If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday 29 August 2010

My New Hero

... is a chap called Martin Budden. Allow me to explain.

Today, the TOMCC branch had a rideout organised, to go to the motorcycle races at Tonfanau, near Tywyn in mid-Wales. I was quite keen to go, but the others backed out for one reason or another and I went alone.

Summer's almost gone, folks, as the ride up there was cool and blustery. I wore my new Triumph jacket (had to, really) and kevlar jeans, but for the morning chill I covered these up with waterproof over-trousers and an ex-police hi-viz jacket. That made it almost warm. It was a fantastic ride to Machynlleth and then over the mountains and down the valley past Tal-y-Llyn lake towards the sea. The wind howled up the valley and made progress difficult, even downhill. The racetrack was well-signposted, and I got there just as the third race was coming to an end.

The foutrh race was for classic bikes, from 250 to 500 cc. The bikes were a mix of Honda fours, Suzuki twins, and classic old Brit singles like BSAs and Seeley's version of the Matchless G50 single. And there was an odd man out. For one thing, it had no fairing. For another, it had high and wide trailbike-style handlebars. And it looked an awful lot like a Yamaha SR500 - a single-cylinder road bike with no racing pretentions whatever. It was listed in the programme as 'Yamaha XTT 498cc'. And its rider was performing audacious braking manoeuvres at every corner, and gaining a couple of places each time. I didn't see who won, but later I walked through the paddock and spotted the bike and rider: Martin Budden.

For one thing, Martin is 70 years old. For another, the bike is tatty, brush-painted, and bears the marks of several decades of modifications and experimentations. And for a third, it is taxed. which means it has an MoT certificate. Which means he uses it on the road.

Good man!

He explained that he had had the bike (a standard XT trail bike) for most of its life, and had steadily developed it into a flat-track style racer. He had reprofiled the cam himself (he is a retired toolmaker, which I always think is a bit of an unfair advantage) and uses a 400 main jet in the carb - and I thought a 140 was big for the Bonnie. He has modified the frame with a steeper steering head angle to quicken the steering. Other than that, it's an XT 500 with short forks. Road tyres (he uses TT100s to keep it 'classic') and high, wide bars ("my arthritis won't let me bend forward like I used to"), a tax disc and a daylight-only MoT. In fact, he said, he had just ridden it back from Scotland for today's races. To remind you, he is 70, and in that race he came third. The average speed of the winner of that race was over 80 mph. Average speed.

I told him that he had made my day, and he looked pleased.

I watched out for him in a later race, and I saw the secret of his success. The bike wasn't any faster than the others - in fact, it could only just keep up on the straights. But on every corner he just left his braking hours later than anyone else. I was standing by the hairpin by this time, and for the whole ten laps it was the same: brake later than anyone, cut up the inside, passing 3 or 4 riders, then screw the front of the bike down, wrench those wide bars round, wrestle it through the turn, and bugger off before anyone else noticed. One lap, he was 8th. Next lap, he was 4th. It was an awesome display.

Martin, if you ever read this, you are a hero. And if I am as big an idiot at 70 as you are, I'll be well pleased with myself.

A cold but pleasant ride home, and no photos of the day - iPhone still out of service, and I thought taking a DSLR along would have been a little OTT. I wish I had made the effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...