The win­ner…

What does it take to win the Pre-65 part of our spon­sored scram­bles se­ries? John Mc­crink in­ves­ti­gates.

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents - Words: John Mc­crink Pic­tures: John Mc­crink and Eric Miles

…or one of them at least. Lis­ton Bell won the Pre-65 part of our clas­sic scram­bles cham­pi­onship, John Mc­crink went to see him.

When Lis­ton Bell won the Scot­tish Clas­sic Rac­ing Mo­tor­cy­cle Club’s Pre-65 Over 350cc Scram­bles Cham­pi­onship back in 2011, ev­ery­one agreed that the lad could re­ally ride a bike. How­ever, two par­tic­u­lar on­look­ers who had watched his progress with in­ter­est were none other than the late John Bethell and Mal­colm Bell. These two guys knew an aw­ful lot about the clas­sic scram­bles scene across the UK and both agreed that Lis­ton re­ally should ven­ture south of Hadrian's Wall and try his luck against the cream of not only English scram­blers but the Welsh boys as well.

He had al­ready made a big im­pres­sion at meet­ings in Cum­bria and achieved some ex­cel­lent re­sults at that most de­mand­ing of cir­cuits and the spir­i­tual home of Bri­tish scram­bling, namely Hawk­stone Park in Shrop­shire. But what John and Mal­colm re­ally had in mind was that Lis­ton and his young brother Lewis should have a real go at the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar and hugely com­pet­i­tive Bri­tish Clas­sic Scram­bles Cham­pi­onship, started a few years back by Dave Git­tins.

It wasn't un­til 2013 that Lis­ton com­peted in the cham­pi­onship proper and what a first sea­son it was with him fin­ish­ing a cred­itable sec­ond. He did ex­actly the same again in 2014 mounted as usual on a real man’s ma­chine, a rip-snort­ing 750 Tri­umph Metisse no less! Hop­ing for third time lucky, 2015 was ac­tu­ally less suc­cess­ful due to ma­chine prob­lems and some bad luck as well but he still man­aged to fin­ish a re­spectable fourth over­all in the cham­pi­onship. 2016 was the real defin­ing year for Lis­ton in the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships but we’ll get to that later.

Lis­ton is a mod­est, quiet and unas­sum­ing lad who likes to do his talk­ing on the track. To see him on the big Metisse at full pelt is a joy to watch. The rorty sound of that mas­sive 750cc Tri­umph Twin on full song is noth­ing short of mu­sic to the ears of all clas­sic scram­bles fans. In­cred­i­bly, in spite of all that horse-power avail­able to him, Lis­ton still seems to be try­ing to squeeze that wee bit more out of the mo­tor when­ever he can. So-called ex­perts have al­ways reck­oned that a big twin is no use on a wet, muddy track, well no­body both­ered to tell Lis­ton. From what I've seen, both spec­tat­ing and be­ing passed by him (sev­eral times) in prac­tice, he’s even quicker in the wet! Some of his con­trolled slides are great to wit­ness and the un­con­trolled ones even bet­ter! Per­haps the best com­pli­ment I can pay young Lis­ton is to com­pare him to fel­low Tri­umph Metisse rider, el­der states­man, scram­bles le­gend, three times Clas­sic Euro­pean Cham­pion and mae­stro him­self Terry ‘TC’ Challi­nor.

Per­haps Lis­ton’s nat­u­ral abil­ity on a bike is ‘in the genes’ as they say. Af­ter all, his dad Mike is a very able scram­bler and both his grand­fa­thers Ian Bell and Wil­lie Dalling were most ac­com­plished com­peti­tors in tri­als and scram­bles. In­deed, Ian was multi Scot­tish Scram­bles Cham­pion in the Fifties and car­ried on com­pet­ing late into life. Wil­lie did the same and chalked up nu­mer­ous tri­als and scram­bles wins over many, years. So with such a pedi­gree in the fam­ily it’s lit­tle won­der that Lis­ton and his younger brother Lewis feel that they’ve got a lot to live up to.

Early in 2016, Lis­ton’s bike was be­ing made ready for an­other at­tack on the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships in the hope that he could go that lit­tle bit fur­ther and ac­tu­ally clinch the ti­tle. The bike wasn’t be­ing prepped by him­self but by Lewis no less, not only his me­chanic but one of his clos­est ri­vals for the cham­pi­onship it­self. This must surely be a great ex­am­ple of true brotherly love when you’re pre­pared as Lewis is to make one of your near­est ri­val’s en­gines as quick and re­li­able as pos­si­ble. Mind you, to watch the broth­ers rac­ing each other out on the track, it’s pretty ob­vi­ous that they are both hugely

com­pet­i­tive and that no quar­ter is asked or given.

The ori­gins of the Metisse are well known to most folk in the clas­sic scram­bles scene but let’s just quickly re­flect on how this leg­endary mar­que came into be­ing. To­day we take for granted read­ily avail­able and readyto-race bikes but back in the late Fifties and early Six­ties home-brewed spe­cials were the or­der of the day. How­ever, things changed in 1958 when two Hamp­shire-born broth­ers and ac­com­plished scram­blers Don and Derek Rickman as­sem­bled a hy­brid us­ing a mod­i­fied BSA frame and gear­box, Tri­umph en­gine and Nor­ton forks. Dubbed the MK1, the bike per­formed bet­ter than it looked and earned the nick­name Metisse: French for half-breed or mon­grel.

Later ver­sions were much im­proved aes­thet­i­cally with in­no­va­tive use of glass fi­bre for petrol tank, mud­guards and side pan­els and avail­able in a fairly wide range of colours. The well de­signed du­plex frame was nickel-plated and could take a va­ri­ety of fourstroke sin­gle or twin en­gines and the Pe­tite Metisse be­came avail­able with a choice of two-stroke mo­tors.

When the pro­duc­tion model hit the tracks it soon be­came the ma­chine most scram­blers wanted and nu­mer­ous wins were chalked up at all lev­els, both home and abroad. Al­most un­wit­tingly the Rickman broth­ers be­came se­ri­ous mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers. They went on to de­velop road and road-race ma­chines as well and even had a foray into the four­wheel world, pro­duc­ing glass fi­bre bod­ied com­po­nent cars and even sports cars.

But back to the Metisse scram­blers and Lis­ton's bike in par­tic­u­lar. This bike was bought from ex-scot­tish Scram­bles Cham­pion Wil­lie Wal­lace who had planned to race it at the 2010 Vet­eran Mo­tocross des Na­tions. Un­for­tu­nately Wil­lie suf­fered a se­ri­ous hand in­jury at work which left him with lit­tle feel­ing or strength in the hand and cer­tainly ruled him out of man­han­dling a 750 Tri­umph Metisse round a mo­tocross track. So with com­mon sense pre­vail­ing (un­usual amongst mo­tor­cy­clists) he sold the bike to Lis­ton who took to it im­me­di­ately and as men­tioned ear­lier quickly started to ap­pear in the re­sults both at home and south of the border. Dave Git­tins would def­i­nitely ap­prove of Lis­ton's choice of ma­chine be­cause I clearly re­call a quote of his in an Aus­tralian bike mag a few years ago “Tri­umph Metisse, sim­ply the best, bet­ter than all the rest”.

With the pre­vi­ous three years’ ex­pe­ri­ence un­der his belt and the Metisse as well pre­pared as pos­si­ble, Lis­ton en­tered the 2016 Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships with great en­thu­si­asm and a de­gree of con­fi­dence. He was aware that the com­pe­ti­tion was fierce but he would give it his best shot and with a bit of luck might just go all the way. He would cer­tainly try. And try he did, chalk­ing up steady fin­ishes and wins at all the rounds on a wide va­ri­ety of tracks all of which, with the ex­cep­tion of Blen­carn in Cum­bria, are an aw­ful long way from his home town of Gore­bridge near Ed­in­burgh.

All the ef­fort and trav­el­ling proved worth­while be­cause Lis­ton rode re­ally well and did enough to clinch his first Amca/clas­sic Dirt Bike Bri­tish Scram­bles Cham­pi­onship. It also needs to be ac­knowl­edged that younger brother Lewis fin­ished a cred­itable sec­ond on his su­perb 500 Cheney Jawa. Some­thing tells me that Team Bell will be the ones to watch again in 2017 and that Lis­ton might well be look­ing over his shoul­der quite a lot.

So, let’s take a look at Lis­ton’s cham­pi­onship win­ning steed? The frame is a beau­ti­fully crafted 1996 MRD item util­is­ing an equally well made Wasp man­u­fac­tured swing-arm. Front forks are pe­riod Ce­ri­a­nis which work re­ally well. Rear sus­pen­sion is pro­vided by the ever pop­u­lar and ac­claimed Reiger units which Lis­ton rates highly and he

should know be­cause he does make them work rather hard. Both front and rear wheel hubs/brakes are Ital­ian Grimeca and do a rea­son­able job of slow­ing down this fan­tas­tic lump of Bri­tish made heavy metal. The pow­er­plant is based on a Tri­umph TR6 Tro­phy with a Routt Bore Kit supplied by Bur­ton Bike Bits. These kits were orig­i­nally de­signed by Hu­bert ‘Sonny’ Routt from Mary­land USA. In 1970 Tri­umph asked him to pro­duce them so that they could com­pete in the newly de­vised AMA 750cc Twin Dirt Track Se­ries.

When he wasn’t ac­tu­ally mak­ing ac­ces­sory bore kits for Tri­umphs Sonny was usu­ally set­ting records on his own twin-en­gined drag bikes. The gear­box is stan­dard Tri­umph with the pop­u­lar and ex­cel­lent NEB clutch fit­ted. The 750cc mo­tor breathes through a 32mm Amal Mk1 Con­cen­tric and is fu­elled by stan­dard, pre­mium, un­leaded petrol. Sparks are pro­vided by a ro­bust and re­li­able Rex Caunt Ig­ni­tion.

All things con­sid­ered, it’s quite a pack­age and as Lis­ton has shown it is cer­tainly up to the job prov­ing re­li­able through­out the year, un­til that is late in the day at the last meet­ing of 2016 and (for­tu­nately) with the cham­pi­onship in the bag the trusty old Tri­umph twin de­cided enough was enough for one sea­son and snapped the crank. Re­mark­ably the mo­tor con­tin­ued to run but Lis­ton ad­mits that it wasn’t a pleas­ant sound. Need­less to say, dur­ing the win­ter, brother Lewis once again obliged and the en­gine was metic­u­lously re­built and is back in the fray.

It’s great to see a younger gen­er­a­tion ap­pre­ci­at­ing and en­joy­ing the big old, heavy scram­blers that their fa­thers and grand­fa­thers had so much fun on all those years ago and at the same time pro­vid­ing such nostal­gia and ex­cite­ment for ev­ery­one who at­tends a clas­sic scram­bles event. The at­mos­phere is heady with the sound of big four-stroke twins and sin­gles and the equally pe­riod ring-a-ding two-strokes. Oh and when you get that whiff of Cas­trol R and a lung full of two-stroke smoke it’s quite sim­ply magic. Some­body re­ally should bot­tle it!

Team Bell are un­doubt­edly en­joy­ing their scram­bling and be­ing among old friends and ri­vals once again. It’s not all about the rac­ing, it’s also about so­cial­is­ing with like­minded folk from across the whole coun­try and com­ing to­gether to en­joy a pas­time that they are all pas­sion­ate about.

So through­out this sum­mer Lis­ton will en­deav­our to re­tain his crown. He knows it wont be easy with so many great rid­ers around all keen to top­ple him, none more so than younger brother Lewis, but he'll do his best. There’s a still a lot of the sea­son to go and Hadrian’s Wall and the Welsh Marches will be criss-crossed many times, but one thing is cer­tain, Team Bell are up for it. )

First you need a bike...

Then you need a rider and a track...

A light­weight brake and a stiff torque arm is use­ful.

Lots of holes here al­low cool­ing air to get through.

Tri­umph’s power plant is eas­ily tune­able and re­li­able for MX.

It looks a bit busy here but lots of holes­make for light weight.

And that is the anatomy of a win­ner.

Lis­ton Bell on his way to an­other fine win.

You did what to the crank Lis­ton?

Frame brac­ing keeps the front wheel straight.

Oh, it broke un­der pres­sure.

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