ALVIE TWO-DAY

It was early March when my mo­bile phone rang. A quick glance at the screen told me that it was Trial Mag­a­zine owner John Hulme calling: “Mike, can you talk?” Yoomee’s reg­u­larly open­ing when­ever he calls me! Yes, carry on, I replied. “The mag­a­zine is one o

Trial Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - AR­TI­CLE: MIKE ‘THE BIKE’ RAPLEY

Never one to pon­der such re­quests for long I replied in the af­fir­ma­tive, think­ing that at least it will be sum­mer, the days will be warm and sunny, and it will be a good chance to en­joy a round­about mo­tor­cy­cle ride via the Scot­tish Bor­ders and the Grampians to Aviemore. “Oh, all right then” I told him and what fol­lowed was our usual con­ver­sa­tion with John telling me of his plans and me agree­ing, as I won­dered whether I re­ally wanted to spend a long week­end up north ef­fec­tively on my own.

HERE WE GO

True to his word a room book­ing e-mail came through, so my trip was set­tled and I ac­tu­ally be­gan to look for­ward to it, plan­ning a route that would keep me off mo­tor­ways and dual car­riage­ways for as far as pos­si­ble. So that was my rea­son for trav­el­ling nearly 800 miles over the sec­ond week­end of June, and of course the ques­tion to be asked is ‘was it worth it?’ Most def­i­nitely, as it hap­pened, but with a few caveats.

I had rid­den the In­ver­ness Club’s trial back in 2013 when I owned a 250cc James that looked the part but ac­tu­ally rode pretty badly, and whilst I thought that I was fully fit I had still only been back rid­ing for a cou­ple of months fol­low­ing the heart surgery I had un­der­gone in De­cem­ber and al­though I had en­joyed the trial the two days on the James had taken a lot out of me. So this time, as a jour­nal­ist-come-spec­ta­tor there would be the op­por­tu­nity to mix with loads of riders, take a few snaps and write a few words, and en­joy the week­end to the full.

So what of the trial it­self? This far down the line from the event tak­ing place it is not nec­es­sary to dic­tate sec­tion-by-sec­tion and lap-by-lap re­sults but for me to give an over­all view of the event. The High­land Two Day is known as ‘the friendli­est trial in Scot­land’, and there’s no ar­gu­ing with that state­ment as the Alvie Es­tate wel­comes the trial with open arms where the Laird Jamie Wil­liamson opened the pro­ceed­ings hav­ing been in­tro­duced by John Mof­fatt with a wel­com­ing speech.

THE HONDA EDI­TION

In re­cent years the trial has fea­tured fa­mous guests and this year’s event was called The Honda Edi­tion, where fac­tory riders from the sev­en­ties Rob Shep­herd and Nick Jef­feries were the guests of hon­our. It’s only recently that Rob has re­turned to the sport but the 1977 Bri­tish Cham­pion on the Honda was un­able to ride af­ter hav­ing sus­tained an in­jury to his shoul­der. But mul­ti­ple TT win­ner, tri­als ace and ex-ISDT team­ster Nick Jef­feries slung his leg over a BSA Ban­tam to show that he had lost none of his skill, de­spite not hav­ing com­peted in a trial for some 14 years, by win­ning the B route out­right on Nor­man Shep­herd’s loaned ma­chine.

In keep­ing with the tra­di­tion, started back in 2013, when each trial fea­tured one make of ma­chine, French en­thu­si­asts Jean Cail­lou and Olivier Bar­jon brought over sev­eral of their fa­mous ex-fac­tory Hon­das for dis­play in­clud­ing the ex-Mar­land Wha­ley 360 Honda, which Cail­lou ended up rid­ing af­ter crash­ing and break­ing the fuel tank of the ma­chine on which he had started. Un­like 2013, when the weather was bak­ing and the ground bone dry, this year it was pre­dom­i­nately wet over­head and muddy and slip­pery un­der­foot, and at first sight the sec­tions seemed pretty easy yet those re­spon­si­ble for the set­ting out man­aged to find a bril­liant com­pro­mise with a few more dif­fi­cult sec­tions to test the stars — of which there were many — whilst the ma­jor­ity were able to en­joy leisurely rides through eas­ier sec­tions.

THE GRAMPIAN HILLS

Two laps each day of 18 sec­tions was the for­mat, but the over­rid­ing re­ports from the riders as they re­turned to the start was about the mag­nif­i­cent views from the top of the es­tate over the ad­join­ing Grampian hills. Their scores seemed far less im­por­tant than their en­joy­ment of the ride round and the qual­ity of the trial, which can be seen as a re­fresh­ing change from the at­ti­tude at many events I at­tend where the re­sult is all im­por­tant (and con­sider me par­tic­u­larly guilty in that re­spect!). How­ever, tra­di­tion dic­tates that I recog­nise the re­sults and the more no­tice­able ef­forts.

On the more dif­fi­cult but em­i­nently ride­able A route, Gary Macdon­ald, Kin­lochleven’s Pre-65 Scot­tish win­ner stayed clean all week­end as did his vil­lage coun­ter­part Calum Mur­phy to­gether with the North East’s reg­u­lar SSDT and na­tional trial cam­paigner John Charl­ton.

Macdon­ald rode a 200 Honda, Mur­phy a BSA Ban­tam and Charl­ton a 250 BSA. Eight riders stayed in sin­gle-fig­ure scores over the two days on the A route, so in ad­di­tion to the above named are Paul Heys, Mark Jack­son, Alan Crayk, Nick Shield and Richard Allen. No rider man­aged to stay clean on the B route where Jef­feries was the best on five, with sec­ond best be­ing Devon trav­eller Martin Gil­bert who buzzed a tiny 60cc Honda TLR round for the loss of just seven; an in­cred­i­ble ef­fort not just to post such a low score, but to com­plete the test­ing ter­rain! Next was Ian My­ers on a Cub fol­lowed by Chris Haigh on his Ve­lo­cette — just about the widest va­ri­ety of ma­chines pos­si­ble.

EN­JOY­MENT

Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen, for­mally the guest of hon­our at the Bul­taco Edi­tion, so en­joyed that trial in 2013 that he now re­turns reg­u­larly with his daugh­ter Hanna and wife Diane, and whilst Vesty’s usual abil­ity again showed through, all credit should go to Hanna who was sev­enth over­all on the B route, an ex­cel­lent per­for­mance by any mea­sure. Many thanks also to the Vesty clan for al­low­ing me to en­joy their com­pany in the evenings over din­ner. But it was def­i­nitely not about the scores — as some­one said to me that week­end and which I should re­mem­ber as I’m gen­er­ally guilty — the im­por­tant thing is that re­sults mean noth­ing to ev­ery­body else, it’s the en­joy­ment that counts, and the High­land Two Day pro­vided that ex­pe­ri­ence in abun­dance.

Re­turn to the be­gin­ning of this ar­ti­cle; I men­tioned a caveat. Faced with a likely seven-hour road ride home I set off mid-way through Sun­day, and ex­pe­ri­enced ar­guably the worst weather ever ex­pe­ri­enced on a road ma­chine! Tor­ren­tial rain and high winds, par­tic­u­larly through Glen Coe and over Shap, at times made me won­der why on earth I agreed to do this trip. The easy an­swer of course is A: It was so this mag­a­zine’s read­ers can en­joy a flavour of this mar­vel­lous trial; and B: be­cause my pas­sion is tri­als, and that pas­sion has never di­min­ished an inch since I was a snotty kid ob­serv­ing at South Mid­land tri­als long be­fore youth tri­als ex­isted!

John Charl­ton (BSA) Nick Jef­feries (BSA)

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