Mike McCabe was the first American competitor to enter the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1972.
Here is his recount, in his own words, of his Highland Adventure, riding a Sammy Miller supplied Bultaco Sherpa T.
“The most fun, but maybe the most scary thing I’ve ever done” – Mike McCabe
The road to Scotland
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Spanish factories that made trials bikes were sending their sponsored riders to the United States to put on trials schools and promote trials as well as their bikes. In 1968 the first trials school I knew about was Sammy Miller’s, for Bultaco, in St. Louis. I managed to get an entry, and went with one of my riding friends, ‘Doober’ Dotson. I rode a Greeves and ‘Doober’ rode a Penton.
The school was on Saturday, and then there was a trials event on Sunday. For some reason, we had to be back in Tulsa on the Sunday and couldn’t stay for the trial. After the school, I asked Sammy Miller what I could do to improve my riding – “Get a Bultaco” he said. So, just as soon as I could, I bought my first Sherpa T.
In 1969, I heard about another school and trial being put on by Mick Andrews for Ossa in Columbia, Missouri. So off we went – same deal, school Saturday, trial Sunday. I lucked out and won the trial, and got a trophy from Mick, which I still have. Fast forward to the year 1970 and Mick is back for another school. Again, I won the trial, and also became better acquainted with him. We started communicating by mail and the occasional phone call.
In 1971, the North Eastern Oklahoma Trials Team (NEOTT) decided to have Mick do a school here in Tulsa. Everything got arranged and while Mick was in New England getting ready to compete in the SSDT when he broke his shoulder. They called to say he couldn’t do our school, as he was looking for someone to operate on his shoulder. Well, I had just had my first knee surgery and suggested my doctor. After talking to Doctor Myra Peters, she agreed to see Mick. The Ossa factory rep, Roy Weaver, drove Mick and his wife, Jill, down to Tulsa where his shoulder was repaired. He couldn’t travel for a few weeks, so he stayed with us in Tulsa and it was during this stay that he first suggested that I might like to ride the SSDT – see, all that long winded story did lead to my going to the 1972 SSDT.
My wife, Carroll, as usual, was super supportive and we began to try to figure how to do it. I had to get an entry and an International competition license, both which were difficult to do – another story there. Then, how to pay for the trip, how to get a bike and so on. Sammy Miller agreed to rent me a Bultaco for about $90.00 for the week, and it turned out to be the bike he had just won the British National Championship on, with registration number COT 6K.
At that time, you had to arrange for your own fuel and support for the event. At the time, one of my riding buddies was Kirk Mayfield and I talked his Dad into letting Kirk go with me to Scotland. The plan was for Kirk to chase the trial in a car with gas and supplies for me. Nowadays the entry fee includes all your fuel, and the fuel stops are manned by the British Army.
So off we went to London where my friend, Tony Bentley who was also the subscription manager for the English motorcycle newspaper I subscribed to, met us at the airport and kindly put us up for a couple of nights. Tony also arranged for a rental car – a Hillman Hunter estate car. The first couple of days in London, Tony took us around to all the motorcycle shops we’d heard of and read about.
One of the shops was the official Bultaco importer for England, Comerfords at Thames Ditton, Surrey. This is where I really got lucky. We met Peter ‘Jock’ Wilson, their Bultaco UK manager, who was also going to manage their SSDT team. Their team was sponsored by Castrol Oils, who were doing all their gas stops and support. So Jock got me sponsored by Castrol, which enabled me to get fuel etc. at all their stops. So that let Kirk Mayfield skip every other fueling stop, and made it way easier for us to stay on time. (Note: You are allowed to be one hour late/per day – more than an hour late and you are excluded, so staying on the route, and assigned time is a big deal.)
We then went down to the South coast of England to Sammy Miller’s shop to prepare the bike. We took it apart, stuffed it in the back of the little station wagon, and drove ten hours up to Scotland. Considering that we were driving on the wrong side of the road, completely lost most of the time, it was fairly uneventful except for the time in the middle of the night when Kirk fell asleep while driving – I was asleep in the back, with the motorcycle, when things started flying around – we both woke up in the center median going the right way, so we just went on – how do we survive our youth?
In 1972 the trial started in Edinburgh at Gorgie Market and then was centered for the rest of the week in Fort William. So we got to Edinburgh, went through tech inspection and found the hotel Mick Andrews had arranged for us and got ready for the big adventure!
Monday morning, and off I go, riding through the huge city of Edinburgh, in traffic, on the wrong side of the road, over The Forth Road Bridge and out into the country side, finally getting to ride some sections.
The weather was dry and lucky for me, the trial that week was mostly good weather. The first days’ route was 160 miles and 24 sections, mostly road riding and fairly easy sections.
But that didn’t last very long – the rest of the week was much harder and the whole trial comprised of 749 miles and 161 sections.
By Thursday morning when I got ready to go out my clothes and boots were soaking wet and I was tired and sore and I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” But, knowing that I was also the first American to compete in the SSDT, I was determined NOT to be the first American to DNF. Thursday evening the town of Fort William puts on a street party for the riders and fans – really great fun and a break from the almost constant riding and working on the bike.
Finally, the last day and the long ride back to Edinburgh, with sections all along the way – and to the finish: probably the most anti-climactic part of the whole trial. Just ride in to the finish, they check your bike to see if all the marked parts are still there, and it’s over.
Kirk and I drove back down the whole length of England, returned the bike to Sammy’s shop, Tony took us to the airport and we flew home. A few weeks later my finishers’ award came in the mail.
1973 – Do it again – bring some friends
After a year of rest and lots of fun memories, I decided to do it again in 1973.
This time Kirk was old enough to get an International license, another friend, Rodger Bickham from Kansas wanted to ride, so off we went – we were actually officially listed in the program as the North Eastern Oklahoma Trials Team, so we finally got to live up to our name as a ‘Trials Team’. Also, in 1973 there were seven Americans entered – but that’s another story …
Special thanks to Mike Wm. McCabe for allowing Trials Guru to use his article which first appeared on the NEOTT website in the USA.