Mick Wren

Trial Magazine - - TRIAL MAGAZINE - WORDS: JOHN HULME WITH MICK WREN • PIC­TURES: TRI­ALS ME­DIA, SUZUKI, ERIC KITCHEN AND THE WREN COL­LEC­TION

To get to the re­cent Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship round in the Lake Dis­trict at the ex­posed Tow Tops venue, I de­cided to de­part early from home for the twohour jour­ney as park­ing is at a premium in the field which, with the re­cent wet weather, I knew would be sod­den. I ar­rived at around eight o’clock for the nine-thirty start. The food wagon had strug­gled to get to the top of the hill to its lo­ca­tion and got stuck! The first guy I no­ticed help­ing was Mick Wren, with brute force and a shovel; he wielded the shovel un­til it was in place. Mick Wren is ded­i­cated to our sport of tri­als and an all-round mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­ast. Out-spo­ken and with a con­struc­tive opin­ion al­ways at hand he is one of a small band of en­thu­si­asts who works on the ACU Tri­als and En­duro com­mit­tee. He also holds a 2018 FIM Su­per Li­cence which qual­i­fies him to be a Trial World Cham­pi­onship Clerk of the Course, and an FIM Of­fi­cials Li­cence un­til 2020. I come across Mick on many oc­ca­sions in tri­als lo­ca­tions not just around the UK but also in Europe. Al­ways work­ing, in­clud­ing in a full-time self-em­ployed job, he still has time for some lively ‘ban­ter’ in be­tween do­ing just about every­thing that needs do­ing at a trial — Mick is one of life’s true ‘Grafters’.

Why Mo­tor­cy­cles?

My dad was into mo­tor­cy­cles but not as a com­peti­tor. To be hon­est, by the time I came along they needed ev­ery penny to raise my sis­ter and me. I think for my part, mo­tor­cy­cles was just some­thing that was in me, like ge­net­ics, but not in a Lamp­kin way be­cause I didn’t have the abil­ity. It was just what gave me the ‘buzz’. Even now when we go ski­ing, which we do a lot, I love it, but it doesn’t give me that need to push be­yond my ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but with mo­tor­cy­cles, I would try any­thing.

When did you first com­pete in tri­als?

I had no idea what tri­als were. I used to think that they were some­thing in­vented by MCN to fill the pages in the win­ter when there was no road rac­ing.

I started go­ing to school on the bus and met Sid Ormerod and Richard Wall. Sid knew some­body who took part in this strange sport. It was Wym Har­ri­son, who was to fea­ture quite a bit in my early ca­reer. He was the foster fa­ther of two tal­ented youth tri­als rid­ers, Kevin Bleas­dale and Andy Bell, in the eight­ies — who re­mem­bers them? Sid sold me a

98cc James, which I spent hours try­ing to start. We then found a guy who had a Suzuki 80 in a garage just up the road which we got for £12.50. It had been con­verted to tri­als spec­i­fi­ca­tion but needed an en­gine, so we got a spare ma­chine for £10 out of one of Ed­die Crooks’ many back­street houses that were used as stores.

The first event was a West­mor­land Scram­ble, which was a disas­ter, but they an­nounced that their next trial would have a ‘School­boy’ class. The trial was in June or July, and it was red hot and bone dry. It was held on a piece of scrub­land and was mostly climbs through gorse bushes, and I spent most of the next two weeks pulling thorns out of my body. It was in the very early days of school­boy tri­als and lead by a char­ac­ter called Kefty Wat­son. The West­mor­land club then an­nounced that they would hold a se­ries of these events, and I was hooked.

Were you an aca­demic at school?

With­out be­ing too cocky, I can say I am rea­son­ably in­tel­li­gent but back then I was just a daft lad; they couldn’t make any­thing of me.

I re­mem­ber one physics les­son where we learnt about the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine, and we were of­fered a Polo mint for ev­ery cor­rect an­swer. Glen Wil­son and I had the en­tire packet! I did a year in the sixth form, ba­si­cally re-sit­ting what I had failed, but spent most of it in the com­mon room play­ing darts. In the end, I got five O Lev­els in­clud­ing get­ting Bi­ol­ogy twice.

Where did life af­ter school take you?

I had a job lined up with a lo­cal garage. It was quite small, but it had a spe­cial rep­u­ta­tion. Peo­ple used to bring Rolls Royces and other lux­ury cars to get them ser­viced. Then, at the last minute, they said I would have to go to Bolton one day a week to Tech­ni­cal Col­lege. “No sorry”, I replied “I’ve left school and don’t want any of

that.” I told my dad that I wanted to work at home and, al­though we never made a big thing of it, I knew he was de­lighted.

By a strange quirk, I then started go­ing to Bar­row Tech­ni­cal Col­lege to study join­ery and wood­work. We did day and night school on the same day, so we had a one-and-a-half hour’s break at lunch and one hour be­fore night school. This time was hap­pily filled in at the work­shop at Ed­die Crooks Mo­tor­cy­cles, which is where Nigel Bir­kett and John Wren worked.

I’ve been an un­der­taker all my life. On the day of my chris­ten­ing the po­lice came, and my dad had to go and col­lect a body out of a lo­cal town, so it started from there, and I love it.

Who else in­flu­enced you in your early mo­tor­cy­cling days?

Wym (Wil­liam) Har­ri­son worked for the wa­ter board and looked af­ter the reser­voir up the road, so he had ac­cess to the land round about. He and his wife Doreen were foster par­ents, and they raised and even­tu­ally adopted Kevin Bleas­dale, who had one of the first three monoshock Yamaha ma­chines along with Nigel Bir­kett and Tony Scar­lett. They also fos­tered twins Andy and Donna Bell who were both too pretty use­ful tri­als rid­ers.

My first rec­ol­lec­tion of you was in the late sev­en­ties on a Bul­taco in North­ern Cen­tre events.

We swapped the 80cc Suzuki for a Gaunt Suzuki which we fit­ted some REH Forks too. It was ex­changed for a 250cc Bul­taco from a mate. The big high­light was when we went with Wym to Jim San­di­fords and came back with two boxes of Bul­ta­cos: a 250cc for me and one of the first 325cc models for Wym. I loved his 325cc, but de­spite be­ing well over six feet tall he had also once had a 170cc Cot­ton Minarelli — and I loved that too.

The first trial of the year was al­ways at Low New­ton, near where the re­cent Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship Trial was held. On my 16th birth­day, I won, but they told me I wasn’t al­lowed to be the over­all win­ner and I got the best youth award.

Same trial, the fol­low­ing year, I had helped mark it out so was at the back of the en­try. With four sec­tions to go had lost 25 marks and suf­fered a rear punc­ture. In a hurry to let the ob­servers go home, I man­aged to ‘five’ the re­main­ing four sec­tions and still only lost four more marks than the win­ner. That seemed to set the tone for my ca­reer.

I de­vel­oped a knack of hav­ing early models of ma­chines that weren’t quite ready. The first SWM, the first JCM in be­tween sev­eral Bul­taco, Mon­tesa and Suzuki models. The most amaz­ing ma­chine I ever rode was Nigel Bir­kett’s ‘works’ 325cc Suzuki, it was pure magic. I rode the Scot­tish, en­tered by Ed­die Crooks in 1976. Ed­die had an en­trants li­cence due to his in­volve­ment with road rac­ing, so that was prob­a­bly my one and only ‘works’ ride. Peter Quinn was the source of the JCM, and of much amuse­ment. I rode a 350 Mon­tesa for the ab­so­lute leg­end Bill Brown. For my 60th birth­day, Ju­dith bought me an air-cooled Yamaha, and I re­cently treated my­self to a 300RR Mon­tesa.

How did you first be­come at­tracted to the cler­i­cal side of mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als?

Wym taught me that tri­als didn’t grow on trees; some­body had to make them hap­pen. I was a mem­ber of the Bar­row club at 14-years-old. All mem­bers got a let­ter from John Pratt stat­ing that a new club was be­ing formed and we all had to at­tend the next meet­ing as the fu­ture of our club de­pended on it. The room was packed, and my dad and I started to at­tend reg­u­larly. Over the years, I have been Club Tri­als Sec­re­tary, Club Sec­re­tary, Club Chair­man, Cen­tre Tri­als Recorder and Cen­tre Sec­re­tary — and I’m cur­rently get­ting grief be­cause I don’t at­tend Cen­tre meet­ings!

When did you be­come part of the Tri­als and En­duro Com­mit­tee?

The way the ACU sys­tem works is you serve a three-year term. Af­ter this, you can seek re-elec­tion along with oth­ers. At this time the Tri­als and En­duro Com­mit­tee was very sta­ble and set­tled so the only time you had a chance of elec­tion was if some­body cre­ated a va­cancy. I had a few at­tempts at the elec­tion and even­tu­ally made it when Derek Clampin reached the age of 70 and had to step down; that’s a long time ago now!

What is your cur­rent sta­tus with the ACU?

I was re­cently elected as Vice Chair­man of the Tri­als and En­duro Com­mit­tee. Un­der the 70-year rule, John Collins will step down at the end of this year. It’s a priv­i­lege work­ing with John even though, as, in any group of eight peo­ple, we of­ten have dif­fer­ences of opin­ion, but we al­ways re­spect each other.

I be­came Vice Chair­man on the un­der­stand­ing that I wouldn’t au­to­mat­i­cally be­come Chair­man next year. Be­ing Chair­man of a com­mit­tee also means you be­come a Di­rec­tor of the ACU and I need to be sure whether I feel I can give the ex­tra time to this, es­pe­cially as the po­lit­i­cal/busi­ness side doesn’t in­ter­est me that much.

Does the ACU do a good job?

Hav­ing been an ACU man for over 50 years, I be­lieve we do. We don’t get every­thing right, but we do the job for the right rea­sons. We have many peo­ple who are very quick to tell us we should have done this, that, or the other, but quite of­ten they only see their point of view, or they per­son­ally have some­thing to gain. We try to make de­ci­sions for the good of the ma­jor­ity and the sport as a whole.

How much are you in­volved with the rid­ers?

I get a lot of ban­ter about VIP travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion etc., but I know that they ap­pre­ci­ate what I do and they know they can con­tact me when­ever and I will do what I can for them. I think this comes from the Un­der­tak­ing ca­reer: I am avail­able 24/7/365, and that’s how I live my life.

Right from my first time as Jury Del­e­gate in Bel­gium, I knew I was there for the rid­ers and not to have a jolly week­end away. I al­ways made a point of treat­ing our younger rid­ers and top lads the same as I trav­elled the pad­dock, hun­gry, late at night, telling them their start times or any changes.

One of the best changes with Sport7 has been the in­for­ma­tion and the App. The mo­bile no­tice­board gets the in­for­ma­tion out there, and this side of things ex­cites me greatly.

Be­ing on the Tri­als and En­duro Com­mit­tee I also went to sev­eral World En­duros and. even though I knew noth­ing about it, I learnt the sport and man­aged to gain re­spect from the En­duro lads too.

One week­end in France get­ting Gra­ham Jarvis through ad­min­is­tra­tion at a World En­duro could fill a full ar­ti­cle on its own. I try not to in­flict my­self on them but in­stead take half-a-step back and let them come to me.

I co­or­di­nate the ACU un­der-23 Tri­als squad. It started out as a train­ing squad, but now we fi­nan­cially as­sist rid­ers who con­test the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship. De­spite the many claims that ‘the ACU do noth­ing for our rid­ers’ or ‘why don’t the ACU sup­port our rid­ers like the Span­ish and Ital­ians do’, well, since the in­cep­tion of this squad, rid­ers have re­ceived close to £1mil­lion from the ACU with En­duro rid­ers re­ceiv­ing a sim­i­lar amount.

Tell us about your in­volve­ment with the FIM.

Be­ing a Jury Del­e­gate was part of what was ex­pected as a Tri­als and En­duro Com­mit­tee mem­ber. My first time was a strange trip to Bil­stain in Bel­gium. De­spite this, I loved be­ing part of this side of the sport. Again, from the Un­der­tak­ing busi­ness, I have a nat­u­ral in­ter­est in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple, and this has led to an abil­ity to speak and com­mu­ni­cate in sev­eral lan­guages.

I have been quite out­spo­ken about the no-stop rule is­sue, which was wrong, not just on a rules ba­sis, but in the way it was done. It ended up as a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion by the FIM man­age­ment af­ter

pres­sure from the man­u­fac­tur­ers. From my side, I saw many good de­voted Tri­als peo­ple who be­came de­mor­alised or were cast aside, and one that we lost was Dave Wil­loughby. Dave and I have shared opin­ions on the sport and its gov­er­nance for many years. Dave left the FIM Europe (UEM as it was then) and the ACU needed a rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the UEM Com­mis­sion, so I was nom­i­nated and ap­pointed in 2011 at the Congress in Tre­viso Italy. I ab­so­lutely love this. I now have the pos­si­bil­ity to work with some more amaz­ingly ded­i­cated peo­ple. An­ders Minken was one of the ini­tial peo­ple who pushed for women’s in­volve­ment at this level, and I find him in­spi­ra­tional.

To know that I can work with for­mer SWM works rider Danilo Galeazzi on equal terms and that he re­spects my opin­ion is very hum­bling. It has also given me a chance to meet some of the younger rid­ers from other coun­tries, and at the re­cent Euro­pean round in Spain, it was grat­i­fy­ing how many of them were happy to see me and share opin­ions.

What are your thoughts on the cur­rent state of the sport, both in the UK and at the Euro­pean and world cham­pi­onship?

In the UK the num­ber of reg­is­tered tri­als rid­ers con­tin­ues to grow. De­spite this, there is a mas­sive range of abil­i­ties and re­quire­ments. For a large ma­jor­ity of peo­ple, tri­als is a leisure ac­tiv­ity rather than a sport. We have re­cently heard of events with no ob­servers and no awards, where the course is set out, and rid­ers go off in small groups and have a great day out; bums on seats and happy peo­ple.

The job of the Tri­als and En­duro com­mit­tee is to try to pro­vide a frame­work for all to take part and en­joy and, most im­por­tantly, to lis­ten. Many in­no­va­tions come from clubs and work their way up rather than the other way round, which is a good thing.

I love the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship as it pro­vides the chance for rid­ers to push them­selves but the at­mos­phere is still re­laxed and en­joy­able. World Tri­als is go­ing through a tran­si­tion with the in­tro­duc­tion of a pro­moter. Much of what is hap­pen­ing is good; I par­tic­u­larly like the tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This year I have spent two days at­tend­ing a Su­per­li­cence Seminar in Geneva and a week­end in Rugby ob­tain­ing a nor­mal FIM Li­cence, and then the FIM, Sport7 and the man­u­fac­tur­ers have a meet­ing to de­cide what the rules are go­ing to be — some­times it makes me feel a bit ir­rel­e­vant!

Are you a stop or no-stop man?

How long have you got? Ba­si­cally, I’m not a nos­top man; partly for the po­lit­i­cal rea­sons I al­ready men­tioned but mainly be­cause it doesn’t work.

As stated, rider par­tic­i­pa­tion in the UK is on the in­crease, and many be­lieve this is be­cause no-stop has made events eas­ier and more ac­ces­si­ble, but I would like to know how many of them would be happy if the rules were ac­tu­ally en­forced and they were al­ways given five marks for a stop as they should be.

At world level, the stan­dard is so high and the mar­gins so small that these rules are un­work­able. It is a very emo­tive sub­ject, and even within the Tri­als and En­duro Com­mit­tee, we have had some heated de­bates, up to a point where I be­lieve that some of the other mem­bers came to doubt my in­ten­tions. I do how­ever be­lieve that ‘go­ing back’ to stop per­mit­ted is not the an­swer. The prob­lem is we never get time to sit down and re­ally think about a so­lu­tion.

Do you en­joy all mo­tor­cy­cle sports?

Sure do. I would love to go to more but Tri­als, and En­duro com­mit­ments re­strict what I can do. I try to get to Oul­ton Park when BSB is in town, but the first one clashed with the Scot­tish. I also try to get to Manch­ester to watch Belle Vue speed­way. The meet­ings are now on a Mon­day which is bet­ter for me, but the crowds are smaller, and it’s not good for the club.

If I were in­volved in Moto GP, Marc Mar­quez would be spend­ing some time at home pon­der­ing the er­ror of his ways!

Can you tell us about the other suc­cess story in your life?

Any­one in­volved in mo­tor­cy­cling as much as I am spends a lot of time ‘play­ing out’, and the only way you can do this is to be a multi-mil­lion­aire or have a solid base at home.

Ju­dith, my wife since 1982, is a phe­nom­e­non. She has drive, am­bi­tion, brains, in­spi­ra­tion and is the per­fect an­ti­dote to me, so we bal­ance out re­ally well — even though she is also very ca­pa­ble of some ex­treme ‘mup­petry’!

Her brand, Kin Vodka, is a bril­liant ex­am­ple. We had some­thing sim­i­lar in a bar in Tignes on hol­i­day. She de­cided she could make it, so she played about with the blend­ing and came up with some­thing we both agreed was pretty damned tasty. She spent a cou­ple of years giv­ing it to the fam­ily for birth­day presents and lo­cal events for raf­fle prizes.

In Ju­dith’s world, things don’t stop there. She got a busi­ness start-up help from Cum­bria Cham­ber of Com­merce, and we were un­der­way. We started by mix­ing in a five-gal­lon bar­rel, bot­tling, la­belling and sell­ing, some­times work­ing 14- to 16-hour days. The prob­lem was that she was in full-time em­ploy­ment and I was mak­ing it all day. She would come home from work full of en­thu­si­asm, and we would start again all evening. We now do sev­eral hun­dred events in the year in­clud­ing Car Fest North and Manch­ester Christ­mas Mar­kets, and I don’t have to do join­ery any more!

Have we got a fu­ture world tri­als cham­pion in Great Bri­tain?

In short, yes, we do…the bril­liant Emma Bris­tow. Un­for­tu­nately, in the near fu­ture, the an­swer is no. James Da­bill is cur­rently rid­ing at a dif­fer­ent level to most of the oth­ers, and he could eas­ily fin­ish higher in the Trial World Cham­pi­onship than pre­vi­ously, but I can’t see him win­ning it. We have some bril­liant rid­ers, as the Trial2 class has demon­strated in re­cent years, but the next level is so much higher.

I don’t say this eas­ily as I know how hard these lads work and how com­mit­ted they are. No­body could ask more of Jack Price who works his bits off. The Peace lads are driven and vastly tal­ented, as is Toby Mar­tyn, and I feel so sorry for Iwan Roberts that he has been struck with this ill­ness at this stage in his ca­reer.

Some­times it seems strange that we have rid­ers who can com­pete to the top level in the Euro­pean and Trial2 Cham­pi­onships then re­ally strug­gle with the next step, un­like Jaime Busto and Miquel Ge­labert, for ex­am­ple, who con­tinue to rise up the ranks. As I have im­plied, this level of com­pe­ti­tion is what floats my boat and why I do what I do, and I hope that all of these rid­ers will get the re­wards they de­serve. Harry Hem­ing­way: now there’s a thought!

The next few years are go­ing to be busy!

Look­ing as young as ever in 1974 on the Bul­taco.

Mick rates the Nigel Bir­kett works pre­pared Suzuki 325TheRLnex­tas fewthebestyears­ma­chin­eare­go­ingheto­has­bee­ver­busy! rid­den.

Proud to wear the ‘Team ACU GBR’ trial shirt.

A nor­mal Sun­day for Mr Wren. Over the years he has been a Club Tri­als Sec­re­tary, Club Sec­re­tary, Club Chair­man, Cen­tre Tri­als Recorder and Cen­tre Sec­re­tary.

In 2003 at an early Nos­tal­gia Trial, we are not sure about the green Bul­taco, now there’s a story!

Pro­mot­ing the ACU at the In­ter­na­tional Dirt Bike Show is all in a day’s work.

World Tri­als is go­ing through a tran­si­tion with the in­tro­duc­tion of a pro­moter. Much of what is hap­pen­ing is good, and I par­tic­u­larly like the tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

2016: Sec­tion in­spec­tion in Great Bri­tain for the World Cham­pi­onship round.

Check­ing the ‘Punch cards’ at the 2009 Lakes Two Day Trial.

Emma Bris­tow is an ex­cep­tional lady and has opened the door for so many other fe­male tri­als rid­ers.

En­joy­ing good times with the wife, Ju­dith. Mick has one word to de­scribe her: ‘phe­nom­e­non’.

Time for a pint with Ju­dith, Mrs Wren since 1982. Mick: “She has the drive, am­bi­tion, brains, in­spi­ra­tion and is the per­fect an­ti­dote to me, so we bal­ance out re­ally well”.

Yes Mick is quite rightly so very proud of his wife’s Kin Vodka suc­cess story.

Some­times he has a day off!

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