History lesson... be prepared

Thursday, 21 November 2013
Tim Britton, Editor Classic Dirtbike
As I’m writing this the weather forecasters are telling us to brace ourselves for the worst storm for years

By the time you read this, it will have been and gone... but apparently the thing was brewing out over the Atlantic for some time and here in Lincolnshire we’re expected to be on the edge of it.

That said, the news report gave details of the comprehensive preparations made and advice on what to do when a storm hits – basically avoid being where trees might blow down and be aware of high water levels or flooding. Hopefully (and, as I say, it will be over by the time you’re reading this) disruption has been minimal. I also hope the preparations have been way over the top from what was actually needed and it’s much nicer to say “well, we didn’t need it after all” than “wish we’d done more”.

Preparation has been a key point in the ISDT feature further on in this issue and an interesting, wholly unexpected point arose during the research. Way back in 1913 when the first riders were competing most would have been born before motorcycles were developed, yet their aims for success were remarkably similar to those of riders in today’s competition.

Okay, so the riding kit, bikes and whole social spectrum has changed dramatically but the aim of the riders is still the same – to finish unpenalised. What is done to achieve that aim hasn’t actually changed all that much… yes, I can hear you all saying now ‘he’s flipped, the red dust (a by-product of steel making in Consett) has finally got to him, how can a pre First World War bike need the same preparation as one from 2013? Oh, I don’t mean the detail – as modern riders won’t need to carry a spare girder fork spring for instance – what I mean is the basics. In those far off days of the dawn of motorcycle sport the bike needed to work well throughout the event, maintenance had to be accomplished swiftly and easily and it had to cope with the conditions. Riders had to learn to ride intelligently in case exuberance caused an accident that bent the bike or rider. Is that so different from the modern era?

We all make preparations for sport in different ways depending on our particular branch of the sport we’re involved with. Few trials in the classic scene cover hundreds of miles these days, but it is still a long old push back to the start in something like the pre 65 if, as sod’s law dictates, you break down at the furthest point away from your tool kit. So, a few bits and bobs go in to the Britton kit based on what I feel could happen. It is conceivable a puncture could happen, or an off in a stream might result in flooding the bike with water. So, the kit reflects this – I can remove each wheel, replace a tube, pull the carb off and change a plug with the kit I carry. To date, I’ve not needed to use it... but it is there just in case.

An enduro rider tackling a big course will also have a few tools available for emergencies on the course. The needs of an MXer are not quite the same as it’s not usual to stop at the side of a track and do a spot of maintenance. I wasn’t quite aware of this fact when in one of my first scrambles I decided to pull over and lower the air pressure in my tyres. The first I realised what a no-no that was, was when a marshal came rushing over telling me to get off the track and under the barrier rope. My actions had yellow flagged the race.

With a bit more preparation I’d have realised what I was doing was not the done thing, but trials have no such rulings. Anyway, just because the MXer is out on a smaller course and closer to the paddock than a trials or enduro rider doesn’t mean there’s room for complacency in preparation. Generally speaking there’s a reasonable amount of time between races but that time can fast be swallowed up if it takes ages to remove and replace a wheel or half the bike has to be stripped to replace a throttle cable.

What’s needed on race day is speed… both in the paddock and on the track. This all comes down to preparation and the place to begin is in the workshop.

Tim Britton, Editor

Issue 31, Summer 2014

Catch up on all that’s good in the off-road world...

About the Editor

Tim Britton, Editor
Tim Britton, Editor

In the four years since Tim Britton gripped the editorial handlebars of Classic Dirt Bike,­ the premier publication for classic off-roaders, the off-road scene has grown exponentially to encompass bikes from Brit classics to Japanese Evos and all sorts in between.

The Geordie lad has been gripping off-road handlebars for real in trials, scrambles and enduros for nearly 40 years and has often been labelled 'enthusiast', occasionally labelled 'mad' and with a philosophy based around 'I don¹t have to be good, I just have to be there' has entered events all over the UK and had a whale of a time with a multi-tasking 650 Triumph, a Bultaco Sherpa and a BSA B40.

He is a living example that you should 'try the dirty side of motorcycling... it's fun'.

Contact Tim

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