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30th March 2009

The 2009 Land's End Trial, Part One
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Celia Walton is an old hand at competitive trials on two wheels and three. Rowena Hoseason, regular RC scribbler, has never done any. So before they tackle a proper trial, the pair thought they'd best get some practice in...

It's a brilliantly sunny March morning, in Devon. Three sidecar crews are having a cup of coffee before setting off for a ride - what could be better than that? But maybe my passenger for the day wasn't entirely certain that she should have come…

Is it just me, or are all three wheels pointing in different directions? Celia Walton and outfit in action

Finding a sidecar passenger for any sporting event can be a problem. Finding a passenger for an event which takes place over two days (including overnight riding), requires navigation, features some potentially very cold and wet weather, and which includes some observed off road sections as well can be very difficult indeed. I was telling Frank Westworth, the editor of RealClassic, about the problem at a motorcycle show one day and found that Rowena was elected for the Land's End Trial.

(I think she was a bit surprised too).

Wisely my new passenger asked if we could get together for a bit of practice 'so that I can see what I've let myself in for.' I emailed Andy and Anita Petherick who live near Crediton.

'I'm always ready for a ride,' replied Andy. 'Name a date.'

'The date we first agreed upon was snowed off.' Gulp.

The date we first agreed upon was snowed off so we met at the Pethericks' house in March. Two other friends, Mike and Julia, came too so we had three sidecar outfits: Andy and Anita leading, with a GPS programmed for the lanes he wanted to ride; Rowena and I; then Mike and Julia to pick up any pieces.

Our parade set out and travelled along narrow Devon lanes, metalled and dirt, with great enthusiasm. My passenger perched gingerly on the seat clutching the handle across the sidecar with a deathlike grip, worried that she'd fall off. I suggested that the best thing to do would be to watch the passenger in front and copy her movements.

It is difficult to remember how to 'train' a passenger when one has used sidecars for many years: The idea is of course for the passenger to move his/her weight around to keep the whole, asymmetric, contraption stable. This means that a passenger has to move to the left for left-hand corners, and right for right-handers. I pointed out too that standing up when off-road is usually easier on the body than trying to sit down - sitting makes the coccyx a bit vulnerable. On a bumpy, washed out bendy and steep lane the best thing is to stay on the highest side of the machine and it is very important to try to stay relaxed.

'Clutching the handle across the sidecar with a deathlike grip'
'Trials' bikes on

Narrow lane followed narrow lane, and we looked out for the 'Unsuitable for motors' signs, indications that we were going off-road again. Rowena relaxed more and more, and now and then we pointed out marvellous views and giant rock stacks to each other. We saw Dartmoor ponies and a small group of them raced us. The usual moorland sheep obstructed the road and we followed Andy at about five mph waiting for them to decide which gateway they preferred. Everyone we saw was cheerful; one of a group of walkers pretended to thumb a lift. As the day went on my passenger got the message and on one or two occasions it was only due to the fact that she was in the right place, doing the right thing, that we didn't get stuck. (We did get stuck once or twice entirely due to driver error I must admit).

Rowena's first outing was quite an initiation. The day was beautiful, with bright sunlight, and the company was excellent - but since our companions are a bit more used to this sort of thing we did a total of 107 miles, probably 30 off tarmac!

On Monday, I received an email reporting that Rowena's legs no longer worked…I have had to reassure her that we did a lot more lanes than would be used on an MCC trial and hope that she doesn't desert me.

Celia also rides solos, of course...


Next Episode: It didn't look quite that easy from the passenger's seat, you know. Rowena reveals how the same day out looked from all manner of interesting perspectives (including upside-down…)


Join the fun! The Land's End Trial is a reliability trial which starts up country (we'll be departing from Michaelwood Services) on Friday 10th April 2009 from 5pm, and finishes at Scorrier in Cornwall from 11.30 the following morning. The 350 mile route includes observed sections and tests which appear to involve quite a lot of zigging, zagging, stopping in boxes, starting on hills and getting very muddy.

As there are plenty of RC readers based in the West Country, you might well want to come along and offer some support to our endeavour. The prime points for spectators include Blue Hills near St Agnes; 'the most spectacular setting of any trials hill anywhere in the UK' and Crackington Haven which according to Celia is 'the most muddy'. Hoskin, near Bodmin, 'provides a serious challenge for most competitors, particularly those who have to restart on the teflon-like stone surface'.

Entries for the Land's End Trial have now closed but the MCC's Testing Trial takes place on July 12th 2009 and the Edinburgh Trial is on October 3rd 2009. Rowena reports that all MCC officials were really helpful sorting out her membership and getting an appropriate ACU licence (one form to fill in, cost just a tenner, no needless faffing). It's fun to get a weekly email from the club, too, which slowly reveals just what you've let yourself in for.

If you've been tempted to get involved in an event like this then give it a crack of the whip - start the paperwork straight away and come along to the Land's End event to smell the petrol. And burning clutches…

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