All For What?
The ACU National Rally must still rank as the premier motorcycle road competition in the U.K.
The idea of the rally is to prove both man and machine reliability and stamina with 600 miles and as many controls as possible in 24 hours. Last year I decided that I really ought to see what the rally is all about and so persuaded Dave Scrivens to passenger and navigate, We entered the Norton. The weather was kind (nearly said the sun shone, but of course it doesn't at night).
Avon tyres helped finance this years rally as the government has introduced another excessive levy on all road rallies, which would have trebled the entrance fee.
Thus, since the rally only costs about £4, I decided to enter again this year. (It's a bit like that, the National, do it once and you never want to miss one again!)
The date slowly neared, and more and more paperwork arrives, lists of controls mileage charts, final instructions, breakfast vouchers, last minute alterations to the controls etc.
The old midnight oil gets burnt a little to sort out a suitable route. Thirty three controls and 600 miles, it's looking good, but always there's that awful feeling, has anyone beaten your maximum controls? (thus robbing you of a maximum points award).
The bike gets minimal attention (after 45000 miles on the same bike you get to know what it'll want and what it won't need). However, a spare tube and chain, cables etc. are packed just in case. Any time made up on schedule is sleep time, so it's foolish to waste time having to locate spares in the event of a breakdown. As it happened all the spares went back my "stock" after the rally.
Eventually August 6 rolls around and so I'm off to Stamford, my first control. The roads are wet and it doesn't look very Augusty, not a good sign.
Ten o'clock and we are off. Some twenty bikes and riders start from Stamford and everyone agrees 33 controls is the maximum. Phew, that's a relief. By the time Huntingdon comes into view the rain is coming down fairly heavily and it's only the third control. Ah well, dry last year, wet this, can't win them all.
Colin is following me this year on his new Suzuki 750 four, a nice machine which seems well mannered enough to shrug off the weather. However the rain isn't proud, and soon the bikes ages are only discernible from the registration numbers. My M is as dirty as Colin's S.
Braintree control is our first stop and after hot dogs and coffee we watch the bikes come and go and then we have a look at the remains of a recent accident. A bus had rammed a parked car, which had a note on the seat "gone for petrol". Bet he had a shock when ho came back with a full gallon can.
One hour saw us back on the road through North London and back Northwards. Northampton was to be our next break and by then we'd done some 550 miles in the wet. Eventually you get hardened and when it stops raining you begin to miss that gentle patter on the visor and that cooling trickle through the hole you'd forgotten to mend.
On from Northampton, through Birmingham and on towards Worcester and Hereford. Ross on Wye was our third stop and we managed to accumulate some 5 hours for sleep.
A portable gas fire to dry out the kit was much appreciated and after some rest (thanks must go to Colin for waking me after an hour to help look for his control card) we were off again to the special tests near Tetbury. These involved timed sections and driving at set speeds. We didn't win, I didn't think we would but someone has to and like the football pools, if you don't enter you can't win.
Finally off to the final control at Doddington Park (near Bristol). A good breakfast, and look at the other bikes, and chats of many 'moments' out on the road, and its all over till next year.
Next year of course we'll do it again, it's like that, the National. Anyway the trophies look nice on the sideboard.