In the modern-day world of sports that are dominated by money it’s quite rare to see one individual commit himself to a brand for over twenty years. In 1994 the Gas Gas trials name was starting to grow at a rapid pace. The UK importer John Shirt Snr and his son John wanted a rider with a high profile to be part of the brand’s growing success. Steve Colley had risen through the ranks on a Fantic before moving to Beta in 1991. After much success on the Beta he was looking for a new challenge and had no hesitation when the Shirts and the Spanish factory offered him the chance to join Gas Gas for an assault on the 1995 trials season.
STEVE COLLEY ON GAS GAS AND JOHN SHIRT SNR AND JOHN SHIRT
JNR: When I signed to ride for Gas Gas in late 1994 I needed a new challenge at that point in my career. I spoke with the competition manager Andreu Codina in Spain, and the Shirt family, and then tested the machine in the Isle of Man – and it was brilliant.
I based myself in my motorhome in Buxton at the Gas Gas UK headquarters and tested like never before, with ‘Shirty’ Jnr as my minder and mechanic. At the last round of the 1995 BTC it was all between myself and Dougie Lampkin, and at the first section of the day the fan broke and the engine boiled, but ‘Jnr’ fixed the machine and we won! Both the Shirts and Gas Gas in Spain treated me as family, which continues to the present day; something I am eternally grateful for.
The next few years remain etched in my memory as some of the best years of my life doing the World rounds with the likes of Steve ‘Woody’ Hole and Paul Gamble, who both always gave me 100%.
In 2000 I won the WTC rounds in the USA and the ‘Scottish’ and I was riding at my best. I always enjoyed the Indoor season and in France picked up the nickname ‘Showman’; the pay was pretty good also! Now, all these years on, I still love doing the shows and I am now married to my wife Liz, who supports me all the way.
I still base myself in Buxton when I am in the UK and have formed friendships with the staff at Gas Gas UK, in particular with the manager Jude and ‘Factory ‘Kev’ who keeps the machines in top condition, for which I am very appreciative as nothing is ever too much trouble for them.
As for John Shirt Snr, you will not find a more down to earth man; very honest and straight to the point. I have been on Gas Gas for the last twenty years for one reason only: I never wanted to change as both Shirty ‘Snr’ and ‘Jnr’ are such good people, the last twenty years have been a pleasure working with them – here’s to the next twenty years!
JOHN SHIRT SNR ON STEVE COLLEY: “Working with someone like Steve has been a pleasure and he has been a valuable asset to the company over the last twenty years. His whole presentation and attitude towards the sport of motorcycle trials is a benchmark for the younger generation to follow.
From a company point of view he has helped to make the brand Gas Gas what it is and we could not have had anyone better to represent us. From a rider’s point of view, his work ethic has been second to none and some of the modern generation of riders could learn so much from him. As he was from the Isle of Man in the early part of his career every event would include a long ferry trip to the UK mainland and then a motorway drive of many hours. One word always springs to mind with Steve – Commitment.
JOHN SHIRT JNR ON STEVE COLLEY: I could write a book about Steve Colley and his years on Gas Gas so when I was asked to do this it wasn’t easy to put the ‘experience’ with Steve into so few words: Legend yes! Superstar of Trials yes! Pain in the ass also yes!
We have helped Steve now for twenty years, with NO regrets at all. He is first and foremost my friend; secondly an amazing rider and lastly the perfect role model for any young rider. As Louis Walsh would say… he’s got everything: he can sing, he can dance, he looks good hahaha… he really has got the X Factor.
I have way too many stories about Steve, but for me there are three riders that ALL the younger riders should aspire to: they are Dougie Lampkin, Steve and Graham Jarvis. Yes also ‘Saunders’ – but he was the Past Master that these three probably looked up to too.
Other riders ‘back in the day’ – me included – were not in the same league for their 100% will to win. I can freely admit this now I am older and, hopefully, wiser. I have been second to Steve more times than I care to mention, and it hurts – the 1992 SSDT still does – and especially when my dad made the correct decision to sign him up back in 1995 to win the BTC and SSDT etc for Gas Gas, because Wayne Braybrook and I couldn’t! Dad had signed Saunders in 1993 mainly for his experience and to help with the development on the machine.
Saunders was maybe past his very best but could still pressure young ‘pup’ Colley, who had a lot of respect for his older team-mate/rival, and it all ‘worked’.