My Lands End 2006 - 14/15 April 2006 - click on thumbnails for larger photos

I was delighted to have my younger brother Trevor riding with me this year on my third Lands End. It was Trev’s very first MCC event. We both rode Yamaha TTR250s and I see there were another 3 TTRs on the entry list. Perfect bike for this event with a bit more power, height and suspension then the Serow.

We left Exton, nr Exeter at 3pm and got to Plusha in good time. I was in Class B (yellow category) starting from Plusha – number 28 – away at 5.38pm. Trev was number 35 and left 7 minutes later.

The drive to North Petherton was pretty uneventful along some nice minor roads via Holsworthy, Hatherleigh, Crediton, Tiverton and Taunton – not the sort of route one would normally take! The electronic road book I downloaded from the MCC website was excellent although I wish I had used a bigger print size as I struggled to read it at times as my eyes tired. Trev and I used backlit Acerbis road book holders which we think are great. Simon Woodall’s Route Card time calculator, also on the MCC website, saved some work – thanks Simon! A real mix of machinery ranging from big desert bikes to an old Scott - no scooters this year though! Left at just before 10pm to start the trial “proper”.

Felons Oak is a good confidence builder although I had not done a restart there before. Trev reckons not to have seen the restart boards, white lines or marshalls and sailed through without stopping - doh!

Stoney Street is a lovely long section with some interesting diagonal metal pipes across the track toward the top. There was a small hold up at the start as a dead Honda came back down to try again.

The ride to the Culbone County Gate control was uneventful but sadly there was no moonlight to see the countryside by this year – too cloudy! Left at 12.50am.

The road from Culbone to Barbrook is a nightmare for me as I suffer from vertigo and the decent of Countisbury Hill has me wobbling close to the verge being very aware of the huge drop the other side of the road. I was still very sleepy on the Sunday morning after the trial when I was startled to heart a report on Radio Devon that a motorcyclist had gone over the edge of Countisbury Hill and had been airlifted to hospital. Turns out it happened at 6pm on Saturday so I cannot think it was connected to the MCC in any way. However, for someone who suffers from vertigo and probably wouldn't be able to ride Countisbury in daylight (bad enough on a moonlit night), it hasn't done my confidence any good! Hope the young man in question makes a full and speedy recover.

The Beggars Roost (about 1.15am) restart was sneakily tucked against the hedge on the right hand side. I didn’t spot where the box and lines were until I had almost ridden over the branches across the track thus leaving myself at quite an angle from which to pull away. I had a clean restart but took a dab on the way out which I am sure was within the 3 metres but I await the flagman’s verdict on that one.

Riverton was its usual challenge being very muddy with two very deep tractor or 4X4 ruts. Having taken a steadying dab, I sat down and paddled to the first corner and then got back on the pegs and cleaned the rest – too little too late though.

Cutliffe Lane (3.30am) was a really nice hill and one I remember having ridden on a trail ride last year. Relatively straightforward for bikes.

The journey to Sutcombe Hill (4.45am) was tricky as there was a heavy mist which makes judging distances (and reading signposts!) difficult. No one else around to go first so it was right into the muddy rut, across the river and looking hard to see where the track went. All was OK though. We joined a small group of bikers enjoyed a hot cuppa and bacon rolls etc from some very friendly ladies at the farmhouse.

Stopped in Bradworthy square to top up with petrol at Wicketts Garage that had opened specially for us. The square seems not to have changed from what I remember from the late fifties.

Darracott (5.30am) is a nice old hill but is quite benign after repair and Martin had set out a straightforward restart which I understand caught out some cars later in the day. I remember as a child watching chain-drive Trojans, Ford Prefects and the like, together with motorcyclists wearing great leather coats, and sporting flying helmets and goggles, struggling up Darracott. I have vague recollections of my father using his tractor to pull up the car failures.

I nearly missed the Leddon Farm Observed Test as I hadn’t rolled on my road book. I just about remembered what we had to do and hope I did it all OK although I am confident not to have broken the 10 second barrier! Trev was true to form and hadn’t remembered what to do so rode straight through the “stop and roll back” section in the middle.

Widemouth Bay (6.20am) holding check was the scene of my embarrassment. As I got more tired, I found it increasingly difficulty to get my leg over the TTR especially since fitting a fender bag. This resulted in catching my boot on the bag and toppling over with the bike joining me on the deck pinning my foot underneath. Many thanks to the marshalls and Trev for rescuing me. It was after this spot of bother that I started to watch other competitor’s mounting methods more closely and am now trying to perfect the art of standing on the footpeg on the sidestand side and it is surprising how that extra height allows me to clear the fender bag.

Crackington was slippery! I spotted some suspicious looking clods of clay on the road side leading to the section and wondered if they, by any remote chance, had fallen off a loaded trailer on its way to the hill to “dress” it. The upper section was thick with glutinous mud which perhaps was pure coincidence. I kept my speed up and cleared the hill with no dramas although many of the cars struggled to find grip.

The Wilsey Down stop is a bit odd. I didn’t really feel hungry yet managed to down some toast and a generous helping of beans. The weather wasn’t too bad, the bikes were going well, the end seemed in sight and we just wanted to get on with it! We met up with Yoshi Adams on his BMW F650 Dakar who was not happy with a nasty rattly knock from his engine. Turns out he was determined not to fail Crackington this year and, as a consequence, had over revved the big Beemer - he still made it to the finish though and claimed a Gold with just one "free foot" at Riverton - what chance for the rest of us mere mortals! A very long hour eventually passed and we were off again at 8am.

Warleggan (8.35am) is set in beautiful countryside. The approach to the section is a warning of what is to come. A tricky rocky climb with some slimy rock slabs higher up - a lovely section. Primroses and celandines decorated the banks and the sun was peeking through the clouds.

The long drive through the forest to the Hoskin Hill section was a nice trail ride after all the tarmac. After a bit of a rest in the short queue, and letting some air out of the rear tyre, I set off (9.10am) and, happily, the restart was on a fairly level dryish ground and easier than in previous years.

Bishops Path Special Test involved a timed thrash around some cones and is always a tease. Do you go fast and tempt fate or play safe? I played safe so am not expecting a quick time.

Bishops Wood section (10am) is always fun and it is possible to get some air over the humps although I got it all a bit squirrelly, flew a bit sideways and was lucky to keep it upright upon landing.

After the Perranporth check, Trev says he was really struggling to stay awake and started drifting across the road a bit. His back was hurting too much to have a kip at Wilsey apparently.

Blue Hills 1 (11.20am and loads of spectators!) was very tricky and the slabs on the restart were gradually getting wetter and muddier as each new rider went over them. I am pretty sure I got away OK but whether a steadying dab was within 3 metres is in the lap of the flag marshall. I live in hope. Trev apparently managed to do a U turn on the restart which must have given the marshalls a scare!

Blue Hills 2 is a fitting finale for a great event and it was pleasing to see that the final bend was in its “natural” state and had not been doctored with loose stones as was done in previous years. Extra pleasing was to meet Olly Cooke at the top who had heroically driven down with his trailer to pick us up for the journey back to Exeter – thanks Olly!

It was great to arrive at the Crossroads Lodge Control and Finish (11.40am) in one piece although Trev and I were both suffering physically at this stage (Trev - very bad back and me - splitting headache). The picture shows Olly letting Trev have a heat pack to help with his back pain. There was no way we could have ridden back to Exeter at that point so well pleased to have the lift. 407 miles and 21 hours from our Exton start.

Well here's to a hoped-for Silver Medal although getting the Finisher’s Certificate was reward enough, especially for Trev on his first Lands End. Don’t think I could persuade him to do it next year though….

Brian Sussex

April 2006

PS Received final results (13 May) from the MCC and am pleased to say that I have got my hoped-for Silver Medal!

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