The Luck­etts

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS -

In a tucked away cor­ner of the UK there is a thriv­ing tri­als com­mu­nity with a range of ter­ri­tory that some or­gan­is­ers would die for. Rid­ers in this com­mu­nity some­times ven­ture out into the wider tri­als world to com­pete, do well, and then slide off back home to their ground again. They have formed into teams that have ven­tured up North to beat the Yorkies on their home ter­ri­tory in the In­ter-Cen­tre Team Tri­als, and have taken them on and beaten them when vis­i­tors have ven­tured into these nether lands. Within this com­mu­nity is a hus­band and wife team who have sup­ported tri­als since the early six­ties in the train­ing of youth rid­ers and novices to re­alise and ex­tend their po­ten­tial in the sport for nearly 25 years. The hus­band has been a works-sup­ported rider who is still rid­ing with suc­cess, and his wife, who has sup­ported him and their fam­ily and been the or­gan­is­ing and driv­ing force in the tri­als school they have run for lo­cal rid­ers and the wider tri­als com­mu­nity. I wish to in­tro­duce you to a very well-known duo in the South West of Eng­land, the Luck­etts. A hus­band and wife team who on their land in North Devon ran a tri­als school and three or four tri­als a year. Brenda's Tri­als School was as well known as her hus­band's en­thu­si­asm for tri­als, but some rid­ers may not be so fa­mil­iar with John's record of achieve­ments.

Words: Mike Naish, Tri­als Guru – John Mof­fat and Dave Cole Pictures: Alan Vines, Mike Rap­ley - Brian Holder, Mal­colm Car­ling and Mike Naish. We are not able to give credit to pho­tog­ra­phers due to the pass­ing of time, but please feel free to con­tact Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine if by mis­take we have used an image with­out per­mis­sion.

John, how did you be­come in­ter­ested in motorcycle tri­als?

I was born 1946 at West Bucks in North Devon. My fa­ther was al­ways in­ter­ested in motorcycli­ng although he was more into road rac­ing. He gave me an in­ter­est in all mo­tor­bikes, which has lasted to this day. He had a Tri­umph Tro­phy, and he used to take me to see road races, which some­times were quite a dis­tance from North Devon like Oul­ton Park in Cheshire.

One day in the late 50s he took me to see a trial which was run quite lo­cally. I re­mem­ber watch­ing this sec­tion with crowds of peo­ple on it. It was a climb up a steep­ish gully with a step in it, and sim­ply no­body was get­ting up it at all. Then there

was a rip­ple of ex­cite­ment, and I could hear this twin-cylin­der ma­chine com­ing up fast. The rider ap­proached the step and was over it clean to great ap­plause; it was Johnny Giles on his Tri­umph. I used to ride a push bike, like all the lads, but I kept on to my fa­ther to buy me a motorcycle. One day he said okay, and we went to look at a DMW lo­cally, and I liked it, but by the time we went back with the money the bloke had sold it to some­one else. The strange thing is — as we es­tab­lished years later — it was Brenda's fa­ther! Later on, my fa­ther bought me an Am­bas­sador with the Vil­liers en­gine.

Who taught you to ride?

to a field to ride it around. One day the sergeant was on the road with a new po­lice of­fi­cer, and I could see that he was telling him to come and talk to me as part of his train­ing on the beat. He told me that as I was un­der­age, I couldn't push a motorcycle on the high­way, so that was the end of that be­cause we re­spected the law in those days! When I left school, I went to Barn­sta­ple Tech­ni­cal College. My fa­ther was a one-man band at that time, run­ning a busi­ness as an Agri­cul­tural Con­trac­tor, and as the busi­ness grew he asked me if I would like to come and join him to which I said yes. I ini­tially went to Tech to learn that sort of trade. I used to ride there on a Mon­day and lodge there all week, then ride back on a Fri­day night. I taught my­self, as most peo­ple did in those days. I used to go to a friend's house whose fam­ily had an old Ex­cel­sior with a hand change. We used to ride it up the green-lane by the side of his house. It got us used to the twist­ing the right hand and let­ting the clutch fin­gers in and out with the left-hand clutch/ throt­tle com­bi­na­tion. Also, my fa­ther had an AJS road ma­chine, and we used to push it down the road

What came next?

A 250 Royal En­field Cru­sader Sports. A few of us lo­cal lads set up our sort of club, and we used to go rac­ing on a Sun­day af­ter­noon — on the A39. We had a long straight and then a left-hand bend. We used to post some­body on the bend to make sure there was noth­ing com­ing the other way and then we could use the full width of the road. One day one of the lads went out with­out a look­out; he took the bend and hit an ice cream van. He went one way, and the ma­chine ended up un­der­neath the van. We had to jack it up off the ma­chine to get it out. The strange thing was the driver took it very well, and af­ter that, he used to come in ev­ery Sun­day where we gath­ered and sold us ice creams!

When did you start in tri­als?

I used to go and watch the Lands End Trial on my bi­cy­cle. I'd be out to the sec­tion called Dar­ra­cott at 8.00am and stay there all day, so then I thought I would give it a go. My first trial was the 1965 Lands End, and I rode a 500 Tri­umph to Lew Down to start. I had a few clutch prob­lems, but I re­mem­ber hav­ing a good go at 'Beg­gars Roost'. Un­for­tu­nately, I hit a rock half­way up the sec­tion, did a pivot turn and started pow­er­ing down the sec­tion — a scary mo­ment! I re­tired.

My sec­ond trial was the Lyn Traders. I rode the big Tri­umph to the start and won­dered why all the rid­ers were look­ing at me with a shake of their heads. I know what they were think­ing now. When I saw those huge rocks and river beds and tried to ride them, it was a bridge too far. I re­tired af­ter 40 miles. I had the bug though and swapped in my Royal En­field lo­cally at Bide­ford for a Cot­ton with a 32A Vil­liers mo­tor with lead­ing-link forks. I joined the Tor­ridge Club, and I rode in an Ex­moor trial. I fin­ished 6th from last, but I fin­ished. Dave Chick was an­other new­comer, and he and I made friends who have lasted to this day. My next event was a More­ton­hamp­stead trial that Roger Wooldridge, the Cen­tre Cham­pion, won and then I won the best Novice at an Ex­moor trial in the Oc­to­ber. This was in 1965.

What did you think of the Cot­ton?

I liked it although it was bet­ter in straight lines; I never liked 'Up the bank and around the tree' nadgery sec­tions — I still don't, it's my weak point. I was soon off to Collins of Truro where I swapped it in for an ex-works Cot­ton Star­maker. Mel­roy

Youl­ton used to work in the stores, I still see him from time to time.

I put lights on it and rode in the Ex­eter Trial. With a mate of mine, we started from Lew­down. He ran out of petrol near Ex­eter in the mid­dle of the night, and I went off to get some. When I got back, my mate was fast asleep, sit­ting up on the ma­chine! I re­mem­ber great char­ac­ters in those tri­als, like Jack Pouncy on his Pouncy DOT out­fit. In lo­cal tri­als, I won a Non-Ex­pert award on the Star­maker.

When did you start to get no­ticed?

I got an ex-Mal­colm Eve­ley 250 Bul­taco four-speed from Spencer's of Ply­mouth. It trans­formed my rid­ing. It had a few faults, like the kick start-stop which would shear off. It was an in­ter­nal item and used to fall into the gear­box, which could be un­for­tu­nate be­cause it meant a strip down. Peter Keen did up the en­gine for me with a re-bore etc., and with Mum and Dad we went up to Scot­land, leav­ing at four in the morn­ing on the Satur­day to get to Ed­in­burgh for the sign­ing on. Of course, there were no mo­tor­ways to get us there quickly in those days.

There were four of us rid­ing from the South West. Mervin Laver­combe, Mike Sex­ton, Ian Hay­don and my­self. It was very wet that year, and Merv and Mike went out on the Tues­day af­ter the Ran­noch Moor crossing. Merv, who used to change his ma­chine and his rid­ing suits seem­ingly ev­ery cou­ple of months and who was al­ways im­mac­u­late, came in from the moor ab­so­lutely plas­tered from head to toe with mud, he couldn't take any­more! I re­tired on the Wed­nes­day when I fell off on some rocks and busted the gear shaft. I man­aged to get it into third gear but we were sched­uled to go over the Cor­ri­ar­rack Pass, and I was a bit wor­ried about ev­ery­one pass­ing me. As it turned out the pass was closed due to the weather and we had to go the long way around. The ma­chine seized up with hold­ing it in third gear all the time. We found out when Peter stripped it that there was a hole in the pis­ton. As in my en­tire com­pe­ti­tion ca­reer, I learnt through ex­pe­ri­ence.

In 1969 I bought a brand new Bul­taco and rode in a trou­ble-free Scot­tish, and I got a Spe­cial First Class award. In all I rode the Scot­tish nine times, re­tir­ing twice, and get­ting a Spe­cial First in the re­main­ing seven events. I won my first pre­mier at an Open to Cen­tre Cred­i­ton trial. I tied with a rider called Dave Munt who was on a James, but I got it on the Spe­cial test. I started do­ing all the Na­tion­als: Green­smith, St David's, etc. and I was run­ner-up to Sammy Miller in the Lyn Na­tional.

I know you were a 'Works' sup­ported rider — how did this come about?

When Sara­cen Mo­tor­cy­cles started up, they ad­ver­tised in Mo­tor Cy­cle News for rid­ers for their prod­ucts. I wrote to them of­fer­ing my ser­vices but they al­ready had taken on Jack Galloway and Jon Bliss, so I wrote to Cot­ton Mo­tor­cy­cles at Glouces­ter and sent copies of my results. They re­sponded by let­ting me have a Cot­ton at a cut-price and said they would sup­port me with free spares if I needed them. I was to get £3 for an Open to Cen­tre Win, £12 for a Re­gional Re­stricted and £25 for a Na­tional Win. Af­ter a while, they gave me the sec­ond ma­chine free of charge. This was the 220 Minerelli en­gined Cot­ton. I rode for Cot­tons for two years and had some de­cent results. I came 2nd in the Vic­tory Trial the year that Brian Hig­gins won it in the early seven­ties.

In the 1970 Scot­tish on the 220 Cot­ton I thought the en­gine was tight­en­ing up and was tak­ing it eas­ier but then look­ing down at the rear wheel I re­alised the frame was twisted, the back brake was man­gled up, and the hub seemed to be break­ing up! I was los­ing 59 marks on time when 60 min­utes meant you were out. I got to Pipe­line with one minute left. Back at the start/fin­ish, we bor­rowed a wheel from a North­ern dealer, and I used that for the re­main­der of the week. My wheel was re­built so it could be re-fit­ted, so that when I fin­ished at Ed­in­burgh, I had all the cor­rect rim, paint in­tact. I still got a Spe­cial First that year.

In the 1971 Scot­tish I was ninth on the leader board; I only lost four marks on the Thurs­day. At the end of 1972, I wanted to fin­ish at Cot­ton as I felt the ma­chine was less com­pet­i­tive. The Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor at Cot­ton, Reg But­tery, wrote me a very nice let­ter ask­ing me to stay and sug­gested I take the ma­chine to Cal­i­for­nia to demon­strate it. He was a smash­ing bloke, and I did not like to let him down, and so I had to make my mind up what to do? In the end, I re­turned it.

So why did you let that op­por­tu­nity go, John?

I guess I did not be­lieve them at Cot­ton although to be fair I had enough of the ma­chine be­cause it wasn't that com­pet­i­tive, I was also very tied up with the fam­ily busi­ness. We did es­tate groundwork­s and lay­ing tar­mac etc.; my mind was made up, and I gave the ma­chine back to the Cot­ton works, and ul­ti­mately Martin Strang from Som­er­set went to the USA in my place.

Your next bike was an Ossa

There was an ad­vert in Mo­tor Cy­cle News; Bob Goll­ner was look­ing for a rider to sup­port, so I tele­phoned him. I got the Ossa cheaper, but any re­place­ment parts were free. It was the Goll­ner Ossa with the Whit­lock frame. Af­ter that, I rode for Ossa UK run by Cliff and Roger Holden. From 1974 on­wards I had a new ma­chine ev­ery year.

How good was the Ossa?

Ossa UK was very sup­port­ive. The ma­chine steered well in the straight and found grip in mud well. This was due in part to the rake of the forks, be­cause it was not so good in nadgery. I was on 'Two-Ply' Pirelli tyres when most were still on the old 'FourPly' Dun­lops, and I could find grip where most couldn't. Ossa came out with the 350 en­gine, but I couldn't get on with it and go back to the 250. Brian Hig­gins rode the 350 well though. In 1974 Brian and I were neck and neck in the South West Cham­pi­onship. We got to the last sec­tion of the

I rode for the South West Cen­tre quite a few times in the In­ter-Cen­tre Team Tri­als, which were al­ways fiercely com­pet­i­tive. The South West had won the event in York­shire in 1963, and we were de­ter­mined to do it again. This we did in 1970 to break the dom­i­nance of the York­shire Cen­tre which they had achieved over quite a few years. As well as my­self the rest of the team was Ian Black­more, Brian Hig­gins, Alan Dom­mett and Ian Hay­don.

fi­nal trial, and I had to clean it to win the cham­pi­onship. I had a five, los­ing it, and Brian won it and I was sec­ond. Then there was the first Can­tilever frame — Monoshock we call it now — but it was very heavy. I rode for Ossa un­til 1978 but I wasn't do­ing so well, so I gave the ma­chine back and bought a 325 Bul­taco from Alan Dom­mett. This was when I stopped do­ing all the Na­tion­als. I had got mar­ried, and we had Nick in 1977, and I was very busy with work.

Did you ever ride in the Scott?

Yes, once on the Cot­ton where I had a fin­isher's award and then two years later on the Ossa. They used to run the course al­ter­nate ways round so by rid­ing two years later I could re­mem­ber most of where the course went. I was in the first ten on ob­ser­va­tion that year although I lost a load of time. I used to go train­ing by run­ning on the beach be­fore the SSDT. Once I rode the ma­chine from Bucks Mills where we lived to Clovelly on the beach. I was also or­gan­is­ing the Woolsey Foot­ball team where Nick was play­ing. I gave up rid­ing in 1980, just about the time that Char­lotte was born. Our sec­ond son Martyn was born in 1986

When did you start rid­ing Pre-65s?

It must have been in the mid­dle to end of the 1980s. I bought three Tri­umph Tiger Cubs and made them into one good tri­als ma­chine. For me, it was a way of re­lax­ing, be­cause when you are rid­ing, you are think­ing only of the route and the sec­tions, and all other prob­lems you have go to the back of your mind. I was by this time run­ning the busi­ness with eigh­teen blokes em­ployed.

In the early '90s, I won the Pre-65 Cham­pi­onship, and my son Nick won the Twin­shock the same year. I did two Pre-65 Scot­tish on the Cub. The last time I was sec­ond to Dave Thorpe, and I had a good clean on Pipe­line.

Tell me about Lower Wem­b­swor­thy Farm

We were look­ing for a piece of farm­land with some woods and streams if pos­si­ble, for keep­ing a few sheep and for tri­als prac­tice, and some­one ad­vised us that Lower Wem­b­swor­thy was to be auc­tioned. We looked at the farm and thought it would be per­fect for what we wanted, so we went along to bid at the auc­tion. Well, the price went up to more than we could af­ford and we did not get it. We looked around at oth­ers, but noth­ing had land that could be used for tri­als prac­tice in the same way. About a year later the auc­tion­eer rang me and asked if we were still in­ter­ested be­cause the chap who had bought it had de­cided he could not make a go of it and make enough money. We went to see him, and the long and short of it was that we bought it from him for the amount we wanted to pay in the first place! We bought the farm in 1992.

So where do you go from here John?

I in­tend to carry on in the sport as long as I am breath­ing, but I am still work­ing,

help­ing Nick in his busi­ness. I help Brenda to cater for the hol­i­day vis­i­tors and man­age the 20 acres of prac­tice ground for tri­als, so I do not have too much time. I will ride from time to time I am sure. In 2011 I had a bad ac­ci­dent while seeing to a lorry back­ing out the yard onto the main A39 road. A car whose driver was blinded while driv­ing into the sun did not see me on the road and hit me square on, break­ing some bones. I recovered well and still come out to ride oc­ca­sion­ally but can be seen more of­ten mark­ing out Na­tional and club events on the farm and act­ing as a cen­tre Stew­ard in South West Cen­tre events.

How did you meet Brenda?

Well, it was be­cause of the Foot and Mouth, and that was very lucky for Brenda — tongue in cheek — be­cause there were no events on. I went out on a blind date to the cin­ema or­gan­ised by a friend, and that's how I met Brenda.

In 1974 he moved to ride for Ossa UK run by Cliff and Roger Holden. From 1974 on­wards he had a new ma­chine ev­ery year. This picture is from the Scot­tish Six Days Trial where he won an­other Spe­cial First Class Award.

In 1973 Bob Goll­ner was look­ing for a rider to sup­port so John tele­phoned him. He got the Ossa cheaper and any re­place­ments parts were free. It was the Goll­ner Ossa with the Whit­lock frame.

Ninth on the leader board at the 1971 SSDT. He only lost four marks on the Thurs­day.

He rode for Cot­ton for two years and had some de­cent results.

1971 SSDT: Fight­ing to stay feetup on the Cot­ton, he at­tacks the iconic ‘Pipe­line’ haz­ards.

The move to Cot­ton re­sulted in a cut-price ma­chine and free spares. He would also re­ceive £3.00 for an Open to Cen­tre win, £12.00 for a Re­gional Re­stricted win and £25.00 for a Na­tional win.

The 1970 In­ter Cen­tre Team Trial win­ners rep­re­sent­ing the South West Cen­tre (from left): Ian Black­more, Brian Hig­gins, John Luck­ett, Jim Court­ney, Team Man­ager Alan Dom­mett and Ian Hay­don.

Af­ter a while they gave him the sec­ond ma­chine free of charge. This was the 220 Minerelli en­gined Cot­ton. This picture is from the 1972 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship round and the haz­ard is ‘Lamb’s Lair’.

Rid­ing up Di­a­mond Lane in the 1970 West of Eng­land Na­tional on the Bul­taco.

At the 1969 In­ter Cen­tre Team Trial (from left): Ivan Prid­ham, Brian Hig­gins, John Luck­ett and Mike Naish.

On Grey Mare’s Ridge in the 1968 SSDT.

Shall we have a go? Brenda Luck­ett (left) with Jenny Hay­don at the 1969 SSDT in Ed­in­burgh.

Sammy Miller with two good-look­ing girls at the 1969 SSDT: Brenda Luck­ett on the Bul­taco, left, and Jenny Hay­don on the Cot­ton on the right.

En­joy­ing the sun at the 1969 SSDT Brenda was more than happy to watch John fin­ish his first Six Day Trial. He had pur­chased a brand new Bul­taco and rode in a trou­ble-free Scot­tish on the way to a Spe­cial First Class Award.

With the Bul­taco locked in third gear due to a bro­ken gear shaft John tried to con­tinue, un­til it seized solid forc­ing him out of the 1968 Scot­tish.

In the Ex­eter Trial 1966 on the ex-works Cot­ton Star­maker.

On an early ‘Ra­dial’ cylin­der head four-speed gear­box Bul­taco in the 1967 Lyn Na­tional trial.

In the early days.

Brenda Luck­ett in her younger days.

At the end of 1972 John wanted to fin­ish at Cot­ton. The MD at Cot­ton, Reg But­tery, wrote him a very nice let­ter ask­ing him to stay, but his mind was made up and he re­turned the Cot­ton. This picture is from the John Dou­glas na­tional.

Rid­ing num­ber one was not the best to have at the rain-lashed Bri­tish Ex­perts Trial.

Hav­ing sur­vived the big step at ‘Wash­fold’ John car­ries on his way to a fin­isher’s cer­tifi­cate on the Cot­ton at the 1971 Scott Trial.

John had a good sea­son on the Ossa in 1974, which in­cluded qual­i­fy­ing once again for the South West Ex­perts, seen here on the Ossa.

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