Odgie celebrated his 60th birthday with three off-road events in one weekend. Three years later, he takes things a little bit easier with ‘only’ a flat-track race on one day and a series of scrambles the next. After a couple of seasons of flat-out flat-tracking on oval circuits, can he even remember how to bounce over bumps?
Crikey, am I 63 already? How did that happen? Anyway, that’s a good enough excuse for a celebration, which in my case nearly always involves going racing. Fortunately the Chester Classic Scramble always falls around or near my birthday, and this year it fell exactly right, Sunday July 2nd. Even better, there was a flat-track race on the Saturday too. There was the small fact that they were over 150 miles apart, but why let trifling details spoil an epic plan?
So Friday night we set off to Scunthorpe to camp out ready for the flat-track races in the morning. Scunthorpe Amateur Speedway is a great series of events. They race throughout the year, holding both a summer and winter Championship, and the classes include various speedway races for adults and juniors as well as quads, pit bikes, road bikes and flattrackers. If you’ve got an old Brit or Jap you’ll be made most welcome in road bike – you need to book in first, but then you just turn up on the day, pay 30 quid, and get six races. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.
If you read the series about my BSA A65 flat-tracker then you’ll know this was a good day with some hard racing. I only fell off once when the bike dropped into neutral just as I laid it into the turn and I couldn’t stop it before hitting the fence. I ended the day covered in slutch and grinning away – a grand start to the weekend.
We loaded up quickly and zoomed back down the motorway to swap the flat-tracker for the two scramblers. A hundred miles at 80mph passes in the blink of an eye (a day’s racing helps you get your eye in...), and we were within sight of the shed in no time.
And just as we got within a 100 yards of said shed, the brakes suddenly failed on the van. Crikey. We missed the car stopped at the lights in front by inches too. Phew. Cautiously trundling to the shed, we found no sign of any leaks and the master cylinder was full, so it was time to take the rear drums off. It was also time for it to start raining after being gloriously sunny all day. Hmmm. Still, it washed off the dust and cooled me and Miss P down while we worked on the van. One refitted adjuster later, bikes and gear swapped over but now running late, we hit the chippy on the way out and scoffed the chips on the motorway and while we down south of Chester. Easy Peasy Lemon Something-or-other...
I like the Chester Scramble. My scrambling has taken a back seat while I indulge in my recent obsession of flat-tracking, so I hadn’t raced for about a year and I was a latecomer to the sport anyway, but Chester is a great little track with a very welcoming bunch of folk. It was good to get back to bumps and hills after so many times round the flat ovals. It would also be interesting to see if I could still remember how to turn right...
I had intended to bring two bikes, the CanAm and the Honda Piledriver (see RC143 for the story of that particular project). But with the van needing attention, the timescale for converting the van from camper back into commercial was too rushed, so I’d just stuck the Can-Am on the back rack and away. In scrambling you only get three races per class during the day. That’s enough for most people, but I’m a glutton for it, hence normally two bikes and two classes… although if they happen to be consecutive races it can get a little hectic...
The Can-Am was entered in Pre-75 Up To 250 class. Working on the theory that you aren’t allowed to cheat by going into a smaller / earlier class but you can compete against bigger / later, there seemed to be nothing to stop me sneaking out into Pre75 Unlimited and Pre-78 and Twinshock Up To 250 classes with the same bike as well. So I did.
I’d forgotten how much I liked scrambling. And I’d forgotten just how fast the Can-Am was as well. Hoik it into second and give it some gas and it fair flies towards the horizon. I was too race rusty to do it any justice; in better hands it would surely be a race winner. I could keep up and more on the straights, but on the bends I was such a sissy I couldn’t really do much better than mid-field, no matter what class I was in. But winning isn’t everything (no it isn’t, actually it’s the only
thing), and with no chance of troubling the sharp end of the field, I settled for having fun seeing just how fast I could make the thing go in my old and out-of-practice hands.
The dust was quite a problem though. The hot sunny weather had baked the ground hard enough, but with an entry comprising everything from dope-burning Jawas to monstrous twin shocks to hard-charging sidecar outfits, the sandy ground soon got pummelled into fine dust, which cascaded upwards from scrabbling rear wheels. Twice I was so blinded I ran clear off the track, coming back to the pits trailing red and white marker tape around the bike.
It does take a certain commitment to keep the throttle pinned when all you can see is riders’ heads above the clouds in front of you and no idea what’s under your wheels. This is not a place to fall off and be unseen as the field comes hammering along behind you. It’s also best to try and avoid the substantial thick wooden stakes driven deep into the ground that hold the ropes – clouting one of them at speed can give you quite a nasty rap on the knuckles.... But the buzz when you fly past one at speed, lifting the bike and tucking an elbow in at the last minute to miss the contact, then laying it down again and nailing the throttle as you head towards the next bend, well, that’s one of biking’s more enjoyable pastimes.
The day wasn’t without its moments. Half way through one race I felt the handling
start to go off. Sure enough, when I got back to the pits the back tyre was flat, so that needed a quick change of tube. Towards the end of the day the Can-Am picked up an intermittent misfire – sometimes it would pick up cleanly out of the bends, then other times it would simply bog and then refuse to rev no matter what I did. And no matter how much I stripped and played with the carb between races, I couldn’t quite dial it out. But hey, that’s motorcycle racing or, indeed, given the sorts of bikes we all ride, that’s motorcycling in general anyway. And even with the bike running well I was never going to win anything. I was telling my mate Paul who’d come to watch I simply couldn’t get any better than midfield.
‘Well,’ he said. ‘All the others have either been doing it for twenty or thirty years or are only twenty or thirty years old.’ Fair point, I suppose.
Anyway, I turned 63 in style. Six flat-track races of six laps each, a good few hundred miles up and down and flat out in the van, a hair-raising brake escapade, six or seven (I lost count) scrambles races, one flat tyre, a sore knee, two aching shoulders, one massive grin. And an excuse to take lots of photos of groovy scrambles bikes. What next?
So it begins
In moments of calm, it is possible to admire some of the other machines in the paddock. Like this seriously special Triumph Métisse We last laid eyes on Odgie’s Can-Am a couple of years ago, back in RC140. How has it fared in classic scrambles since then?
So it continues. If you look very very closely, you might spot Odgie coming through the field, aboard bike number 903
Not an entirely common sight is a Jawa speedway style single sitting apparently happily in a Rickman bicycle Supplied by Military Can-Am, Odgie’s 250 began with the 26bhp of an ex-army bike but soon sprouted stacks of competition components which pushed its power output to around 33bhp. Miss P plainly approves of the extra waft A little more paddock wandering found this rather handsome brace of Beezer bangers. Light, brisk and easy to work on, the unit singles are popular indeed
Not all of the machinery is of exactly the same generation as Odgie’s Can-Am…
It’s not all British bruisers, either. Check out this somewhat remarkable CZ
Paddock stand? Oh, all right…
Race on, Odgie!
All part of the relentless entertainment… While Odgie does the heroic grubby stuff, Miss P models special pit crew gear