrne paid a visit. A good chat with Frank took my mind off what was to come for a while.

I was thankful to learn it was a shorter course Sunday, 2 laps of 15 miles each. Mindful of Saturdays time issues and the fatigue I felt, I decided that the only way I could make the time limit was to spend as little time inspecting the sections as possible. Of course, this would have a negative effect on my observation score. But at this stage my only goal was to finish. The sections weren't any easier on Sunday and after the first lap I did briefly consider a nice lay down in the shade whilst I waited for everyone else to finish. I pressed on though and there was even the odd moment where I rode quite well. These moments were quickly forgotten though as cramp and exhaustion forced errors and crashes. However, I made it to the finish with less than 3 minutes to spare!

My total score for the weekend was 145 marks lost, this put me in 40th place from 150 riders entered. I'm a little disappointed with this, but pleased I dug deep and finished when quitting would have been so much easier. I am now working on my fitness and endurance in preparation for my next 2 day trial. This is the Manx 2 Day in July, so 6 weeks of cycling and running.

The next big event for me is in 2 weeks. A Kia Championship round in Yorkshire, back on my faithful old Yamaha - Hopefully no boggy moorland!

Steve Bird

Round 3 Report - Scunthorpe MCC

The third round of the Kia National Trials championship was near Scunthorpe, which is about 2½ hours drive for me. With the nice weather I decided to travel to the venue on Saturday evening and 'rough it' sleeping in the van overnight. Morning came and fully fuelled with bacon sarnies, cooked on my camping stove (the choice breakfast of athletes) I felt focused and ready.

The Trial sections were the toughest so far this year, recent wet weather meant there was still plenty of mud, which carried up onto the rocks and tree roots. Section 4 was the hardest of the day and most competitors failed this section. Having noticed the mud was carrying onto the rocks, making it even worse, I gave it a quick inspection on foot before riding and was delighted to record one of only 2 cleans.

Part of the skill in Trials is choosing the right line through a section. Faced with a jumble of rocks, or logs and roots, you need to decide the best route to take. Boundaries are marked with coloured pegs or tape but you have the choice where to ride between these. You can inspect the sections on foot first, but there's no practice. Once on the bike you then have to remember that line or route. One of my biggest failings is forgetting which direction to take or missing a marker peg. This can be so frustrating as you instantly incur a 5 mark penalty. I was really pleased with my concentration and decision making this week, choosing the right line or method of approach for most sections. Most importantly - no 5s for going the wrong way! Lets hope I can maintain this focus for the remaining championship rounds.

The 2 laps of 20 sections took me about 5 hours to compete and at the end of the day, I was physically and mentally very tired. I was pleased with my ride though and a quick mental tot up of penalties, I thought I'd lost 22 marks in total. As the Championship moves around the country, there are some rounds where a local rider will compete that might not normally ride a classic event. Once such rider rode this week who would normally be riding modern bikes in the British Championships. Knowing how good this lad is I was amazed to hear he thought his total was also 22 marks. For 2 days I eagerly awaited the 'official' results.

Unfortunately, the 'local ace' took the win on 19 marks lost, I finished a close 2nd on 22. The current championship leader was 3rd on a total of 45. I was pleased to beat my championship rivals, but can't help feel a little disappointed that such a good ride didn't earn a win. I do however now lead the championship again, if only by a single point.

One last thing to share from the weekend was a moment that meant more to me than a trophy or championship points. One of the competitors is a former professional, who was 3 times World Champion in the 70's. Now retired from his business he rides most weeks and is still a formidable rider. To ride alongside one of the sports greats is fantastic, however when that person compliments you on your riding... Well, that really made my day. I was smiling all the way home!

Thanks to John Wilkinson Photography for the pictures.

Steve Bird

Round 2 Report - Trials & Tribulations

With a 4 hour drive up to County Durham I booked a hotel and traveled up on the Saturday to make sure I was fresh and rested for the 10.30am Start Sunday. Last year I drove up in the morning and didn't have a very good ride.

Well, sadly the overnight stay didn't make any difference! The day didn't get off to a very good start when I crashed before the event had even started. I misjudged a small drop off a rock while warming up and took a dive over the handlebars. The bike lay upside down revving flat out, alerting anyone that hadn't seen it, so they could turn around to laugh at me!

So onto the Trial. The maximum score in a section is 5 marks, this would be given for a stop, falling off the bike or missing a marker flag. In recent times officials have become more lenient when judging a stop, usually allowing a second or two before penalising a rider. On Sunday I was guilty of expecting this leniency. Twice I found myself offline in a jumble of rocks and the bike had stopped before I put a foot down to help me get going again. Both times the observers 5'd me, which they were right to do. Note to self... Get your foot down earlier if needed.

I was pleased to keep my head after the 5s, cleaning 36 of the total 40 sections. My final score was 13 points lost which put me in 4th place (same as last year). Good damage control and 13 championship points. After 2 rounds of the championship I'm now in a close 2nd Place.

On the plus side, apart from those 2 slight errors I rode well. It was a fantastic Trial with beautiful scenery. Sections are rocks, rocks & more rocks, the weather stayed dry too so it was well worth the long journey. The drive back somehow seems much longer after a poor result though.

I've got a few repairs to do this week too. I hit a rock hard on a moorland crossing between sections and the rear rim is buckled. It even knocked the tyre off the rim. Perhaps I can use this as my excuse for getting off line and stopping :-)

I have a month now to sort the bike, practice and try a couple of new parts before the next round which is at Scunthorpe.

Steve Bird

Nene Valley MCC, Albert Glover Trophy Trial

Whilst many Trials necessitate an early alarm call travelling up and down the country, last weekend I had the luxury of a relative lay in with my local club holding the event just 5 miles from home!

This was the Nene Valley MCC, Albert Glover Trophy Trial. Not being a national competition or championship event it’s nice to ride with less pressure against old friends and rivals. This particular trial has been running since the 1950’s, in fact my Dad won the 1964 event, he used to tell me it was much harder to win back then!

Recent thawing snow and rain had left the ground extremely muddy, this all adds to the fun with hill climbs needing plenty of throttle and a committed approach. Very different to the last event in the rocky Welsh streams. A different bike too, this week riding in the Expert class on my 2017 TRS 250cc.

With the change of bike and some tough opposition I was delighted to take the overall win in the Expert Class. It was by the narrowest of margins with Jonathan Lee and myself both losing just 1 point all day, decided by furthest clean tie break. Although the winning score was unusually low, bear a thought for the poor beginners who don’t have the confidence or technique to deal with the conditions, some riders scoring in the 90’s.

Now comes the worst part, cleaning the bike. I did treat myself to a new pressure washer though so time to give it a good test.

Photo credit - John Woods

Steve Bird

Round 1 Report and Results

It was an early start on Sunday setting off from home at 6.00am for the 1st round of the Kia National Twinshock Trials championship on the Welsh border.

This was a superb Trial to start the year with a good variety of sections over rocks, mud and roots with an added hazard of icy ground as temperatures struggled to climb above zero.

Almost 170 riders entered from all over the UK which proves the popularity of this series.

All the Kia's feature 2 laps of 20 sections, this time set over a 4 mile route. I had a good 1st lap of 6 marks lost and was riding well but felt I could improve. The second lap started great, cleaning sections where I'd previously lost marks. But then a loss of concentration on an easy section added 5 marks to my score for going the wrong way! Thankfully I managed to regain composure and was delighted to finish the Trial with no more penalties for a total loss of 11.

I was very happy with my riding and the Yamaha ran sweetly all day, but was a little concerned my slip in concentration might have cost me the win. With trials you don't know until the results are calculated and published at a later date, often making for a nervous wait.

I was delighted to see the results posted online late Sunday night. I had won my class and set the lowest score on the Expert route. A fantastic days sport with a good result to start the year off.

Results summary - Aircooled monoshock, Expert class.

Winner S.Bird - 11,
2nd N.Scott - 25
3rd D.Deveraux 33.

Steve Bird