The 1999 Cornwall Centre ACU’s End to End Trial
by Julia Browne
Each year the Cornwall Centre ACU run an End to End Trial for motorcycle and sidecars – that is an end to end of Cornwall, running East to West and touching both North and South coasts. The 1999 event started rather inauspiciously for us. After a week of sunshine we woke up to steady rain, and then our support crew were half an hour late according to our finely tuned schedule. “How fast will the van go?” I asked Mike. “Eighty?” he suggested. “Then it’ll have to,” I said. On arrival at Topsham, where we were picking up Neil and my father, we found we had a puncture In the trailer, and of course we had no spare. The puncture repair kit and tyre levers came out for the first time that day, not a good sign, surely, and it seemed to be raining more heavily. Now running about forty minutes late we loaded my father’s Greeves and Neil’s Triumph onto the trailer, packed Neil, Mike and myself into the back of the Transit alongside the two XL 500s, my father, Lisa, Ben the collie (who thought this was all a marvellous adventure) into the front and Jackson, our support driver, climbed into the pilot’s seat. Neil leaned into the cockpit briefly. “Whatever you do,” he said, “try not to crash. I can’t imagine how I’d ever get out. Jackson agreed, “Be like trying to ball out of a blazing Lancaster”.
We got to the start one hour before our departure time, an amazing recovery of lost minutes, but then It was time for the Greeves to play at not-wanting-to-start. It was eventually persuaded otherwise, but by now I was getting very twitchy that we should be getting scrutineered and signing on. Like now…… The lane into the first section was a long, gradual, stony descent into a narrow stream. The section itself, Treworgie, began on the steep climb away from the stream and immediately plunged us into fairly deep mud through trees. We all footed through. On to Crackington, which Neil and the Triumph roared up in fine aggressive style. The Greeves and my father were less aggressive but went up, Mike was on the back wheel most of the way and I … well, I got up it. As we hit the coast and one of the byways the sun began to glimmer, a better sign. Treworld: the Greeves in front of me took a rather unique line through the ford at the bottom, and nearly got away with it. I cleaned Treworld in spite of having to dodge my father and Neil at the top where they were urging the Greeves over the last few yards.
Hancocks Horror, though short, started with a polished stone step. The Triumph bounded over and away around the corner, Mike’s XL wagged its tall furiously across it, and the Greeves firmly spun around and slid back down. Once we’d got that little lot sorted out and got it upright and back on the road, it was my turn. I got as far the corner, but having footed over the step, turned around at that point. At this point my father decided to take the Greeves on by road and not worry too much about the sections. AIllensford sent us into a muddy field, through a ford and on through the field to where the section zig-zagged up a long, steep bank. I managed to dab on the second zig, but Neil and Mike went up OK. We rode back down to the road, and just as I was thinking that I hadn’t fallen off yet, I got cross-tracked and nearly did. Concentrated the mind wonderfully. So on to Helland Bridge – a nice section, firm under tyre and not too steep.
We navigated our way to the special test at Keats Field, a loop with two river crossings. Mike took the post from line B with him as he left the river, and I stuffed the bike into the river bank and fell off. The Triumph, though still running when it left the water, wasn’t especially interested in starting again. It took about ten minutes of running up and down beside it, alternately pleading and threatening, before it would fire up again. We managed to miss the turning to Bullock Lane, but luckily, as we stopped to repair some of the damage done to my bike, the Clerk of the Course drove past and advised us that we were lost. With mine bent back into shape and cable-tied together, we retraced our steps one hundred yards or so to Bullock Lane. This was a progressive climb, starting through deep mud, and Neil and I both got to the corner before spinning out of grip, but Mike claims to have crabbed all the way to the top, feet up!
Phills Find was interesting. It was a little bit of weaving through trees with a 90 degree turn into a sharp, steep bank about twentv feet high. I saw one of the Cornish wildboys on a modern fourstroke enduro bike get about ten feet of air at the top, and even Mike’s XL launched itself enthusiastically into the field at the top. Thus, I was far too cautious in my approach, and by the time I’d decided to attack, even my XL500 power wasn’t going to get me up there. I fell off. Phil Williams picked me up. “Okay?’ he asked. “Yes”, I said and fell over again. In the space of thirty seconds or so, I’d gone from being a little bit tired to being too exhausted to start the bike again. Amazing, that.
The route rejoined the A30 for a while, in a persistent crosswind, and this was the last time we saw my father all day. He said he’d meet us at Carland Cross. the lunch halt. More later. Homers Lane was lovely, and much needed by me, still smarting from XL’s victory over me on the previous section. Trendeal 1 was a bit different: the XL and I failed to communicate and I stuffed it into a small tree. I think the marshal found it funny, at any rate, he took pity on me and pulled me up the bank. Trendeal 2 was nothing terribly challenging but I still managed to foot on it. Carland Cross, the chance to discard extra clothing and eat a quick banana sandwich, and to wonder where my father was. Jackson and Lisa were there with the van, so we asked them to retrace the route as far back as where he’d last been seen, and as we were half an hour behind time now, we really had to push on. Well, the Jacksons found him, only lost, not broken down and pointed him towards Land’s End again. Of course, we didn’t know anything about this, and wondered periodically throughout the afternoon.
Tom Ball’s Lane was another nice, stony surfaced lane, and with the ground drying out nicely by now, didn’t pose a problem for any of us. The start-line marshal first established my relationship to the other two Brownes before wishing me a pleasant day. Through Perranporth … ah, Perranporth, and our encounter with the local constabulary. At a mini roundabout I saw a police car out of the corner of my eye and immediately got the feeling that he was going to be interested in a bunch of muddy bikers. Not for about three miles, mind you, because with that sixth sense that all motorcyclists develop concerning police cars, I thought he was probably in pursuit and resolutely did not look back until we were turning right into Blue Hills Mine. At that point I couldn’t pretend I hadn’t seen the blue light, and decided not to antagonise the police any further, and stopped. The WPC who got out wasn’t amused, but she remained civil and gave me a telling off for riding with a dirty number plate and rear light!
Blue Hills and blazing sunshine at last! The sea was a choppy as a choppy thing, and there was lots of lovely, dry, slippery. slate. I footed on Blue Hills I and got balked on Blue Hills 2. The marshal at the top probably was trying to stop me, but once I’ve left the start line I don’t look around much. Mike had fallen off on the top corner and was being watched by a dozen spectators as he tried to pick the bike up. I probably could have ridden over him and still cleaned the section. but I chose to stop and let him get clear. We had a long tarmac run down to Rinkling Lane, where there was a long queue of bikes. The two sections ran consecutively, and so we had to wait for each bike to clear both before the next rider could go. I got most of the way up Rinkling I before getting lost in the diversion up the bank. Not sure which way I was meant to be going as I rejoined the track, I didn’t go any way at all, but rode straight on and part way up the next bank, and stopped. “Where the hell am I going?” I asked a panicked man whose feet where either side of my front wheel. He had one shoe off, shaking stones out of his boots, and couldn’t even run away as I headed for him. Rinkling 2 was a straight blast up another bank over a network of slippery tree roots, not a problem. When I got to the top Mike was wandering around looking dazed. He had opened the throttle a bit hard leaving the section and the bike had gone into orbit at the top. He’d been just holding on by his fingertips when the XL planted itself in a tree on it’s back wheel and he was feeling a bit pounded. Rame Cross was another nice section, stony and stepped on old, open heathland and I still managed to make a mess of it.
Trelissick Farm was a nice, fairly steep climb up into a field. The section wasn’t the problem. To get back onto the route we were sent down a near vertical drop of thirty feet or so, into a ploughed field. Mike had blown a fork seal on one of his earlier getoffs and had fork oil all over his front brake disc. The rear drum brakes on XL500s are only adequate at best, and faced with this drop he was entirely in the hands of gravity, who showed him no mercy as she accelerated him and 300 Ibs of fourstroke into the newly ploughed earth. I, coming along a few seconds later, stopped at the top of the drop and saw him lying as a graceful heap at the foot of it. I made two rapid deductions: one,Mike wasn’t going to be riding my bike down for me, and; two, neither was I. I rode back to the top of the section and listened carefully for a moment. There didn’t seem to be anybody else coming, so I rode back down it and explained to the marshals that I’d wimped out of the descent. They seemed to understand. Meeting up with Mike back on route, he was limping and very sore. The front of the bike was smashed all to hell, although rideable once we’d ripped the front mudguard right off and laid it to rest. The clock and headlight and all been rammed back towards the yokes by an inch, and the mountings had concertina’d under the impact. Yep, Trelissick Farm was the most excitement we had all day.
Stopgate 1 was another timed test, and Stopgate 2 was another progressive climb, not my favourites because I can’t, and don’t ride back down hills very well. I asked the marshal to give me a 5 and let me go home. He was very clever. He said, “You can get to the 5 board, it’s still flat there. If you get to 5, I’ll give you a 4.” Well, I got right to the top after that little pep-talk! Wigley’s Lane was another little respite after the rigours of previous sections: a little wiggle off the main track and around a tree, which could have been nadgery if it had been wetter, but turned out to be OK. At Castle Horneck, we met my father – remember my father, last seen before Carland Cross? – again. He stayed long enough to watch Mike and Neil clean the section, and watch me get lost in it (lost! In the section!) and have to foot to get back on line. Which just left Catchall, a pleasant little amble over undulating ground and through trees.
We’d been steadily regaining time through out the day, and now had ten minutes to ride the last six miles of twisty A road to Sennen, and so ten minutes is how long we took. I was on the limits of my trials tyres at times, trying to stay with a thirty-five year old Triumph whose owner reckons it won’t cruise at much above fifty. It was a very intensive tour of the best bits of Cornwall and in conclusion I have to say that I have never before worked so hard for my finisher’s certificate, and Mike has never before trashed his bike so thoroughly in the quest for that piece of card which proves that he did it.