Leg­end

Ulf Karlson

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS -

I can proudly say that I rode in the same team as the late great Ulf Karlson. In 1982 I had a con­tract to ride in Hal­vars­son cloth­ing as they tried to break into the Euro­pean tri­als mar­ket - I still have the con­tract — and Ulf was in the team. My first sight of Ulf was at the 1977 Scot­tish Six Days Trial when I was a young­ster watch­ing the trial and 'snap­ping' away with my lit­tle Ko­dak cam­era. He looked a very tough, de­ter­mined com­peti­tor, to put it mildly. Wind the clock for­ward to a few years ago when I spoke to him at the Swedish world round in 2015 and, in truth, he still looked very much the same — just a lit­tle older. His pass­ing was a shock to the tri­als world as he was quite a pri­vate per­son who lived a very nor­mal life af­ter the win­ning years in tri­als. His val­ues on life re­gard­ing loy­alty would see him ride for just one man­u­fac­turer dur­ing his suc­cess­ful tri­als ca­reer, Mon­tesa. I have some very good friends in the tri­als world, and one of the most enduring re­la­tion­ships is with Toon van de Vliet, who I first met at the 1978 SSDT. Toon knows so many peo­ple from the tri­als world in par­tic­u­lar, from dur­ing their win­ning years, Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen, Bernie Schreiber and of course Ulf Karlson. It was Toon who I turned to for some mem­oirs of the late great Ulf Karlson. Words: Toon van de Vliet and John Hulme • Pictures: Toon van de Vliet, Yoomee Archive, Rap­pini/Com­ment, Eric Kitchen, Mauri/Fontsere Col­lec­tion and the Gi­ulio Mauri Copy­right, Iain Lawrie and Ed­die Karls­son Fam­ily

The loss of a unique motorcycle rider like the Swedish 1980 FIM World Cham­pion Ulf Karlson was a big shock for the world of tri­als and those spe­cial peo­ple who met him dur­ing his ca­reer. His fel­low com­peti­tors and the great num­ber of sup­port­ers he had will never for­get him and his great style of rid­ing and han­dling of an off-road motorcycle. He was ded­i­cated to the Span­ish man­u­fac­turer Mon­tesa for his whole ca­reer and the only ever rider to win the world cham­pi­onship for them on a 100 per cent Span­ish born-and­bred Cota model. In 1975 he was kindly re­warded by the Mon­tesa fac­tory with his own Ulf Karlson Replica Cota 247 when he fin­ished sec­ond in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship com­pe­ti­tion in 1974.

Some­thing Dif­fer­ent

Ulf Karlson was born in Al­van­gen, Swe­den, on the 6th of March 1952 and started tri­als rid­ing on an air-cooled Puch 50cc moped from Aus­tria. Aged 15 he was at­tracted to tri­als just to do some­thing dif­fer­ent from the much more popular mo­tocross sport in Swe­den, which had a much larger fol­low­ing. When he turned 18-years-old, he bought his first Mon­tesa and started as a Ju­nior rider, and was very suc­cess­ful. He achieved Se­nior sta­tus very quickly and also got a lit­tle sup­port from the Swedish Mon­tesa im­porter.

Karlson had to go to other coun­tries to de­velop his rid­ing and started to go to tri­als in Bel­gium, Spain and some events in Great Bri­tain too. At first, he was trav­el­ling with some friends and, to­gether with Ben­nie Sel­man, drove a Volk­swa­gen Bea­tle be­cause he had to pay for ev­ery­thing out of his pocket.

Work­ing from a very young age as a painter he had to fund ev­ery­thing him­self af­ter his fa­ther died who was just 50-year­sold. Ulf was just 18 and he had to stand on his own two feet. He worked very hard for his money. Trav­el­ling abroad was ex­pen­sive but nec­es­sary be­cause Swe­den is cov­ered in snow for more than a half the year, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to pur­sue a ca­reer in motorcycle tri­als! But the strong Scan­di­na­vian sports­man would aim to be­come a cham­pion at all costs. Helped by his wife Ewa and with his will to suc­ceed he did that in a more than glo­ri­ous way!

In the early seven­ties as his ca­reer was still in its in­fancy, he had to con­test with three other fel­low Swedish rid­ers Benny Sell­man, Tore Everts­son and Bo Nils­son. They all car­ried the same traits as Ulf in be­ing very strong and de­ter­mined com­peti­tors. They had some great bat­tles to win the Na­tional Cham­pi­onship as both Sell­man and Everts­son shared the hon­ours un­til Karlson made the break­through in 1976.

In the 1975 Scot­tish Six Days Trial on the Mon­tesa Cota 247. CLAS­SIC TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE 2018 • IS­SUE 25

Ulf Karlson on the left with fel­low Swedish rider Benny Sell­man in 1974 at the Ital­ian Euro­pean round. They en­joyed many good tri­als bat­tles.

1975 in the Ital­ian world round.

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