Shetland Two Day
‘Simmer Dim’ is a phrase from the northern islands of Scotland which refers to the part of the year around midsummer when, thanks to the fact that the Shetland Isles are closer to the Arctic Circle than they are to London, you can enjoy 23 hours of daylight during midsummer. This is far from the only thing that makes the Shetland Islands such a special place though! Over the weekend 29th and 30th of June, organised by the Aberdeenshire based Bon Accord Motorcycle Club, 110 riders from all over the UK plus one international entrant enjoyed a unique opportunity to be among the first to come and ride a competitive motorcycle trial in the northernmost part of the United Kingdom, the Shetland Two Day Trial.
We first found out about this proposed new event at the 2019 Scottish Six Days Trial over a ‘pint’ with our good friends John Hird and Matt Betts, two very keen off-road enthusiasts who are also behind some of the most spectacular filming and pictures you will ever see from the SSDT. The two-day trial would be set out on completely unused ground among the stunning coastal scenery on the west and sunny side of Shetland, this was a chance to experience trials riding at its finest. An all off-road course, of approximately ten miles in length, with moors, bogs, hills, rocks,
burns but no trees — Shetland is well known for having virtually no trees — so make sure you have a side stand on your machine! And they planned to make use of that extended daylight.
With catering and entertainment provided on the Saturday evening, this was going to be a weekend to remember. The event would consist of three laps of 15 sections on the Saturday and two laps of mainly different sections on Sunday.
A good entry
One-hundred-and-ten riders from all over the UK, plus one international entrant, arrived to compete. The lap was an all off-road, ten-mile route on what most riders described as a jawdroppingly stunning venue at West Burrafirth. A small band of Shetland trials enthusiasts had set up a start field that would shame some far larger international events. They were supplemented for the weekend by members of the Aberdeenshire based Bon Accord MC who ran the sporting side of the event and laid out 15 tough sections on both days. There were three routes in each section aimed at suiting riders of all abilities, but the blue hard route was considered to be too hard by many expert clubmen. This was mainly caused by the ground not holding up as well as expected.
Although the majority of sections were on solid grippy rock they also had grass parts which cut up badly and became extremely difficult to find grip in. Bear in mind though that this was the first running of the event and many lessons have already been learnt. Yeadon Guiseley rider John Lydamore commented: “I was having to take extra care whilst riding on the route as I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful scenery rather than looking where I was going!”
Everyone one who was in attendance entered into the spirit of the event which also gave a welcome boost to the tourism figures as many had never been to this far-fetched part of the world before.
At the end of the day on Saturday, day one, the current Scottish Trials Champion Andrew Anderson on the Scorpa was leading the premier class on an outstanding score of only four marks dropped. This included a clear lap of the last and most slippery one. He was followed up by a group of English riders with Russ Rooksby on 11, Tom Middleton on 14, James Johnson on 23 and Boyd Webster on 31 before there was a large gap to the sixth-placed rider with over 110 marks dropped.
The green Clubman route saw a much tighter spread of scores across all classes riding this route, with the over 50s class being particularly interesting with old foes Billy Mathews, Ali Stewart and Billy Ross holding the top three places and continuing a competition that’s been playing out since they were schoolboy riders. The yellow Easy route certainly wasn’t easy given how slippery the ground was, but at least these riders only had two laps to worry about.
Bon Accord MC Club member Gav Lewis, sporting ‘Viking’ horns on his helmet, led the way at the end of day one.
Sunday’s trial was cut to two laps for all riders following overnight rain which meant an early start for the Clerk of the Course and his team who went out to simplify the course, given how much the sections had cut up on Saturday. A mile was also cut off the lap length to aid timing and allow people to head off to the ferry back to the mainland on time. Even with these changes an extension to the first lap completion cut-off time had to be put in place and riders were given the ‘Hurry Up’ for lap two.
Though the weather became overcast, the competition stayed as hot as ever across all classes. Russ Rooksby and Andrew Anderson rode together, keeping a very close eye on one another. Russ looked particularly serious and slowly ate in to Andy’s lead but not by enough to overturn it, which meant the very first S2DT trophy stayed with a Scot.
The green route also stayed very competitive with Yorkshireman Harry McLoughlin (Youth A) taking the overall honours from over 40s Alan Mudd, with over 50s Billy Mathews of Inverness taking third.
On the yellow route David Edes (beginners) overcame Gav Lewis (over 50s) to take top spot on this route, with Shetlander Gordon Tulloch well chuffed to take third on home soil. A conducted route with ten sections each day was set up near the start field for the youngsters to enjoy, which was well received by the small group of riders. Ruby Lawrie took the win with an excellent score of only seven marks dropped. Second was Graeme Whittaker and third Alfie Wright.
Clerk of the Course John Hird: “I am quite open to admit that the blue sections were a little on the tough side especially on the Saturday, but was delighted to see every man, woman and child I spoke to beaming with smiles having thoroughly enjoyed their weekend. A special mention needs to be made of everyone involved in the challenge of arranging an international trial on this remote island but especially the locals who came out in numbers to observe and were cheery all day both days, to the point that many riders made a point of complimenting them. It’s always good when local people embrace what’s happening close to them. We have learnt so much this year and look forward to putting an even better event on in 2020”.
Trial Secretary Carolyn Young: “We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to the people of the Shetlands, not only for the warm welcome we received from them but then turning out in droves to help us observe over the weekend; none of us can remember seeing so many at once. We are truly grateful for your help, there are far too many of you to list. Huge thanks also to the Shetland Trials Group and their respective ‘WAGs’ and kids for their efforts in all the little things that make a trial a success. My thanks to Di Stuart and Jacqueline Muir for their help in keeping on top of the trial chaos over the weekend and we hope to see everyone again soon.”
The Shetland Isles
Getting to Shetland doesn’t take five minutes so, having made the effort to get here, why not stay for a few days in 2020 and have a look around?
Described as the last untamed corner of the UK, there is plenty to see and do for all ages and tastes. Wildlife lovers will savour the chance to see killer whales, porpoises and otters, ornithologists will want to spot the amazing seabirds including Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Shags which can all be easily viewed. History lovers will head to Jarlshof, a Norse settlement dating back some 4,000 years or maybe Old Scatness, the UK’s largest archaeological excavation. Sports fiends can play golf, go fishing or kayaking.
An evening in Lerwick, with live traditional music, good food and craft beers, can only be the perfect way to round off your stay.
Getting to Shetland will require a bit of commitment on the part of the riders, with the only practical way of getting there being the overnight ferry which leaves once a day from Aberdeen harbour. It can be expensive, but a van can hold many trials machines and ferry foot passengers are relatively inexpensive. The key to riding this trial is to try to arrange to get together in groups and share transport to spread the cost.
Thanks to our generous friends at Northlink Ferries we were able to offer 2019 Simmer Dim trial entrants an additional 30% discount to the regular advertised vehicle and passenger fares, and hope to be able to do the same in following years.
The current Scottish Trials Champion Andrew Anderson (East Neuk Scorpa) made sure the first event win stayed in Scotland. Just look at the stunning backdrop as Gary MacMillan (Gas Gas) wheelies up the rocks.
Young Logan Tulloch (Beta) receives some encouragement from the eventual winner Andrew Anderson A conducted route with ten sections each day was set up near the start field for the youngsters to enjoy, and was well received by the small group of riders. Enjoying the weekend with his friends, Tom Middleton (Inch Perfect Beta) remains calm as Boyd Webster prepares to catch him. Jonathan Wren (TRS) in full control. All the hazards were well marked out as Alan Mudd (Beta) negotiates a stream section. The Shetland Two Day Trial was open to everyone.
Openly exposed: you can see the rugged terrain found on the Shetlands Isles here on this hard-route section. Using every ounce of throttle control to keep going forward is Callum Gammie (TRS). It’s a full-on attack of the rocks from Connor Paton (Scorpa). Carolyn Young: “We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to the people of the Shetlands, not only for the warm welcome we received from them but for then turning out in droves to help us observe over the weekend; none of us can remember seeing so many at once”.
The awards were very fitting for the Shetland Isles.