Readers of Trials Guru will know of Rob Edwards and if you don’t then may we suggest that you have a read through Rob’s story by clicking on the link here on Trials Guru
Rob was probably best known as a factory rider and brand ambassador for the Spanish Montesa, but he started off as a local rider who competed on the international stage as his skills were honed.
Rob did however ride a multitude of machines in his early years, one of which was a 1963 350 AJS 16C which he bought from the Surrey dealers, Comerfords.
Words: John Moffat & Rob Edwards
Photos: All from Rob Edwards’ Private Collection – Photographers credit where known on each photograph, all rights reserved.
Edwards was to ride his AJS week in – week out and, having cut his teeth on his elder brothers’ Matchless, he knew how a big four-stroke performed.
A lucky break came in 1965, when Rob’s name was put forward to the AMC competition chief, Hugh Viney by factory riders, Gordon Blakeway and Gordon Mclaughlan who rode works machines for the Plumstead factory.
Rob was well known to the two Gordons as he lived in Thornaby with local noteable riders Blakeway and Mclaughlan, who had a business in Guisborough, young Edwards was a known quantity.
Rob had ridden the AJS registered as 970PL as a private entrant in the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1964, the following year, factory rider Mick Andrews had moved over to ride the two-stroke James, which was part of the AMC group, this left a spare berth in the AJS team for the 1965 Scottish.
Rob Edwards takes up the story:
“I was allocated number 210 in 1964 on my AJS 350 that I bought from Comerfords, I entered as a ‘privateer’ and rode under the Middlesbrough & District, my home club. The event still started and finished in Edinburgh. On the Thursday, we went over the Corrieyarrick Pass. I think I had been following behind Peter Gaunt and what happened next I wasn’t to find out until sometime later. I found myself sat on a banking at the side of the Pass, which is an old General Wade military road. I had no idea at all how I came to be sitting there.
Alan Morewood from Sheffield, who became a top sidecar driver, came along on his 500 Ariel as he was number 205 that yea. He stopped and asked if I was Okay? ‘Yes, fine’ I said; ‘Bye’ he said and rode off”.
“A couple of minutes later and Alan was back. ‘Rob, are you sure you are all right, you look dazed?’ said Alan. ‘No problem’ I said and off he went again. Somehow I managed to get back to Fort William to finish the day’s run.
The first person I spoke to asked what I had been doing to scratch my face? Then someone said, ‘never mind his face, look at the back of his bike!’
The rear end was totally out of line. I then realised that I must have hit a pothole in the road with the front wheel over Corrieyarrick, cartwheeled and that explained my rest on the bank.
We pulled the bike back into line with a length of pipe that we found. Apart from a bit of a headache, it was back to business as usual.
The rest of the week was not as eventful and had a good old needle match with my mate Sid Lampkin who was on a factory Cotton that year”.
Edwards:“A few weeks before the 1965 SSDT, I had an out-of-the-blue phone call from Hugh Viney, the competitions manager at Associated Motorcycles (AMC) who owned the AJS & Matchless brands; wanting to know if I would ride in the ‘works’ team in the forthcoming Scottish.
It seemed that they wanted Mick Andrews to concentrate on scrambling and ride the 250cc James in trials, which AMC’s also owned.
And so it came to pass that I became the third member of the AJS factory team.
However, there was no time for them to prepare me a bike and Mick’s bike 644BLB wasn’t available for some reason, so I would need to ride my own AJS which for me was not a problem.
Both the ‘Gordons’ – McLaughlan and Blakeway, had put my name forward to be in the team to Hugh Viney, so a big ‘thank you’ to them both for that gesture, which I have treasured all my life since.
My week was going well, I was clean on the Tuesday.
Later in the same day, we were looking forward to riding the new section ‘Pipeline’, introduced the previous year.
There were so many stories about ‘Pipeline’ that I wasn’t really sure if it had been cleaned yet or not.
I had teamed up with Alan Chant from Bexley-Heath who was on a 350 Matchless.
In those days all the ‘big bikes’ were grouped at the back of the field.
As we rode up to ‘Pipeline’, the spectators were all heading back into Kinlochleven.
Alan and myself walked the hill and both agreed on bottom gear.
Alan went first and he cleaned it.
I went next and after a bit of a shaky start, by trying to go too fast too soon.
I settled down and at the right speed things were a lot easier and guess what, I cleaned it.
I bet the spectators who left early were a bit peeved!
On the Thursday, I parked my bike close to the first section on ‘Mamore’ and went off to view the sections.
When I returned to my bike, there was a large pool of oil on the floor underneath!
A stone must have flicked up from the front wheel and hit the small alloy casting that the oil feed to the cylinder-head connects to and smashed it.
There was no way of fixing it, so I set off free-wheeling down to the road, expecting to retire from the trial.
I was sitting by the road side at the gate, that is the entrance to the famous Mamore path, when a car and trailer pulled up.
‘Whats up Rob’ the chap shouted over, I explained my plight.
‘No problem mate, give me two minutes and I will take the one off my bike’ he said.
In all the confusion and despair, I hadn’t noticed that the bike on the trailer was a 350 AJS, what a stroke of luck – for me anyway.
The engine had ‘gone bang’ and the fellow had retired from the trial.
You don’t have to be good with luck like that!
He got me going and I forget the lads’ name but I am indebted to his sportsmanship and generosity that day.
On the sixth day, we did Town Hall Brae in the centre of Fort William. We were then faced with the long ride back to Edinburgh.
For me it had been a great week thanks to Gordon Blakeway and Gordon McLaughlan”.
In the 1965 Scottish, Rob Edwards rode number 207 as part of the works AJS team comprising of Edwards, Gordon S. Blakeway (No. 178) and Gordon O. McLaughlan (No. 177).
Rob rode his own machine registered 970PL with many of the works style modifications carried out.
However, history records that it was Triumph that won the 1965 Manufacturers Team Prize, the Blackford Challenge Trophy.
Taken from the Official Results of the 1965 Scottish Six Days Trial:
Award 16 – For the best performance by a competitor on a solo motor cycle from 251-350 c.c. – R. Edwards (A.J.S.).
In the 1965 Scottish, Rob lost sixty-three marks and gained a Special First Class Award, just six marks behind his friend Alan Lampkin who went on to win the following year.
Rob talks about his AJS 16C:
Edwards: “When the SSDT started and finished in Edinburgh, on the sixth day after the lunch check at Crianlarich there were no more sections until the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill in the city. This was purely to see if your clutch still worked. You had to stop between two yellow lines and when the official dropped his flag you could move on – simple.
When you passed a third yellow line, that was the end of the observed hill. The path was so flat, nobody actually treat it like a section. However, I did see a rider who when the flag dropped he picked up the front wheel and tried to wheelie to the ends cards unfortunately he tipped his bike over backwards and his score went up by five points”.
Rob: “After the Blackford Hill stop/restart test at the SSDT, was the final scrutineering test when you wheeled the bike onto a wooden workbench for inspection.
The AJS had one big problem, the swinging-arm bushes, they wore out at an alarming rate”.
Rob Edwards: “If the scrutineer thought that there was excess movement in the bushes, your score could go up by five marks.
I can still see my Dad, Bob at the bottom of Blackford Hill, with a cup of tea in one hand and an industrial grease gun in the other.
After my cup of tea, I pumped the swinging arm full of grease. It only lasted for 100 metres, but it was enough to get through scrutineering”.
Our thanks to Rob Edwards for his recollection of his AJS and suitable photographs from his private collection of memorabilia for our special section on AMC trials machines. All photographs are copyright with permission to display granted for this article and the Rob Edwards Story only.