Toshi Nishiyama, The SSDT and Honda

SSDT and Honda

Toshiki Nishiyama, known in the trials world simply as ‘Toshi’ was the first Japanese trials rider to ever take part in the International Six Days Trial and Scottish Six Days Trials.

Trials Guru’s John Moffat spent some time in the company of Japan’s trial super-enthusiast, at the 2018 Telford Off Road show and they talked about Toshi’s first attempt at the Scottish Six Days in 1971 and later events.

Toshi riding a BSA B40 in the Pre’65 Scottish Trial on Loch Eild Path – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven.

Toshi made many friends in the UK during his visits. Toshi rode the SSDT 7 times and the ISDT 10 times during his riding career which spanned from 1971 until 1990, he also organised many trials and enduro events in his native Japan.

Here Toshi tells us about his Honda connections for the annual event held each May at Fort William.

Toshiki ‘Toshi’ Nishiyama (247 Montesa Cota), the first Japanese rider to compete in the Scottish Six Days on Loch Eild Path in 1970 – Photo: Ian Robertson, Midlothian

Toshi: “I became the first Japanese rider to participate in the Scottish Six Days Trial with my Montesa Cota 247 in 1971, and on Honda’s four-stroke machine three times, including a TL125 in 1973, TL145 in 1974, and TL250 in 1975. In fact, it was the New Zealand rider, Tim Gibbs told me a lot about SSDT and ISDT when he came to Japan. When I first went to the UK in December 1970, Tim introduced me to MCN’s Peter Howdle.

When I arrived in London, Peter introduced me to Comerfords’ Derek Cranfield, and in turn, Derek introduced me to Bob Gollner again, and as a result I was able to join Bob and SSDT together.  In 1971, I participated in UK trials for almost a year, learning about rules, techniques, sections, courses, machine, management, and so on. I returned to Japan in January 1972 to promote full-fledged trials in my country. 

Mick Whitlock (left) discusses one of his frame creations with dealer, Bob Gollner

Honda then released the TL125, and three Japanese riders participated in the SSDT in 1973. The TL125 was still made with a parallel steering angle frame and front fork, and the steering was a little heavy. So I asked Whitehawk’s Mick Whitlock to move the footrests a little backwards, and then fitted a Girling rear shock for testing. The tyres were changed to Dunlop’s Trial Universal.

Toshi in the 1973 SSDT on the Honda TL125, watched by the official observer, Miss Margaret Muirhead on Coalasnacoan, near Kinlochleven. This is a publicity photo for a Japanese magazine.

I changed only one rear tire every two days, but when I ran for a day, I changed the direction of the tyre. I said that I did not change the front tire for 6 days, or I could only service the bike for 15 minutes before the start every morning, so I could not afford time. The 5-speed transmission was a cross of 1 to 3 gears, and the 3rd to 5th speed was wide designed. I dropped one drive sprocket tooth for the SSDT, and the maximum speed was about 85 km/h.

Toshi Nishiyama on the Honda TL125 tackles ‘Ben Nevis’ in 1973.

According to Honda engineers, there is no problem even if it runs with full open throttle, so I was able to start Edinburgh and finish the entire process of Fort William safely. Frankly, the four-cycle 125cc engine was powerless and most sections I had to run in 1st gear. Even if I try to start with the 1st gear, the climb slope is tight, the bike will move forward even if the rear wheel rotates, but in the 2nd gear I stalled due to lack of torque. I had no choice but to get into the section.

Toshi held on to the little Honda TL125 after the 1973 SSDT. One day he plans to restore it and ride for fun.

From my experience so far, the Girling rear shocks for TL was not the best, so I obtained a custom-made set from KYB who produced rear shocks for TL and TY for sale. The rear shock absorber of Toshi Nishiyama Special and the engine’s maximum rpm dropped because the displacement was changed, and the maximum speed was 80 km/h. However, unlike the TL125, the 2nd gear could be used in the section and the performance of the rear shock has changed significantly, making running in the section much easier. The front and rear wheels were buried even if it rushed in with the 3rd with TL125 to pass through the swamp of the mountain stream, and it was a thing that drained remarkable physical strength to get out of each swamp.

Toshi Nishiyama in 1974 on the TL145 at the SSDT

In that respect, it was a little easier to lose the bogland using the 3rd gear as it turned out to be a TL145. Of course, the running in each section also reduced the worry of stalling, and I managed to run through the ‘pipeline’ section with the 2nd gear. I finished the event and won a First Class Award.  I was so happy.

Toshi Nishiyama on the TL145 in the 1974 SSDT – Photo courtesy of: Alan Vines/Yoomee Archive.

In 1975, Honda released their new TL250, so I participated in the machine. The engine was based on the Honda SL250 trail bike, and the engine was also quite bulky and heavy. I think that there was certainly about 108kg. The only problem was that the vehicle weight was remarkably heavy and the seat height was also rather high.

Toshi with the UK registered Honda TL250 at Gorgie Market, Edinburgh in 1975 prior to the Scottish Six Days start the following day.

To be honest, the bike was too heavy for me who was small and had no physical strength. However, the torque became strong, and the stall due to the lack of power as before has been lost. The TL250, which was one size larger than the TL125 and 145, was a heavy, like a tank. I had a hard time picking the machine up when I fell off. And when you get over the staircase in the section, the engine spins for a moment. The cause seems to have been with the carburetor, and as a countermeasure, it was constantly overflowing to keep the fuel level, and petrol had to always be dripping from the overflow, and the fuel consumption was remarkably bad. I completed the trials and won the First Class Award again. 

Ace spanner-man Reg May, crouching on right, supervises Spaniard Javier Cucurella making running repairs on his 325cc Bultaco at the Scottish Six Days Trial in May 1976, watched by Toshi Nishiyama on the right – Photo copyright: John Hulme/Trials Media

After Honda, I rode the Scottish on Bultaco and had a very good relationship with Comerfords and Reg May, but that is another story.”


Nishiyama was so proud of his award winning at the SSDT that he had this decal made following his 1973 first class award. Photo: Toshiki Nishiyama, Japan