1979 Dirt Bike Show


Just over 40 years ago, his­tory was once again in the process of be­ing recorded as the Bris­tol Dirt Bike Show opened its door for the first time in 1978. It was classed as the first-ever en­tirely off-road mo­tor­cy­cle show. In 1977, the new ‘kid’ on the block in the print world was Tri­als and Mo­tocross News. It de­liv­ered what the off-road world wanted, its ded­i­cated weekly pa­per. The stand­out show in the mo­tor­cy­cle world at the time was the Mo­tor­cy­cle Me­chan­ics Show held at the Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural Show­ground in Lon­don. TMX, as it was known, wanted to sell their new pub­li­ca­tion and dis­play it at the show, but this did not work out with the show or­gan­is­ers. Led by the well-known pho­tog­ra­pher, Martin Christie, a new con­sor­tium in­clud­ing Alf Hagon (Hagon), Bill Law­less (TMX Ed­i­tor), Brian Leask (Husq­varna Im­porter), Bryan Goss (Maico Im­porter), Alan Clews (CCM), Cliff and Roger Holden (Ossa/SWM Im­porters), Alec Wright (Kawasaki Im­porter), Jim San­di­ford (Montesa Im­porter) and Comer­fords (the Bul­taco/ KTM im­porters), gath­ered to­gether and the show soon be­came a re­al­ity. After that early suc­cess, it went from strength to strength. This ar­ti­cle started when my good friend Alan Vines told me he had some colour pic­tures from the 1979 show, which we fea­ture here. We must apol­o­gise if the qual­ity of some of the images is not to the usual stan­dard, but these were ‘found’ by chance from all those years ago.

Dirt Bike 80

Ti­tled ‘Dirt Bike 80’, the 1979 show ran from Novem­ber 13th to the 18th and was opened by the Wheelie King from Amer­ica Doug Domokos, who kept the queues en­ter­tained as they waited out­side.

When the doors closed on Mon­day evening, more than 22,000 peo­ple had passed through the en­trance to what can only be de­scribed as an of­froad par­adise. The big­gest sur­prise came on the Sun­day morn­ing as around 2,000 peo­ple queued to gain ac­cess Yes, on a Sun­day when ev­ery­one usu­ally goes out in the ‘dirt’ to en­joy their pas­sion for rid­ing off-road mo­tor­cy­cles!

One of the ma­jor attraction­s was the op­por­tu­nity, for the first time, to see in the flesh the new mod­els. Many im­porters them­selves saw the new 1980 model ranges for the first time, never mind the buy­ing pub­lic. New rider signings were car­ried out in front of the many spec­ta­tors, and the op­por­tu­nity to get an au­to­graph from the top riders was wel­come, yes ev­ery­one loved the

‘show’ at­mos­phere.

MARTIN CHRISTIE: “In 1978, it was the first time that the off-road world could stand up and be counted, with a show run by off-road mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­asts. With sup­port from Tri­als and Mo­tocross News, we started not know­ing much, but it soon be­came a ‘run­ner’, with over­whelm­ing sup­port from a ded­i­cated bunch of en­thu­si­asts. It’s as sim­ple as that. The re­sponse from the off-road in­dus­try was in­cred­i­ble, and soon all the halls were full to the brim of

ex­hibitors. You may even ask why? It’s be­cause there had never been this type of show be­fore.

“We had an inkling it would work as the well-known mo­tor­cy­cle shop, Comer­fords had ear­lier held a small-scale one in its show­rooms which had gone down a treat. We chose Bris­tol and the ex­hi­bi­tion cen­tre for its cen­tral lo­ca­tion and ex­cel­lent mo­tor­way ac­cess. It’s quite sim­ple; if you want peo­ple to at­tend, make it sim­ple for them, and we did.”

JOHN HULME: “When the show started, I re­mem­ber quite clearly the hugely en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse it re­ceived from the off-road world. When TMX was an­nounced as a new pub­li­ca­tion, it cer­tainly gave the off-road world a ‘buzz’ of ex­cite­ment. In our house­hold it was def­i­nitely mov­ing from Wed­nes­day, be­ing the day for the Mo­tor­cy­cle News de­liv­ery, to Fri­day when TMX ap­peared in the lo­cal newsagents. I had an Ossa at the time, and in Mac­cles­field, you could get TMX on a Thurs­day af­ter­noon, and the tri­als ma­chine was used on many oc­ca­sions for the jour­ney to get the ‘jump’ on the other read­ers.

“When I moved to More­cambe in the early ’80s to work on the Heysham Power Sta­tion, you could come off nights on a Thurs­day morn­ing and lit­er­ally get the pa­per hot off the press from its Vic­to­ria Road head­quar­ters. I raise my hat to the fact that TMX be­came such a driv­ing force in the off-road world, and es­pe­cially my favourite sport mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als.

Part of my plea­sure with the mag­a­zine is giv­ing the sport the ex­po­sure it de­serves. Be­fore any­body asks, there will not be a Trial Mag­a­zine Dirt Bike Show; my boots are nowhere near big enough to fol­low TMX, but I do ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port ev­ery­one gives us.”

John Shirt’s new Majesty 250cc was the new ma­chine that raised a few eye­brows at the show.

Want­ing to ex­pand his model range, John Shirt Snr showed off his new 200cc Majesty. The three-model range in­cluded 200cc, 250cc and 320cc Majesty mod­els on the Mit­sui stand, who were the of­fi­cial Yamaha im­porters into the UK. The dummy is wear­ing one of the French Fury­gan one-piece rid­ing suits which were so pop­u­lar at the time, the MAX branded crash hel­met is the one worn by Mick An­drews.

John Hulme: “I had to take a sec­ond look at this pic­ture when I first saw it! This was my very first Majesty Yamaha and ‘Shirty’ used it as the show bike at Bris­tol. I had to wait un­til after the show to get my hands on this 320cc Majesty. My late fa­ther Ron al­ways said it was the best-look­ing tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle he had ever seen.”

The Miller tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle. Yes, the great Sammy Miller pro­duced his very own tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle in 1979. This rare colour pic­ture cap­tures the ma­chine in all its glory. Us­ing the Ital­ian Hiro en­gine in the tried and trusted Sammy Miller ‘High­boy’ frame, the project was un­for­tu­nately aborted as it could not be made fi­nan­cially vi­able. The en­gine would even­tu­ally find suc­cess in the Arm­strong and Garelli pro­duc­tion tri­als mo­tor­cy­cles, and Steve Saun­ders would take his first Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship ti­tle on the Arm­strong CTM 310 model us­ing this very en­gine in 1983.

With the Span­ish mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try in fi­nan­cial melt­down this would be the last, as we knew it, green Ossa tri­als ma­chine pro­duced. On the right in his ‘Sun­day Best’ suit is Roger Holden. He and his fa­ther Cliff were the of­fi­cial UK im­porters of Ossa ma­chines.

This is the very first UK pic­ture of the new gen­er­a­tion of red-and-white Montesa mod­els, the Cota 200cc. In 1980 Nigel Bir­kett would take it to Bri­tish Tri­als Cham­pi­onship vic­to­ries as the new gen­er­a­tion of ‘Mi­cro’ tri­als ma­chines would once again be­come a ma­jor force on the UK tri­als scene.

After an un­suc­cess­ful sea­son in 1978 on the Beamish Suzuki Mal­colm Rath­mell, seen here on the right, had re­turned to his first love Montesa in 1979 to win the Bri­tish Tri­als Cham­pi­onship. In a very suc­cess­ful year he would also give Montesa their very first Scot­tish Six Days Trial vic­tory and also the win in the Scott Trial. Here he cel­e­brates the suc­cess with his Montesa sales man­ager Mike Wood on the left and his wife Rhoda in the mid­dle.

That man Sammy Miller was very much a man in the lime­light at the show. He had pre­sented his ‘New’ Miller tri­als ma­chine to the press on the open­ing day. Here he hap­pily signs copies of his su­perb tri­als book ti­tled: “The Will to Win”. I am still not sure about that green belt that Sam had around his waist and the cloth­ing colour com­bi­na­tion though!

The new Ca­giva 350 model looked very nice with its red aes­thet­ics, and some ob­vi­ous thought had gone into the de­vel­op­ment of the rear sus­pen­sion as it had a box-sec­tion swing­ing arm and dual rate sus­pen­sion. Ob­vi­ously very pro­to­type look­ing, it was well pre­sented for their first at­tempt at the tri­als mar­ket.

An­other show ‘Sur­prise’ was sprung by the UK im­porters of the Ital­ian man­u­fac­turer Ca­giva with its new tri­als model. This was an­other ma­chine that had come straight from the Milan show, with very lit­tle in­for­ma­tion avail­able.

In Septem­ber 1978 Alan Clews had made a pro­duc­tion run of 105 CCM 350Tr four-stroke tri­als ma­chines and by Christ­mas they had all sold out, de­spite the hefty price of £1,280.00. This ma­chine car­ry­ing the San­di­ford Mo­tor­cy­cles name was on the CCM stand and had been used by Ed­die Smith with sup­port from Jim San­di­ford.

The new yel­low Ossa ‘Grip­per’ model on its first UK view­ing. It was rad­i­cal to say the least, with a 324cc en­gine and six-speed gear­box and a long travel rear sus­pen­sion setup which gave a re­puted seven inches of travel. Pro­duc­tion ma­chines were promised for the Scot­tish Six Days Trial in May 1980. This ma­chine typ­i­fied what was spe­cial about the Bris­tol show; brand new ma­chines in the flesh and pre­sented for the 1980 sea­son in De­cem­ber 1979.

Amer­i­can Bernie Schreiber was the 1979 FIM World Tri­als Cham­pion and the Bul­taco had won 11 of the 12 rounds with the top three po­si­tions filled by the Sherpa mod­els. This is Schreiber’s world cham­pi­onship win­ning ma­chine, it would be the last as the Bul­taco brand fell into fi­nan­cial de­cline in the early 80s.

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