Classic Trial - - TRIALS GURU: JOHN MOFFAT -

Hav­ing found my­self an in­vol­un­tary spec­ta­tor for the 2017 Pre-65 Scot­tish, an event I have com­peted in since 1994 on Match­less and BSA ma­chines, I re­alised that a man can in­deed have too many mo­tor­cy­cles! I walked into my ‘Bat­cave’ and had a look at my 1962 BSA B40, and the stark re­al­i­sa­tion dawned on me that I didn’t re­ally need two Pre-65 BSAs, and one would have to go.

In 2016 I had an eas­ier ride through sec­tions on my 250cc C15T than I could ever have dreamed of achiev­ing on the heav­ier 343cc sta­ble-mate the B40. For sure the C15 was lighter, but also bet­ter sus­pended with Oh­lin rear shocks, and the mo­tor ben­e­fited from a ‘be­spoke’ elec­tronic ig­ni­tion sys­tem, which made the ‘re­dun­dancy se­lec­tion’ process that much eas­ier. Not wish­ing the BSA to go to a bad home I tested the wa­ters on so­cial me­dia, which re­ceived a favourable re­sponse. The tri­als com­mu­nity be­ing small, they knew that my ma­chines were well cared for.

In 2004 I pur­chased the B40 from an old friend, Mr John F MacGre­gor of Glen­coe, the first man to lay out the Pre-65 Scot­tish in 1984, but there is more to this tale than a sim­ple pur­chase of an el­derly mo­tor­cy­cle. MacGre­gor had bought the ma­chine from Gor­don Jackson; not the AJS fac­tory rider but his name­sake from Scar­bor­ough who had rid­den it in the very early Pre-65 Scot­tish back in the mid-1980s. I had a hand in the de­liv­ery of the ma­chine; hav­ing met up with Gor­don at Keswick when on hol­i­day in 1999 in the Lake District I had been asked to do a favour and help trans­port it to John’s house which lies in the shadow of Pap of Glen­coe. My in­volve­ment gained me a new and dear friend in Gor­don. I had a quick test ride and I ad­mired the BSA at the time. Gor­don was quite sad to see it be­ing placed on the trailer ready for trans­porta­tion to its new home in the Scot­tish High­lands. It was duly de­liv­ered to John MacGre­gor dur­ing the week­end of the ACU British Youth Tri­als round at nearby Lag­naha.

The years went by and I hap­pily ‘cam­paigned’ my 350 G3C Match­less but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to ride the heavy Match­less for­ever so be­gan the search for a lighter ma­chine. I con­sid­ered my­self a ‘350-fourstroke man’ at heart. Hav­ing re­mem­bered MacGre­gor’s B40 it ticked all the boxes; I gave John a call. It was a lengthy con­ver­sa­tion as we both can talk for Scot­land, es­pe­cially when it comes to tri­als. Even­tu­ally I got around to the pur­pose of the call: to ask John if he were ever to sell the ‘Beesa’ that he would give me first shout. This he did but in the next breath he said: “Well John, how much would you pay for it, if I were to sell it to­day?” I gave him my re­ply in pounds ster­ling and the deal was done! Some three weeks later I trav­elled down to Glen­coe and con­cluded the trans­ac­tion, money changed hands and 946ERH was mine.

I con­tin­ued to ride my Match­less un­til the 2007 Pre-65 Scot­tish and, in the words of my old friend and SSDT sec­re­tar­ial men­tor Bill Grant from Rog­art: “John, the mo­tor­cy­cle will tell you when it’s time to quit”. Well my G3C told me in 2007; I came down off the Mamore Road and I was quite ‘pug­gled’.

The fol­low­ing year I en­tered on the B40, now with some im­prove­ments; this was a wise move and I felt at ease. Over the course of the next cou­ple of years I ‘tricked up’ the front sus­pen­sion by hav­ing a set of TL250 Honda Showa forks, sourced from the USA, grafted within the BSA yokes and slid­ers re­tain­ing the gen­uine BSA look. The B40 served me well from 2007 un­til 2015; I rode it at the Pre-65 Scot­tish and the Highland Clas­sic Tri­als when the op­por­tu­nity to buy Gerry Min­shall’s C15T arose. A short test ride at Bal­lachul­ish on the Mon­day of the 2015 SSDT saw me part­ing with a large sum of money in the June when Gerry de­liv­ered the C15 when he came to ride our splen­did Highland Clas­sic Two-Day at Alvie Es­tate. I rode the C15 in the 2016 Scot­tish trial, lend­ing it to my friend Javier Cruz for the Highland Clas­sic in the June; he loves that ma­chine, which he owned for a year too!

So back to the present and De­cem­ber 2016 when I re­ceived my ‘Dear John’ let­ter from the Pre-65 com­mit­tee ex­plain­ing that I had been “un­suc­cess­ful in the bal­lot and also un­suc­cess­ful in at­tain­ing a re­serve en­try” so it was my fate that I would be rel­e­gated to that of a spec­ta­tor, a po­si­tion I hadn’t been in since 1992.

With the BSA B40 now sur­plus to re­quire­ments where was the good home? Gor­don Jackson had ex­pressed an in­ter­est in buy­ing the BSA back when I last spoke to him but he had changed his tele­phone num­ber. I tele­phoned John MacGre­gor and he too had Gor­don’s old num­ber so I drew a blank. The sharp-minded MacGre­gor asked: “Why do you need to con­tact Gor­don?” I replied stat­ing that I was pre­pared to re­lease the B40 for sale and Gor­don may be in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing it. John would have none of it and he forced me to dis­cuss a price there and then, a bar­gain was struck and the BSA was to be de­liv­ered to Glen­coe, not Scar­bor­ough.

Feel­ing some­what guilty, I man­aged to track Gor­don down through an­other friend, Peter Race a for­mer Race Con­troller at Oliver’s’ Mount road races. With­out de­lay I rang Gor­don and ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion. Ini­tially de­flated but con­versely de­lighted in that 946ERH was re­tained amongst good friends – all three linked to­gether by the own­er­ship of the one BSA – he for­gave me! And so the BSA B40 was al­most a full cir­cle-owned ma­chine. I like a story with a happy end­ing, don’t you?

Gor­don Jackson; not the AJS fac­tory rider but his name­sake from Scar­bor­ough on 946 ERH. John Mof­fat with his good friend Javier Cruz at the 2014 Pre-65 SSDT.

2008 Pre-65 SSDT: John on the 350 G3C Match­less he knew that he wouldn’t be able to ride for­ever so be­gan the search for a lighter ma­chine. Go­ing for ‘Gold on the BSA – 946 ERH – Pre-65 SSDT in 2009. 2010 Pre-65 SSDT: Mr Mof­fat on the start­ing ramp.

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