Kinlochleven is top of the pops!


Words: Trials Guru

Photos: Fin Yeaman; Robert James; Iain Lawrie & Trials Media

The weekend of 29/30 September, 2018 saw 193 riders take part in an inaugural event at Kinlochleven, Argyll.

The event being the Leven Valley 2 Day Trial, organised by the re-formed Kinlochleven & District Motor Cycle Club.

Months of hard work, planning, negotiations with landowners and Scottish Natural Heritage has paid off. This event is already being tipped as being the one that riders will wish to compete in.

Trials Guru has been directly involved with this event almost from the moment it was first thought of.

Please remember that this is one man’s view of the event.

Trials Guru’s John Moffat takes up the story:

“Back in 2017, Martin Murphy, Managing Director of Leven Homes explained that he, his family and some other local trials enthusiasts were keen to run a Britshock/Twinshock event in the Kinlochleven area. I was immediately excited by this proposition and offered my services to assist in any way I could, free of charge. I knew there was a demand for this type of event and in that area.

Martin explained what he had in mind and being local, had many contacts with local land agents and owners, particularly Jahama Highland Estates, the fifth largest private landowner by acreage in the United Kingdom and the national government body which controls SSSIs in Scotland. I just knew that this event would be a winner, given that I had known Martin for many years and knew of his dedication and enthusiasm for trials.

At first, the committee of the local Lochaber club was approached but this was met with a luke-warm response. The reason being that the Lochaber club had already a heavy committment to youth development, club trials and the annual Ian Pollock and Grace Dignan national events. They also claimed that they did not have a group of members who had an interest in the Britshock/Twinshock movement.

Undaunted, Martin ran an idea past me. ‘What about reforming the old Kinlochleven & District club?’.

Having had specialist knowledge as a former SACU director and Trials Committee chairman, I advised Martin how to go about applying for affiliation, with the assurance that Inverness & District would have no issue with a new club in the Scottish Highlands and would be surprised if Lochaber would object as they did not have an appetite for such a new event. The outcome was that the neighbouring clubs co-operated. The rest as they say is history.”

John Moffat decided to enter the event when the entries were opened after the club had gained affiliation to the Scottish ACU. He was also delighted and humbled when he was told that he would be given the riding number 1 as a token of the club’s appreciation for the help and assistance given.

So here we have it, a rider’s eye view of the first Leven Valley 2 Day Trial, one which we reckon will become one of the best events in its class in the United Kingdom.

This review from the saddle was compiled by rider number one, John Moffat, who took part on a 325cc Bultaco Sherpa, accompanied by his youngest son Steven who rode a 200cc Honda Seeley TL200E:

“I can’t believe that having forced down a fantastic breakfast prepared by three times Scottish Trials Champion, Rodger Mount, I’m as nervous as hell, but I am!”

I have ridden number one many years ago, when I was interested in Pre’65 trials before it became a little jaded, but I wont go into the politics of that branch of the sport, you have a duty to keep to the route and not to get lost! There is a little pressure when there are no bike tracks to follow and the sections are as slippery as wet glass bottles. My son Steven is as cool as a cucumber, he isn’t easily phased and besides he has two SSDTs under his belt. His only concern is that we didn’t pack a spare spark plug and his last outing on the Seeley (an Ex-Jock McComisky machine) suffered five punctures at it’s last outing and we didn’t find out the reason why. Coupled with the fact that we only had one spare rear tube in the workshop, this caused a little angst!

Sammy Miller MBE in charge of setting ‘Team Moffat’ off at 10:00 am precisely – Photo: Trials Media

At 10:00 am we lined up beside the great man of trials, Sammy Miller MBE who is the guest of honour and official starter, who also donated a magnificent trophy for the overall winner. Sammy is so enthusiastic, he did his old party trick of grabbing the twist grip and flicked it wide open a couple of times, on a dead engine of course, so I reminded him that he did this to my Matchless about 20 years ago and the darned thing did not start afterwards! This time I was lucky the Bulto fired first kick ready to start the event.

Sammy Miller MBE (right) was the Guest of Honour and official starter, he is an 11 times British Trials Champion and 5 times winner of the SSDT, Kinlochleven is his old hunting ground when he competed in the Scottish. (Photo: Trials Media)

There are 192 riders behind Steven and I, we start on the same minute. I lead off and we turn right out of the old Aluminium works to head up to the first sections known locally as ‘The Kennels’ also know as ‘Loch Eild Burn’. The rocks are slippery, the one drawback of riding first, but we don’t hold back and I get through for a clean, a nice easy opener, observed by Dumfries-shire enthusiast Heather Anderson, whose son Michael is riding.

The next section is further down stream and it too is fairly straight forward. Then it’s on to Lower Mamore, boy these are real slippery and I’m almost on my back a few times just walking the section. Undaunted we force on, my wife Jean and Steven’s girlfriend Christy are there for moral support. I struggle badly in the first and I stall, so a five goes in the book! I restart the second sub and I get through for a three with John Dickinson, John Hulme and Eric Kitchen all happily snapping away, as they do!

section 4 day 1 - Robert James photo
Section 4, day 1 – Slippery rocks ensure I lose three marks to keep the Bultaco upright – Photo: Robert James, Aberdeen

I watch Steven through while I put on my camelbak and take a few moments to catch my breath. I see him through and ride off up the Mamore path, I only get about half a mile and realise he isn’t behind me, strange as he is a good off road rider and he has a fair bit of speed, but he ain’t there!

I wait on one of the corners which overlooks the path and no sign, I don’t as a rule ride against oncoming riders, so I slowly and very carefully retrace my tracks, I meet Mick Grant, but he hasn’t passed anyone! I have this sobering thought, he’s punctured hasn’t he? I get down to the roadside and hey presto, there he is with the back wheel out and John Norrie giving a wee hand. Yip, rear tube has burst again. I think there has to be a reason for this. Steven isn’t happy, he knows that this was the only rear tube and it has to go in.

Right I said, lets do it, never mind, it may not happen again. I check the inside of the tyre, nothing there, so we get the new tube in, refit the tyre and inflate, all good.

An ‘Oh Dear’ moment…

It’s only when I check the burst tube that I find a part that was lost in the workshop the evening of the Highland Classic trial in June, its the rear brake clevis that somehow had fallen inside the rear cover and that has kept punturing each tube. Oh dear, but now we know what has been the root cause, mystery solved.

We get going again, but number 60 odd has gone through, so we had better get a move on. The time limit is six and a half hours with a refuelling stop up on the Mamore road.

What I felt about the trial was the sections are not split and very rideable, nothing silly, stupid or dangerous. A lot of thought has gone into this course by Clerk, Tam Weir and his team. I’m enjoying my ride. It’s in the area where I have ridden before, so I know the terrain quite well, plus a there are a few of my friends riding and I know many of the observers, this makes for a really enjoyable experience, even although the weather has closed in and its hosing it down. It’s a real credit to the observers who tough it out in such conditions, they always have my respect and I thank them for doing so if they are within earshot.

Oh that Sleubhaich!

I get to Sleubhaich (pronounced sle-ach) which is a terror section for me of old. Roy Varty an old friend is observing, Roy is a former speedway rider and trials rider. We have a quick chat, as you do, then I walk down to my steed. I HATE this section! Anyway Paul Norman’s Fantic refuses to fire up and he pulls out and I go in. I start off well in second gear, the Bultaco pulls so well, the ignition and carburation is spot on. I get three quarters up until it rises into steps and bang, I’m up, but stalled. At least I’m not upside down! Steven gives me a pull up and we get the bags on and we are off.

The course moves along the Mamore Road to take in ‘Callert Falls’ and ‘Callert Cottage’. I find the falls are quite tough, designed to separtate the men from the boys, or in my case the old man from the not so old men. I should mention that there were three women riding, Janice Proctor, Josie Glover and eventual class winner, Ashleigh Davison from my club, Inverness. Ashleigh is a fair rider and a firefighter with Scottish Fire and Rescue. She has also observed at the SSDT for the last four years.

So the first day of thirty sections passes without further incident and John Charlton and Alan Crayk are on clean sheets. – How do they do that?

Second day…

Day two and again mine host Mr. Mount does us proud and has specially brought in black pudding for my breakfast as he knows I’m partial to a slice or two. Rodger was supported by Jim Sandiford in the early 1970s and was one of the highest ever Scots to finish in the SSDT with an eleventh place in 1973 and on the leader-board for most of the week. I have a quick chat before we head on down to Kinlochleven to put our fuel cans in the trailer, but alas the trailer had left ten minutes before we arrive! ‘Oh dear’, I’m sure we will be fine as we have yesterday’s cans still on board, then Steven announces he used his fuel all up! The Seeley is set up rich for power, but the trade off is poor fuel consumption.

We make our way to the start and Sammy is there and greets us with a big smile, I’m going to fox him, I don’t kill the motor, but Sammy is up for a bit of fun, he flicks the throttle wide open a couple of times and the revs soar. He roars with laughter and says “Nothing wrong with that motor then, she’s crisp!”

Start marshal is Duncan Anderson, father of Andy Anderson who was 2017 Scottish Trials Champion. He tells us we have 30 seconds, so we have a chat with Sammy, before we know it Duncan is waving frantically that we must go!

It’s off around to two subs at ‘Aluminium Works’. I get a nice ride on the first one with a dab I think and of course we are mid-field today so there is plenty of grip. I clean the second one in front of Eric Kitchen, feet up, so that is a photo I must ask him to let me see.

Running maintenance…

Steven is having a ball and loves the Seeley, he inherited it from me and had a special paint job done in Castrol Honda Racing colours by Bike Paints of Cupar Muir, Fife as a tribute to his hero the racer, Steve Hislop. The Seeley isn’t tricked up, it is fairly standard. We get up to ‘Pipeline’ and I chat with local man Andrew McDonald who now lives in Livingston. His father ‘Ginty’ McDonald and I are the same age and our fathers knew each other back in the 1950s. The wet weather binds the rocks better than a dry day does. Steven goes up first and gets to the top, but on the way down which is the real tricky bit, he notices the front end is flapping about.

Pipeline - SJM - Photo Iain Lawrie
Steven Moffat looks confident on the Honda Seeley TL200E on ‘Pipeline’ – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Oh dear, the front spindle has come loose, so its out with the tools and in a couple of minutes, we are on our way. The following section is quite straight forward, observed by David Mowat and helped by Sammy Robertson. I go clean, then its up to the Sma’ Dam where Colin Gibson is observing. I hit this one fast in second and have a clean on the first, but get off line on the second and get the feet going for a three in the book.

The club have gone for the observer card system instead of punch cards, it seems to work well.

So then on around to ‘Blackwater Dam’ where Roy Varty is there and we take on fuel, Gordon Muir says to Steven to use some of his fuel, so we are owe you some petrol money Gordon. Over across to ‘Intake View’ and the sections beyond which ride really well and I bag a couple of cleans.

Getting a move on!

I’m trying to get a steady pace up on the moors and tracks and I’m happy with my speed, until a 300 Fantic goes flashing past me as if I’m standing still. It’s seasoned campaigner, Neil Dawson a veteran of many SSDTs and a former Scottish Champion. I wont even try to catch him. Neil knows this ground like the back of his hand. Shortly after he’s stopped beside Alan Crayk who is sat with his helmet off and head down. We stop to offer assistance and it’s the throttle cable that has snapped. Nothing to see here, so we carry on.

Neil Dawson from Dunfermline knows his way around the Kinlochleven hills, he is a veteran of many SSDTs and now back-marks the event – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

That’s Trials!

Round onto the Mamore road and down to the last section at ‘The Kennels’. I try for a clean and I get a bike and ahalf fromthe ends cards and I get a wee bit crossed up and I stall the beast! Steven goes clean and we wait for Alan ‘Chips’ Crayk, who is still on clean. He looks good and confident, but three bike lengths from the end the chain derails and its a five. Bad luck but ‘Chips’ says: “That’s trials John”. A sporting way to look at things.

Then it was back to finish line, a quick change, cup of tea and on to the presentation of awards, where I catch up with Sammy Miller and the prize-giving begins in the Ice Factor. A generous raffle with fantastic prizes, some 40 in total are raffled by Sammy. Riders collect their finishers award.

The winner, John Charlton picks up the magnificent ‘Sammy Miller Trophy’ to the sound of rapturous applause from the audience. The Leven Valley 2 Day Trial is complete.

Section 30 - day 2 - Fin Yeaman
Section 60, the final hazard at The Kennels, moments later it was a five mark penalty due to ‘pilot error’. Alan ‘Chips’ Crayk is studying the line – Photo: Fin Yeaman

Overall, how did this event stack up?

Simple, it is the most testing but enjoyable trial I have ridden in many a year. I have no doubt that this will become one of the best of its type in the United Kingdom and I’ve ridden or officiated in quite a few. It is run at a time five months after the SSDT, so the ground has time to recover and has a winter in between, From an ecology point of view, this is perfect. The route uses many paths, which avoids scarring to the hill and is much like the way the SSDT was run many years ago. The sections were rideable and nothing dangerous. If you failed a section, you pulled out, restarted and rode away.

The organisers pitched it perfectly, it accomodated all levels of rider, which is very difficult to achieve. They have gone for the Britshock/Twinshock option, which I personally think is the evolving class. They have resisted the temptation to ‘bulk out’ the entry with monoshocks, following in the steps taken by the Inverness club for their Highland Classic. It is not necessary to bulk this trial with air-cooled monoshocks as next year it will be seriously over-subscribed, watch this space.

Would I ride it again? Of course I would, that depends on my entry being accepted.

The Leven Valley 2 Day Trial, it’s up there after one take, with the best of them!

Special thanks to: The Clerk Of Course, commitee and officials of the Kinlochleven & District Motor Cycle Club; the local landowners; Martin Murphy of Leven Homes Ltd; The Ice Factor, Kinlochleven; Sammy Miller MBE; Classic Trial Magazine; Whyte & MacKay Scotch Whisky; Putoline Oils; Jahama Highland Estates and of course all the observers who made this event possible.

More on Kinlochleven & District MCC – HERE

Finale - Fin Yeaman
“The final section at ‘The Kennels’, now for a cup of tea at the Ice Factor” – Photo: Fin Yeaman

Already the committee of the organising club are looking at improvements for next year. It is very probable that the format will remain the same as 2018, that of a Britshock/Twinshock event consisting of one lap of 30 sections per day with no splits. Feedback from riders has been more than positive. The club’s facebook page has been inundated with comments and postings of congratulations from grateful competitors and spectators. This will remain a local event, organised by local people.

John Moffat commented: “That was a brilliant event, all credit to the club in its first year, they have done exceptionally well. Why change a winning formula? This event will go from strength to strength. A sound foundation has been laid for future events. We are already looking forward to assisting in any way we can at Trials Guru and we are proud to be associated with the Leven Valley 2 Day Trial.”

Provisional Results 2018 Leven Valley 2 Day Trial – CLICK HERE

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