Trials Back Then

As a child I was lucky enough to be brought up in a motorcycle orientated family. Father

was Secretary of the local club and my uncle, a well known rider in all the sport’s disciplines,

was the Chairman. Uncle Tom had been a road racer, grass track rider and of course a trials

man. He owned a car/motorcycle/agricultural equipment dealership and sponsored many

riders on the famous Arter AJS and Arter Matchless and one of his machines was the first

to do the100 mph lap on a single cylinder in the Isle of Man TT races.

Trials back then had a slightly different flavor as they took place on the public highway so

you had to have a license and the machine had to be street legal. No

lights required but must be licensed and have a horn and speedometer. Indeed in those days

many people would ride to the event, compete, and then ride home. Most often there would

be a 25 mile loop with 2 laps but on the bigger trials it might be one lap of 50 miles with up to

50 sections. On the smaller club trials the loops were a lot shorter but there was always that

element of roadwork and riding down leafy lanes in the country dodging the wildlife and Granny

and Granddad out for their Sunday afternoon drive.

The make-up of events was Club, Combine

area and put on an event every second Sunday of the month,open to Center where the

country was divided up into Centers, National, and finally the Olympics, The Scottish Six Days.

The starts of trials were usually easy to find either at village sports grounds, Public Houses

or major motorcycle dealerships. Apart from club events you had to make a postal entry and

depending on the location of the event

rocks/rocks/and more rocks the first 50 entries would be balloted. Be early on the mud and

late on the rocks! So arrive in good time relative to your start number and sign in. Collect your

2 paper riding numbers, one for the bike and the other, for your jacket belt.

Back then there were only 2 classes, Expert and Novice, and everybody rode the same line.

If it was muddy or hard frost you went like a bat out of hell to get to the front and if it was

rocky you took as much time as you dared staying just ahead of the back marker who closed

the event. Southern trials were great, as you could rush round getting to the front and then

as the sun came up and melted the frost and turned everything into an impossible quagmire it

was time to stop at a roadside pub and have a couple of beers. Keep an eye on the numbers

going by and then join in with the late runners. Now the mud has gone, the ground has dried

up and in trials parlance it was like a main road.

After the event you signed off and went on your way. Results, section by section were mailed

to you and if you hadn’t got them by Wednesday it was a frantic search of Motor Cycle News

to see the winners. Awards were given for Winner, Runner Up, Best Novice and then 1st Class

Awards for the first10% and then 2nd Class Awards for the next 10% of finishers. As a young

kid you pawed over the results, trial by trial, seeing your progress or otherwise, and in those

days you only get the Best Novice once and then you are automatically up-graded to Expert.

Awards were given away at that clubs annual dinner or the following year if you turned up at

their event again. A bit hap hazard but that’s the way it was. Just like clubs today, it was the

genuine friendship and camaraderie that made trials the fun sport it is, and the overriding reason

Sherco 2.0 Trial

that I came back to it after a 23 year layoff.

At the end of the 1978 Scottish I returned the Works Suzuki and after they told me my new

bike wasn’t ready yet I explained that I didn’t want another one! For me the fun had gone out

of trials, nobody spoke, nobody laughed or drank a beer or two. People were self orientated and

trying far too hard……… What a delight when one day in 2001 I’m at Premier Motorsports in

Phoenix picking up my KTM when I spot a trials bike. Get the information I need and go and

watch the trial at Alto Pit. Walk around, WOW! people talk, there’s laughter, people are genuinely interested and friendly. Sheldon lets me ride his new Gas Gas and I think …… yes, I could still

do this and 2 months later I’m aboard a new bike!

When I retired you could ride a trial every Saturday and every Sunday throughout the year,

all within 100 miles of your home. During the summer months when it didn’t get dark until

10 pm there would often be Friday night trials as well. Just in case you hadn’t had enough.

The post-event procedure was always the same, drive home, unload and try and wash it

before the mud set solid or froze. Monday night wash it! Tuesday night wheels out clean the

brakes and every 3rd week boil up the chain grease and remembering to use an old clothes

hanger through the last link watch it sink like Titanic into the goop, pull it out and let the

excess drip off. Wednesday polish it! And using a mix of 2 stroke and fork oil spray everything

to give it show room looks and stop it rusting. Thursday look at it! Friday…. Well that’s a drinking

night and then it’s Saturday and the cycle starts again. Every third week, turn the back tire

round and every sixth week throw the tire away and fit another free one from Mister Dunlop.

Yes I miss the flat out climbs in third and the axel deep mud and the rain coming down in

buckets, but trials are trials no matter what terrain you ride and the challenge is the same.

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