I did this report for the VMCC, but thought it may bring some amusement to the Scott forum. I hope you enjoy it and my misadventures on a TT Rep.
It was the 1st August 2010 and my wife Justine had passed her CBT a few weeks before. We went out and bought a CG125 for her to get some riding experience and here we were up hill and down dale tagging along for a VMCC run. Then a plan was hatched to get Justine some more riding experience as the weekend after is was the South Durham touring weekend to Cumbria, 2 days and about 300 miles of back roads and nice countryside. We reserved a place at the B&B and what seemed like a good idea at the time was put in action.
Saturday 7th Aug dawned overcast with some dark looking clouds, but it was holding dry. We arrived at the meeting point in Darlington a few minutes early, Justine on the CG125 all panniered up and me with the 1929 Scott, my son Leon and the tank bag. Plus an additional 4 pints of Castrol R to be used at fuel stops. In the group were 3 Bonny’s, an 80’s BMW, a Honda DN01 and our two bikes. Immediately the quicker of mind realised I had brought a two stroke, and being mechanical Neanderthals they allocated me the tail end Charlie position for the run. Mention was made of smell, smoke etc but I realise the true reason is that they do not have the mental strength to be able to follow such a thoroughbred machine, all the time with thoughts of inadequacy in their minds…. To save them the mental anguish I agreed, but of course the more vocal ones would be treated to a good dose of “closed air lever” if I happened past them en route.
For the last couple of weeks I had trouble with a sticky kick start pawl and I had no time to fix it, so I was in for a weekend of bump starts. The ribbing started as I pushed the bike up the pub car park to start it. It started well but fate dealt its revenge to Red Leader when his Bonny failed to fire and he too resorted to a bump start. That’ll learn him, maybe.
Off we headed from Darlington heading westward via the north of the dales and the well known fantastic scenery. An uneventful but sometimes very wet ride saw us all to Dent near Sedbergh for the first stop, typically at a pub. Already into Cumbria and the Pennines some great views were seen on the way over. The only small event was Dave losing his scarf but I saw it unfolding itself and caught up with him to tell him just as it fell off. A quick U turn for recovery and we were all together again.
This pub in Dent is renowned for I’m sure its barman has won the “grumpiest barman in the Kingdom” award 3 years running, and now should get to keep the cup. The welcome as warm as a gulag was quickly put behind us and we feasted on a carpark picnic consisting of assorted dried animal parts, which I thought was beef jerky but was I am informed Thai marinated beef. These had been made by Steve’s girlfriend who was pillion to Steve on the Honda DN01. His panniers were in fact a fully fitted kitchen and carried enough supplies for the winter hibernation.
Feasting in the car park in Dent – note economy size tub of beef
It was agreed to get to the coast for lunch rather than suffer Dent any more so the call of “helmets on” was cried and the motley bunch filed out of the pub car park with me following. Well into Cumbria now we wound our way via Brian’s usually tortuous routes and arrived at Arnside and the Albion on the side of Morecambe Bay. We braved it and made this short foray into Lancashire, making that 4 counties before lunch! (Durham, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire). A feast was had by all whilst Leon and Brian attempted to tell the worst jokes they could think of. I believe the contest was declared a draw when the spectators could not take any more.
Bikes and riders treated to a good view over Morcambe Bay
A water jug was borrowed to fill up the Scott radiator as it had decided that today it was going to run hot, but other than that no dramas for the group. We headed off north and into the hills and forests around Cartmel Fell with various climbs and descents along the route. This is when I paid the price for Leon listening to Brian’s jokes all lunchtime coupled with the bumpy and rolling roads on a rigid bike. Leon tapped me on my shoulder which he does if there is a problem, and said he felt ill. By the time I’d stopped I had lunch down the back of my jacket and a very green coloured kid. As the tail end Charlie the rest of the group had long gone so we sat on the side of the road for 10 minutes whilst the colour returned and Leon felt better. The rest of the clan had descended the climb and stopped at the side of Windermere and we joined them soon enough for the fabulous views.
From L to R: Brian, Angela, Mike, Dave, Steve, Paul, Leon
Great views and an angry sky over Windermere
A combination of extended pub stops and other unplanned breaks had left us all quite tired so we made the decision to head for the B&B at St Bees. The route first took us for a drink stop in Ambleside where they have a nice town square complete with handy devices in which to store your children while you browse the local ale houses.
Peace at last…… Brian had escaped from the other set and was terrorising the locals with his jokes.
Final stop of the day was the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway to see the narrow gauge locomotives and stretch our legs before the run to the B&B. It was decided to call and see the sea gates there that stop the tide going into the village. The group set off as usual with me following, but I heard the familiar sound of rear stand dragging on the ground. I was sure I had done up the clip and when I checked I had! A Scott, being a fine thoroughbred machine, uses the minimum number of fasteners with which to do the job. For a rear mudguard assembly this is three. One each side of the rear wheel spindle to hold the strap, and one at the front centre. This front centre bolt had fallen out and allowed the whole assembly to rotate rearward. A quick rummage through Paul’s box of bits found a matching nut and bolt (no mean feat in itself – but why was he carrying a metric roofing bolt when he rides a Bonny?!) All fixed again and finally we got to St Bees all looking forward to a few pints and a good feed up.
Scott keeping guard over the other steeds at St Bees
A jolly good feed up was had by all in the Manor Restaurant and washed down with some local ales that seemed to do the job. I don’t think anyone had a late night though, we were all exhausted after the days riding.
In the Manor – L to R Steve, Mike, Brian, Paul, Justine, Leon, Richard, Dave, Angela, Linda, and Mrs Steve
The next morning dawned much brighter and with a better forecast than the Saturday so we were looking forward to more great views as we headed back over the Pennines and Dales. Brian mentioned to the group that we were going back via the notorious Hardknott Pass, one of the steepest public roads in the UK. At a 1 in 3 it was a challenge we had to accept. I was worried about the Scott being it is fitted with a fully bonded clutch (either in or out) and a race ratio gearbox (50mph in first no problem). But…. I’ve been up and down Sutton Bank many times, and at 1 in 4 I figured how hard can this Hardknott be, I just need a longer run up!
Within the hour we were at the foot of the climb. As the tail ender I stopped for a while to get a good gap to those in front so I could attack the climb. What I did not bank on was the road being very slippy and wet, and it being much longer than Sutton Bank, much narrower, and with many many more hairpin bends. About 14 I think I counted. With the tank bag, full fuel and Leon on the back I realised I’d probably taken on a bit much here, but being everyone else had gone I gave it a go. With a combination of not letting off for the uphill hairpins (did my first wheelie on the Scott!) and keeping momentum whilst slipping the clutch we were making decent progress. The issue is the climb gets steeper and steeper so I was gaining a false sense of security. About 2/3 the way up the engine was boiling and rounding a hairpin I saw Dave and his immaculate Bonny laid on the ground. A low speed fall with no damage to rider and only a couple of scratches to bike. I stopped as there was a passing place and I thought I’ll help Dave while the Scott cools. Dave got back on and sorted, headed down the hill a little to turn round then was back past us and up the hill without a snag.
Dave giving it another go
I took water from the stream beside the road and filled the radiator while pouring water over it to cool everything. I realised I’d stopped at the steepest part which was also a double hairpin. Loads of cars were having trouble here including one townie type who almost got a 4×4 stuck.
The issue with being stuck with the Scott on a 1 in 3 was threefold. First the kickstart was not working so I had to roll it off down the hill, therefore losing height, to get it going. The second is you cannot hill start a TT Rep on a 1 in 3. Not a chance. Third is the bike is too heavy to push up. So I asked Leon to wait at the roadside while I got it going and we had another go at the hill. We made it to the next hairpin but the clutch had overheated and when this happens it will not release so I could not slip it, and could not get enough speed up to keep it fully engaged. Bugger, this is now looking bad. By this time I’d been on the hill for around 20 minutes.
Another 10 minutes for the clutch to cool and another plan was hatched. Leon would walk up the hill a little so I did not need to take a pillion. I would bump start the bike, turn it round and make a run up the hill but jump off at running pace and run alongside it, slipping the clutch and allowing the bike to pull itself up. Crazy but cunning. This method got us to the next and final steep hairpin before the clutch again overheated and I could not run fast enough to keep the engine going. It stalled, the clutch was smoking, and after running up a 1 in 3 with full bike gear I was sweating like an MP at a Max Moseley party. My predicament was that I had now got the bike up the steepest part so did not want to roll it back down to start it, but could not get it started with the kickstart. Time to enjoy the view.
Leon looking less than amused stuck on the Hardknott Pass
Whilst sitting and waiting we heard the sound of a twin and it was Brian who had returned to find out what had gone wrong. I explained the bike was fine, but it just would not go up the incline. He helped me push it up a little then I bump started it again and tried the running alongside trick but the clutch cried enough after about 40 yards, which happened to be about where we had started that particular attempt, so no further on. The next plan was for Brian to tow the Scott but the incline was too steep for him to get started so we called that off before we killed his clutch too. We were now with the bike on the side of the road and it was time for the car drivers to create havoc.
A Jaguar coming down the hill stopped just short of us. The driver was gesticulating for us to get out of the road by going back down to a passing place. There was plenty of room for him to get past but he said he would scratch his wheels on the cobble edges of the road. Brian, using his usual tact and diplomacy carefully explained to him that there was adequate room, there was no way we were going back down for anyone, and if he could not get his car through the gap either we would, or he should not be bringing it to such a road. Eventually we pushed the Scott past uphill proving there was plenty of room. By this time around 4 cars in each direction had backed up and then chaos ensued. We parked the Scott and Brian’s Triumph in a passing layby and watched as all the car drivers got out of their cars and started shouting at each other. A completely futile exercise but it gave us some entertainment while we got our breath back. We were now past the steepest section so a running start from me and a tow from Brian got us up the hill. We unhitched at the summit and rode all down the other side to meet the group who where waiting and wondering at the bottom. A cheer was heard and we recalled the last hour of “fun” we had endured. All other riders made it up cleanly and well done to Justine who rode her panniered CG125 up without a hiccup only weeks after her CBT. Nothing like in at the deep end!
We continued down the Wrynose pass to the Inn at the bottom. I was so knackered I cannot even remember where it was, I think around Little Langdale but I’ve failed to find it on Google Maps. However, we enjoyed a well earned pint as we replanned the route a little due to the lost time on Hardknott. With the shear rock face above the pub we watched the climbers and contemplated if it was harder getting a race geared Scott up a 1 in 3 or climbing the rocks. In the end I was not sure, but at least we made it. I was warned of two more climbs we were to ensure and we hatched a plan for Paul to stop at the bottom of the climbs and take Leon as pillion, reducing the load on the Scott.
We picked some B roads and got through Ambleside when I saw Paul stopped at a mini roundabout. This was the start of the next climb, the Kirkstone Road, but I decided to attack it even with Leon as pillion. First gear, into the power and go for it, take no prisoners and don’t slow down for the corners! I caught Dave up and was forced to pass him round the outside of one hairpin, and then Steve got Scotted at the next. Right in the power band it was pulling well so time to ease off the throttle a little and give it a small amount of choke to keep it well oiled and we made it up Kirkbank! Full of our renewed faith we gave the following bikes a good dose of Castrol R then let them past so we could continue in formation.
Only one bank left to climb, the Kirkstone Pass leading to the third highest pub in Britain at the top. There was a couple of cars so we stopped and let them get a good distance in front before attacking this one with equal gusto. Another fast run saw the clutch fully engaged so no overheating, and the engine in its power band and we crested without a niggle. 1 in 4, no problem, 1 in 3, think again! We awarded ourselves a short break here but it was clear the Scott was not well. All the overheating and pain it had suffered meant it was getting difficult to start and required a long shove down the Kirkstone Pass to get it going again.
Back towards the lakes we rode alongside Ullswater as we headed back East. Fantastic scenery but the traffic on the A592 was a pain so we were glad to get back onto the B and C roads after the lake for traffic free riding. I stopped for fuel here beside the lake and made the mistake of choosing a petrol station at the bottom of a hill. Much pushing was required but eventually she struck into life and we were off again.
Over to Askham for a lunch stop at a very nice pub on the town cross roads and it was time to head off again. The shout for helmets on was given and the bikes rode off, me waiting as usual for everyone to go so I can follow. After we had been riding for 10 minutes or so the group stopped and we realised one was missing. I had not realised Mike had gone back into the pub for something, I thought he had left. Of course this meant a trip back for someone to find him meanwhile I did not want to stop the Scott so Brian gave me the directions and I headed off alone at a steady pace so as not to sit still boiling all my water away. I’m sure Brian said to turn right, then first left, then right again over the M6. What he actually said was turn BEFORE the M6. So there I am happily cruising along at 35mph waiting for the group to catch me, but instead I end up at a dead end road and the only two options are to turn north or south onto the M6 at jct 39. At this point Brian caught up with me and led me back to the flock and the correct road.
With all the major climbs out of the way, full tanks and full bellies we pushed on back into the Dales via the edge of Kirkby Stephen and along the amazing road heading up to Tan Hill and the highest Inn in Britain.
The run across from Tan Hill followed and offers fantastic views over the Pennines, Dales and as the weather cleared we could see the cliffs at Saltburn, about 60 miles away. The road is a little bumpy on a rigid but handily someone has placed the pub at the top so it was inside for refreshments as we contemplated the run downhill and homeward.
This was the point where I made the fatal suggestion that we should head to the Bridge Inn at Piercebridge as the official rally end point, from where everyone would head different directions home. Much pushing, panting and swearing got the Scott started and we left Tan Hill knowing it was all downhill and we had completed the last official stop of the rally.
Great views as we headed down off the Dales through Arkengarthdale, left at Arkle and down out of the Dales via Stang Top and Stang Lane. As we all knew the roads from here the pace had picked up and I was enjoying the run down the hills and hairpins of Stang. Irony would strike at the worst point, right beside the most ill-named waypoint, “Hope” I was banked over in a downhill corner and felt a bang and something hit my foot. I thought I’d run over a stone on the road, but a short while later down the hill I opened the throttle and nothing happened. My initial thought was I’d run out of petrol as the engine was turning okay. I rolled to a halt and investigated but it was half full of fuel and oil. Further investigation showed the magneto chain was absent. As the tail ender myself and Leon were once again left sitting on a wall until the group realised we were not behind them.
The frustrating thing here was we were only 20 miles from home where I had 50 feet of new mag chain on the bench that I’d bought the week before and not had time to fit. I’d put a couple of spare links in my pocket but I could not find the chain to reconnect it!
After 10 minutes Paul arrived back so I explained what had happened and that I thought the chain had left the bike and hit my foot so perhaps he could ride back up the road and look for it. With it being such a long downhill, and the speed I was going when it gave up, I’d coasted at least half a mile so the chances were slim. After much searching the chain was nowhere to be seen so for the second time it was Brian and his tow rope who would rescue us. This time it was clear there was no chance of a repair so I was towed back to Barnard Castle where Leon and I sat on the pavement in the main street and enjoyed some very nice fish and chips out of the wrapper while Justine rode home to pick up my 4×4 with the bike rack.
All in all it was a testing rally with fantastic scenery but now knowing the route I’d not take a close ratio geared Scott up the Hardknott pass. The rest was okay but on returning to the workshop it was clear that 300 miles on those roads and conditions loaded up on a vintage bike needs a fresh bike. On inspection I found the mag chain buried in the crud down the front of the crankcase but it was twisted beyond use anyway. The magneto had given up sparking at below 400rpm hence the starting problems, the big end rollers needed replacing, a rear spoke was broken, the cylinder base gaskets had failed and ended up in the crankcase oil wells (another reason it would not start) and the rings where absolutely jammed in the pistons, which themselves had not been be decoked for many years as the piston crowns had literally up to ¼” of carbon shaped as per the combustion chamber! I’d never pulled the heads off the bike since I bought it 8 months and 2000 miles ago, I was hoping to get to the winter before pulling it to bits but fate beat me to it. The kick pawl problems were traced to a cracked kickstart lever, another thing to fix.
All now done and dusted the humour can be seen but rallies like that soon go from a gentle roll through the countryside to being a worry and ordeal, but I guess that is what separates riding vintage bikes from modern ones.