A SPORTING HOLIDAY IN THE HIGHLANDS
When the entry forms arrived for the SSDT there was the joke sentiment written at the top of the form….
“A sporting holiday in the Highlands” and indeed for the most part it was. By this time of the year all preparations had been made, new machine tested, final ride prior to the event completed, last few
details to be done, kit to be inspected, tube changes done, with and without the stand, and final
checks of machine, tools and equipment gone over one last time.
As the annual pilgrimage draws near for those lucky riders in this year’s 100th running of the famous
event the excitement will be building for the old hands while the “newbies” will be full of a mixture of overconfidence and self doubt. You may be a superb one day rider at your local events but do you have
the fitness, stamina and mind set to last the week?
Well of course you could have signed up at the gym, could have been out running 5 miles a day,
perhaps been on a diet or have adopted the RAF training regime of 1/2 a pint/section the night before!
…… and with 30 odd sections a day you had better be in good drinking shape. No doubt all of these will
have helped but the one thing that will keep the body going is bike fitness. How often do you ride 200
miles a day across all terrain for six continuous days? Now, as we know, the course is shorter by
about half the distance but none the less arduous even though there are not the long road stages in
the rain and biting cold. For those that make it to the end, then they will have attained the necessary
bike fitness. They will have had the blisters, that have turned to callouses and then rubbed blood
crystals into the palms of their hands. They will have had the nightly “cramps” they will have endured dehydration, minor levels of hypothermia, heat exhaustion, bruises cuts and scratches along with
burns from touching hot items on the bike and of course the abject misery of “trench foot” from todays
less than waterproof riding boots.
The “Will” to finish must be paramount as it is all too easy to give up when body and machine are crying “enough’s enough!” The mental planning is what will get you through. The night before we
would always have our team meeting and discuss where the fuel stops would be and then with
ordanance survey maps everywhere we would go through the route and the more experienced riders
would give their words of advice.
I can remember cresting ridges on those open moors and seeing wheel tracks every which way and
trying to pick out a flag somewhere ahead or a rooster tail from someone in front. The determination to
finish at all costs and trying to keep yourself in check and ride with a little in reserve was hard.
Now where ?
Memories from previous years would suddenly flash through the mind and ways to avoid some of the
worst going clicked through the brain’s archives, in some cases a micro second too late! The joys of
coming up to a Loch and remembering last night’s briefing you suddenly knew you were going the
right way and were halfway across Hell. Time to stop and have a refreshing cold drink from the clear
waters. Time to calm down and review either the morning or day’s going over a smoke and drink in
some of the Majesty of the Highlands. A quick check of the steed for broken spokes, chain tension
and anything else that was a known potential problem.
As cooked and distressed riders flailed by time to consult the route card while finishing the nicotine
inject…… and then off again suitably refreshed before the sweat laden clothes started to get cold.
Those 1/2 way rests were invaluable as you overtook many who were now at the end of their personal
tethers and were making bad mistakes losing control on simple tracks or driving straight into
bottomless bogs without the energy or endurance to recover their lost steed.
After hours of riding …….. a track !
Scotland unlike any other trial can make the “Superstar” look like a complete novice when one rolling
rock doesn’t cooperate and as you are all riding together and as there is sure to be “one SS” in your
group this can often be the confidence booster you as the clubman need to keep going when things
are at their worst.
1970 and Mick takes a “5” on his way to his first win
My first Scottish was a bit like that when I was riding with Bill Wilkinson who had won the year before.
I was riding quite well on day 1, apart from the nerves, and as we went through the last group before
lunch at Altnafeadh I lost a couple of 3’s and a dab. There were NO 2’s back then and both my 3’s had
been double prodders and then on the one I dabbed Bill got stuck with the Greeves for a clanging 5 !!
Of course I was pretty cock a’hoop coming into the lunch check……. it didn’t last !
1969 winner Bill Wilkinson
Another year, 1972, I’m with Rastus on Coalasnacoan and he takes a 3 prodder and I sail through for
one of those “Whats the problem ?” cleans. These sort of rare events are what keep you going and do
much to repair battered egos …….. so whether this year is your first or your many …… never give up!
Coalasnacoan in 1972 and Rastus has just had a “3” and I ride through
like a main road………did that feel good or what ?
This year being the 100th I’m sad I’m not there to relive all those experiences and swap a tale or two
with other riders of my era who I’m sure will be on hand to make it a truly memorable event. Perhaps
this year will be the year to break a record or two?
Unlikely that the famous “One Dab” score from Gordon Jackson will either be equalled or ever broken,
and perhaps it shouldn’t ?
The “one dab” week
However, the many current records could all have been broken and many will say that two of the all
time greats in Scottish history, Sammy and Mick, were both unlucky not to have claimed their sixth win
and as neither are currently competing in the modern event their tied performances are perhaps a
fitting tribute to their Scottish excellence.
Past masters Sammy and Mick with 5 wins a piece
So while we have the new generation of brilliant trials riders, being the 100th, I would still like this one
to be won by the Lampkin family. With nearly all the Lampkins names engraved on that trophy I would
dearly love to see Dougie taking the win and his Sixth, especially after last years bad luck.
My pick for the 100th
I will of course be glued to the results service as it comes in, and wherever you are and whatever your personal aspirations are for the event I wish ALL the competitors the best of luck and as always enjoy your “Sporting Holiday in the Highlands.” I certainly enjoyed ALL 8 of mine.