Traditional� Arbutnot Trial
In the regulations riders are instructed:- 'The Arbuthnot is not supposed to be a Sunday afternoon stroll, but a hard day's ride which will leave competitors tired but satisfied that they have achieved a tough goal'.
Rigid machinery is given priority of entry, and this year 90 solo and sidecar entrants took on the enjoyment and challenge of the event. Machinery ranged from the 1929 250cc Ariel Colt of Paul 'Weasel' Bahmain to the 1966 solo 650cc Triumph Metisse of former sidecar ace Dick Ramplee, with every British manufacturer represented including rare Sunbeam, Excelsior, Ariel, Panther, Dot and Cotton machines. Machines are divided into ten different classes, including separate classes for machines with Girder forks and those with tele forks, Pre-65 preunit four-stroke, Pre-65 two-stroke sprung frame machines, Pre-75 twostroke and Pre 75 two-stroke sprung, and also sidecars. All machines have to be British, and they are scrutineered prior to the event for authenticity. Machinery is pretty standard with little of the 'trick' machinery found in some classic events.
Scrutineering is carried out in the pub car park at The Barford Inn at Barford St Martin, south of Salisbury, with bacon sandwiches and coffee on tap.
Leaving the village, the 80 miles takes in a loop through Stratford Tony across Cranborne Chase, following much of the Drover's Road down to Shaftesbury. Sections near Zigzag Hill and Cor Common are followed by Whitesheet Hill and back over Compton Downs back to the Barford Inn.
Sections are held in six different locations, with two or three routes on each section: a 'competition' route for the more experienced riders using competition machinery and a 'colonial' route for less skilled riders or those on less modified machinery. Sidecars either have their own route or tackle the colonial route on some sections.
The 2017 event
Mike Dollittle, a veteran of 20-plus Arbuthnots, was first away on his immaculate 1964 500cc Triumph T50 from his home village followed at minute intervals by other riders heading for the hills.
Competitors were faced with deep, rutted tracks with puddles of unknown depth and not all made it beyond the first few miles, including Jim Chadwick's 1951 BSA B34 and Fred Clutterbuck's 1949 350cc AJS which suffered an early puncture that couldn't be repaired. At the spectacular Stratford Tony Ford, the experienced competitors like Dolittle took a sweeping line through the water at a confident pace.
Less experienced riders, or those who wanted an extra thrill, took the shortest and deepest The Arbuthnot Trial: 'A trial from between the wars run today'. What is it? The Arbuthnot Trial was first held after the First World War as a reliability trial for man and machine. Today it is billed as 'a trial from between the wars, run likes those in the 1920s', and this heritage is jealously protected by Salisbury Motorcycle and Light Car Club. Riders are faced with a single lap of up to 80 miles of riding on tracks and ancient roads through the countryside to the south of the Wiltshire City of Salisbury. The event was named after a local motorcycle hero Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, a TT rider from the early 1900s who finished third in the TT on a Triumph in 1908. The traditional format includes ten sections spread throughout the 80 miles, checkpoints en route which incur penalties if you miss them to stop course cutting, a regulatory lunch stop at the Golf Club and a special timed stage to split the class winners in the event of a tie. Riders compete as individuals and in addition, can enter for the team competition of three riders who submit a combined score at the end of the trial. Riders are expected to wear clothing in keeping with the time; Barbour and Belstaff are 'aplenty' along with a few 'pudding basins'.