So You Want To Ride ISDT?

So You Want To Ride ISDT?

Ardent readers of my column, ref the Scottish, will be pleased to know that I shall not bore you with
exploits and tales of daring-do for 1971. However, after 2 rides and 2 finishes in the Scottish, the
Royal Air Force and others are keen on me riding in the ISDT as it was called then.
For those of you not familiar with this event it consists of every country entering 2 teams in the
competition. The top teams compete for the Trophy and the lesser teams compete for the Vase.
The Trophy teams are each countries top 6 riders with the best 4 to count while the Vase teams
are more clubman level and military and consist of 4 riders with 3 to count.
Prior to the event, normally held in September, there are a series qualifying events and special
track and test days. The first of these was always the Welsh 2 Day held in central Wales at
Llandrindrod Wells ……. So, June sees me venturing into the unknown riding a trials bike amid all
the full blown enduros and modified motorcrossers . The format of the event is identical to the
ISDT in so much that each day is about 200 miles divided up into stages of 12-20 miles in length,
and depending on conditions the organizers will set one of three speed schedules for the day….
Wet 22-25mph, Average 25-28mph, Dry 28-31mph, which obviously gives you the times between
the checks. You can arrive early at the check, BUT DON”T CHECK IN! And up to 3 minutes late
without penalty. If you are late you lose 1 mark per minute until 60 when you are excluded.
To get the “prized” Gold Medal you must not incur any time penalties or you slip to Silver and then
after 25 to the lowly Bronze. On top of that there are special tests twice a day which consist of
stretches of unknown done WFO with a flying finish. During these you must stay within 10% of the
class leaders time to stay on Gold standard. Not that that worried most people as the fastest
usually didn’t finish! ……… and if you want to win you had best be there at the end!!
That’s the basic idea but it’s not a Trial! It’s like riding the loop, only its 200 miles and you have
no idea of where you are going! Just follow the route markers … White = Straight On, Blue=Left,
Red=Right and hope you find the next check point and your support crew.
So here is my plan, Jim Sandiford {a regular British Trophy Team member} is starting 5 minutes
behind me….. Well, let’s see… I think he will come into each stage with about 10mins to spare……
so as long as I’m at LEAST half way through the stage when he overtakes me I should arrive on
time. That’s the Plan!
Jun15 1971!  Day1 …… 300 riders take the start in groups of 2 every minute.  Keep an eye on the
numbers of anyone passing you and you should be OK. All fired up and away we go, through the
town with friendly police waving you through turns and traffic lights…the roads are NOT closed to
the public and you MUST OBEY the speed limits…..Yea Right!

Initially on the highway and I’m passing people who are dawdling along at 40 then its on tracks
and woodland rides open fields and back on public highways. 5mins into the stage and I come
across 2 rabbits {less than friendly term to denote clubmen lacking ambition, speed and ability}
flash past them  and now I must be nearly half way through the stage….and no sign of Jim, Yellow
and White signs?  Well it’s the end of that stage. Next 2 stages same deal, all kinds of terrain and
when a full blown motor crosser whips by you at the speed of heat you feel a little underpowered
on a trials bike, however at the bomb hole and thick mud the trials bike purrs through while
Roger De Coster and other scramblers are stuck or legging it to get out with ropes and chains!
A few hill climbs in some muddy leafy woods through the trees sees the same as the high geared
top end machines grind to a halt or go end over backwards while pop-pop trials bike crests the
summit unaided….Maybe not such a bad decision after all.

Well like everything in life there is a surprise around every corner and I’m about to get mine!
A mountain road, no sign of Jim!  And I can see the 2 rabbits ahead and below me so start
winding on the power around the corner……. Small problemee! I’m not on the same road as the
Rabbits! There is a right hand hairpin followed by   left-hander before we get to the piece of road
they are on …ooooOOOPPS and other choice expletives the machine is leaned further and further
until knee and handlebar strike terra firma… disappears over the edge and I find myself
wrapped around a snow post looking into the valley below…….Huummmm!  Well best get the bike,
amazingly still in one piece but the right handlebar is up in the air at a strange angle. No matter,
on we go past the rabbits and into the check……. Change the bars, stop shaking, and on we go
again. Now I’m crossing a farmer’s field in long lush green grass following the tractor tracks when
up ahead on this berm, I can see a large group of people….thinks must be some Press around ,
might get my picture taken for Motor Cycle News….Lets give them my best side … comes the
berm……. Up-up and AWAAAY!!!……..OH S***** and ****** all that can be seen is endless WATER!
 GERWHOOOSH!     Brrrrrrrrrrrrr hiiiiiish   Remove goggles, wipe eyes and face, jacket, helmet,
boots all full of water! …..look back to berm ….. people rolling around in side splitting laughter  look
back in disgust to what might have been and when the mist from hissing red hot engine clears I
find myself surrounded by other riders in the same predicament…. Sploosh, sploosh, splooosh out
to side of thigh deep lake and the old upside down bike and pump the water out the plug-hole
trick AGAIN!
Some time later old faithful fires into life and off we go again. Don’t see rabbits this time and just
make it to check on the last of the 3 min allowance. Didn’t see Jim either!
Blasting along and trying to regain some composure, heart rate returning to near normal try some
brake finding exercises which results in nothing as mud and water in drum brakes never dry out.
Oh well, take the wheels out later!
Oh good here come the “Rabbits”…… catch them on a left-hander on a  single track country road
with high sides and lots of brambles and bushes up the sides…..round we go only to be presented
with WET TAR and a road roller coming head on!!!
Rabbits scatter on the wet tar and roll around waiting to be “feathered” while yours truly takes
evasive action up the bank collecting brambles, branches, leafy twigs and a collection of wild
flowers. As the machine runs out of whoof, rider, camouflage and machine tumble sideways down
the bank striking the roof of the 1 mph road roller, bounce of this monster with sore elbow and
land astride bike on freshly graveled road, the jolt bump starts the dead engine and several rapid
downshifts later all is well. Press on and now we are going downhill and its getting steeper and
steeper and narrower and narrower……uuuummmmh, brakes would be nice!! Downshift, downshift
this does nothing except to increase rpm and horrendous ding, ding, ding, ding from screaming
engine….time to try the Sidi boots …..Gravel, sparks and nothing else!…A hairpin bend comes up
with a 5 Bar Farmers gate …. It’s getting BIGGER v quickly!!!!

Now we have all heard stories of “how I just stepped off the bike etc” ever tried it?? It’s not that
easy!! …. As the prospect of wearing a 5 Bar Gate does not appeal and choices are becoming
limited the “manoeuvre” {English spelling} is attempted and I find myself on asphalt for the
second time in my life and both on the same morning! ……as I spin and bounce along the bike is
now behind me ….But catching up! another 360 and as I come face upwards the bike clears me
like a faithful horse and I see it land on its backwheel when it bounces clear over the gate and
lands in the farmers field. As I stumble over to the Gate, questions are being asked.  So you do
this for fun? So you want to be a stuntman?  Etc, etc.

Surprise, surprise the bike is still rideable! Save for the left handlebar being near vertical…..
thinks hope we have another set at the check point because this is getting silly. Back on the
road at a slow pace I notice my left arm is numb and very cold…… peering through the holes in
the sleeve all I can see are bones! Into the check and new bars go on….Medical assistance is
on hand and push all the cloth back in the holes and 3 layers of Duct Tape and alls well.
  Lessons learnt, the rest of the day is ridden at a more subdued pace and I occasionally see
I take the “Doctor’s” advice and drink heavily!
Day 2 comes and I have little recollection of any of it, save to say reckless overconfidence had
been dampened by a major self induced headache but I guess I finished and if JIM passed me,
as I’m sure he did, then I didn’t recognize him . The Rabbits were still there and they became
“my” yardstick….. a bit like the tortoise and the hare!
Later events, usually held at Army bases are where all the special mechanical tests were done.
Usual loop of about 5 miles but now as you circulate officials suddenly step out of bushes and
give you special instructions   “flat rear tire”, or  “ broken throttle cable” and a collection of
other fun things to do. If you want to get into the British team the time from being given the
“rear tire slip” to being back on your bike again is FOUR MINUTES!!!
Well of course an ISDT bike is a bit different with the wrench [we call them spanners] welded
onto the nut and a pull rod welded on the other side of the axel. The chain, sprocket and
brake assembly usually stay in the frame… but not always. The security bolts in the rims either
have distance pieces , so only a couple of turns release them , or self tapping screws are used
instead going sideways through the rims and directly in to the sidewall of the tire. Each rider
carries a front and rear tube in the back pockets of the good old “Barbour Jacket” and we the
“Royal Air Force” have a new trick up our sleeve with some CO2 bottles which come out of our
flying life jackets [gives about 18 lbs with one discharge] …. Of course everybody now uses
this method but WE started it back in 1971!
 Two small 6 inch tire irons and with little bites {start and finish at the valve} the cover is off …..
burst the current tube and in with the new one…… use your little pump and separate the sides
and in she goes…. No problems with rim tapes as these have been replaced with electricians
tape and also stop the spokes from coming loose. One knee on tire, little bites [about every
2 inches]   until she tightens up then walk the cover down into the welt…. Move on …push up
valve and pop the tire is back on! One squirt and its inflated …. Wheel in … kick the wrench
tight and away we go!  Sounds easy ?? try it and time yourself!!
September 71 and here I am riding for the Air Force team in the Isle of Man in my first ISDT…..
but more of that in another story
Keep your feet up
Tony Down

What did you think of this article?

  • No trackbacks exist for this post.

  • No comments exist for this post.
Leave a comment

Submitted comments are subject to moderation before being displayed.


 Email (will not be published)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *