FAVORITE TRIALS

 

FAVORITE TRIALS

FAVORITE TRIALS

Taking a nostalgic moment during these early morning ramblings my mind takes me back over the 48
years in the sport to many events, some good, some bad, the ones not to be missed and those
relegated to the “never ever again” box!

Having achieved the magic age of 16 life took on a new meaning after all those years of
accompanying Father to “Club Night” at the Barham Village Hall where all things motorcycling were
discussed over much coffee and many games of snooker. Countless weekends of trudging up
muddy hills to view sections with the old man as he completed his duties as an ACU Steward would
soon be coming to fruition!

So now as a fully fledged member of the said club, I too, can join in all the fun of the upcoming trials
season.The Barham MCC ran grass tracks during the summer months, a hill climb for cars and
bikes in the autumn and then into trials all winter long with its own AC & D Arter trial in January, the
annual Mutton Lancer’s Open to Center in November and a group trial for the East Kent Trials
Combine (EKTC). We also had our own practice area called Jumping Downs where on any Saturday
the hopeful would be out trying to get that “edge” fine tuned for the weekend’s event.

From early October until May a trials rider in my area could guarantee an event every weekend within
50 miles of your doorstep with entries up to 200 in Open to Center events and around the 120 mark for
the Combines…… and so it was! Our EKTC had many clubs; Ashford, Barham, Birchington, Folkestone,
Rochester, Sittingbourne and Tenterden as I remember. These events were perfect for the beginner as
they were divided into two classes, Expert and Novice. Awards were given for obviously the Winner, the
various engine capacities and the Best Novice. Within each sector there were also First Class and
Second Class awards to the next 10% of finishers in Experts and Novices. Single line section for
everybody so clearly if the Experts finished in single digits the Novices would be up there in the 40’s to
60’s but at least you got to see how it was done as we were all jumbled up in the entry. If you were lucky
enough you could ride round with one or two of the accredited Experts of the day and see how they did it.
Names that come to mind were Gordon Farley on his Comerford’s Cub, Murray Brush (Brusher)  also
Cub mounted, guest appearances from Brownie Usher (complete with collar and tie) my Uncle, Tom
Arter, Mick Waller and other big banger expert  Aussie Haywood who used to whip my knuckles with an
ash twig if my fingers ever strayed towards that clutch thing!

A couple of pathetic attempts at the “game” on the Triumph Bushman quickly showed what needed to
be done and as soon as cousin Tom got his New Greeves I was aboard the his old Greeves Scottish
with it’s Villiers 9E engine and monstrous exhaust system. With 197cc’s of raw power I was set to take
on the World !

Ready to take on the World !

Trials being trials you are going to have to do your apprenticeship and for some this can take forever,
others may be more gifted and achieve results quicker, but  trials more often comes down to some
basics; Experience, balance, throttle control and technique.

Well in no time I won my Best Novice at the Folkestone Combine in 1963 and was immediately
booted up stairs into the Expert’s division. I also managed a clean sweep in the Club’s AC & D Arter
Trial winning the Overall, and Best Novice. So now time to do it all again until achieving my first
Second Class Experts award. Other than my own club of Barham my favorite Combine event was
always at Tenterden with tons of mud and deep ditches to wiggle along.

16, and a Clean Sweep in the AC & D Arter trials


February 1964 and my first Second Class Experts !

Out on the bigger Open to Center events, again the Mutton Lancer’s was always right up there as it was
a good excuse to come home for the weekend from whichever RAF base I was on during my Aircrew
Training. Another perk of being in the Armed Forces was a little known obscure rule whereby you could
turn up at an event and enter on the day under some Queen’s Regulation that the ACU endorsed.

Back from an overseas tour in Cyprus and now armed with the Montesa I could go more a less
anywhere I wanted with the RAF providing  me with a van and driver. Too many trials to remember as
favorites but I enjoyed riding in the West Country and also had a great time in the Midlands riding at
Bewdley and the very friendly Wolverly club’s events on Saturday afternoons.

Then it was time to go to the Olympics of Trials Riding……… the Scottish Six Days! So 1970 and I’m
entered under the RAF banner with team mates John Hambrook and Dick Clears. A voyage into the
unknown but what fun ? Once you have been there you are sucked in forever and your whole life
revolves around this week long event. All the advice, the memories, the mind games and trying to keep
yourself in check and no matter the conditions finish the event at all costs!  1970,71 and 72 were clean
sweeps for the RAF picking up the John Bull Trophy and in my case a hat trick on the RA Castle Trophy
as well. More SSDT’s from 74-78 and three more wins of that John Bull made the Scottish one of my
all time favorite trials. There is No equal.

My third Scottish (1972) on the Bultaco

The 1974 Scottish with the Yamaha

During the 70’s Geoff Chandler persuaded me to do the Nationals with him and for the most part it was
like being a Novice all over again. The two events that stand out as being enjoyable were the Bemrose
and the Perce Simon. I liked the Bemrose as the sections were very much like Scotland and I reveled
in the Perce Simon as it was bottomless mud and right up my street! The great thing about riding the
Nationals was that despite being an “also ran” your riding improved in leaps and bounds and on return
to the normal Open to Center  I found myself finishing way up the order and beating some of my trials
riding idols.

The Services Trial at Weaver’s Down was always a favorite and one that I usually rode well as it was
in April and was the last shake down event on the new bike of the year prior to leaving for Scotland.

The “Services Trial” Weavers Down Hampshire

Other favorites of that era were all the Police Federation 2 Day events that were a rip roaring hoot both
in the field and afterwards at the Police Clubhouses. Very fond memories here with some great long
time friends and long distance motorcyclists namely the Met Team of Dave Hobbs, Dave Randall and
the unstoppable Dennis Glover.

Of course there were many other highlights riding in the Lincoln area with my great friend and
colleague, Ted Thompson, and the Boilermakers was always a superb event. I could never beat Ted at
the Enduro game but I usually managed to stay ahead in trials despite all his trash talking and as I told
him on many occasions….. his legs just weren’t long enough for trials !

On the Edge, The Boilermakers 1974

Another annual pilgrimage was the Jersey 2 Day in November and if you could remember any of it
through the alcoholic haze it was probably a great event and about the same severity of a genuine UK
National. Certainly the sections had it all with rocky beach sections, cliff top hazards and lots of mud in
the bottoms of wooded areas and huge full bore climbs to get out. The RAF then had a private trial on
the sister Island of Guernsey which was an annual Team trial against the Guernsey Club. I think I won
it twice but as on every visit to the Channel Islands most things are misted in an over abundance of
duty free hospitality !

The RAF Team without a glass in hand at Jersey November 1971 

A winning ride in the Guernsey v RAF Team Trial 1975

Another across the choppy waters event was the Manx 2 Day in the motorcycle haven of the I.O.M.
A tough event for sure, but a lot of fun with everything on hand from some big climbs on the mountain,
rocky sections and mud holes to the rocks and deep sand on the beach and my favorite was a 2 sub
affair up the man made section of over 100 public steps leading out of Douglas Harbor…. a good
test for the “hangover” and somehow always reminded of “Town Hall Brae” although the sections
have nothing in common!  Maybe it was the spectators lining the steps?

My one and only modern bike the 280 Gas Gas 

In the USA initially riding a modern 280 Gas Gas that wanted for nothing and never ever went wrong
or gave trouble (I believe thats called maintenance) I had some very enjoyable rides and the CAT 2 Day
at Holbrook was definitely my favorite but using old style techniques could lose a 5 or two when the
engine stopped as there wasn’t any flywheel to keep it running. So time to rebuild some vintage iron
and try the Ahrma circuit.

The rocks at Holbrook and now back on the Yamaha

Within Ahrma there have been some power struggles and lack of forward thinking but fortunately that
does not manifest itself at the events which for the most part are very well run and a good challenge for
period machines. Luckily for me Ahrma tends to run a lot of 2 Day events which make the traveling
worthwhile and to date the best ones have always been the old Perris, Donner Ski Ranch, Tucker
Ranch Cotopaxi and for sheer trials riding bliss Casper in Wyoming.

The Old Perris, what a shame the land was lost

The Best USA Vintage Trials……. Casper Wy

Rating all this lot some sort of list falls out and is as follows;

Scottish Six Days
Casper Ahrma 3 Day
The Mutton Lancers
Guernsey 2 Day
The Perce Simon
Old Perris Ahrma 2 Day
CAT Holbrook 2 Day
Donner Ahrma 2 Day
Thames Valley Police 2 Day
Tenterden EKTC
The Bemrose
Cotopaxi Ahrma 2 Day

TONY DOWN

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Comments
  • 1/22/2010 8:46 AM Dan Sutherland wrote:
    enjoyable reading!
    Reply to this
  • 1/22/2010 7:28 PM Bill wrote:
    Great history of the sport! Thanks!
    Reply to this
  • 1/25/2010 11:06 AM Al Ussher wrote:
    Hello Tony, I don’t think our paths ever crossed, but I rode in the 1969 Scottish on a 252cc Bultaco FOT4D, reputedly built by Sammy Miller and then owned by the RAFMSA. And as a result, two of my longtime good friends are Dick Clears and Jack Knoops. The Bulto big- end cried enough just after Laggan Locks on the Thursday. My fault, as there was a trace of “up and down” apparent during the preparation, but I thought it would last just as an old Villiers would!! Wrong! Poor Jack was also out due to I think, primary chain trouble, with the Cheetah. Dick, I believe, had a good ride and finished well up in the awards. And he is still sweeping the competition aside with his rigid Bantam, over in East Anglia. I had bought a trials machine from Alasdair Thompson in about 1967,at Bordon trials camp, and took it up to Valley. It turned out to be a Dot, albeit with a Sprite tank and only one piston ring… And so began an association with the Manchester marque, and who, if you give them a call, will still answer “Dot Motorcycles, what are you after?” to this day. The sole surviving factory of a great industry. And it’s about a Dot that’s prompted me to contact you. You mentioned Geoff Chandler in this blog. A “GCS” has recently been found. It’s a round tube Dot frame, 32A engine, Norton forks and Ariel front hub. It has been suggested that the machine was originally a works supported bike supplied to Andre Baldet, in Northhamptonshire, before being built by Geoff as a Special. Do you recall such a machine? Any information would be very welcome to the Dot Motorcycle Club. Dick alerted me to your website, and I’m now a regular reader, heaven help me!!! Best Wishes, Al Ussher
    Reply to this
  • 2/7/2010 8:53 PM Tim Jackson wrote:
    Bravo, Tony, on your retrospective. From your photos, clearly you Brits back then were a far more gentlemenly lot than we Hoosier MX hillbillys who blitzed the rolling pasture lands and forests of Southern Indiana in the early ’70s. Makes me sentimental for those old days when Sunoco 260 sold for 58 cents a gallon and my teenaged buddies and I rode after school every day until well after dusk, plonking home through the woods in the dark. Cheers and good luck to all in 2010! See ya’ll on the AHRMA trials circuit!
    Reply to this
  • 4/19/2014 4:08 AM Ernie Small wrote:
    Happy memories of days of yore!!!
    Reply to this
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2 thoughts on “FAVORITE TRIALS”

  1. Hi Tony,

    I am an artist and a fellow trials rider from North Yorkshire. I am a member of Richmond Motor Club that host the Scott Trial every year. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Scott and I am producing a poster to commemorate it. I have been searching for the perfect image of a trialer in action and would love to use the one of you on your Bultaco in 1972 during the Scottish posted in the blog ‘Favourite Trials’. Would you be happy for me to use this image? I will be recreating it and will only be referencing you and the bike, not the scenery or the photo as a whole. Great to see you are still trialing in the US, plenty of grip I expect! I look forward to hearing from.

    Kind regards,

    Tim Brown

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