The Real Thing 1949 “The Norton”

Like Father, Like Son 1964 “The Greeves 24TES”

  I expect many readers of this web are also ardent readers of which of
course is a bit like the old man’s trials bible. Every year there is contoversy and heated debate
on eligibility of machines and indeed this year someone, who in my opinion should know better,
has even posed the question of individuals’ personal eligibility!

I have refrained from making my comments on the international web, as taken out of context,
it will probably offend someone whether they ride vintage trials or not.  Most of the discussion
hinges around the Scottish Pre 65 2 Day and all the regulations that the Edinburgh Club imposes.
First we have the question of entries and clearly there are more applicants than the 180 places
available. A shame that not everyone who would like to ride can get one of those places, but
don’t whine about it, keep trying and be very happy when one day you do. You can always go
and watch and dream of next year…… or even help!

Taken as a fun and nostalgic event the Pre 65 Scottish was, as I see it, an event whereby
former SSDT riders who no longer ride at top competition levels have a chance to show their
skills on machines of “that” period and enjoy a very pleasant 2 day event in the Highlands. Nice
idea, but with mans’ competitive nature the top machines have now developed into something
manufacturers could only dream of 40 years ago. The level of “cheating”, “fiddle” and expense is
now way above what an average clubman, could or would, be prepared to invest in ANY machine,
and would it make him a better rider? Lets face it most “wannabee” riders are now in the twilight
of their careers, and while still very capable their primary interests in the event should be more
on the social side. This is NOT a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP event!! ITS FUN!!!

People should respect the Edinburgh Club and their intentions and allow them to decide who
rides without controversy. They need a variety of machines for Joe Public to see and they also
need some famous names and other talented riders and if you accept that then clearly around 50
places are given to riders in the “Club’s Discretion” bucket. That then leaves around 130 up for
ballot for the rest. If you do get an entry, for whatever reason, don’t decry others abilities, and
just accept how lucky you are and feel honoured to be taking part.

The Question of “Rules” is a very thorny subject and thankfully one that doesn’t rear it’s ugly
head here in the USA.The real question, before any rules can be changed or broken, is
realistically just how many “real pre 65” trials bikes are out there in running condition as they
left the factory or dealership?

Going back into that “era” my memories of trials bikes of the day were the purpose made
Greeves machines and a collection of other 2 strokes by Francis Barnett, James, Dot, Cotton,
and the good old workhorse BSA Bantam. Now these “lightweight” bikes were up against the
small 4 strokes of the Tiger Cub and the BSA C15. If you could handle a 300 pounder then
there was the might of the AJS’s, Matchless, RE Bullets, big old BSA’s, Ariels, Velo’s and the odd
ball Norton.

What constituted a trials bike back then? Well for the most part they were little more than
sturdy road going machines with a few classic alterations. Probably the only current “sit up
and beg” machine reminiscent of the 50/60’s is the Indian made Royal Enfield Bullet. What
would you do, now or back then, to go trials riding?

Remove center stand
Remove big Fuel Tank
Remove double seat
Remove lights
Tool boxes and battery?
Remove rear footrests

Fit 21 front 18 or 19 rear wheels
Fit Dunlop trials tires
Alloy tank
Alloy Guards
Hi level or upswept exhaust
Trials handlebars
Waterproof plug cap
Ball ended levers
Single seat
Some sort of engine bash plate
Bigger rear sprocket

…. all this can NOW be bought to convert an Indian Enfield TODAY!

and if you fit it all this is what you get ?

Maybe Royal Enfield’s idea of a Trials bike, but not mine….. and look at the stance!!

…… and that was very much “IT”….. until of course the factories and individuals started adapting
suspension, both front and rear, different gearbox ratios, alloy barrels and so on. By the time we
are in the mid 60’s the British Motorcycle industry is in a shambles and very little progress is
being made in any field. Still with solid footrests, no chain tensioners and plastic bags and rubber
bands to deal with waterproofing.

All too soon anything original from that era will either be in a museum or the scrapyard or have
been converted into a cheater bike. Of course the Cub and the BSA were popular in the 60’s as
you could buy them straight from the dealer. Greeves were on the rise, and if you could get on
with the banana forks, weird steering and flat bars then you had a fairly reliable bike. The
Comerfords Cub in the hands of Gordon Farley was a delight to watch as were the “Heavies”
ridden by Brownie Usher and my uncle, Tom Arter.

Just Beautiful! John Moffat on another of his fabulous “M”s

James? maybe 2 at an event with 200 riders but now somehow the Pre 65 is full of them with
their lightweight (2001) frames and no doubt Villiers 37A motors taken out of Greeves frames.
I would have personally thought that as those frames were not produced pre 65 we have now
set an unfortunate precedence and that should allow the Sammy Miller and Otter frames to also
compete. I for one, can’t really see why there is all the engineering effort on cheater forks and
what is currently allowed and what is not. Yet at the back end nobody cares that the machine is
fitted with the latest Betor or Falcon gas shocks. Seems to me that machines should be divided
into different classification classes for the event and maybe called what they actually are. Triumph
to my knowledge only produced a 199cc motor and of course the little 150cc Terrier, so now the
230, 250 and even the 280 may have Triumph badging on them but what runs inside has normally
got a far eastern flavour! …… and why, oh why,  is there all this nonsense about carburation?
Ignition systems and carbs are the fundamentals of keeping the bike running and reliable so let
them in or we will be back to steel bars, solid footrests in the manufacturers position, and Dunlop
4 plies. Certainly time for a review in the best interests of the event and trials riding in general.

To stop all the bickering and attempts at “cheating” or FRAUD if we call it what it really is, then
go for classes that actually describe what you have.

STOCK as it was, or as close as we can get with allowed improvements of handlebars, footrests,
rear shocks, modern tires and chain tensioners.

CLASSIC  standard motor, any ignition or carburation, period frame and forks.

SILHOUETTE  any level of engineering with drum brakes and twin rear shocks

My Cub in “serious comp mode” NO CHEATING here

and, it’s FUN

Well that’s enough of my views on the subject of the UK Pre 65 Scene……. c’mon lets hear yours.

Now let’s have a look at what goes on here in the USA in the Vintage world of trials. Currently
we have 2 major organizations that support the vintage movement and by that we are talking
machines that had drum brakes, air cooled engines and twinshocks. By far the biggest is AHRMA
who deal with all aspescts and disciplines of Vintage competition and of course there is a growing
trials fraternity within the club who compete Nationally riding up to 25 events with the best 7 rides
to count for individual championships. With the travel distances involved within the US you have to
be selective and try and find 7 within your budget and travel limitations.

The other organization is still in it’s infancy, but growing in popularity, is based in the Southern US
and also caters for those machines that AHRMA ignores and will not let compete, and here we are
only dealing with a 5-6 year time frame from 1980 until the last ones built circa 1985 when all
development had moved to monoshocks.

So sadly AHRMA refuses entries to all post 79 bikes which therefore excludes SWM, Cagiva, late
model Montesas, Armstrongs, various Hondas, Gori, Hiro SM, Italjet, Fantic and Can-Am to name
the most common seen non participants. ITSA lets them in with open arms and some regional
clubs are having forum debates to see levels of interest. Again, on a personal level if I were
riding , “Superglitz” my 74 TY250A Yam, it would not bother me at all to be up against a 1982
SWM 280 or Jumbo.

Just to cover the AHRMA classes we have many, and I think rightly so, as the machine capabilities
are considerably different. Add to that individual rider levels of ability and we end up with 4 lines
at any section.

The classes themselves divide up reasonably but you can always argue over a couple of
machines and the class they are allocated to.

Premier HeavyWeight….. Non unit construction over 350cc Pre 65
Premier Lightweight…… Unit construction pre 65 so oddballs here can be the big BSA’s
Classic………………………Various 2 strokes up to 175cc, Spanish 4 speeds, Honda 90/120 and
Prem Lt 4 strokes
Modern Classic…………..All Yams, Bultaco,Ossa, Montesa, Suzuki and Kawasaki up to model year
1979, and specials.

1946 on 1964 going well in 2007

No regulations on ignition systems or carburation and only pre 74 components on the non
Modern Classic classes so that does give some leeway to use period forks without going to
all the expense of new internals in old legs.
A fair system of rules in my opinion and one that allows some level of engineering while still
keeping the fundamental of FUN as the prime ingredient.


Getting up to 120 Articles! Have you read them all?
Something to say?

Find them in ARCHIVES

Sign up for the BLOG and get an e-mail on the latest article

What did you think of this article?

  • No trackbacks exist for this post.

  • 3/1/2008 3:37 AM Marc Price wrote:
    Hello Tony
    I look forward to your mails and enjoyed your pre 65 overview and comment.
    I agree entirely with what you say and appreciate people like you who take the time to give some helpful advice.
    I have (as mentioned before) a completely restored genuine TR20 Cub. I owned it at 14 and after 25 or so years got it back and had Ken Heynes ex Triumph rider rebuild it. It looks spot on but as when I was 14 it is unreliable with it’s fuel delivery and the front forks are too soft for a 200lb chap!the front ally fender (as the US calls them!) is already dented. So I am ditching the original stuff and making my bike relevant to today. A new Delorto Carb and some Bultaco forks.
    If I do not modify my bike to make it reliable, smooth off the throttle and give it good suspension there is no point in owning the bike as I will never get to enjoy it. A museum piece or a great ride?
    I have to go for the great ride> As I intend to never let the bike go again I may as well just get on with enjoying it just the way you changed your new Sammy Cub.
    All the best Tony. I enjoy the reads.
    Reply to this

    1. 3/1/2008 7:54 AM Tony Down wrote:
      Yes, I agree not much point in having a lovely museum piece if you are not going to ride it. A good carb, and the Del Orto, is superb and a decent ignition system make for a reliable and competitive machine. Now add some “period” forks and you have a great little bike. Just be careful with the forks though as you might end up with a long wheelbase model!…… and lastly from a riding point of view check the footrest position. Front spindle to center of rest should be 37.5 inches and 12 inches high. That should give near perfect handling.
      Reply to this
  • 3/1/2008 12:25 PM Doug Hunter wrote:
    Good article Tony.

    The USCRA in the northeast and CVMG in Canada also run vintage events on this side of the pond, but with similar rules to AHRMA. The rules here in North America are definitely a lot less strict..however we are also dealing with a fraction of the numbers of pre-65 entries one sees in the UK I expect, even at the largest AHRMA meetings.

    Still, it seems that there could be some middle ground here, particularly in the face of an aging demographic dealing with what were very big heavy bikes in their day! It’s one thing to deal with a “vintage” but still lightweight Bultaco or Yamaha… but a 300+ pound Enfield, Ariel or Matchless is another story!

    Reply to this

  • 3/3/2008 6:03 AM John Moffat wrote:
    Hi Tony,

    Good article there and a nice photo of yours truly on the ex-Brownie Usher Matchless G3LC riding the famous SSDT section Laggan Locks! The big problem with applying the segregation rules to the Pre65 Scottish Trial is that the organisers want only one winner and segreagated classes wouls produce multiple winners. It is a real shame for the 180 hopefuls that are currently turned away as the entry list is full up.
    Keep up the good work, I like it.
    Best wishes, John Moffat
    Reply to this

    1. 3/3/2008 6:50 AM Tony Down wrote:

      Yes, it’s sad that it come down to cheating and fraud, so like most things we have to accept the rules and “bend” them a little if we can. As you and I both know in any of the Edinburgh Club’s events its not so much the result that counts for the Clubman, it’s the “being there”. …and being able to say “I rode the wxyz Scottish and finished!”

      Tony…….maybe 2009???
      Reply to this

  • 3/25/2008 2:20 PM Javier Cruz wrote:
    Good article and a wonderfull webb, will take me some time to see it all!!!
    Have heard recently you will be racing next year the Scottish Pre-65 in a special James…….if it is the bike I think be shure it is absolutely fantastic!!!!!
    All the best, Javier Cruz
    Reply to this
  • 3/25/2008 2:22 PM Javier Cruz wrote:
    Good article and a wonderfull webb, will take me some time to see it all!!!
    Have heard recently you will be racing next year the Scottish Pre-65 in a special James…….if it is the bike I think be shure it is absolutely fantastic!!!!!
    All the best, Javier Cruz
    Reply to this
  • 10/28/2010 3:44 AM David Speck wrote:
    Hi Tony – thoroughly enjoyed reading the full article and my eyes lit up at the mention of your uncle Tom Arter. I have just fully restored a 1962 Matchless G12 CSR sold by Arter Brothers in that same year, and it has wonderfil provenance. Only thing I need to make it really authentic is an original Arter Brothers front mudguard dealership badge going spare please let me know!! Keep up the good work – Dave Speck
    Reply to this
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.



One thought on “THE PRE 65 DEBATE”

Leave a Reply

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