How do you get to the start?
More from the all encompassing eye of one of the off-road world’s most senior journalists. Always thought-provoking, always interesting… what say you?
And now, as Monty Python used to say, for something completely different. Tired of arguing the toss over which 2017 carb should or shouldn’t be allowed (does it really matter?) on your super-shiny, 2018 spec, 280cc, sixspeed Bantam for the upcoming Scottish Pre-65 Two Day, my mind veered off onto the subject of bike transport.
Actually it was triggered by a Pete Mathia story, told to the throng at the Cumbria Classic club’s Christmas gathering at the Crookl ands Hotel, near Kendal, always a good do. The Cheshire Charger was joined by Mrwulf sport Bill Brown as guests of honour and royally entertained a motley crew of classic nuts for an hour or two.
Math’s tale began with the revelation that his first mode of transport for getting his comp bike to meetings was actually a motorbike and sidecar, with his scrambler roped to the bare chair chassis. I knew that back in the Forties and Fifties this was accepted practice but not as recent as the late Sixties, early Seventies when the young Mathia was making his mark.
These days of course most folk just hoist the bikes into a panel van, climb into a cab that’s as warm and cosy as your front room and revel in the joys of a poky turbo diesel, six-speed box and a sound system that would shame a Seventies disco.
My own first transport, after riding my Bulto on the road to its first few trials (and back again I’m pleased to say) was my dad’s Bedford Viva van. The bike would (mostly) fit inside with the front wheel hanging out and one rear door partly open. Laugh if you like, but it felt good at the time. The Viva burnt its clutch on one return trip and we had to decant the bike and fire it up so I could push the van up Ireleth hill – which locals will confirm is pretty damned steep!
I once blagged a lift with Mick Wren to the Loch Lomond Two Day back in the Seventies, with bikes on a trailer and us in (I think) Mick’s bright yellow Datson 120 Coupe. This was pre-motorway and we were just cruising past Lockerbie with Mick telling a story about driving to the same trial a year earlier when a trailer tyre punctured. Mick had nothing to repair it with, but luckily Tony Sharp pulled up and stuffed an 18” tube into the 10” mini wheel and it was on with the show.
Right on cue – it’s amazing how often something like this happens – a trailer tyre blew on us and we snaked into the side of the road! Luckily, Mick had learned his lesson and had a spare wheel so no dramas this time. Sorry.
You can’t tell trials travelling tales without involving the late, great Martin Lampkin. Well I can't, as I have such a store of them. Every trip was epic.
After an awesome, wet and muddy Irish World Championship round at the Clandeboye Estate near Belfast, we had made the couple of hours’ trip across the Irish sea from Larne to Stranraer in Scotland. Mart wasn’t feeling too good and amazingly allowed Nigel Birkett to drive his own van ‘for a bit’ while Martin got his head down.
Anyone who made that trip along the A75 before the road widening and bypass schemes made it much easier, will confirm what a beech it could be. If you were unlucky and were among the last vehicles off the boat, there was just a huge train of artics in front and overtaking was dicing with death.
‘Birks’ made impressive progress from our position at the back of the grid and after an hour or so Mart woke up, yawned and took a look around.
“See that red glow on the horizon in your mirrors Birkie,” boomed Martin, “well it isn't a pretty sunset, it's the reflection from your brake lights. Are we ever going to get home or what!”
Not best pleased with that reaction Nigel stuck about 90 miles into the next hour with a display of high-speed driving that kept all present, even Martin, or ‘Harold’ as Birks always called him, quiet.
I love travel stories. ACU and FIM stalwart Dave Willoughby told me that he drove for miles and miles on the cats eyes just to wind his dad up as he had been told not to. Bump, bump, bump. Recalling this, I once drove for the best part of a long way on the motorway rumble strip just to stop Chris Myers going to sleep while I had to drive!
Last word this issue goes to the ever amusing Bill Brown, who at 70-something still gets a kick from racing one of his many Maicos. During his (mainly) tongue-in-cheek talk at the Cumbria Classic Christmas gathering, the Cumbrian legend observed that, “I have noticed that there’s no old people at the scrambles any more...!”
…that red glow on the horizon in your mirrors isn’t a pretty sunset, it’s the reflection from your brake lights. Are we ever going to get home… John Dickinson