Dicko’s view

How do you get to the start?

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents - JOHN DICK­IN­SON

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

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