Do it with your eyes closed!

Posted: April 11, 2014 by judefreckelton in Latest news

With my busy schedule preparing race bikes over the last few weeks I’d not had much spare time to take Ted riding on his Oset. The third Oset trial, which I organise alongside the Frodsham trials club, was due to take place on Sunday April 6th. After spending a few hours marking out sections with my brother and nephew at the venue on the previous Saturday afternoon, I got home and figured I’d give Ted a ride on his bike to shake off the rust on the field next to the housing estate, AKA the ghetto! As always we marked out some ‘sections’ with cones. Ted likes to show me which route he would like to take. He walks the route and I follow dropping cones along the way for him to follow when he’s back on his bike. We got to one particular easy bit which he wanted to include I, which I now realise mistakenly, said “You could do that bit with your eyes closed!”. He finished walking the section got on his bike and headed around the course. On arriving at the part of the section in question he……….shut his eyes!! Remember Dads –  always watch what you say as it may be taken a little too literally!

Not normally a show that I watch I caught a bit of “The Voice” with friends a few weeks ago. The question was asked “Which mentor would you pick if all of them were to turn around?” Several answers were coaxed from the group but no one seemed willing to commit to a conclusion. The immense talent of Sir Tom Jones, pop queen Kylie, the indie rock sound of the Kaiser Chiefs or the slightly abstract style of will.i.am?

The trial got underway on Sunday morning; dry but cloudy. Watching the kids pulling wheelies and stoppies before the start my brother, Steve, turned to me and said “I think we’ve made it a bit too easy bro!” In the previous events there had only been a few kids riding the harder route. Suddenly I’d got 13 out of 18 riding it and some really talented little riders. With 18 riders this time the series seems to be growing nicely, all told we’ve seen 25 different riders through the three events that we’ve run since new year.

Jo signed the kids on this time, as opposed to the club doing it, to save time and things generally ran smoothly. The venue this time was a little more cramped and with more riders showing up than expected we are already starting to outgrow what space is available. The day went really well and I was really impressed by many of the kids’ riding abilities. Ted rode well, as most 4 year olds are he is easily distracted but enjoys riding. At one point when being called into the section he was looking everywhere but at the observer to then announce that he had seen a worm whilst he was riding through the section begins cards! I’d been running around in front of him through most of the sections as he finds it easier to follow me than to follow the route markers. At the final section of the day he told me, in no uncertain terms, that he would do this one by himself and that I was to stand aside! He promptly rode his four laps through without fault then, when being congratulated by one of the other parents, was completely blasé about his achievement. I guess he gets this side of his personality from me as I come across pretty much flatlined about everything too!

Aside from the trials the race bike is back in many pieces once more! It seems to like being like that anyway! RLR Motorsport are checking the engine over and plans are being hatched on an hourly basis about how to improve the rear traction issue which reared its head at Anglesey. I’ve always run standard exhaust headers but on advice from Ricky Leddy, RLR Motorsport Yoda, a performance system is being sourced. Potential mods/replacement of the swinging arm are also on the cards although last time I checked neither James (Infront Motorcycles) or I were millionaires! The next outing is April 26th at Oulton Park, depending on where modifications are up to I may ride the bike which we use for instructing, to get the required signature for my mountain course licence.

I reckon that’s all the news once more. Oh and as a teenager when the “Spinning Around” video was released (look it up on YouTube kids) it had to be, the gold hot pant wearing, Kylie Minogue…….. in a heartbeat.

Cheers,

Mackers #30

We’ll have to cut it wonky!!

Posted: April 4, 2014 by judefreckelton in Latest news

Since my last blog, racing preparations have reached fever pitch. James of Infront motorcycles (www.ifm-moto.com) and I spent a day travelling the country a few weeks ago. After dropping the race bike with Zero One for its new vinyl wrap clothes to be applied we carried on to AM Leathers for a made-to-measure fitting. Steve, owner of AM, took one look at me and asked which collarbone I’d broken previously. I stripped to my t shirt and let the measuring commence, the inside leg bit was my favourite! A close second was showing off the “guns” when they were measured, I normally keep them holstered you see! Once he had finished Steve announced that my suit would have to be cut wonky, due to my no longer symmetrical shoulders, by over an inch. At that moment I felt really special!

The second of the Oset trials which I organise locally for the kids has also been and gone since my last blog update. On the Friday afternoon before the event set for the Sunday I find myself taking half a day off work to mark the sections out; alone except for the occasional cow, in what felt like the middle of nowhere, clearing thorny bushes and talking to myself. “Will the easy route be ok doing that turn?” “Is that barbed wire fence too close?” “Surely they’ll be ok doing that?” etc etc. I wondered what the bloody hell I was doing there a good few times!

Jo sorted out the paperwork side of things ready to input the results on the day. There was also a minor panic the night before when assembling the medals to give to the kids at the finish I found that they didn’t fit the lanyards supplied! I found another way around this problem as opposed to spending an evening drilling each mounting hole bigger! Come Sunday it was all worth it. 16 kids turned up, the sun shone and everyone had a great time. Jo sorted the results out within twenty minutes of the finish and we had a presentation for the top three in each class which went down really well. The whole day had a great atmosphere. For those wanting to see what it’s all about I’ve uploaded a short video of the trial onto the Infront website, www.ifm-moto.com That’ll be two mentions of the website in three paragraphs boss! The quality of the video is great on my ipad but once uploaded it turns a bit hazy. I’ve always been more of a hammer and throttle kind of guy so if anyone has advice on this I’d be happy to hear it.

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Back to racing, James and I had dropped the second bike, which I shall be using to carry out one-to-one track tuition on, at the vinyl wrappers. The race bike remained gloomily in the corner of the workshop, just a frame and wiring loom. Time was marching on, we awaited the engine’s return from RLR Motorsport from its refresh and various chassis bearings to land for their respective suppliers. The instructor bike and second bodykit came back, looking awesome after its vinyl wrapping, from Zero One on the Sunday before the first Wirral 100 meeting. At this point the race bike was still in many pieces and it was decided to use the instructor bike for the first meeting but with the suspension from the race bike fitted for familiarity. I got to work on Monday swapping the forks and shock alongside prepping the bike ready for a shakedown at Oulton Park on Wednesday.

Wednesday went well with no surprises from the bike or myself. Having not sat on a race bike since the Anglesey Grand in October I was expecting to be a bit rusty but jumping on board the Suzuki felt immediately like home once again. Half way through the day James got a call from RLR to advise that the engine for the race bike was now ready. We really needed to put some miles on the race bike to get it ready for – the ultimate goal – the TT so the plan changed again! I headed from the track mid-afternoon back to the unit, in Chester, and swapped the suspension from the instructor bike to the race bike frame (again!). I loaded the rolling chassis into the van and headed to RLR, with willing volunteer Jack, the following morning.

After an early start, once there we fitted the engine at RLR’s workshop. Ricky Leddy then did some dyno runs and made some fuelling alterations. Friday was spent putting the rest of the race bike together, trimming/drilling bodywork etc etc. I finished it off at the unit around 6pm and headed to Anglesey to run the engine during the test day on Saturday. All in all a pretty busyweek in which not much paying work was completed!

Saturday started wet at Anglesey, which was a good opportunity to get some gentle miles on the freshly rebuilt engine. Even once it dried out I took it reasonably easy on the motor for the whole day, I knew that I had a ball park setting for the bike so pulling the engine’s pants down all day wasn’t really a necessity. I also took the new ACU licence applicants on track assessments alongside three other ACU instructors. It was interesting and good to be able to put a little something back into a sport which has given me so much. The new riders all performed well, part of the assessment includes practice of the warm up lap and start procedure. The first of which didn’t go quite to plan, as the red light came on one guy dumped the clutch, everyone else panicked and went too with one going vertical and sooooo nearly flipping over backwards! The second attempt went much better!

Sunday’s weather turned out dry and bright with, miraculously, no wind. I set out in first qualifying, pushing from the off the bike was struggling a little for rear traction. Some minor shock changes were made during the session. I was pleased to go into pole position with a laptime just under 1m09. I hadn’t managed to log a sub 1m09 for a few years so things were looking good. Some further shock alterations were made before the first race. I got a good start but missed third gear going into the first corner so lacked drive out getting mugged back to third place into turn two. Jonny Blackshaw put a great race together and impressively set a 1m08.00 to take the win and the coastal circuit lap record. I passed David Jones, who was having a good first ride on a 1000, in the latter stages to take second place.

Further damping and ride height changes were made, rear grip was a big improvement especially from the mid corner in the second race. I stuck with Jonny this time, see-sawing from his rear tyre I was never close enough to make a pass. Setting my personal best time of 1m08.2 I was making good progress and took second place. Getting beaten by this pesky kid who was better at me at wheelies too was beginning to get frustrating though! With the bike making such good progress I went further in the same direction with the setting of the rear shock. Unfortunately I appeared to have gone past the ‘sweet spot’ and was back to wrestling a motorbike for the final race of the day. I got a good first lap in, passing David Jones, to take the lead at Rocket I managed to hold him off until the chequered flag to take the victory. My difficulty with traction showed in the lap times though, only managing a 1m08.9 in that race.

All in all a good start to the season, many a plot has been made since to improve the rear grip issues. Hopefully I’ll have something sorted for the next Wirral meeting at Oulton Park towards the end of April. From there our next outing is the TT for which my rider numbers have come through. 25 in the big bike classes and 28 in supersport. I’m hoping that the supersport bike that I have been offered on loan can go ahead. I still need to raise the funds to run it! The bike is an ex-British championship Suzuki 600, on loan from a friend, on the basis that I rebuild the motor on return. Regulars to this blog may remember the last time I had a bike on generous loan like this. After posting my best ever TT finish (2011 supersport, 9th place) the motor let go in the second race, throwing a rod through the crankcases in various places. I ended up buying the broken bike from the owner as it was a cheaper option than replacing the very high spec engine! I need to make sure that this eventuality is covered this time, hoping for the best doesn’t always work.

I’m looking forward to running another Oset trial this Sunday (6th April). Aside from that I reckon that’s about all of the news!
Mackers #30

February Update

Posted: February 13, 2014 by judefreckelton in Latest news

There hasn’t been much motorbike related happening for the last few weeks for me, aside from a very busy patch working at Infront Motorcycles. We have had a huge influx of track bikes in to prep/service for the forthcoming season – which reminds me that I really must get around to sorting out my own ride for the year!

So the beginning of February came around again, where for many years, I’ve spent the first Saturday of the month helping out at the Northwest Stages Rally in Blackpool. The event is a multi venue stage rally, that’s for cars, running stages along the promenade in the town, at Fleetwood, Weeton army camp, etc etc. My role at the event is result courier via motorbike. The job basically entails collecting time cards/other results related paperwork from the end of each stage then taking them back to the rally head quarters for results type magic to happen with them. It sounds like I don’t care what I’m collecting but the truth is that I could honestly be transporting the first draft of Rocky 18 it just doesn’t matter to me. I see the marshal at the time control he passes me a handful of paperwork, I shove it in my bag, ride across town, give it to someone else and ride off to the next stage end for the process to repeat over and over.

This year was no different, I unearthed an SV650 from my garage which I had been using as a commuter a couple of months ago. I fired the bike up in the garage with new spark plugs and oil, chucked it into the van and headed up to Blackpool on the Friday night before the event start on Saturday. My first run of the day was out to Fleetwood, north of Blackpool, the weather was windy and cold but previous years of this event have seen much worse. I fired the SV up, one cylinder ran, the other coughed/popped/banged and misfired. “It’ll clear its throat with some use” I decided as I headed out.  Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, the bike popped and banged its way through every town in and around Blackpool for the remainder of the day. Women and children ran for cover expecting that a drive by shooting was taking place as I trundled through with my head held low. The bike has always been pretty reliable, considering it is a heap of sh1t, maybe a faulty new plug etc etc. I hadn’t got time to investigate. From 10.30 in the morning the job is on, a collective hour of downtime is the only rest through until 7.30pm. By lunch time the heavy wind, which would nearly knock you off your feet when standing at the exposed areas of the docks, had turned to wind and rain. I’d been down this road before at this event, it really does make you appreciate what the Marshals and organisers go through to make Motorsport a success.  At the end of the event, things had run pretty much to schedule; a certain Mr Paul Bird had won and I was soaked through to my undies. It always gives me something to whinge about but ultimately I’m pleased that I’m able to put a little something back into Motorsport each year.

Aside from this I’ve spent a day at ACU House in Rugby on a training course to become an ACU instructor. This year new road race licence applicants are required to have an on-track assessment as well as the classroom training which they’ve had to do for the last few years.  My local club, Wirral 100, asked myself and several of the other experienced members to train to carry out these assessments. I was more than happy to help as on-track coaching is something that I am very keen to get involved with. The course was taken by Shaun Brown, against whom I used to race in the RS250 challenge, if memory serves he used to kick my inexperienced ass back then!! There was a lot to take in, not just from assessing somebody on track, but child protection, risk assessments and the like. I think that most of us racers just don’t realise quite what is involved with organising an event these days, it certainly opened my eyes. On getting back from the course I had a wad of paperwork and a test paper to make my way through, with all that now complete, fingers crossed I should be able to take assessments for the club in their first test day at the end of March.

Last but not least, I write this whilst at home recovering from having my gall bladder removed. Why, I hear you ask, it’s not going to give any great weight loss advantage and it’s not worth anything on eBay (even signed). Regular blog readers may remember that I had an episode last August of extreme abdominal pain, an admission to A&E followed. I figured it must’ve been as a result of something that I’d eaten but later I got some results to say that I had gallstones. They’d put me on the waiting list for key hole surgery to remove my gallbladder. So there you have it after 34 fun filled years together, I’d got quite attached to the little guy but, my gallbladder and I have parted ways, if you could now be upstanding for a minute’s silence……………. I’m now sitting about for a week then hoping to return to work, without doing anything strenuous for another couple of weeks.  Fortunately the Winter Olympics are on which spares me from hours of watching Loose Women. This morning has been spent watching the Skeleton or “tummy sledging” as my son calls it!

Thanks for reading.

Mackers #30

 

Is winter cycling more dangerous than summer racing?

Posted: January 9, 2014 by judefreckelton in Latest news

With the nights getting shorter my cycling to work routine had become somewhat sporadic.  Working in a cold unit, I’d struggled to find the enthusiasm to ride to work in the cold, work all day in the cold then cycle home in the dark and cold. I’d also had three bouts of man-cold, which I’d managed to pull through, but it had been touch and go for a while. So November had seen me out on the push bike just twice (I normally ride 35 miles a day 3 days a week). With the Christmas break came some time to get back into it during daylight hours. One morning Jo suggested that I ride to the Tattenhall ice cream farm, about 25 miles away, she and Ted would meet me there in the car for a day trip out. Training miles, day out with the family and ice cream, what could possibly go wrong?!

The weather was cold and the conditions damp so I donned my cycling tights (remember they are ‘cycling’ not ‘ladies’ tights) to complete the Peter Pan look and set off around ten o’clock. I was finding the going quite tough having been off the bike for so long and the excesses of Christmas had taken their toll. On the whole though I was enjoying getting back out. About 15 miles in I turned off the main route, in a small village called Cotebrook, to avoid having to ride on the busy A49 near Oulton Park. This lane climbs up from where it leaves the main road, and after about 500 yards I was working hard to keep a Wiggins busting pace of 8mph up the hill. Suddenly the rear wheel broke traction, just outside a farm house. It gripped again and although a bit shocked that even though I have Chris Hoy spec thighs I’d never actually manage to spin up my push bike before. I guessed that there must’ve been diesel on the road outside the farm and carried on. Another quick spin 100 yards later changed my mind that it must be black ice. At the moment this thought entered my head the bike spun out sideways, my tiny mind was overwhelmed. I wanted to put my feet down but they were clipped into the pedals; I wanted to control the bike but was wrestling to unclip my feet etc etc.  The wrestling match continued for the next three seconds. It was all over in a flash though as the bike swept out from under me dumping me on the deck. Amusingly my feet were still in the clips, so I lay in the middle of an icy lane attached to a push bike, just hoping that no-one had seen me! I got my feet out of the clips but struggled to get up as the road was like an ice rink, I dug the points of my cycling shoes into the ice and got to my feet. Picking the bike up I noted that I had a ‘hurty knee’ which, like man-flu, can be serious. I decided that walking back to the main road was probably the best idea. Pushing the bike down the hill I’d got about 50 paces when my feet slid out from under me and again I found myself landing straight on my backside, this time getting stabbed in the back by the front chain ring of the bike. Several unrepeatable words were spoken as I again struggled to get enough grip to get back up! Eventually I got back to the main road and rode happily along the ‘dangerous’ A49 getting to the ice cream farm about 20 minutes later than I expected! All in all it wasn’t the most successful training ride!

Aside from this things have been fairly quiet since my last outing on the trials bike. There haven’t been many changes from the racing perspective. I still plan to ride for Infront Motorcycles in some Wirral 100 meetings locally and campaign the TT on the www.ifm-moto.com GSXR1000. Some rumblings about me riding an ex-British supersport 600, can also be heard, I just need to generate the funds to run the bike.

Last weekend was the first round of the Frodsham Mcc clubs trials series. As mentioned in my previous blog I’d arranged to run a conducted route for the kids on Oset electric trials bikes. So on the Saturday morning before the event I find myself at the venue alongside another Father/mug, sorry, willing volunteer in the shape of Mike Robinson. Armed with a rake, some section markers and tape we set to work. Mike had volunteered to help which was great as his two lads were already competing in other Oset Cup trials on the harder route. I knew what sort of level of severity to set out for Ted and the other kids on the easy route but really hadn’t much of an idea what the hard route lads were capable of. The ground was fairly well overgrown with brambles, note to self bring a machete next time, a rake struggles to cut brambles and they don’t half leave a mark with those thorns! “It’ll only take an hour” I’d said to Mike before the day. Two and a half hours after arriving, five sections were cleared, raked and marked out and we were both down to our shirt sleeves even though it was freezing!

The following day dawned brighter than the forecast had predicted, for an 11am start. Ted was slightly over excited and had talked about nothing else for the previous 24 hours. He behaved so well considering I was tied up which, as a result, made him wait ages before he could ride. We got signed on and they gave him a tabard with his rider number on. He looked like the kid from ‘Big’ after he had shrunk but was still in his adult clothes! A bit of gaffer tape soon made it like a tailor made suit. 13 riders all on Osets had signed up for the event which was a great start and really as many as I’d wanted for this first event. There was a great cross section of kids, from ‘experienced’ 9 year olds to those who had only ridden their bikes a few times since Santa dropped it down the chimney. Ted had a great day, paddling his way around the sections that he struggled with; there wasn’t a section that he didn’t get his way through. He has announced since that he will ride trials, then motocross, then race a 600 at Oulton Park and at the TT. He’s certainly got it all planned, I’m hoping he sticks with trials! All in all the day went well and everyone I’ve spoken to has vowed to come back for the next event on March 9th.

That’s about it for news from me, as always I’ll keeps you posted.

 Mackers #30

‘I’m only happy when I’m trials -ing!!’

Posted: November 24, 2013 by judefreckelton in Latest news

With the racing season at a close, once again I was again looking for something to do except decorate at the weekends. My new role with Infront Motorcycles has been going great with a vast variety of tasks from fixing scooters to building track bikes from brand new Fireblades. The planned one-to-one instruction is gaining momentum and we already have our first customers booked for February next year. Alongside this I planned to get the word around that we are an Oset Electric Trials Bikes main dealer. As regular readers of this blog will know, my son Ted, who has just turned four, got an Oset from the guy with the red suit and white beard last year. He has taken to it really well and asks at least once a week if he can go ‘jumpy biking’. As long as he keeps wanting to ride then I’m happy to encourage him – my plan to prevent Xbox world domination continues! He’d gotten to a stage where he really needed slowing down and showing what trials is really about.

Now I’m a huge fan of 2 stroke exhaust smoke and needlessly burning fossil fuel to ride around in circles but these electric bikes are the start of something big for motorcycling. It’s great, with the bike being virtually silent, to be able to take Ted for a ride on the public field next to the house without any finger wagging from the locals. Unfortunately there really is only so much you can teach with 6 football cones and a virtually flat field so I made enquiries with the local Frodsham Trials club. My plan is to start up a conducted route, to run alongside their adult trials, for kids on bikes that wouldn’t be capable of the main event. The idea, in principal, was received very well and it really is now down to me to get organised and set it up. With a following wind I’m hoping to get this started early in the new year.

So for the long term I may have got the ball rolling but we could do with something a bit sooner. Step in Dave Horne from Oset UK. With our enthusiasm to promote the bikes and my Norton connection, Infront Motorcycles were asked to assist with a fun trial at Norton’s new headquarters. The trial would be non-competitive and a chance for the kids to get to grips with sections, waiting their turn and all of the basic disciplines that trials is about. Ted was keen on the idea and spent the week running up to the event asking to watch YouTube clips of Junior Kickstart on my phone. Now I’d forgotten what a great show Kickstart was, why is it not still on?! I hatched a plan to dig out my Beta Techno, for the first time since January, and carry on south after the Norton trial to ride in the Wycombe & District club trial (where it all started for me!) on the following day.

Ted (left of picture) ready for the off.

photo 2

Ted bounced off the walls for most of the journey down to Donington Hall. Around 30 riders, and their families, turned up for the event with loads of others coming to have a test on the Oset demo bikes in the display area. When the trial got started, Jo looked like she was going to have kittens; Ted loved it straight away. He was a bit too keen, not realising that he was supposed to wait for the rider in front to finish the section before he went in, he followed the lad in front through the first section! That sorted, he got his way around the rest of the 8 sections, I walked around behind him but he rarely needed my help. Standing up on the pegs as much he could, he really has grasped the concept of trials. I reckon it was the Junior Kickstart brainwashing!! He even managed to clean section three, and immediately screamed out “Did you see my clean?!” to Jo and me; I think we may have created a monster! A good day was had by all and I got some great ideas for when I come to run a similar event.

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We set off in the van to stay overnight with my Aunt and Uncle near Bicester, for another early start to get to the Wycombe trial on Sunday morning. I’d even treated myself to a new set of trials boots, at the last event Jo had to gaffer tape my old ones onto my feet as the stitching had failed so badly! Looking back through pictures in my loft I reckoned they were about 18 years old so I’d had my value for money out of them to be honest.

It was great to see the old faces again at the Wycombe trial. I decided to enter as an expert, to ride the hard route, for some strange reason. As mentioned I’d not even sat on my trials bike since January and the nearest thing I’d done to off-road since then was cutting across the grass at Oulton Park’s Knickerbrook chicane when things didn’t exactly go to plan! The bike kicked into life, no electric start buttons here folks, on the third attempt. Everyone knows, in macho point terms, ‘kickstarting an engine’ is right up there with ‘using power tools’! I rode over the same log three times and deciding that was enough practice, I headed to section one.

Walking the section I decided that I was going to have a tough day, the hard route was tricky for someone at my mediocre level! Surprised myself with a single dab on lap one, maybe I was a trials riding genius after all! Section two brought me back down to earth with an epic fail trying to get over the roots much to the observer, Chris Hurworth’s, amusement. Section four had a tree trunk to get over which stood just above my waist height (I’m 7’ 4” tall, dark and handsome by the way for those that I haven’t met!) Shortly after this was a tight turn and slippery approach to a felled tree stump to get over. Another fail on my part, with Ted watching; he announced that I was “supposed to keep my feet up!” Thanks for the information son! I was hoping that the moment where you realise that your dad isn’t the world champion at everything would be slightly further into the future, up to this point I reckon Ted thought I could take Mark Marquez, then stop for chips on the way to beating Dougie Lampkin followed by out lifting Geoff Capes!!

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The rest of the trial was thoroughly enjoyable, I kept a smile on my face all day, managing to get myself out pretty much every section with the exception of Chris Hurworth’s! Section nine proved difficult for me too, up a steep bank (the same bank that used to terrify me as a nine year old) and diagonally across some big tree roots at the top. Flying the bike over the roots was pretty much the only way to do it, but with a tight turn followed by another tree stump immediately at the bottom of the bank it wasn’t ever going to go well for me! I checked out the rest of the section after the roots on a “by chance that I get this far” basis. Three out of four laps in and I still hadn’t made it over the roots, as the trial wore on though I actually started to improve, by lap four a whole new persona had taken over and I flew the bike over the top of the bank. Swearing on the inside that I’d managed such a feat, I then needed to remember the rest of the section! I aced my way around another tight turn and bank, then promptly chucked it on the floor.  Must try harder!!

The results came through the next morning, to reveal that I’d dropped 118 marks (of a potential 200) was sixth in class (out of errm…. 6) but I did beat a ‘Youth A’ (who was probably about 15!!!) I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on myself considering all of the previous excuses mentioned –  and that I was bedding in new boots (there’s another one for the book)!

I met up with Ted and Jo back near the car park. Ted laughed his head off all the way back to the van sitting on the fuel tank and holding onto the handlebars of my bike. I even did a wheelspin and a wheelie on request with him on-board, just because he asked me to obviously! What a great weekend, it was good to get back the wood where it all began for me. It was good to see Ted have a ride around a couple of little sections that Jo and I marked out at the end of the day too. Just one weekend of proper trials has brought his riding on hugely. The following morning Jo was driving Ted to nursery as normal, he asked where they were going. When told he was off to nursery for the day he burst into tears and said “I’m only happy when I’m trials-ing!” So it looks like we’ll be attending a few more trials events this winter then!

Mackers

Anglesey Grand Report

Posted: October 15, 2013 by judefreckelton in Latest news

Being a Husband and Father, I now spend a fair amount of time watching rubbish TV shows,  X-Factor being one of them. Now I really shouldn’t be allowed to sit in front of this stuff as it only winds me up and usually finishes with me shouting at the TV. I’m sure that they wouldn’t allow a machine gun nest controlled by my red button either. My biggest gripe is collapsing/crying; yes I understand that your dreams are shattered and your dog/cat/hamster always wanted to hear you sing on TV but please, please, please keep your dignity people, it is just a competition after all! What ever happened to the British stiff upper lip? Keep calm and carry on? Rant over.

The Anglesey Grand sits as one of the main races of the season for me having won the event in 2008, 2010 and 2011. I missed the 2009 Grand as I was having a rest in Bangor hospital, I also missed last year’s event as it clashed with the final round of the Thundersport GB Championship for which I had campaigned all of that season. This year was a bit different, I’d only raced in four short circuit meetings all season, plus the TT, so the Grand was firmly on my radar. Having won the event 3 times, no one has ever won it 4. (Hate to spoil it but they still haven’t!)

Preparation for the meeting was a little bit disjointed, I swapped around between 3 different bikes during fortnight running up the event. The Fireblade which I have ridded for Shaun Boyle/Barry Ikin was still waiting for the engine to come back from having the gearbox repaired. It looked like it might show up in time but then didn’t. A hasty plan had to be hatched. My old GSXR was sitting in the showroom of Infront Motorcycles, Chester (who handily, also employ me) ready for me to use as a one-to-one track instruction machine. James, one day said what I was already thinking: “Why don’t you just use your old bike?”. I had sold the bike two years ago, Adam Robinson rode it in Thundersport for a season and now James has bought it back.

I still had all my data sheets from the three seasons that I rode it for, it needed a good check through etc but essentially was ready to roll. The decision had been made then, two nights before the Grand, James took a race Fireblade in to sell and this was thrown into the mix. We both agreed that the GSXR was probably the best plan still as riding a Fireblade that I’d never sat on was probably going to make a harder job of things than riding the GSXR which, although I’d not sat on for two years, was more of a known entity. Thursday night before leaving on the Friday and I’m still at work at 10pm working on the bike. My text message to Jo saying “Got a few bits to sort on the bike so might be late” now seemed a bit of an understatement. New clutch, chain/sprockets, oil/filter, tyres, battery, settings put back to my last outing on the bike and we were ready to roll.

Turning up at the circuit late on Friday afternoon, I spotted some new flags up at the entrance to the circuit, to later be told that a picture of me was on one of them. How cool is that? I now appear to be nearly as famous as I think I am! We got everything set up, except for the awning. Page one of my Anglesey circuit guide includes “Don’t put up your awning until you really need it as it will probably get blown away/destroyed by the weather during the night!” Jack, one of my old work mates from Bill Smith’s, arrived to spanner for the weekend. He didn’t seem to find my good news/bad news gag overly funny –  the good news being that my caravan has gas heating, the bad news that the back of my van (where he was sleeping) hasn’t and we had no electric hook up.

Mackers on a flag.

Mackers on a flag.

Saturday dawned dry but windy, the entry list had the best quality that I’ve ever seen at the Grand. Gavin Hunt, Jonny Blackshaw, Leon Jaecock, Jay Harris had all come across from the BSB Paddock to compete, this wasn’t going to be easy! I was grateful for the support but every time someone patted me on the back with a “Got my money on you Mackers” or “You’re gonna get the record Mackers!” I’m pretty sure a little bit of wee came out! I was pretty nervous about the job in hand to tell the truth. Preparation hadn’t been the best really had it?! I’ve probably done more miles on my pushbike than I have on the short circuit this season, and I was jumping on a bike that I’d not ridden since my son was in nappies!

Timed qualifying for the club races on Saturday settled me down a bit, riding the bike again was like coming home. It just did everything I wanted it to do, I’d spent 2012 wrestling with a ZX10 and this season riding pretty much anything that anyone would lend me, but the GSXR and I just made sense once again. I qualified on pole 1m 28.9s which was only 0.4s from my personal best, set at my last Grand in 2011, I was happy with this considering the windy conditions. The brakes were pretty poor and the pad behind my seat was on the spare fairing (at the unit in Chester) so my arms were wearing out a bit too quickly. James gave me a set of Bendix carbon pads to try (I promise I’ll pay him for them soon). Jo and Jack got to work creating a much neater seat back pad than I would’ve gone to the trouble to sort out!

Race One got underway; I got a great start, had a good race with Jonny Blackshaw and eventually took the win and improved my personal best time to 1m 28.3s. Jonny lapped faster than me, catching me up towards the end of the race. Gavin Hunt missed the start of the race so had to start from the back of the grid, so wasn’t really able to show what he was capable of.  I reckoned I was going to have some trouble with this pair!

I’d noted that I was losing some time through the twisty, top section, of the circuit and wasn’t using as much travel in the front fork as I used to. I decided to check that the fork springs and oil level were ok in the forks between heats. Jack and I got the left leg apart and checked it through, all was good. On undoing the cap on the right leg the whole fork cartridge assembly came out in my hand. Basically the cartridge had come free from the lower stanchion, if the other side had done the same then the front wheel would’ve fallen out when it lifted off the road! Remember kids, always get your suspension serviced! A quick call to Richard from Maxton; he said to bring it over and he would meet me that evening and tighten the assembly back down if I needed him to. It was great that he would help me out to this degree, the only other option was to somehow tighten this ourselves. Special tools were required for the job as the castle shaped head of the cylinder was deep down inside the leg. With that Caskey, the circuit handyman, appeared to see how we were getting on and was immediately roped into operation ‘Make Something to Tighten That Up’. I eyed up the storm bars of my awning and  after a quick recce we all reckoned that it’d do the job. We hammered a socket down the centre of the box section to splay it out enough to clear the damper rod then, with my trusty angle grinder and some squinting, I cut out four sections of the bar to make the rough shape of the top of the cartridge piece. We offered it up to the fork leg, it fitted first time with no mods, a stroke of genius or luck (you decide), mole grips were used to nip it up and we rebuilt both legs, pretty pleased with our ingenuity. That quick job had taken a bit longer than we had expected so the next race loomed.

Mackers' special tool.

Mackers’ special tool.

I got another good start but dropped to third in the early stages behind Gavin and Jonny. To be honest I was happy to follow them around. I wasn’t campaigning this championship and there was more to learn from staying put than diving through trying to win the race. We all set virtually identical times, but I had found my spot of the circuit. Quite ironically it started from the corner where I really badly injured myself four years ago; I could get great drive out of Church into the virtually flat-in-sixth right hander and this put me in a passing position on the brakes into Rocket. I didn’t have much else over these pesky kids so it was still going to be a close race on Sunday.

That evening Jack and I removed, and Jo flushed, the radiator as the bike had been running at 90 degrees on track all day, which given the conditions seemed a bit high. Jack refitted the rad, while I was chatting, a few checks and the bike was ready for Sunday.

Sunday was warmer and the wind calmer than the previous day. I pushed hard in qualifying, on yesterday’s tyres, setting another personal best which still only got me third on the grid. All four of us were within 0.4 of a second so there was no telling which way the first leg was going to go.

I fitted a new set of Dunlops for the race and got a good start behind Leon Jaecock from pole. He started to pull a gap in the early stages, Gavin Hunt and I started to battle on-track which gave him a bit more time. Just as I was beginning to panic that Leon was getting away, he lost the front into the left hander of the Corkscrew. I now sat in second place behind Gav and my plan modified; I reckoned sitting behind and holding pace for a few laps would do me better than trying to pass and make a break for it. I passed my pitboard with four laps to go and decided that the time was now, I got the good run out of Church to set up a pass into Rocket. Getting though I stuck my head down and got a small gap during the next 2 laps. I covered the line on the final lap which meant my final lap time wasn’t the best. This was probably a mistake as Gav had a really good lap and closed up the gap to see me win by just 0.2 of a second. The Grand is run over two legs with an aggregate result deciding the overall champion. I was going to have to win or be sniffing Gav’s aftershave over the line in the second leg to win this!

Jack fitted a new set of tyres for the second leg – tyre warmers, over socks and blankets from the caravan were used to heat them up as quickly as possible as there was only around an hour between the two races.

I got off the line ok in the second leg, Gav got a flier taking the lead and breaking away by about 2 seconds in the early stages. I dropped to fourth at the second turn on the first lap, and was starting to panic a bit seeing Gav pulling away. A couple of failed overtaking attempts later and I was screaming obscenities at the two in front of me. I began to make mistakes nearly losing the front a couple of times and running wide. I shouted at myself to calm down, got it back together, and passed Jonny into Rocket then Leon into the hairpin on the same lap. With 7 laps to go I was about 2.5 seconds down. I did everything I could but Gav was running a really good pace at the front. I made bits and pieces of time but ultimately the gap stayed reasonably static. I did manage to break Alistair Seeley’s outright lap record in my effort to catch back up though. Eventually I crossed the line 2 seconds down to take second in the race and the event.

In all honesty I am gutted not to have won the Grand but am happy with how I rode. If I was typing this now and saying that I’d not performed at my best then I’d have something to be annoyed about. I did all that I could and it really just came down to the circumstances of the race than anything else. Gavin Hunt rode a great race, with the pace he was running, by making the break at the start he had pretty much sealed the deal by lap three. I can take some consolation from the fact that I now hold the fastest ever two wheeled lap of the full Anglesey circuit. I also didn’t cry or collapse, shook the hand of the winner and accepted that I had been beaten on the day, an example to X-Factor contestants present and future?

The winter is upon us once more, I have a few trials planned as normal. I’m also hoping to organise a guided route youth trial at my local club’s event aside from the full adult trial. I’ve discussed this with the club and they seem keen on the idea so really it’s down to me to get it arranged. Oset are running a trial at Donington Hall on November 16th and have asked me to shadow the organiser so that I can get a feel of how the day should be run, to then put that into place locally.

Aside from this, I’m also provisionally planning a solo charity cycle ride/challenge for next year. This will all be in aid of a local friend of a friend cancer patient. Things are very much in the early stages of planning, ie. I’ve had an idea of what I’d like to do! My provisional thought is to attempt 6 laps of the TT course in a day. Please folks if anyone has any other ideas I’d be glad to hear them and I’ll give more information once I know what the plan is myself!

Mackers #30

Manchester 100 Report

Posted: September 5, 2013 by judefreckelton in Latest news

After the Etape Mercia cycle ride I got straight back onto the boat at Liverpool, heading back to the Manx GP for practice week. It was great to be able to help some of the guys over there, mostly with suspension advice but occasionally I was able to pass some course knowledge on too. The week flew by and all of my regulars for the week were making great progress with their lap times, something which was very satisfying for me. I came home on Saturday night, staying for the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, then sailed back again on Tuesday morning. This gave me a chance to help the lads with any last minute adjustments before racing on Wednesday. I stayed until Thursday night to help out with anything for racing on Friday.

My first ever 100 mile cycle ride, the Manchester 100, was booked for Sunday and I’d not even sat on my push bike since the end of the last event 2 weeks ago. This wasn’t really the best preparation so I had a gentle ride (17 miles) out on Saturday morning and felt ready enough for the start of the event.

Dragging myself out of bed at 5.10am on a Sunday morning to ride a push bike for 100 miles the thought entered my head “What has happened to me?”. Eighteen months ago I wouldn’t even have considered doing something like this and would’ve labelled the people who did as nuts! But here I was, scoffing down porridge at stupid o’clock in the morning because the cycling magazine that I get (yes, I do now buy cycling magazines!) reckons it has good slow release energy properties. I have also upgraded from Vaseline to a crème product from a brand called ‘Assos’ which seems pretty appropriately named considering its area of application! So with my Assos creamed up, cycling apparel on and bike loaded I set off to Wythenshawe Park – hoping not to end up in an accident en route and have to explain to a nurse why I was driving wearing cycling shorts, commando and had cream all around my under carriage!

The park was filling rapidly, apparently 4000 others would be riding either the 100k or 100mile routes. I got ready and set off with a group of about 30 others at my start time of 7.15am. I had learned a valuable lesson at the 70 mile Etape Mercia two weeks previously, where I’d burned myself up in the first 50 miles, wore my legs out for the final 20 miles and basically had to drag myself home. I settled into a pace, deciding that I’d use my heart rate monitor to good effect this time. At the previous event I didn’t feel like I was going hard at it early on and was confused that my heart rate was pretty much north of 160bpm continuously. This time I watched that monitor like a hawk, using it like a rev counter. As soon as I saw a figure above 140bpm on a flat piece of road I backed off, a bit like a rev limiter without the torturing engine sound! It sort of went….. pedal-pedal-pedal.. wooaahh, slow down for a bit….. pedal-pedal-pedal.. wooaahh, slow down for a bit.

The plan seemed to be working, I was managing to hold conversation with other riders around me without gasping for breath. One guy that I was chatting to said that his last 100 mile ride was in 1976, well done that man! I wasn’t even born until 1979 and here this chap was holding a decent pace. At the previous event I recognised my biggest downfall had been smashing it up every climb passing everyone around me and congratulating myself at the “summit” how great I was. As mentioned then, at 50 miles my legs were fit to drop off.

I am naturally a competitive person, don’t get me wrong, if I get beaten then I’ll shake that man’s hand. I’ll then relentlessly do as everything possible to prevent myself from being beaten again. In Alcoholics Anonymous style “My name is Mackers and I am competitive”. So when someone passes me climbing a hill, even during an untimed/non-competitive cycling sportive, the voices start in my head “Are you just gonna let this happen, push harder we can get him back”. Not this time, I held back and stared that heart rate monitor out in what was a masterclass of restraint on my part. Watching people passing me up the hills was probably the most frustrating bit of the whole event, the voices had to be silenced for the greater good this time but knowing what I’m like next year’s event will be different!!

So the ride continued on, I met Jo, Ann and Ted at various points to swap water bottles and energy gels etc., heading out through Northwich, Tattenhall, Beeston, Nantwich, Middlewich, Wilmslow and back to Wythenshawe Park for the finish. During each of my five minute stops Jo commented on how well I was looking. I thought I could probably go harder at it but was holding an average speed of just over 16mph (my Etape Mercia average was 17mph) so I was happy to stick to the plan. My Assos started to hurt at about the 80 mile mark but shuffling about on the seat a bit found a more comfortable spot. With 10 miles to go I caved in to the voices and just went for it, still feeling like I had loads left in the tank. I reckoned that even if both of my legs gave up, after doing 90 miles of 100, I’d drag myself for the final 10 with whichever body part that had some life left in it!

It was satisfying to be passing people on the road and to be personally in a much better physical state. The shoe had been firmly on the other foot at the end of my last ride. I crossed the finishing line after 6hrs 22 minutes and 100.5 miles. Really pleased with myself, a bit of neck ache and some saddle “discomfort” were really the only problems that I’d had, but having never ridden for more than 4 hours before I guess that this was always going to be the case. I’d really enjoyed the event and it gave me a great sense of achievement to cross that finishing line, I’d had my doubts that I’d be able to do it after I’d really felt the 70 miler two weeks previously.

That’s about it for cycling events this season, I’ll be doing my best to keep up the mileage through the cooler months and maybe start working towards an accreditation in the Velodrome.

The Frodsham Trials club have a local event coming up – Sept 15th - so I’ll unearth my trusty Beta Techno for that. I’m keen to take young Ted along to a trial to show him what it’s really about. He is great on his Oset and when he is in the mood will ride some ‘sections’ that I’ve coned out for him, standing on the pegs. If he’s not in the mood for controlled riding though he’s just as happy riding around sat in the seat as fast as possible. Then announces that he’s touched his foot down when cornering! Basically I’d like to get him involved in trials so that he slows down!!! I wondered about approaching the club and discuss starting up a guided route for the kids to run aside from the adult trial. It’ll be something to commit to and I’ll have to see what response I get from the club (who don’t know me from Adam) but we shall see.

Racing wise, I have one last meeting planned for this season, The Anglesey Grand over the weekend of October 12th. Shaun Boyle and Barry Ikin are very kindly going to loan me the Fireblade for the event, I’ll do my best.

As always I’ll keep you posted.

Mackers #30