Trials Guru caught up with former Francis Barnett teamster, Mike Ransom and asked him about his trials career.
Mike Ransom: “I’ve been riding motorcycles for sixty years now and enjoyed every minute of it.
I never rode in the International Six Days, but I did ride my Francis Barnett in France at Rochepaule at Claude Coutard’s place where I won the Pre’65 event. From memory there were over three hundred riders there with all the various classes. I lost three marks on the last section on the second day. It was a fabulous event and a lovely journey to get to it.
My first Scottish Six Days was in 1957, when I received a Special First class award. I managed to win a Special First in every Scottish I rode in.
In 1999 I won the 250cc cup at the Pre’65 Scottish Trial, the same award I won thirty-six years previously in the Scottish in 1962 on the same machine – 307AKV.
Unlike many of my contemporaries, I have kept riding, I will be 80 in June and two years ago I bought a modern bike, a Montesa 4RT.
In 2012 I rode in the Relaince trial on the clubman’s route as it was fifty years from when I rode it on the Barnett which was brand new at the time. I finished runner up to Bob Baker by one mark”.
“My Francis Barnett is virtually original, it has the original hubs and they haven’t been skimmed. I was permitted to modify it it in 1964 to the specification it is now.
I altered the steering head angle to the magic 67 degrees, to do this I had to add 0.75 of an inch to the top frame tube. I did various modifications in 1964. I lifted the bottom tube, moved the motor back in the frame and narrowed the rear . I then took the two tubes that run under the tank and triangulated it with one.
At one stage ,I removed 0.75 of an inch out of the swinging arm, but immediately replaced it as it wasn’t successful.
At the time, the factory wasn’t keen on any modifications from standard, their policy was for bits to come from the shelves at AMC. I think the writing was on the wall financially as they went bust in 1966. They must have thought something of me, as they offered me the bike for just the purchase tax payment.
I do all my own welding and I am fairly proud to say that nothing has moved since 1964!
By comparison to the modern frames in T45 tubing, it weighs about forty five pounds more and I find that this hampers the machine somewhat.
I know that I made these modifications before anyone else and there are more James and Barnetts now than ever before!”
“My interest in trials started with push-bikes as children. We started a club called Old Park Hammers. Alan Morewood and Philip Beal were original members. My Hercules was very second hand, but I thought it was the bee’s knees when I put a big sprocket on the Sturmey-Archer.
We also competed round the Sheffield area riding Cycle Speedway using the old bomb sites which had been spread into red ash. I started motorcycling on a Cyclemaster which of course fitted into the Hercules frame. My mother entered me into a competition which I won at sixteen years of age.
My next bike was a model 18 Norton with girder forks on which I passed my driving test. This was followed by a BSA Gold Star B34 trials which weighed in at a whopping three hundred and eight pounds.
The Gold Star had a mere six inches of ground clearance and I ran it in going to the Motor Cycle show in London. On the way back I opened her up and shut her back down at 92 mph on the A1. That was on standard trials gearing!
I was at this time about 18 and I rode this all over Yorkshire you recall we rode to trials and back to Sheffield using ‘bobby dodgers’. I broke three pistons in it, taking the bottom plate off then scooping the bits out, before carrying on or home Otley, Ilkley, Bradford and Halifax were many miles from home. We had no other means or could not afford any alternative. I later found out that Goldstar pistons did not have split skirts, my local rebore chap kept using Hepolite split skirts which gave up”.
“My first club was the Sheffield and Hallamshire, we were affiliated to the Yorkshire Centre. At the time there was perhaps 16 South Yorkshire Group Clubs such as Woksop, Doncaster putting on trials which included an South Yorkshire championship which I won quite a few times. Major trials were usually Centre status events where we did the long distances.
Centre trials in Yorkshire were around 60 miles one lap events and always included miles of moorland, something the modern rider would not comprehend; riding to the trials would be another. Trials were essentially a winter event and we took to Scrambling in the summer, I was Yorkshire centre champion in the late fifties riding my Enfield.
I did ride for Yorkshire three times in the Inter Centre Team Trial in the late fifties. At one event at Honiton Tom Ellis was team manager and he booked us in to a Temperance Hotel and I have recollections of Artie Ratcliffe, Peter Fletcher and Arthur Lampkin bringing crates of beer into the hotel lounge.
Tom Ellis was a bit upset, not about the beer but the noise the clinking of the bottles was making, we may have been chucked out. One weekend I did ride in the West of England trial at Newton Abbot on the Saturday a trade supported event to which I got seven pounds and ten shillings expenses, that was the standard rate.
We then had to travel the next day to Brecon to ride in the inter centre team trial. We then came back to Sheffield to be at work Monday morning and remember no M4 etc”.
“I did win the 500 final at our club scramble one year on my HT Ariel, but the Scrambles circuit was more like the Scott Trial (I have about 6 silver spoons) in those days and on that day the course was very hard and suited me. Of all the South Yorkshire Trials clubs that existed only two now put on trials.
The Hallamshire is now affiliated to the East Midland centre. It does mean that all that land we used, is now lost. I know where we used to trial and scramble at Rotherham ( Listerdale) is now a huge housing estate.
I had a Royal Enfield 350cc springer, very novel in those days, which I also scrambled; a Tiger Cub and a loan of a 250 BSA. I purchased John Harris’s HT Ariel which I had quite a lot of success with. Winning the National Peaks Trial twice on the trot, and the Hillsborough Jack Wood twice on the trot too.
I got a bit of support from Ariel and rode in two British Experts finishing 16 both times, not bad when you consider we were the best in the world then. Tony Bou eat your heart out, he was not born then.
In one of the British Experts, Roy Peplow and Gordon Blakeway came together, which resulted in a broken leg for Gordon. I then went into the team with Sammy Miller and Ron Langston for that year’s Scott Trial.
Eventually I got a 1961 Barnett with the AMC engine in, it was wide and the motor would not pull second gear. I used to get quite slick at changing down to bottom when the motor died. I trialed that up and down the country locally and Nationally and I must have done well enough for Mr Denton, Sales Manager at Barnetts (then at Coventry) to offer me a ride on the new 37A Villiers motored Barnetts, for the 1962 Scottish.
The first trial was the Reliance a regional restricted event in those days, where I won it, and team members Ian Williamson and Johnny Roberts finished second and third with Eric Adcock on the DOT fourth. So an excellent start and then up to the start in the Market place in Edinburgh the result was the third place on 29 marks, behind Sammy and Gordon Jackson, Gordon having done that fabulous dab the year before 1961″.
Trials Guru: Many thanks to Mike Ransom for sharing his memories and giving us an insight into trials as it used to be. Mike was a skilled and talented rider in his day who kept going after many of his contemporaries had hung up their boots. Mike Ransom regularly rode the Pre’65 Scottish on the same machine that carried him to success in the Scottish Six Days in 1962. It is a pleasure to be able to share his story on this website.
Mike Ransom’s name will forever be associated with the marque, Francis Barnett, the motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1919, by Gordon Inglesby Francis and Arthur Barnett, and based in Lower Ford Street, Coventry, England.
© – Article: Text copyright: Michael Ransom, Sheffield – 2015
© – Photographs Copyright: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven, all rights reserved.
© – Photograph Copyright: Jimmy Young, Armadale, all rights reserved.
© – Layout and Publishing: Trials Guru/Moffat Racing/John Moffat 2015