Well the Scottish six day is all done for another year and I would like to share a few words on how I saw the week now that I have had a few weeks to take it all in. Both Paul Jackson and I arrived into Scotland on the Tuesday before the Scottish week to have good time to get use to the time difference. Wednesday we took the four hour train ride from Glasgow to Fort William where it would be our base for the next week and a half. Thursday was spent getting all the wet weather gear that is a must for the six days and there is no better place than Fort William itself to get the best gear and best deals. Friday we set of to Kinlochleven to see some of the pre 65 trial which we had heard that Stephen Ameristar was lucky enough to get a late entry to compete. We caught up with Steve just after getting of the bus and he was feeling good about the day ahead. We ended up spending the whole day watching and with the club organizing a shuttle bus for a first time which was well received apart from the fact that we weren’t told that at 4pm it stopped running so we had a not so good 30min walk back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to Fort William. We saw Steve ride two sections over the day and even saw his clean ride which was well appreciated by spectators and Steve himself. Saturday was when we got our beta hire bikes so we couldn’t get out to see Steve ride Day two, but was good to see that he had a good result in the pre 65 again where many fail to finish. He was 137th out of over 180 starter’s. Well done Steve!
Saturday 10am and were we got the chance to start working on our hire bikes putting on some protector covers and I also like to put on my levers and foot pegs off my New Zealand beta back home to just have a more of a personal feel. We try and put as much covers on as we can to protect the bike as any breakages are extra on top of the $2200 hire cost for the week. After lunch it was time to go and road test our betas. I had a question from back home from someone that was very confused to why we test a trials bike on the open road? So over the six days we end up traveling on the road on our hire bikes at a guess of over 60% of the total 800 plus km for the week so it is important that the bike is not getting hot on the road ending up in overheating and then next can be head gasket trouble. This is important and something that UK Beta importer John Lampkin asked that we do before we set of day one. This is something I was never told for my first year I rode the SSDT and it wasn’t till half way through the first day that I was aware that something was not right with my bike getting very hot on the open road, with day two costing me head gasket problems. John Lampkin always says it easy to try and sort a problem before the start of the week because once the week starts time is limited to what they can do and with the so call rule of no outside assistance they should not even be touching your bike once the SSDT has started. So Paul and I set of up the road in the lovely rain to test the bikes and we both were very happy to have passed the first test for the week.
Sunday was the usual sign in day and scrutineering. With Paul and I sorting the Betas out the day before we had sign on and scrutineering done by lunch time and had a few hours till kill before the 3pm town parade through the main street of Fort William. We also meet up with Isabel and Alan Honeybone who were there for the week to take in some Scottish action. It was great to have them over the week for their support and to see a friendly face over the week was also good too.
Monday and day one of the six days and I was feeling pretty good with this now been my forth SSDT. There wasn’t a lot of nerves to previous years. Paul was not in the same boat which is totally understandable with his first SSDT. I was also very nervous my first time back in 2013. I said to Paul with day one usually being the easiest day of the week I would hold back at the start and we would set of the day together and see how it goes. With very heavy down pours though out the night I was thinking it was going to be a wet day but nothing to what we actually came up against though out the day. Traveling to the first group of sections it was then when I really started to see what rain we had had over the night with the first group of sections we usually ride each year were totally under water and had been closed by clerk of the course. So Monday was all of a sudden a bit new to me too over previous years. We both travel on and off roads for over an hour and half on our way to the first group, but up first was our next test which was about a 4m wide river crossing which was over waist deep and with the river already drowning some previous riders that were working on their bikes on the other side Paul and I decided to team up and carry our bikes one at a time though the river to be safe than sorry. After that we had our first group of sections and it cost me two dabs in the first two sections and a dab on the top much harder section.
Paul also only lost two dabs on the first two sections and I could see he was happy with his start to the week. The top section cost Paul a five and then it was off on our first moor crossings for the week and in Pauls words “unless you have ridden the SSDT you have no idea how difficult the moor crossing really are”. Paul said we have nothing like this back home to prepare you for such a thing. We must have been on that moor crossing for over two hours as due to the wet weather there was another group of sections that had been pulled so that meant we had to do moor crossings to get to a bridge to get over a 10m river we usually ride through but with being chest deep was not going to be possible. This also meant we started coming across riders that had or were running out of fuel due to the now longer distance between fuel stops. Paul and I were still fine and didn’t even hit reserve on the betas. The rules stat no extra fuel is to be carried in your day bag but I do see many that take no notice of this rule, so it is either join them or take the risk that you want need any fuel. So far in my attempts at the SSDT I have not had to use any extra fuel to get round but have got close. It can easily happen as all it takes is your bike falls over while walking a section and carb leaks or you miss a turn off and head up a track the wrong way for 10/15min and all of a sudden you’re in trouble. In saying that I did see a young fella get disqualified last year for trying to fill a spare fuel bottle at lunch time break. We had another deep river crossing before our next group of sections, these had strong white water current coming down so the key was to get though for a three or better. The top section was a tasty section with a good size water fall which Paul took a five on and decided to push on and I stayed and walked it some more. Well the extra walking did me no better and not only a five but a bashed up clutch finger on a rock, it was one of those ones when you don’t really want to take your glove off but the blood wasn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon so I got back to my bag and did my best to bandage it up and put on a new set of gloves. At the time I didn’t know Paul had gone ahead so once I worked that out I picked up the pace to catch him up with still having the stress of getting low on fuel but as coming over a moor hill and seeing the fuel stop in the distance was huge relief!
After going through the fuel stop I was made aware of two sections 200m back up on the hill that were not marked so good to see, so I raced back up the hill to ride them and with still no sign of Paul I was thinking at the time I wonder if Paul had missed them too. After those sections it was back through the fuel stop again and push on to try catch up with Paul who was at the next group of sections which was about 15min down the track. It was then that while I was walking the bottom section that I could see all was not well with Paul when I saw him walking his bike back down from the top section. Paul explained to me what had happened while he was attempting a step on the top section with the front wheel not quite making the undercut of the step. This resulting in around 12 spokes on one side of the front wheel breaking and badly buckling the wheel and it was then that Paul found out he had missed the two previous sections.
I would just like to say in all my years of riding motorcycles, I have never seen a front wheel do such a thing and that was extremely bad luck for Paul. It was so bad that it would only turn with force and it was rubbing on fork leg. Lunch break was still a least an hour away so we thought if Paul can make it to there then he may be able to borrow a front wheel from someone. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible at the rate Paul could travel along the track with the front wheel and It was just before lunch that Paul was flagged down by a SSDT steward who could see he was in need of some help. It turned out that he had a spare front wheel to allow Paul to finish the day but unfortunately that was outside assistance and meant Paul could only continue on a no reward finish from there on. Maybe if it wasn’t a steward that gave him a front wheel then he may have got away with it. I had a fairly steady afternoon on the rest of the sections for the day and next caught up with Paul after the last group of the day. It was then back to base where we did a bit of maintenance before bikes went into lock up for the night. It was later that night that I found out that I had a better day than I thought with sitting in a really good 40th position ahead of some big names like John Shirt and the likes of Dan Heminway. Points were very close though with only ten points from 40th to 60th position. I was feeling very proud of my ride but also very disappointed at the same time that what had happened to Paul during the day. Even John Lampkin commented that he had not seen this happen before and it was very unlucky for Paul.
Tuesday was a new loop to what previous years had been with first up catching the ferry before the first group of brand new sections. Paul and I got along at a good pace as it’s always good to keep moving on Tuesday & Thursday with being the longest days of the six. Paul got ahead of me in the morning and didn’t see him again till our 15min lunch time break. It was snowing though out the day and some hail storms. Caught up next with Paul on a big moor crossing which was extremely wet. I quite like Tuesday loop as the afternoon sections are some of my favourite sections of the week with the likes of Loch Arkaig, Winchers Burn and Trotter’s Burn and always look forward to ride them. I had about 15min left on time at the end of the day to check bike and change air filter. Paul had a few on time but finished one of the toughest days of the week. I got 47 points for the day and I wasn’t happy with my day riding and had to many fives which dropped me from 40th to 61st with my early day yet to come.
Wednesday Day 3 and it was our early start. Paul and I headed of and had a bit of a moor crossing first up. With being our early day first group were very slippery and it was pretty much if you stopped you would not get going again. I went clean on first three sections and got what I thought was a two on a very hard section but the observer saw it different and gave me a five. Paul wasn’t feeling very well because he had come down with the flu Monday night and with all that happened on Monday the heart wasn’t in it any more. Paul decided to stop there and head back to the parc ferme and back to a warm bed for the rest of the day. So I pushed on and spent most the day round a rider called Tom Affleck who rides Sherco. Tom is a better rider than me so it was good to discuss lines and even catch for each other on the bigger sections that we both were grateful for. There were a few complaints over the week from some riders with the sections being too big and dangerous. I didn’t feel myself sections were much different than previous years but it is a lot better if you can team up to catch for each other if is possible. It’s too far to come to have an off at a top of a waterfall and hurt the bike or yourself. I had a fairly good ride on my early day to only to lose 35 points and only drop 5 spots to 66th overall.
Thursday and half way point of the week and body was feeling good apart from the clutch finger which wasn’t healing due to always wet but my main concern was not to get an infection in it. Thursday my late day and being the longest day of the week with over 180 km loop. I didn’t start the day till just before lunch time and with then not getting back to parc ferme till 9pm at night. This was a very hard long day but with the sun shining all day I actually really enjoying it throughout the day with stunning views, riding in the snow and two of the longest moors that seemed like they were never going to end. I was thinking though out the day if this was a normal wet cold Scotland day and the same loop it would have not had one ounce of fun in it.
Because of our late day and with only about 16 riders left to start the day after I started we had the section sweepers right on our tale which travel around on trials bikes after the last riders of each day to pick up flags, sections and make sure no one is stranded on a moor with bike problems. This was a little distracting but they can’t pass you so you just had to deal with it. Paul went with Jack Sheppards father Mark in the van for the rest of the week so I would see both of them though out the day. I didn’t get to lunch break till about 5:30pm which felt more like tea time. After lunch seemed like it ran pretty fast till we reached the last long moor of the day. After getting of that moor they gave us a “nice” last group of seven sections which really sorted the men from the boys. I meet up with the Honeybones again here which cheered me on throughout the last group. Then was back down to time control which is where your time ends for the day and I had 12min left on time from my 7h 45min time limit for the day. Then it was the long 45min trip by road back to parc ferme. The SSDT committee give you the 45min time limit like this to discourage competitors of speeding and you have to take the full 45 minutes and not be under or over or it will cost you a point per minute ether way. Really enjoyed the day and with only losing 26 points and worked myself back up to 60th spot overall.
Friday and it was road day with 90% of sections being next to road so meaning we spent most of the day on the main road. We had the world famous Pipeline section in the morning and I meet up with the Honeybones there and it must have helped having the support as I had a mega clean ride up pipeline. It wasn’t all on road that day and we had a moor crossing throwing in just so we don’t forget. I remember this one quite well because I was getting along at a good pace and got a bit off lost at one stage and couldn’t see any flags or wheel marks so best thing is to get yourself to high ground to find the orange flags again. Which I did and could see them about 200m back down in the wrong direction I was going. The best way I can describe what a moor is if you haven’t yet had the privilege to do so, ha ha, is like what we would call a good old bog here in New Zealand but it travels over huge amount of country side. It’s not all soft and can usually pick the soft parts but not always as I found out that day. So I was heading flat out back down towards the flags in 4th gear and jumped a bit which didn’t look soft at the time but was very much so and my front made the gap but with my rear wheel sinking in at speed only meant one thing and that was all your body weight being sling shot forward at speed over the bars. At the time it seemed like it all happened in slow motion as it seemed forever waiting for my bike to come forward on top of me. It’s strange I was thinking this is so going to hurt but once pushing the bike of me and getting up and seeing all is well with me and the bike this was when I just burst out with laughter. The worst thing is that there was no one there to see it! But maybe that was a good thing, ha ha. There were quite a lot of spectators on this day with sections being a lot more accessible to other days. It was another nice day with it just about being T shirt weather.
Saturday, Day six and mixed feelings with excitement of being so close to the end but also a little disappointed that it is all going to be over. I like to try and enjoy the last day with time not being so tight and take in all the sights of the day. Started out the day pretty good apart from what I thought was a tough call at the time giving me a five on a hard section, but we all get those calls. We had one last moor crossing of the week and yep I seemed to find every hole on this one and in one part coming flying over a rise to only to see soft moor hole in front of me! It all happened so quick and with it swallowing most of my bike and trapping my right leg on impact at the same time which meant it was fun times trying to get out of that one, ha ha. After that last moor it was time to head back near to Fort William town ship for the last three groups of sections. There were some tough sections thought out the last day to sort out the top boys and these last three groups were very difficult. For the rest of us it was just to try and get a three in some sections and with some really kind observing in most cases was the only reason we did. When seeing top ten riders getting threes while you are walking a section, it puts you in the mind set of just try and go for the three. I would be lying if I said that it is fun walking a section to just concentrate on going for a three, but in saying that if you like a hard challenge then it is for you. Then you hear that Dougie cleaned it and you can only think how is that possible. Ok it is not a secret that the likes of Dougie seem to get a few things go their way but hey fair play! To ride these tough sections feet up is and outstanding effort. I was very glad to see the back of those last three group of sections and move onto the last and final section of the week which is in the middle of Fort William town ship called Town Hall bra . This section in the past has been known as a bit of a ride in the park in years gone by but with it being changed over the years it’s been the last five years that its taking some points from top 40 riders. I was glad to go clean and finish my 4th SSDT.
I lost 38 points on day six and total points lost for the week was 208 from the 180 sections we rode over the week. That gave me another First Class Award Finish and my best result yet of 57th out of 288 starters. I just missed out on the top 50th special first class award by 10 points, yep two fives! But in the Scottish 10 points is a lot of points to gain up. Around 180 points total for the week will sit you in the top 50 overall. Which means if you don’t lose any more that 1 point per section because there is 180 sections over the week which also means you need to be less than 30 points for each day with 30 sections a day. I know sounds easy aye ha ha. But after my first year riding the Scottish I have learnt very quickly it’s got to be more about the finish first and what comes next is a bonus. I’m really proud of my result and to improve on each year is also very rewarding. I have learnt to never say never but I feel this is maybe where it ends for me as I really feel it’s going to take something special and good luck for me to better that result. I hope my words help you all understand a bit more on what the Scottish six day is from this side of the pond and if you haven’t had the chance to compete or go as a spectator yet then it’s a must do on your list to do! Three things you will need are Fitness, A strong mind set & LUCK on your side!
Trip wasn’t possible without the likes of firstly Paul Jackson who was a huge help though out the week and with also the help leading up to the trip is really appreciated. Rat should still be proud of giving the hardest trial in the world a crack and if it wasn’t for his front wheel problem I’m sure he would have finished the week. Debbie is a huge help with all the organising which starts back in January and big part of my achievements over the years is because of Debs. John Lampkin and his team throughout the week for all the support. Pioneer club for all their support over the years. John Lawton who loves the Scottish six day and helps out leading up to the event with supplying me his own covers he has designed to keep the beta radiator clean from all the mud and the rear mud flap that which keeps the air box dry all week. Thanks also for all the kind words over the week from back home.