SCRAM­BLES SUN­DAY

Real Classic - - Classic Dirt Bikes - Pho­tos by Odgie and Miss P

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

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