Brian Hig­gins

Trial Magazine - - TRIAL MAGAZINE - WORDS: MIKE RAPLEY WITH BRIAN HIG­GINS • PIC­TURES: ERIC KITCHEN, ALAN VINES, RAP­PERS, TMX AR­CHIVE AND MAL­COLM CAR­LING

Asked why he was re­lin­quish­ing the post af­ter six years and still a com­par­a­tively young man aged 63, Hig­gins told Trial Mag­a­zine: “Six years in this po­si­tion is enough for any­one. I saw right from the be­gin­ning that many as­pects of the busi­ness needed to change. And it is a busi­ness, not just a sport­ing body. The fi­nances needed re­view­ing, in­surance meth­ods needed im­prov­ing and the gen­eral busi­ness acu­men could be im­proved. I hope that the ACU now is much stronger in all re­spects than it was, which will def­i­nitely ben­e­fit the sport, our rid­ers and mem­ber clubs as a whole.”

CHANGES

Hig­gins cited sev­eral as­pects of the ACU where he felt he has been able to ex­ert sig­nif­i­cant changes. “I’ve been able to sug­gest many dif­fer­ent ways to im­prove the fi­nan­cial stand­ing of the com­pany, and that will un­doubt­edly flow through to the grass roots as I know that my suc­ces­sor (John Collins) has plans which will as­sist or­gan­is­ers and in­deed rid­ers both di­rectly and in­di­rectly.

“I’m par­tic­u­larly pleased to have been able to in­clude third­party road in­surance to all com­peti­tors and of­fi­cials in events that use the pub­lic roads in an easy to use for­mat, all at no cost to the clubs or rid­ers, the ex­tra pre­mium be­ing met by Rugby (the ACU’s head of­fice lo­ca­tion).

“We have also been able to fi­nan­cially as­sist in­di­vid­ual rid­ers and na­tional teams to com­pete in ma­jor events overseas, and we are con­fi­dent this will con­tinue. We try to help the upand-com­ing rid­ers rather than the more es­tab­lished stars, and with­out quot­ing names, sev­eral have won ma­jor cham­pi­onships and we are pleased to have helped them in a small way when­ever it has been pos­si­ble.”

The use of Forestry Com­mis­sion land by the sport was once rel­a­tively easy to or­gan­ise, but these days, fol­low­ing some ma­jor ac­ci­dents dur­ing car events and also the par­tial break up of the Com­mis­sion by gov­ern­ment, there are now many more re­quire­ments to ob­serve; whilst these may well seem oner­ous to out­siders, with­out these hav­ing been ne­go­ti­ated by the ACU forestry land would not be avail­able to bike sport. “To­gether with ACU col­leagues, who have trav­elled many miles up and down the coun­try ne­go­ti­at­ing new re­quire­ments to keep the sport in forests, I be­lieve we are now se­cure for fu­ture en­duros, ral­lies and tri­als that use such ter­rain.” When Brian Hig­gins vol­un­tar­ily stood down from his po­si­tion as Chair­man of the Auto Cy­cle Union, the gov­ern­ing body of UK mo­tor­cy­cle sport, he left be­hind a legacy that has seen the busi­ness go from strength to strength with more com­pe­ti­tion li­cence hold­ers than ever be­fore, a strong fi­nan­cial struc­ture in place and a group of sport com­mit­tees that have raised the pro­file of mo­tor­cy­cle sport through­out the UK and, in­deed, around the world. Hig­gins, the ACU’s Chair­man for the past six years, has not been one to look for fame and glory, pre­fer­ring in­stead to work qui­etly be­hind the scenes, us­ing his per­sonal busi­ness in­tu­ition to im­prove the ACU and its com­pli­cated struc­ture for the ben­e­fit of the sport and the of­fi­cials that run the var­i­ous dis­ci­plines, to a point where the ACU in 2016 is a very dif­fer­ent an­i­mal to what it was in 2011 when he was voted Chair­man. Mike Rapley caught up with Brian re­cently to talk past and present about his mo­tor­cy­cling years both in the sad­dle and be­hind the desk.

BRIAN HIG­GINS

With a rel­a­tively low pro­file, many peo­ple both rid­ers and or­gan­is­ers may well ask the sim­ple ques­tion: Who is Brian Hig­gins? They know he has been Chair­man of the ACU, but may well be un­aware of his back­ground. In a nut­shell he has been both a top-class tri­als and en­duro rider; a pretty fair motocross rider and a bril­liant or­gan­iser of Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship motocross and Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship en­duros as well as lo­cal tri­als and scram­ble meet­ings.

It was a 197cc Ex­cel­sior that brought Hig­gins into off-road mo­tor­cy­cle sport as a young­ster not yet into his teens, which was soon wrecked bomb­ing around the fields near his fam­ily home at Lit­tory Down in Devon. Af­ter that came a sprung hub Tri­umph that his fa­ther Ron had been fix­ing.

“That was a great mo­tor­cy­cle”, said Hig­gins; “I could start it OK, but when I fell off I couldn’t pick it up and had to wait for some­body to help me lift it!”

Even­tu­ally a real tri­als model came into the Hig­gins house­hold, a 197 Greeves pur­chased for a mere £45 which was fol­lowed by a four-speed Bul­taco Sherpa from the then re­tir­ing Roger Wooldridge, and the sport of tri­als in the South West pricked up its ears when Hig­gins quickly be­came one of the lo­cal aces, win­ning tri­als held by the Tor­ridge, Dart­mouth and Devon­port clubs as well as those or­gan­ised by clubs fur­ther afield.

Hig­gins dom­i­nated tri­als in the South West for a long time, win­ning the South West Cen­tre Tri­als Cham­pi­onship for nine con­sec­u­tive years be­fore Martin Strang took it off him for a year. Hig­gins then re­gained it the fol­low­ing year, so there were ten in to­tal. Or­gan­is­ing was an in­ter­est and the in­fa­mous South West Ex­perts was his fa­ther Ron’s brain­child for a num­ber of years where the en­try was lim­ited to the 30 best lo­cal rid­ers and the trial was in­ten­tion­ally very hard.

TA­LENT

By this time Hig­gins’ ta­lent had been spot­ted and he was rid­ing Bul­ta­cos with sup­port from the im­porter Comer­fords, be­fore join­ing Sammy Miller on the early fac­tory Hon­das, and when Miller dropped the Honda con­nec­tion in 1976 Hig­gins was head­hunted by Suzuki aboard the amaz­ing 325 Suzukis that were a rev­e­la­tion at the time, which in turn led to Hig­gins show­cas­ing the pre-pro­duc­tion 250 PE Suzuki as a mem­ber of the Bri­tish Tro­phy Team which fin­ished fourth in the 1975 ISDT in Aus­tria. At that time Hig­gins had four Suzuki ma­chines from Gra­ham Beamish: the 325 tri­als, the PE 250, a 250 tri­als ma­chine for rider train­ing days and a year old ex-Steven Beamish RM420 for lo­cal motocross events. His fi­nal fully spon­sored tri­als ride was on fac­tory Goris, which led to him rid­ing a 500cc Ro­tax en­gine Gori in Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship en­duros, be­fore he re­tired from tri­als at the age of 29 and con­cen­trated on ma­jor en­duros for three years on a Bryan Goss Maico.

Tri­als was al­ways his main sport­ing oc­cu­pa­tion, dur­ing which time he won sev­eral na­tion­als: “I think I won five; the Lyn Traders twice and the Vic­tory, but I can’t re­mem­ber what the oth­ers were”. The Scot­tish Six Days was also the scene of some ex­cel­lent per­for­mances, he had seven top 30 places with a best re­sult of 12th in 1976. “I was on the Honda that year and rode round with Martin Lamp­kin who was re­ally fun to ride with. He won that year and I watched him ride ev­ery sec­tion then tried to do the same.”

BUSI­NESS MAN

In­evitably busi­ness, a young fam­ily and com­mit­ments took its toll as a rider and whilst Hig­gins never re­tired, he en­joyed scram­bles, lo­cal tri­als and or­gan­is­ing events for his lo­cal Tor­ridge Club, in­tro­duc­ing na­tional events to the Tor­ring­ton cir­cuit be­fore start­ing his own West Devon MC with plans to or­gan­ise much big­ger meet­ings at var­i­ous venues. The Tor­ring­ton cir­cuit was not re­ally up to the level re­quired for Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship events and over the years Lan­drake, Lit­tle Sil­ver, Bramp­ton, Duns and Fox­hill were all used by West Devon, even though the or­gan­is­ing club was any­thing but lo­cal to the ac­tual venue.

As the years as a motocross or­gan­iser (and as a Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship en­duro or­gan­iser twice) pro­gressed, Hig­gins was asked in 2001 by Frank Dixon to join the ACU’s motocross com­mit­tee and it’s from his motocross or­gan­iser’s back­ground that he pro­gressed to the ACU Chair­man­ship.

“I was car­ry­ing out track in­spec­tions of cir­cuits for the motocross com­mit­tee as well as or­gan­is­ing many meet­ings and was asked to take over the Maxxis Cham­pi­onship around 2007 which I ran for a good num­ber of years, stand­ing down only re­cently.”

CHAIR­MAN

Trial Mag­a­zine asked how was it that he be­came Chair­man. “Quite sim­ply re­ally. All the sport com­mit­tee chair­men are au­to­mat­i­cally Di­rec­tors of the com­pany and af­ter I had been elected Vice Chair­man, there came a time when a new Chair­man was re­quired. It’s a po­si­tion that takes up an in­or­di­nate amount of time and trav­el­ling. For­tu­nately my ve­hi­cle rental busi­ness in Tav­i­s­tock was run­ning well, so I had the time and in­deed en­thu­si­asm, but I said right at the start I would only serve two terms. Those two terms are now up, which is the rea­son I have cho­sen to stand down and al­low a fresh pair of hands into the job.”

So, in an­swer to the ques­tion posed ear­lier, ‘who is Brian Hig­gins?’, the an­swer is clear. He’s a mul­ti­ple na­tional trial win­ner, a ten times Cen­tre Trial Cham­pion, a works rider for five dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers, twice a mem­ber of the Bri­tish ISDT squad, a handy motocross rider, an or­gan­iser of many suc­cess­ful events at all lev­els for the past 45 years, and a suc­cess­ful lo­cal busi­ness­man.

WHAT BET­TER CV CAN A CHAIR­MAN OF THE ACU HAVE?

How­ever, Hig­gins is not yet fin­ished. Let him ex­plain; “I still want to ride a few tri­als. I did the Manx Two Day Trial in 2015 which I ad­mit, be­ing rusty, I found a bit hard, but there are plenty of eas­ier events from which I can pick and choose. I re­cently sold my ve­hi­cle rental busi­ness so now I have more time to visit events purely as a spec­ta­tor, some of which I have rid­den in the past but have not yet found time to visit due to other com­mit­ments.”

So the ACU may well have had a new Chair­man from the start of 2017, but there is no doubt that the legacy Hig­gins has left will stand the com­pany in good stead for many years to come.

1978 SSDT: It’s all eyes on Brian Hig­gins on the 325cc Suzuki as he plots his way up Grey Mare’s Ridge.

1978: Seen here at the early sea­son St David’s Na­tional Trial near Neath in Wales, Brian con­tin­ued com­pet­ing in the Bri­tish Tri­als Cham­pi­onship.

1980: The move to the Moto Gori ma­chines was more for en­duro than tri­als but Brian still en­joyed much suc­cess on the Ro­tax pow­ered ma­chin­ery. TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE

1978: On the new 325cc Beamish Suzuki at the Yeo Vale Crown Trial.

1976 SSDT: With the Honda look­ing a lit­tle bat­tered Brian re­mains in con­trol as he rides up the stream at Cal­lart Falls.

1976: Watched by an in­ter­ested gallery at Ge­frees in Ger­many, Brian was a reg­u­lar in the FIM World Tri­als Cham­pi­onship on the de­vel­op­ment four-stroke Honda.

1977: The move to the Suzuki team took Hig­gins back to twostroke ma­chines. TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE

1976 Su­per­stars Trial: This was one of the last out­ings for Hig­gins in the Honda tri­als team.

TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE 1973 The Kick­ham Trial: Sammy Miller soon spot­ted the po­ten­tial in Hig­gins and mounted him on the Hi-Boy Bul­taco. 1974: The need for speed soon be­came ev­i­dent for Hig­gins as he is seen here in the Scott Time and Ob­ser­va­tion Trial.

1975: When Sammy Miller moved to Honda, Hig­gins found him­self four-stroke mounted. This is an early Hi-Boy framed Honda with Hig­gins in con­trol at ‘Robin­son’s Rocks’ in the Bux­ton based In­ter Cen­tre Team Trial. 75

74 Brian made a re­turn to tri­als at the 2015 Manx Two Day Trial. TRIAL MAG­A­ZINE

1982: Well wrapped up at the wet South­ern Ex­perts on the Moto Gori. 1981: Com­pet­ing in the South West Ex­perts Trial at Bren­tor in Devon.

1981: Seen here in the Camel Vale Time and Ob­ser­va­tion Trial at Treg­ul­lon Chase, Hig­gins is in flight on the Moto Gori. He used tri­als to ‘hone’ his en­duro skills.

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