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
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.
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)