SIX DAYS IN SCOTLAND Some Experiences of an Amateur in his First “Scottish.”
IT is a cynical saying that anticipation is better than realisation. The 1930 Scottish Six Days’ frial exceeded my expectations considerably. The event, aptly described as “A Sporting Holiday in the Highlands,” surely cannot be excelled as a holiday for a keen motor cyclist. I had my full measure of anticipation, too, in preparing my motor. The work occupied my spare time very fully for ten days or so. A series of misfortunes and misfits delayed the work seriously, culminating in the fracture, the night before I was due to start, of the saddle frame. Frantic telephoning raised a saddle, and on Friday, May 2nd, I set off. The late start and foul weather enabled me to get no further than Stamford (90 miles). Next
day the remaining 320 miles were covered in good time, and I adjusted the tappets and chains, and fitted a new plug in readiness for the ” weighing-in” on the Sunday..
The models having been duly daubed with yellow and green paint, Edinburgh Zoo claimed the attention of quite a number of competitors.
An event such as the ” Scottish ” brings together a band of men and women, who by reason of their common interests and, appreciation of the sport of motor cycling, are like members of one big happy family. The newcomer senses this, and quickly feels at home. Of all the events the ” Scottish ” is the most “social,” and in the hotels of an evening there is opportunity for reminiscences of the past and rumours of the future. The accents of Lancashire and Yorkshire, the Midlands and the South, mingle with the prevailing Scotch bixrr, soft and pleasing to the Sassenach car.
Monday dawned dry but dull, and it was with relief that we started the week’s work. The four hills caused very little trouble, but they would have been different propositions had they been wet. Wakem, a long level section with two boggy patches, was cut out of the results, because a slab of stone had been placed in the fairway, and one or two crankcases came to rest on it.
Ford winds up a rough grassy track for about a mile. At the bottom there is quite a sizeable splash, which had been dammed. I should say that in the 29 miles which follow to the next check, there are more twists and dips than in. any other road in the country. One breasts a sharp rise at 30 m.p.h.,
more a test of the man rather than the machine, but the Scottish Six Days stands alone as a real searching test of machines. The Ford New York section, is an example of the reason : one is continually accelerating and braking, and every component is subjected to stress. The Scottish roads, too, are guaranteed to shake anything to pieces. My speedometer shed some screws for the first time in its life ; nuts came loose which had never offended before, and a fibre attache case on my carrier was ruined. The tracks which wind over mountains and round lochs are invariably stony, rough and loose, with pothdles which ” bottom ” front forks and dent wheel rims. The roads seem to be cut out of rock, for besides the loose stones, there are rocky outcrops protruding everywhere, such as would only be foimd on a test hillin England. Your competition rider always likes to keep time in hand for making adjustments, so the effect is that one hurries over this sort of stuff, and probably averages 30 instead of 20 m.p.h. It is necessary to hurry in the ” Scottish ” too, for the distances are often more than the route card says. My Bonniksen showed 976 as the total mileage, which was
officially 942. Those who hold that trials are no longer of value should take a machine through the ” Scottish ” : it would be an education. Scottish scenery is unequalled in Eng
hoping the track continues straight, and leaving the ground in a Ballig Bridge leap, swoops down like a scenic railway car. Many of the corners curve round more than is expected. On one such corner I approached much too fast, saw Graham Goodman. picking pieces of his license holder out of the heather,–and just saved my bacon. One-day trials are becoming more and
land, and it has an. atmosphere of its own. There are the black-faced sheep which infest the roads, the shaggy long-horned Highland cattle, the lochs, the snowcapped mountains, the burns, the heather and gorse, the ever-changing hills, sometimes sweeping upwards in gentle undulations, sometimes beetling up stark and forbidding, making a narrow winding defile through which we ride.
Monday ended in a blaze of sunshine at Oban, and Tuesday kept up the good work, quite unusual for a “Scottish.” Leaving Oban, there were many herds of cows being driven in to market. While passing one of these, one of the animals put its helm hard-a-starboard, with the result that its stern swung out and caught my handlebars, knocking me off.
Tuesday included Mamore, probably the fiercest hill in the British Isles. It winds up a spur by the side of a loch, has half-a-dozen hairpins, a surface of loose powdery shale, rocky outcrops and stones, and a gradient of about 1 in 3 for a considerable distance.
Tuesday found out my two big mistakes. Owing to lack of time, I had not lowered my gears, and. committed the grave indiscretion of coming up to Scotland with a standard close-ratio gearbox, giving ratios of 4.2, 6, and 10.8 to 1. I therefore approached the hill with very considerable palpitations, and a tow-rope handy in my pocket.
It was hard work, but by the grace of God and my clutch, I scrambled up nonstop. In reality the hill is neither so long nor so fearsome as rumour has painted it. ” Wind-up and the fact that it is climbed but once a year account for its ill-repute. It is a hill that very quickly becomes cut up, and for this reason and, because of the number of failures, the top portion was “washed out” of the results. My second big mistake lay in trusting to a tyre pressure gauge which was later proved to be registering about 50% too high. Mylunfortunate rear tyre, with practicallyino air in it. crept and crept,
till the tube was folded over on itself, and finally punctured—in the ‘Mamore section ! This 12-mile section, reduced to 15 m.p.h., includes a river bed with boulders the size of a man’s head, and for the rest consists of a series of violent acceleration and braking, coinciding with the rocky gullies—over 70 of them—where streams cross the road. I suppose a combination of a good rider and quick mechanic
could change a tube and check in on time at Fort William, but I could not ; not by 24 minutes. That dud gauge cost me a gold medal.
Rather tough luck, but it was no good letting it spoil the trial. Actually being out of the running so early enabled me to enjoy myself rather more than some people as I did not approach each hill knowing my cup depended on it.
Wednesday’s route is perhaps the most picturesque. The 7 mile climb of Tornapress, up which we had to average 20 m.p.h. (or less according to class), winds up between frowning battlements of rock 700 or 800 feet high, standing like grim sentinels at the entrance to the pass. The summit is breasted by a series of hairpins, then follows the drop to Applecross. The village consists of a cluster of whitewashed cottages, nestling by the blue sea, with the mist-shrouded mountains of Skye in the distance.
ciently human to show undisguised interest in the trial.
Coming back over Tornapress we met a stinging hailstorm, and the descent seemed interminable.
Abriachan gave quite a nasty combination of mud, boulders, bends and, gradient. Here I registered my only hill failure, through taking it too fast.
I found my high gears a pestilential nuisance throughout the week. Scott ish hills are generally steep, and have h airpins, and invariably rocks, both the fl xed and the loose variety, so that it is essential to be able to go slowly and pick a care fut course. Thursday distinguished itself by providing heavy snowstorms and rain on and off all day. Hudson’s Hill and W eem, tackled in rain during the afternoon, proved very unpleasant, though the new edition of Weem was very m uch milder than that used last year. Both these hills
Here we lunched—sa ve the name—on sandwiches, Scones and tea, and followed the usual custom of sending postcards home. A steamer calls daily for mails : the only other communication is the road, 19 miles to jeantown. Even out here one of the cottages bore the legend ” Lyons cakes,” while the Post Office girls were after the fashion of their kind, haughty and silk-stockinged, but, suffi wind up between banks, with a rough muddy surface punctuated by huge outcrops of rock. My ascents of this type of hill were wild in the extreme. Being unable to progress otherwise than in a “
blind” I seemed to hit every rock plumb with both wheels, and explored both banks, making good use of my feet the while.
At Perth that evening, a most excellent musical party presided over by the inimitable ” Nobby ” Clark, lasted from 9 p.m. until past midnight.
Friday’s run was very enjoyable, with fine weather, a short mileage, and an hour’s wait at the top of Shepherd’s Hill. From here there was a marvellous view over Loch Earn, and an opportunity of going down to watch other competitors.
Fea.rna.n was one of the usual rough hills, but for sheer frightfulness, the 5 miles which followed, surpass anything I have previously encountered. Running along the side of a Loch, high up on the steep hillside, is a narrow grassy ledge.