My late father Ron had purchased a new DOT as one of his first ever trials machines. The stories of taking it back to Manchester on the train to the DOT factory were always a constant source of amusement, as it was definitely not ‘Devoid Of Trouble’. Over
Words: Eric Adcock talks with John Hulme • Pictures: Alan Vines, Brian Holder, Don Morley, Malcolm Carling, DOT, Bremmer’s Press Agency, Ray Biddle, Oldham Chronicle, Raymond’s Press Agency, Bob Light for the Motor Cycling, G M Pellett, Motorcycle News, The Nick Nicholls Collection at Morton’s Archive and Isle of Man Times. Eric donated the pictures in this article from his collection given to him over the years. With the passage of time, we could not find out who many of the copyright owners were, so we do apologise if some are recognised by the owners. Please contact us if you feel we have used your pictures.
I was lucky to be born into a motorcycling family as both my parents had motorcycles in the 1920s before they married. By the end of the 1920s and 1930s my father had joined the Oldham Motor Sports Club and was competing in all types of off-road events, on Rudges in the Saddleworth area. The war curtailed his competition career, and after the war, we would go to watch trials and scrambles in the North West and Cheshire. At one event at Marple, I got to know a youth about my age who had cycled from Moston. His name was Jack Mathews, and we remained friends until his untimely death in 1993. We used to meet up most weekends and makeup trials sections for our push bikes, and this was our training for motorcycle trials a couple of years later.
It was while we attended scrambles I learned how to ride a motorcycle, as at these events as the car park emptied I would ride my father’s outfit around the car park! As I approached 16 we started to look for a trials machine, but as I was only about 5’ 4” and nine stone the four-stroke models were too big and heavy, so we placed an order for a new 197 DOT with Auty & Lees in Bury. The owner, Ginger Lees, was a friend of my father from pre-war events. As my birthday approached they could not tell us when a DOT would be delivered, so we looked elsewhere to see what was available.
Another big motorcycle dealer in Bury was Cliff Holden — later to become the Ossa and SWM importer — who was also a good scrambler and had a new BSA Bantam on display. After trying it for the size, we bought it. The salesman was none other than Bill Barugh, who was just starting his long association with DOT motorcycles.
My first trial was the Oldham Ace Trial starting at the Glen View Café, Delph, and I won the Best Novice Award by finishing 10th overall. I had to ride the machine to all events, and in March, after five trials, I entered my first National, the Bemrose Trial which was south of Buxton on the Ashbourne Road.
By the time I reached Buxton it had started snowing, and after the trial started it became impossible to see the route marking, and the organisers curtailed the trial after one lap. The event was won by privateer John Giles on a clean sheet. I lost 14 and just missed out on a Third Class Award, and finished 47th out of 133 starters. After the event, it was a 35-mile journey home in the heavy snow.
After about seven events I was told by the North Western Centre Secretary that they had decided that I was no longer a Novice as I had won three 250cc cups. To get more experience, I entered events in North Wales. At an event near Oswestry the BSA got stuck in bottom gear, but luckily my parents had followed me to the trial – so we lashed the front wheel between their back wheel and the sidecar to get me back to Oldham! During the next couple of weeks, my father made a fixture between his machine and sidecar to tow the BSA with just the back wheel on the ground.
The Bantam was short of power for some of the events, so we invested in a Francis Barnet road model with a spring frame and converted it for trials; my results improved and I won my first trial! When Francis Barnett announced a genuine trials model, we bought one. This was still a three-speed model but with a rigid frame. On this machine, I ventured into Yorkshire to ride in a Halifax Trial at the request of Jim Crossley, who was much involved with the club, and I surprised the regulars by finishing second to works BSA rider Tom Ellis out of 107 starters. Out of 37 trials I rode in 1952, I managed to win four. After finishing second in the 1952 Northern Experts, I tied for first place in 1953 with Tom Leach and Arthur Shutt but lost out on the brake test so finished third. In 47 trials I won five and never finished lower than ninth.
At the end of 1953 we made our annual pilgrimage to the Lancs Grand National on Holcombe Moor, and in talking with Bill Barugh after the event was introduced to Burnard Scott Wade, the owner of DOT to see if they could lend me a machine. The result was an interview at the factory, and a promise of a machine in January, together with entries and expenses for all trade supported trials which I gratefully accepted.
In my second National trial on the DOT, I finished fourth, and Best 250. In September I received a letter from Norman Motorcycles in Kent asking if I would be interested in riding their machines, but I was happy with the DOT, and I declined.
1955 was my best year so far as I won three National trials and two 250 awards, and qualified for my first British Expert trial. I also rode in my first Scottish Six Days, and it was indeed an eye-opener, as the trial started in Edinburgh and went to Fort William; a distance of 150 miles and with only 23 sections. On the second day, the route went as far north as Inverness and included a climb of about 2,000ft up a steep, twisting track consisting of 10 sections with tight bends. The track had been made by commandos during the Second World War to train mules! At the end of the week, having covered over 900 miles and ridden with a broken foot from Tuesday, I won a First Class Award and missed a Special First Class by just three marks.
In October I received a letter to report to Catterick Camp for two years’ National Service. I decided to write back to see if they would defer me for another month so I could ride in my first British Experts trial. To my surprise, they said yes, and I finished 15th and was the third under-200cc machine. It also enabled me to ride in my first Scott Trial, and I won the Best Newcomer’s Award. This was the end of my trials riding for 1955 after winning 19 events.
After finishing my training and having initially been told I was going to Germany, I was suddenly told I was to be posted to the Army M T School at Borden, Hampshire. After travelling nearly 300 miles by train, I was in the mess having tea when a major came in and asked for Private Adcock. He said ‘you have a weekend pass to ride in the Bemrose Trial in Derbyshire’. Furthermore, as there were no trains at Bordon he said he would drive me to Aldershot – and he turned up in a 1928 open topped Bentley! So after 20 hours and travelling 600 miles, I arrived in Oldham. It was worth the long journey as I won the Best 250 Award.
After arriving back at Bordon, I was told my duties would be mainly riding motorcycles, demonstrating to officers and sergeants on riding courses how to ride them off road. The sergeants in charge were Mervyn Edwards, who I knew as he used to ride in the Cheshire Centre when he was stationed at Chester, and Bill Brooker, who on leaving the Army was Competition Manager at Greeves. During my first week, I was told that the Army was entering teams in the ISDT to be held in Germany in September 1956 and I was one of the 20 riders to attend the selection tests in the coming weeks. The tests took place over the old Sunbeam Point-to-Point scramble course. We were watched at different points of the course, and at the end of each three-mile lap, we had to carry out a test such as take a wheel out while being observed; everybody was on a 350 Matchless. After the tests, the number was whittled down to 12, and these were entered in the Welsh Three Day Trial, with riders to be selected for the British teams using this event as training for the ISDT. I was one of the 12 riders and BSA, Matchless, Ariel and Royal Enfield supplied three machines each. I was given a 350 Royal Enfield, on which I kept on time at all the checks and must have impressed as I was one of the eight to be selected to go to Germany. Once a month an Army unit in the Aldershot area would organise a trial. Each one was like a national trial, with entries including Jeff Smith, Pat Brittain, Peter Stirland and John Hartle.
In August the Army selected the teams for the ISDT, and I have entered as a reserve again on a Royal Enfield along with Colin Moran. For the first five days, the route was over 200 miles, which was about 10 hours in the saddle with only a 30-minute break for lunch. The last day was only 80 miles, but then we had to complete a speed test which lasted an hour when a 350 had to average more than 50mph. I was lucky to finish the trial as all the machines supplied by Royal Enfield broke their frames, so after completing the course Ron Langston and I were the only army riders to win Gold Medals for losing no marks. Back to England and a fifth place and Best 250 in the Scott Trial, and winning the National Manville Trial rounded off the year.
In 1957 I took my DOT to Borden, riding mainly in the southern parts of the country, and won a few events and a First Class Award in the Scottish. Back up north in 1958 after release from the Army, I started winning again at the national Greensmith and the Highland Two Day Trials. The ‘Scottish’ was a disaster, having to retire on the third day when the big end failed when lying sixth. Then I was asked to attend the selection tests for the ISDT by the ACU. After this, I received a letter from BSA asking if I would like to ride one of their machines in the ISDT, which was again in Garmisch, but DOT would not let me.
1958 was a busy year riding every weekend, riding in 58 trials and winning 25, including two national trials and about six scrambles as well as being in the winning team at the Sunbeam Point to Point scramble.
One of my best years was 1959 when I rode in 23 national trials and finished outside the top 10 only once. By the end of the year, I was fourth in the British Trials Drivers Star competition behind Sammy Miller, Gordon Jackson and Roy Peplow. After the Scottish, in which I retired when the rear wheel bearings disintegrated, I received a letter from Henry Vale, the Triumph Competition Manager, offering a Tiger Cub to try out. After about three months I returned it as I found I could ride the DOT better.
Also in 1959 Hugh Viney, Competition Manager of AMC, offered me a Matchless to try. The day after the Experts I rode the Matchless in a local trial and won, but I still found the DOT easier to ride, so I returned it to AMC. Pat Lamper was now Competition Manager at DOT, and he and I decided to have a try at Speedway. We spent most Monday evenings at Belle Vue, training under the guidance of Dent Oliver, but it was not for me.
1960 was a good year in centre events, never finishing lower than sixth, but not quite as consistent in nationals although I won the Lomax. During this year DOT recruited several new team riders including David Younghusband, who later achieved fame as an England Speedway International rider, and in the South West the Body brothers Malcolm, Terry and Henry who achieved a lot of success. The Halifax club entered Eric Sellars, Doug Chadwick and me in the Yorkshire Centre Team Trial, and much to everybody’s surprise we beat the Bradford team of Artie Radcliffe, Bill Wilkinson and Ray Sayer. We all turned up at the Centre Dinner to receive the Trophy but the Bradford club, who had won it for many years, could not find it — it was eventually found several months later in Allan Jefferies’ shop!
In 1960 I finished second to Miller again in the Manx Two Day Trial and the Mitchell Trial. I finished the year on a good note by winning the Northern Experts from Gordon Blakeway, after having finished second for the last two years.
1961 started well when I tied with Sammy Miller in the National Alan Trial but lost out on the tiebreak. In the Scottish, I was third on the Wednesday behind Gordon Jackson and Sammy Miller, but after a disastrous fourth day, I eventually finished 14th, winning another Special First Class Award. Jackson won the event losing only one mark all week on Grey Mare’s Ridge, a section only cleaned by four riders including myself.
The ISDT returned to Wales in 1961 and DOT had been developing a new machine, with a square frame and alloy barrel. I kept on time on the first day and was going well until late on the second day when it seized solid due to the chrome on the bore flaking, so ending my International.
In August I married my wife, Dorothy. We honeymooned on the Isle of Man, and at the end of the week I rode in the Manx Two Day Trial and won a First Class Award. At the end of the year, I finished second in the Northern Experts behind a 17-year-old Mick Andrews who recorded his first major success.
In March 1963 I won the local National Red Rose Trial, becoming the first Lancastrian to win the event. This year’s Scottish was my best ever, and on the first day, I was joint leader with Miller and Jackson, eventually finishing fourth behind Miller, Jackson and Mick Ransom.
I fancied having a ride with a sidecar in trials and having obtained a DOT I got local engineer Bert Foster to make a sidecar for me. I rode in several events, but the best I could do was a second in a South Liverpool Trial.
At the Victory Trial in 1964 I finished in fourth place and just missed out on the 250 cup, and it was the same again at the Bemrose Trial — just missing out on the 250 cup but still finishing third.
At the Scottish, the bearing in the sprocket carrier collapsed, and I retired again! At the Scott Trial, I was fourth best on observation but lost 14 marks on time after having to change a throttle cable and riding the last few miles with a flat rear tyre. Overall it was a good year as I finished fourth again in the British Trials Championship.
Fed up with just missing out on 250cc cups we bored the barrel out to 254cc for 1965, and it paid off as I won the 350 cup at the Victory Trial.
In the Scottish, after being joint third on Wednesday, I could do nothing right and on Thursday lost 35 and finished joint 14th and received another Special First Class Award.
In the Nationals, I still won First Class Awards, but the Spanish invasion had started. It took a lot of persuading, but DOT eventually put telescopic front forks on, and it improved the handling, but the Villiers engine did not perform as well as the Spanish machines, so it was still an uphill struggle.
In 1968 came the news that Villiers would stop supplying engines to DOT, Greeves and Cotton so eventually, after looking at various foreign engines, DOT and Cotton settled for the Italian Minarelli Engine. It was not good enough to compete with the Spanish machines though. After watching the Hill Climb at Beeston Castle in Cheshire over several years, I entered the event in 1971 with the 170 Minarelli DOT. Six riders reached the top, including myself. In the run-off, by ‘zig-zagging’ across the hill, I reached the summit and was the Cheshire Centre Hill Climb Champion.
Returning the following year, I repeated my success adding the titles to my nine Cheshire Trials Championship ones. In 1974 I more or less stopped riding in trials as I had started reporting for MCN as a correspondent and stewarding at events.
In 1977 I started as Permit Secretary for the North Western Centre, which I am still doing today. In 1978 DOT decided to start producing trials machines again. Using the old style frame and the new 250 DMW engine they asked me to evaluate it; but not having ridden recently, I decided to ask Maurice Brayford to help. After several changes, he rode it for a couple of years but it was still outclassed by the Spanish and Japanese machines, and the project stopped after six machines were produced.
When my son started riding in trials in 1983, I got the urge to have another go on a 175 Yamaha and then a Beamish Suzuki; I found it a lot harder than I thought it would be so I put together a 250 DOT and started riding in Pre-65 events, which I did until 2000.
After 50 years since I first rode in a trial, I retired, and have not ridden since. I rode in over 1,000 Trials, winning 250 of them, and about 70 scrambles.
In 2011 I was presented at the ACU Headquarters with the “The ACU Medal of Honour” for services to motorcycling. The award was presented by the ACU President, The Right Reverend John Oliver. I am now President and dating officer for the DOT Club and a Director, Treasurer and Permit Officer of the NWC.
My father Jack Adcock and passenger Jim Dunkerley (350 Rudge) in October 1931, crossing a stream at ‘Scouthead’ about three miles from Oldham town centre.
1953: Welsh Two Day Trial on a four-speed Francis Barnett; the section is Fe-Llwyd.
Manor Steps 1954, losing five marks and only a Second Class Award.
1952: Red Rose Trial on the new Francis Barnett; finished 10th and won a First Class Award.
At home in 1954. The large trophy in the centre is the Cheshire Centre Team Award won by the Manchester 17 MCC with Doug Chadwick, Tom Leach and myself.
1952: Clayton Trial at Robinson Rocks; won a Second Class Award.
1954: The first year on a DOT that they supplied with a rigid frame. Nant Gwilt is the hazard in the Welsh Two Day Trial; I won a First Class Award.
1955: Manor Steps in the Clayton Trial and a clean climb, to finish 13th out of 202 starters and win a First Class Award.
1956: Army Championship in the sand at Borden.
1957: The Southern Experts organised by Ralph Venables. I rode in this event just as I was finishing my National Service. The section is Blackwell Bank.
1957: Manchester 17 MCC Boxing Day Trial, which I won. The section is in the steam at Washgates.
1956: ISDT on the way to a Gold Medal on the Royal Enfield.
1959: The Scott Trial, unknown section; finished 10th and another Silver Spoon.
1959: Allan Jefferies Trial. Section is Moor End, Kettlewell; finished second – two marks behind Ray Sayer – and won the Best 250 Cup.
1961: ISDT Trial held in Wales. The motorcycle is the prototype DOT ‘Square Frame’ model with an aluminium cylinder barrel. I was still on ‘Gold’ schedule when it seized on the second day.
1960: Manx Two Day Trial. Finished 2nd, four marks behind the winner Sammy Miller, and won the Best 250 Award.
1963: Scott Trial at Washfold Splash; finished 9th and won a Silver Spoon.
1964: Scott Trial at Bridge End; finished 19th and won a Silver Spoon.
Outside the DOT factory in the early sixties enroute from work to a National Trial on the Saturday.
1961: Bradford Trial
This picture is from around 1960 outside the DOT Factory, on one of Bert Foster’s 50cc DOT ‘Vivi’ road racers.
1963: D K Mansell sidecar; the only trial with Manchester 17 Clubman Geoff Brassington in the ‘chair’. We finished 37th out of 64 starters.
1966: SSDT on Callart Pass; finished 18th and won a Special First Class Award after only losing two marks on the first day.
1967: In the Victory Trial, at last with telescopic front forks fitted.
1995: Back on a DOT at the Pre-65 Scottish on School House.
1972: On a Bultaco after no DOT machinery was available, at the Inter Centre Team Trial riding for the North Western Centre.
1974: On a Montesa borrowed from Tom Robinson on Rooley Moor.
1973: Inter Centre Team Trial. The trial was run by the Rochdale & DMCC. I am on the 170cc Minarelli DOT on Rooley Moor.
1986: High Peak Vintage MCC DOT night. The engine on the left is a Bradshaw, which DOT used in the late 1920s. The other is a modified 122cc Villiers engine from the 1951 TT machine. The people from left: Ted Hardy, DOT Historian; Bill Barugh; Norman Reed, Vintage Club; Ann Davy and Pat Davy, DOT Marque Specialist; and Eric Adcock.