It was the afternoon of April 30th, 2016, at the conclusion of the Scottish Pre-65 Trial at Kinlochleven, where I was chatting with my good trialing friend Tony Swidenbank who had just completed the trial on his Drayton Bantam. "It's your seventieth next year isn't it?" said Swinny, "you should be riding this trial, so how about if you put in an entry and you can ride my Cub as a birthday present?" That seemed a pretty good idea, so come the following October when the regulations and entry forms became available I slipped up to Kendal to take pictures of his very smart Cub and duly sent off my entry form — only to learn that I failed to make it through the ballot. Twelve months later exactly the same scenario was played out, "It's your seventy-first next year, blah de blah de blah", but come October, I thought can I really be bothered to go through all that palaver just to ride a trial? — and it is a palaver, what with all the special requirements needed to simply send off an entry. No other trial in the world demands such a performance, so I really couldn't be bothered.
Come a very late November, when 'Swinny' says "have you entered it yet?", which pushed me into getting my act together and I duly sent off the entry with just a few days left before entries closed. Convinced I would never make it through the ballot, I thought no more about it until I was driving home from my last ACU Committee Meeting at Rugby when the phone rang just as I was at a service station having stopped for fuel. It was Tony, "I'm going to have to get this Cub fettled for you now aren't I!" "What on earth are you on about?" says I, "Well now that you're in the Pre-65 you'll need to have a couple of rides before to get used to it" he said.
I have to say I was delighted with the news as I finished my journey back home just a few days before Christmas and less than three weeks before my 71st birthday.
So seven weeks before the Pre-65 at Kinlochleven was due to take place, I took delivery of Tony's very smart machine and rode it in the Poacher's Bag Trial in Lincolnshire. It's hardly the best venue of woods and tight turns to prepare for the big rocky streams of Scotland, but hey, with 55 years of trialling experience any ride is good enough to get the feel of a strange machine! I didn't ride it well but did thoroughly enjoy the event, and then just two weeks before the trip up to Scotland I rode again in a Yorkshire Classic Big Bike Trial in which other Pre65 machines could compete, and went round clean.
On to Scotland, and here's where it all goes wrong. Scrutineering — no problem. Riders' parade — no problem. The first section, a big five, simply out of touch with the machine; but at least the first five is out of the way, and I followed it up with three very tidy cleans on what were quite difficult sections, which took me to the bottom of Pipeline. I walk the hill, doing the usual bit of chit-chat, and return to my bike to join the queue, then when it comes to my turn next to ride the machine simply will not start. Half an hour later, having exhausted every option open to me on the hill, having been given lots of help by Paul Baddeley, there was no other option but to return down the hill to the car park.
Back in the car park two Dutch guys offered help and encouragement as we tried to locate the reason for no spark. The tank was off, spark plugs were tried, plug cap removed, side case removed; but it was totally dead. Somebody suggested that I go and see Albert Bergada, who, I confess, I didn't know from Adam, but then I'm not a Pre-65 aficionado.
What a wonderful guy! He's a Spanish enthusiast who apparently goes to all the big classic trials with a van full of everything and anything that the Pre-65 scene riders might need. He immediately set to work on the machine, checking and testing everything, only to declare it was dead. Yes, I know!
"So do you want me to make it go?" Albert dived into his van and produced an entire PVL ignition system for a Cub and proceeded to remove the old one and fitted the new. Obviously the job took him some time, and all I could do was hang around like a spare *****, as my engineering knowledge is, to say the least, limited! However, the Cub did eventually fire back into life and I was able to complete the second loop of the day, having had to forego the Blackwater loop. Shame that!
At this point let me say that all was not yet over. Hot, sweaty, agitated, overweight, unfit — I was never going to be a star that afternoon. If there was a hole to fall into, I fell into it. If there was a slippery rock to take a dab on, I used it and took it. The new ignition was too advanced and to start it every time took dozens of kicks, which made my dodgy right knee look like a swollen melon — and as it was a bit like riding a cruise missile my abuse of the clutch, holding it in check, overheated it which resulted in me and the Triumph being stranded down by the loch-side and having to push it to a stream to kick water over it to cool it down! Then the swinging arm nut obviously took a disliking to me, preferring to spend the rest of its life nestling in the Scottish bracken somewhere.
Time to Call it a Day
Despite my well-known enthusiasm for motorcycling in general, and trials riding in particular, I have to say that I had experienced enough for my twelfth Pre-65 Scottish and reluctantly decided to call it a day, preferring instead to mount my e-bike on Saturday morning with friends and ride the Mamore Road to see the Callert sections.
I sincerely thank Tony for the loan of his precious steed and to Albert for his enthusiasm, knowledge, ability and van full of Pre-65 bits to enable those of us who ride such events to be able to carry on when all else appears to have failed. I know that I failed miserably and on reflection perhaps should have retarded the ignition on Saturday morning, found a nut for the swinging arm and taken a gallop round Saturday's much easier course. But hey, it's only a trial, there's plenty more to come, but maybe not a Pre-65 in Scotland. Getting through the ballot was the first step, which proved to be the easy bit!