Colin Dommett 1940-2023

Totally committed to motorcycle sport for six decades! – By David Cole

Main photograph: Mike Rapley

Commentating at a  North Devon Atlantic Classic Scramble Club meeting at Combe Martin a couple of weeks ago, for the last time, was Colin Dommett, one of the country’s best known, well respected and most knowledgeable men in off-road motorcycling.

Can we really believe he’s retiring? That’s not meant in any unkind or rude way, it’s just that Colin has been there, keeping us entertained and updated, on matters concerning our sport, both nationally and in particular the South Western and Cornwall Centres, for over 60 years – no doubt longer than many of us can remember.

Colin was born in Devon in 1940; he spent his early years near Broadhempston, between Newton Abbot and Totnes, on the land farmed by his father.

The first trial he witnessed was when he was six years old, a section of the annual West of England National Trial, “The Open” as it was known in those days, which was very near to the family home (I assume that this would have been 1946, the first running of this event after the war, Jim Alves of Street in Somerset won the trial on a ‘works’ 348cc Triumph). This event must have had a lasting effect on Colin, although he was upset by the noise of the bikes at the time.

At the age of eight Colin moved, with his parents to Cornwall and during the six weeks summer holiday from school he regularly stayed with an uncle on his farm near Axminster in East Devon. Whilst enjoying these holidays his cousin’s, who both owned motorbikes, took Colin to Exeter Speedway, local Scrambles and Road Race meetings at Blandford Camp and Castle Coombe, these he really enjoyed and made him decide that when he was old enough he would have a bike.

The bug had by now well and truly bitten and as Colin grew he attended as many Cornish trials and scrambles as he could get to. Too young to drive, of course, he either cycled or scrounged lifts to events from his local competitors, Ally Clift being one of the regulars.

When he was about fourteen years of age Motor Cycle News was formed (many years before Trials & MX News appeared) and Colin managed to persuade the Editor to give him the position of “Sports Reporter” for Cornwall. Colin was so keen he was a natural and continued to report for MCN until 1964.

When Colin left school he went to work for W.H.Collins motorcycle shop in Truro, riding his first trial at Colwith Farm, Par, in 1957 riding a Triumph Tiger Cub. It was a week later that Colin won his first award, the event was a ‘Time Trial’ (marked on time and observation) and he picked up a first-class award for his efforts which immediately upgraded his status to ‘Expert’.

The Cub, like all Cub’s of that era, proved pretty unreliable and it wasn’t long before he changed to a 197cc A.C.S. (Ally Clift Special), a Villiers powered bike which proved very reliable and took Colin to his first Open-to-Centre win in the East Cornwall Club’s ‘Kings of Oxford Trophy’ Trial plus many other awards, as well as representing the Centre in Inter-Centre Team Trial in Wales.

It was around this time that Colin took up scrambling, again he proved to be a natural, riding a 250 Sundry (Sun/Villiers with a Vale Onslow conversion) as well as a few outings on Ally Clift’s (Collins sponsored) BSA Gold Star. Now competing in both trials and scrambles his successes continued.

In 1960 Colin bought a new Cotton trials bike and rode it from the factory in Gloucestershire, where it was built, back to his home in Truro. He immediately won five out of his first six trials on this new bike and it was not long before he was offered a ‘Works Team’ contract with the Cotton concern.

Due to a back injury whilst racing in 1963 which, more or less coincided with marriage, Colin decided to call it a day as far as scrambling was concerned and concentrate on trials.

For Pat Onions and the Cotton concern Colin rode all the important National Trials and British Championship Rounds. Covering these events meant an awful lot of travelling from deepest Cornwall so in 1964 Colin secured a job with Westbury Motorcycles in Bristol positioning him a little more centrally and thereby easing the travelling.

Colin Dommett on his BSA samples some Sedbergh sections in the Northwest Westmorland MCC – Nostalgia Trial

After only a couple of weeks with Westbury, during a trip to collect spares form the Cotton factory, Colin was offered a job there, how could he possibly turn it down, they were already supplying him with a bike and spares, geographically he would be perfectly placed and he had two of the best riders of that era, Malcolm and Tony Davis as travelling companions at weekends.

Colin spent the next two and a half years working for Cotton before deciding to move back to Cornwall. Factory wages were low but it was an invaluable and thoroughly enjoyable experience for Colin, he even got involved in things like testing the ‘works’ road race machines with people like Derek Minter.

Back in Cornwall and back to his old job Colin rode W.H. Collins sponsored Spanish bikes until 1970 when he acquired a 175cc Greeves Pathfinder.

He was then offered a 250cc Bultaco and sponsorship from David Paul. Dommett and the Bultaco saw a great many wins during the following season.

In 1968 Colin was selected to ride for the British Vase Squad in the International Six Days Trial (The Olympics of Motorcycling), for the event in Italy he rode a Husqvarna,

in 1969 as a British Trophy Team member in Germany he competed on a 504cc Triumph and again in 1970 at El Escorial near Madrid, Spain on a 504cc Cheney Triumph, all three events ended in misery, with mechanical failures for Colin, and the dream of a Gold Medal gone.

Colin aboard the ill-fated 504 Cheney Triumph in 1970 – Photo: Brian Catt

At the ISDT in 1970, his front fork sliders parted company from the forks, minutes before Colin had been reaching speeds of close to 100 mph, a lucky escape!

Colin Dommett on the 504 Cheney Triumph at the 1970 ISDT held at El Escorial, Madrid. Photo: Brian Catt

1971 saw Colin miss the ISDT selection tests due to a shoulder injury. The determination to succeed remained and the name C.F.Dommett appeared in the programme as a private entry, the Trial that year was held on the Isle of Man where Colin, riding a Bultaco, finally achieved his ambition by winning a coveted and well deserved gold medal.

Solo trials continued for Colin as did the successes, Colin has won the Cornwall Centre (Solo) Trials Championship, ten times.

In 1975, looking for a new challenge Colin teamed up with Eric Chamberlain for a crack at side-car trials. Their first outing on their home-built RL250 Suzuki was in mid May in the Pendennis ‘Open-to-Centre’ side-car trial; they did not figure in the results but felt they had a pretty good ride.

At the end of May the pair decided to play with the “big boys” and entered the Lyn National Trial. Despite competing against a good many of the country’s best side-car crews Colin and Eric finished in the top half of the results. The Lyn Club had also organised a ‘Closed-to-Club’ event the following day for which many of the previous day’s competitors stopped over to partake. This event saw the first of many victories for the Dommett / Chamberlain pairing.

Sharp-eyed Alec Wright had spotted the couple’s progress and offered them a new Kawasaki KT250 outfit, after a test ride the couple agreed without hesitation, which set them up ready to start the season in the winter of 1975.

Within the next six months Colin and Eric had accrued a multitude of wins including the British Experts, the Southern Experts and the Cornish Centre side-car championship.

Colin Dommett and Eric Chamberlain (Suzuki) – Photo: Mike Rapley

The 1976 season saw the Cornish Champions start the season on the Kawasaki before changing to a Mick Whitlock framed, Suzuki RL powered Whitehawk outfit, a very smart bike and a machine that they skilfully piloted to win the British Championship in 1976, ’77 & ‘78 plus, to top it all, “the holy grail” was reached, Colin and Eric were crowned European Side-car Trials Champions in 1977.

Eric decided to call it a day at the end of ’78 which meant that Colin started the 1979 season on a new bike, a Comerfords Bultaco, with full factory backing, and a new passenger, Rob Clift.

British Sidecar Trials Champions, Colin Dommett & Eric Chamberlain on their Beamish Suzuki outfit – Photo copyright: Mike Rapley

Their season went well finishing the British Championship in fourth place. For the 1980 season Eric made a comeback for the important events which saw the pairing once again win the British Championship title that year.

Colin now decided to call it a day as far as Side-car Trials Championships were concerned, although he did continue to ride solo trials and had the odd outing within the Cornish Centre, with an outfit and with Rob Clift in the chair.

1990 saw Colin’s return to scrambling, choosing to ride Pre’65 events on a Triumph engined Metisse on which he had many successful outings, proving he’d lost none of his old magic.

In the year 2000 at the age of 60, Colin decided to once again, retire from scrambling and concentrate on his solo trials career.

Colin lives in the Tiverton area of Devon these days and the last fifteen years have seen him continuing to ride to a very high standard, taking many trials honours whilst campaigning a 250cc Cotton, a 270cc BSA C15 plus more recently, turning to a 185cc BSA Bantam – a lovely machine which is very much in demand in trials circles these days.

Colin’s current riding career is centred mainly around the West Country, although he still makes the odd trip to compete in events like the Isle of Man Two Day Trial.

At the time of writing, (August 2015), Colin sits comfortably in second position in the South Western Centre Pre 65 Trials Championship, trailing the current leader, Neil Hammersley, by just one point.

Two years ago Colin rode the last of his Scottish Pre 65 events, a trial he has always loved and performed well in, this being the most famous and prestigious Pre 65 Trial in the world, an event that Colin is proud to say that has previously been won by his son Scott.

Always an active member of his clubs, repaying a sport that he has for so long enjoyed, mucking in with all that it takes to organise and laying on motorcycle sporting events,

Colin has been made an Honorary Member of the Cornwall Centre, is the Chairman of the South Western Centre, Chairman of the South West Classic Trials Association, a committee member of the Tiverton Motor Club and is in much demand wherever a motorcycle sporting function is held.

Colin’s knowledge of the sport, its history and its participants is second to none; in most cases “he’s been there, done that and got the ‘T’ shirt”.

For their immense help, friendship and enthusiasm Colin and wife Greta were thanked during a presentation made by Chris Dawson, on behalf of the Club, which took place during a break in the second day’s racing. We feel sure that we speak for all when we wish Colin many more years of success and enjoyment within the sport, and, along with his wonderful and ever supportive wife, Greta, good luck and a peaceful life in their new home. – David Cole

Colin Dommett and Eric Chamberlain during their Suzuki days and of course British Sidecar Trials Champions – Photo copyright: Mike Rapley

Trials Guru on Colin Dommett:

I first came across Colin Dommett when I was spectating at the Scottish in 1975 on Ben Nevis sections. My late father and I were standing watching the action when Colin lost control of his 250 Ossa (234CFD) when he lost his footing on a rock. Colin and the Ossa hit the deck, my quick acting father then proceeded to pick the machine up, only problem was – he was at the front of the bike and of course unwittingly opened the throttle – fully when he thought he was shutting it closed! The Ossa simply took off like a rocket and promptly wound my father round the nearest tree!

Colin scrambled to his feet to attempt a rescue of his wayward machine. The look on Colin’s face said it all – he was not impressed in the slightest!

When Colin had composed himself and rode off, my father turned round, looked me straight in the eye and said… “Never pick a bike up facing it” Those within earshot burst out laughing.

Colin and I jointly ‘fronted’ the Pre’65 Scottish awards presentation at Kinlochleven for many years and we had great fun doing our double-act at the highland classic event.

Colin F. Dommett was a dyed in the wool motorcyclist, a champion, a true enthusiast and I am proud to have been his friend. – John Moffat

Sadly, Colin passed away at Manchester Royal Infirmary on Thursday, 9th February 2023.

Colin Dommett’s funeral service will take place at 11:30am on Tuesday 14th March 2023 at Taunton Crematorium.

© – Article: Colin Dommett – Text copyright: David Cole – 2015

© – Images: Brian Catt, Edgware; Mike Rapley & Colin Dommett Family Collection

© – Layout and Publishing: Trials Guru/Moffat Racing/John Moffat 2023

8 thoughts on “Colin Dommett 1940-2023”

  1. Sorry to hear about Colin Dommet passing. a very nice guy.he was a great help at the pre65 Scottish Presentation withe BigJohn. and getting stories out of the wife and I went to the Dartmore Trial years ago and stayed with him& Greita.he took as round some lovely bits of Devon before the Trial good memories RIP COLIN. Nan&Jock McComisky.

  2. RIP Colin and all the best for Greta. It was good to know you as a passionate trialer and friend.
    Greetings from Germany
    Bernd and his family

  3. although colin was a few years my senior i can remember the first time he advised me on the best route through a sidecar section back in the seventies and since that first meeting we have always had a good chat wherever i have bumped into him at bike events up and down the country,
    You will be missed and remembered by so many and myself as a great rider a fountain of knowledge with a great sense of humour and for the huge contribution you have given to our off road motorcycle sport and of coarse being a nice guy, RIP Colin
    my thoughts are with you Greta and family, Adrian

  4. Motorcycling Legend and I am so
    Proud to have been a friend of Colin’s
    and have such respect for him and all his many fantastic results and achievements over the years.
    I will certainly miss his brilliant and trusted advice.
    He’s Will be sadly missed by so many RIP Colin.

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