The Lampkin name stands proud in the world of off-road motorcycling with the three brothers Arthur, Alan and Martin all winners of many events and championships. Arthur was the first to present the next generation of the Lampkin children when his wife Josephine presented John to the world in 1963 followed by two other sons, Stephen and David. John would be the one who would follow his famous father’s footsteps into the two wheeled world of motorcycle trials. After watching his father and uncles from the sidelines he moved into the sport at the birth of the schoolboy trials scene in the mid-seventies before moving onto the world stage in 1981. An unfortunate accident in 1986 finished his World Championship aspirations. He became the importer of the Italian Beta brand and made a successful return to competitive riding in 1987 on the UK trials scene. He is still very passionate about the sport of trials where his world has gone a full circle, as you can now find him as an avid spectator and supporter of the sport he loves.
Trial Magazine editor John Hulme met up with John Lampkin to have a look back at a career which has taken the likeable Yorkshireman on an unforgettable adventure in the world of motorcycle trials.
What are your memories of the early days in the Lampkin house?
We were very fortunate as we lived in a small village called Brunthwaite which had a field with a stream running through it. I was able to ride my bike and Steve had some football goals and a small golf hole. Dave was into his push bikes so he just spent his time avoiding an out of control motorcycle and flying golf balls. My dad was away quite a lot scrambling. I remember watching him set off in a pickup with normally two machines on the back. We went to watch him a few times but we were very young so I do not remember that so well which I regret.
How long did you have to wait to throw your legs over a motorcycle?
Initially I rode push bikes with big handlebars. I started riding a motorcycle when I was about ten. My first machine was a Suzuki pressed frame type road model with big handlebars. Riders did not start as early as they do nowadays as I suppose there were not as many junior motorcycles around at that time. It was still a good introduction to motorcycling and also a good introduction to the mechanics as it took a bit of encouragement to get it going.
With your obvious intrest in trials riding when did you start travelling to events?
I went to the SSDT each year, saving up all year for my hotel by selling eggs from some hens my dad bought for me. I loved watching at the SSDT. There was a real atmosphere in those days and each day could not come quickly enough to go and watch some more sections. My first trip abroad was to Germany and Italy with Mart and Sid to watch two WTC rounds. That was fantastic as the crowds were so big in those days. I remember in Germany watching a section in a quarry where they had to jump off a massive drop, riders were crashing for fun. I remember Mart launching off that drop with such style. I wanted to shout, that’s my uncle Mart! I also remember arriving in Italy and Mart and Sid could hardly get out of the van as people wanted their autographs, I felt so proud.
No doubt they would find you many jobs to do?
The Lampkin engineering business is based across from where I work now at Greengates in Silsden. Lots of machines have been worked on in there, from my dad’s BSA’s to Mart and Sid’s Bultaco’s and then my CCM’s and Fantic’s. After school I would clean Mart and Sid’s machines with Steve Dale who is a local trials legend. We would also clean out the lathes in the family engineering business to get our pocket money. They were mega days as there was always something going on. I remember Reg May coming to prepare Mart and Sid’s Bultaco’s. He did not like anybody talking to him whilst he was working so he did not make any mistakes, which at that age I found quite hard, I had loads of completely useless information to pass onto him. I also remember the ‘Bulto’ family coming to do some testing. Special days and a day off school thrown in which was always a bonus.
Your first ‘Pukka’ trials machine was the Bultaco Tiron?
I received a Tiron 100cc from Mr Bulto as he had watched me riding my push bike at the SSDT and thought it was time for me to start riding a motorcycle. It was a very special time for me and I still have the letter which Mr Bulto sent before I received the bike which Mart and Sid brought home from the factory in Spain. It was quite hard to ride as it had a 250cc bottom end which made it quite heavy and it was hard to get knobbly tyres for it so it taught you how to find grip. I still have the Bultaco.
You then moved into the emerging Schoolboy scene riding the 125cc Bultaco with the yellow fuel tank.
This model was called a Lobito. It was a lovely looking machine and ran very well. I actually started trials on the Tiron but I did not ride it so much. I rode the Lobito more and loved riding in the local trials at the time. My dad built me a workshop at home for my Christmas present so I started to prepare my own machines which I have always liked doing.
1977 SSDT: John with Uncle Martin, a true inspiration for any rider to follow.
1977: John at a Youth British Championship round at Back Cowm Quarry at Whitworth near Rochdale.