The 1970 International Six Days Trial took place in El Escorial, Spain. This book tells the whole story. Only a few English language copies remain.
The 1970 International Six Days Trial took place in El Escorial, Spain. This book tells the whole story. Only a few English language copies remain.
As we head into the festive period, may we take this opportunity in wishing all readers of Trials Guru a very Merry Festive Season and a Happy New Year. We hope to bring you new articles in 2015 and more photos from the sport of Motorcycle Trials.
We will be continuing the story of Rob Edwards, remember to ‘like’ his page if you are on facebook!
Trials Guru started out in March 2014 and already has a following both here and on facebook.
Also, there will be a press release issued early in 2015, stay tuned for that.
To compliment our series of articles on Rob Edwards, Mr. Eric Kitchen has kindly allowed Trials Guru permission to show this photo of Rob at the SSDT in 1979. To our knowledge this photo has never been published before. Please be respectful and do not share this photo on any other media.
© – Photo: Eric Kitchen, World-Wide Copyright – All Rights Reserved.
Ron Thomson originally from St Andrews, Fife moved to Fort William in the late 1950’s. Ron was a dispatch rider during national service in Egypt and a member of the services club, the Bar-None MCC. On being de-mobbed, Ron joined the local Kirkcaldy & District club. Ron takes up the story: “In my day trials bikes were measured by the hundredweight, not by the cubic capacity! I had a Gold Star, which was dubbed the ‘Stone-Crusher’. So called because no section was ever the same after we had gone through. As for the Scottish Six Days, we used to gear the bikes up, my Trophy Triumph was good for 90 plus mph on the road, the reason for the hurry was that we used to be more interested in the ‘Seven Nights’ than the Six Days!” says Ron.
That particular Goldie, as Ron had one or two, registered PFS 916 had a neat conversion, featured in the first 1958 SSDT report in The Motor Cycle. In an attempt to reduce weight, Thomson used the gearbox as an oil reservoir for the motor thus obviating the need for an oil tank. The very machine on which Ron won the over 350 award at the 1969 Scottish which was to be his last ride in the Highland classic. That Gold Star was sold via Ernie Page’s shop in Polwarth Terrace and was passed through many ‘hands’ eventually ending up with Billy Maxwell in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Ron loved riding the Scottish Six Days which was in effect a local event for him as he lived in Inverlochy at that time. Ron said: “…well it was more the seven nights I was most interested in to be truthful, we used to get up to all sorts of fun”.
Ron knew an observer called Tommy Millar from Airdrie, a man who never had a complaint registered against him in over 25 years of observing- what was the reason? “I just gie a’ the laddies a clean”, he told Ron.
Ron said: “I’ve no doubt that the kids today on their water cooled pogo sticks in their go faster trendy bin liner suits will enjoy themselves just as much as we did, but still I think had greater fun in the golden years”.
Ron had a reputation as the man to approach if you wanted your bike fettled for the Scottish. He worked for a spell at the Brechin dealership, Duncan’s.
At one stage Ron, when still an active rider, prepared about a dozen Lochaber members bikes for the Highland classic.
“I couldn’t concentrate on my own ride for this one or that one coming up and saying, here! Listen to this – do you think it’s all right – will it last the week with this rattle or that rattle?”
John Moffat has a vivid personal recollection of the 1967 Scottish Experts held at Achallader Farm, Bridge of Orchy: “Ron Thomson was on his Gold Star, having ridden down from Fort William, a distance of some 35 miles in company with the late Ali McDonald on a 500cc Ariel. Post-trial, Ron stopped for a blether with a group of his old chums, I happened to be an interested bystander, listening in to the “banter”. Ali McDonald had decided to get home before dark and left immediately after signing off at the finish. The bold Ron then decided after quarter of an hour had elapsed to set off in pursuit of his pal, McDonald. Ron set sail from the farm, which, is about a mile from the main A82 trunk road. Within a few moments the assembled gathering could see Ron and the Goldie passing over the steel bridge which spans the River Orchy and up the “Black Mount”, overhauling several cars during his ascent, the big Goldie on full song. The exhaust note ever fading, disappearing from view as he crested the summit and onward to the Fort. What a great sight to behold.”
Known as a ‘big bike’ man, Ron also rode the “tiddlers” as well. In 1959 he chose the brand new C15T BSA 250cc unit construction single for the Scottish Six Days. In fact, out of eight C15’s entered, Ron was the only one to get to the finish and that included factory bikes as well!
Back in 1955 he rode a Villiers powered 197cc DMW and a year later rode a similarly powered Welsh built 197cc H.J.H.
In the 1953 Scottish, Ron rode a self-built ex-WD 343cc Triumph, the following year he rode a 347cc Matchless G3LC.
Ron S. Thomson passed away on 20th January 2007, never being a regular church attender, there was a humanist service held for him in the Crematorium at Inverness. Ron left the trials community of the Lochaber Club and the towns-people of Fort William with great memories of a true character of the sport of trials.
Trials Guru on Ron Thomson: Ron Thomson was a well liked individual who moved from his native St. Andrews to work at the British Aluminium works at Fort William. The reason was simple, so that he would live in God’s trials country! He set up business initially in a shed in his back garden fixing motorcycles and lawn-mowers for local people.
His business grew and he obtained premises at the Industrial Estate at Caol a few miles from Fort William on the A830. Many of the younger riders in the town benefited from Ron’s knowledge, which included Hugh and Alister McDonald, Alastair Macgillivray. Gary MacLennan and Rodger Mount.
His business was called R.S. Thomson (Inverlochy) Ltd. He ran a repair shop and MOT test centre for motorcycles. He was agent for chain-saws and garden equipment and employed Cameron ‘Cammy’ Kennedy for many years.
It was quite usual to swing in past Ron’s workshop for a great natter about the old days. But as sure as guns you were never there long until another enthusiast also had the same idea! How Ron got any work done heaven knows. He was a good builder of wheels, which itself is a bit of a ‘black-art’.
When Ron passed away after a short illness the business folded and Cammy took up employment with The Hire Centre in Fort William. Ron’s friends were not only Scots riders of his era like Jack Williamson; Arnott Moffat; Tommy Robertson; Johnny Clarkson and Bob Paterson, he also enjoyed the friendship of Gordon Blakeway; Ralph Venables; Peter Stirland and some of the best known riders of his era.
They all knew Ron Thomson!
This article was put together from notes John Moffat made during an interview he had with Ron at his workshops at Caol some years ago and personal recollections by Moffat himself of Ron Thomson pieced together over many years knowing Ron Thomson.
Ron Thomson in the Scottish Six Days Trial
Year Riding Number Club Make & CC of machine
1953 179 Kirkcaldy Triumph 343
1954 148 Kirkcaldy Matchless 500
1955 20 Kirkcaldy DMW 197
1956 24 Kirkcaldy DMW 197
1957 12 Kirkcaldy DMW 197 (could be HJH)
1958 140 Kirkcaldy Triumph 498 (Twin)
1959 74 Edinburgh & Dist BSA 250
1961 171 Lochaber BSA 350
1962 191 Lochaber BSA 348
1964 177 Lochaber BSA 500
1969 195 (not in prog.) BSA 500
Post Script: Added 01/02/2015: This story was spotted by Ron Thomson’s Grand-nephew, Ron Fisher who lives in Canada. It brought back happy memories of a visit to Scotland back in 1997 and indeed Trials Guru has been able to put Ron Fisher and Mrs. Helen Thomson in contact as a result of the article you see above.
Copyright: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing / John Moffat – 2014
With special thanks to Mrs. Helen Thomson of Inverlochy, Fort William for the photographs which accompany this article.
Post script to Ron Thomson’s story…
We have been contacted by former Scottish Speedway professional, John Wilson who now lives in Spain. John owned the ex-Ali McDonald Ariel MDB590 and he has kindly let us see photos of the restored machine. He sold it shortly before emigrating to Spain some years ago.
West Glos and Forest of Dean enthusiast swaps her Sherco for a Beemer… see where she goes!
Having passed my bike road test just over two years ago this was going to be a big adventure, a trip to Morocco with my boyfriend Ian Thompson. In early October we left Malvern (after an epic tyre changing session) on a dry slightly chilly evening to catch the ferry to Spain.
The English Channel was quite rough but the following morning dawned fine and bright and we crossed the Bay of Biscay arriving in early morning sunshine in Bilbao after two nights on board. We set off to traverse Spain, planning just one night there before crossing over into Morocco. It was cold crossing the Pico’s de Europa with stunning views and our bikes ate up the kilometres.
Due to the inefficiently of my insurance company one of the first jobs was to get bike insurance when we got to Morocco. Are people so badly educated that they think Monaco and Morocco are the same place? Apparently yes, and by the time I had discovered such stupidity it was too late to sort anything else out
The next morning we headed for the port of Algeciras and the temperature was starting to rise. A swift weaving in and out of the touts, return tickets were purchased and we just about made in on to the ferry, the ramp being raised behind us. I removed most of my thermals on board as we sailed past Gibraltar. Before we knew it we were in Ceuta – which although is on the continent of Africa is still Spain and it was a short ride to the Moroccan border. What chaos, people and vehicles of all shapes and sizes, people getting cross, and everyone jostling for position. Lots of signs saying do not use your horn; and yes everyone was!! We pushed through on our bikes, dodged the touts and got the forms to fill in for importing our bikes into Morocco. Ian took them off and came back with them duly completed and we thought we were done and dusted. After a short amount of pushing and dodging we got to the border and were told to get our passports stamped as the official had not done it when he did the bikes. We parked up, Ian went off and I stayed with the bikes.
I waited, watching all life pass through the border, bribes taken, people singled out, people waved through – there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it. Eventually after half an hour Ian returned telling me how he had had trouble as the border official did not believe he was on a motorcycle. But he had his stamp and now it was my turn. I headed to the same booth – ready to do battle, I handed over my passport, my entry paperwork and demanded the stamp was made please (in my best French). It took all of about 15 seconds from start to finish!!! We were away and through the border heading to the coast to spend the first night in Asilah.
The next day dawned fine and we went in search of some insurance. The local insurance broker was definitely not interested and sent us to the next town to AXA International. A chance encounter saw me marched around the corner straight into the office and I purchased the world’s most expensive short term motorcycle insurance. The girls in the office were very impressed we had ridden from England and I was riding a motorbike.
We hit the road again and headed for El Jadida for the night. After breakfast we tried to escape the town. After a futile attempt, we stopped, I took the map and went in search of directions. Entering a public office of some kind I explained where we were trying to get to and what road we wanted. (Speaking French helps so much in these situations). The two gentleman said it was tricky, closed the offices, got in a car and escorted us out of the town to the correct road – an extreme act of kindness. I told them they could just point us in the right direction but they refused, and insisted they guide us!!
One of the scariest parts of the trip was riding around the capital city of Rabat. It was complete chaos, lorries, cars and waggons pulled by donkeys all just pull out in front of you. Ian led the way and I tried to keep up and not get cut off by the traffic – we got out the other side unscathed, but my heart was beating so fast – it was terrifying. Earlier that day we had come across a road accident where a lady had been hit and killed by a truck – which itself was in a very bad way in a ditch. The body was in the middle of the carriageway and covered up. It struck me how little drama there was about it all. A policeman was wandering around, but what a contrast to the flashing lights and road closures of the UK. Death in whatever guise is dealt with in a very “matter of fact” way.
The following morning Ian wanted to search out a piece of sheepskin to go on his seat as it was proving uncomfortable. Wandering around the Medina we eventually found someone sat on a stool covered with sheepskin and expressed an interest. After much debate in Arabic someone rushed off and came back with one. It was too expensive and too big, we further explained what we wanted and again someone appeared with another piece which was perfect. We then had to haggle quite a bit and they drove a very hard bargain. Ian was now the proud owner of the world’s most expensive sheepskin to match my insurance policy. It had obviously been removed from someone’s house!
We set of early the next morning for the long ride down to Tan Tan which was as far south on the Western side as we were heading. We arrived in the dark and it was getting very hot. The recommended hotel had seen better days, but they had a room at £20 for the night and free parking in a barn at the back for the bikes. As grotty as it was the bed was clean. After a shower and washing of our clothes, which would dry overnight easily; we headed out and enjoyed chicken and chips in the main street at a pavement café. Ian could have swapped me for a camel with the local wheeler/dealer, but luckily was too tired to think of that whilst the chap was paying me compliments.
The next morning the big day had arrived, it was time for my first off road experience. To say I was terrified was an understatement. I had read the description of the route and it mentioned that you needed to have been on a spinach diet first – really scary. I was determined to ride like Lois Pryce the adventure bike rider and not Lois Lane!! I turned off the ABS and we set off on the first piste or track. The gravel was a bone shaker and I had to stand up to keep control of Beryl.
After half an hour I was so hot it was unbelievable. My first “off” soon happened – a small patch of loose gravel saw me crash into a bush. It hurt, shocked me and my pride also took a nasty blow. Ian came back, we righted Beryl and it took me a while to get myself sorted and onwards we went. The track came from Chris Scott’s guide book and I was wishing the poor chap all sorts of unmentionable harm. After an hour or so I was starting to get a bit of a handle of things and rode a quite difficult rocky section, various small patches of soft sand, gravel, corrugations, dried up oued(creek) beds and I was actually enjoying a bit of it now. A few more crashes and we then stopped for lunch at a small oasis, stopping at a well to refill our water bottles. Lunch over we had to rejoin the track and getting out of the soft sand was difficult. Too hard for me so Ian rode my bike out and I helped him right his when he lost it too.
The day continued through beautiful scenery and was very varied. I was scared, out of my comfort zone but also enjoying myself. After some calculation with the GPS we decided that we could get to the end of the track and to the town of Assa. We rode part of the old Paris-Dakar rally route on salt flats and that was great going, fourth gear and stood up. It was getting dark by now but we were not far from the tarmac. Riding at night in Africa is not good as you never know when a Donkey or a Camel might wander out into the road. I was exhausted but just kept following Ian’s tail light. We rode up a hill in the pitch dark and I was ecstatic to see the lights of Assa strung out along the horizon. We pulled into the hotel car park and I had to get Ian to put my side stand down as I could not move!! I dragged myself off the bike, a room was secured and we had a very good evening.
The next track was billed as easier but were bumpy and rough and the terrain was not too challenging compared to the day before. Some of the climbs were terrifying though, but I just kept going, yelling at myself to get on with it. Chris Scott mentioned in his guide book “that your radiator will be screaming by the time you get to the top” – he did not mention your girlfriend will be too!! I completed the day without falling off – yeah (thankfully) and we stopped in Tafraoute for the night. Following Ian on the tracks I felt like Wily Coyote chasing the Roadrunner as often all I could see was a ball of dust in the distance.
On the bikes again the next day saw us heading via Tata to Zagora for the long track we were planning to ride. It was a long hot ride, 42 degrees C in one town we went through, with sealed roads that were more like cart tracks – I actually had to stand up they were so rough in places. We got delayed as the road had a lot of deviations onto tracks as it had been washed away and we came across a wedding party which blocked the road too. It was dark when we reached Zagora and secured the last room in a large hotel, after a leisurely breakfast and a morning spent plotting the way points in the GPS we set off for lunch and supplies. About four p.m. we headed off the main road to start the long track we had come to ride. It was hard to get going and find the way, but eventually we were off, every time we hit soft sand I thought I was off too. I rode some hard bits, then fell off again – once as I was coming to a stop through exhaustion!! A shower from a well and a military check point passed. A pep talk from Ian saw me ride a really tricky hill and it became time to stop for the night. It was getting dark and we chose an oued bed as it had some flat rocks. We unpacked, stowed the bikes under the bank below the track and ate our supper. The silence was quite wonderful, all-encompassing and the stars started to come out – layer upon layer upon layer. It was not really dark at all, shooting stars shot across the sky and we started tracking satellites. With no tent and just a sleeping bag, it was not cold as the rocks had held the heat from the day. There were a few mosquitos which were annoying and a small jerboa (nocturnal wild gerbil) tried to steal our bread in the night but we managed to rest and rose at dawn to continue.
Kilometre after kilometre passed, the scenery changed again, and we met more sand. Another well to refill our water bottles and a further military checkpoint. The guard mentioned that they don’t see many women and certainly not many women on motorbikes, it made me feel quite special! He kept apologising for having to record our details and told us that two weeks ago they had had heavy rain and the whole area had flooded and we would not have got through.
On we went and met more sand, I started to come unstuck more often. I managed to get my foot wedged under the fuel cap on one off and Ian had to come back and rescue me. We stopped for coffee at small Auberge in the middle of nowhere and I was not thrilled to be told the route got very difficult from there onwards. I kept telling myself that every metre was another metre nearer the end. I managed to fall off again in some soft sand near to another Auberge where we had lunch. The locals saw and as they all have mobile phones they had a plan for later forming which will become apparent.
The going became very tricky, although the hard packed rock strewn sections were not too bad, I kept telling myself what to do and to “get on with it”. A few more offs saw me really damage my shin (cracked the bone) and although it hurt the adrenaline let me get back on. I thought it was really hard and then it got difficult!!! I could not manage in the deeper soft sand, so Ian had to walk back and ride my bike through the difficult sections. I climbed off once and twisted my knee in the soft sand which really hurt, and then I knew I was not going to be able to continue. We heard a Land Rover approaching, word had got out and their timing was superb. It stopped with two Moroccans in it – their opening words were “Do you speak any French?” “Yes”, I said and so it began. “It is impossible” they said “to ride a bike through here, we’ll take you to the tarmac”. After much haggling they agreed to take my bike, the luggage and me; Ian would follow as he was managing. Beryl was secured I climbed into the middle of the truck cab with Hassan and Mohammed. There was a terrible smell of hot sweaty bodies and feet, oh dear; it was actually me!! They were very entertaining speaking to me in French and then shouting at one another in Arabic, they waited every now and then for Ian to catch up telling me: “il arrive”. Ian kept following us, riding amazingly well, I was so envious of his abilities; I could see him in the rear view mirror. The rest of the route was very hard and I would have really struggled to do it with my current skill level. It would have meant another night in the desert, some parts I could have ridden, other bits – no chance!
Eventually we reached tarmac, unloaded the bike, and scraped all of our cash together, paid the guys and they left. We headed to Merzouga where we arrived in the dark and set about trying to find a cashpoint. There were lots of touts and eventually we discovered there was no cashpoint, so we needed a hotel that accepted credit cards. One chap said he could take us to one, we told him we had no cash and could not pay him, he said “never mind” – rammed his turban on his head, hitched up his robes and set off on his moped with us in pursuit. After ten minutes we arrived at the hotel, confirmed they had a room, took credit cards and thanked our guide, another genuine helpful person who was very kind to us. We had a really good dinner and woke the next morning to amazing views of the dunes and camels. My whole left shin was now quite black and blue in places, I had a lot of other bruises too, but had survived!
Soon it was time to head north towards the Atlas Mountains. Whilst stopping to check tyre pressures one lad tried to help and move my bike; he could not manage it when I could and I expect he is still being ribbed over it. “The woman could do it and you couldn’t” his mates were laughing a lot at his expense. We decided to “go for it” and try and get to the coast by nightfall, it was a relief to get off the bike when we did.
Two days later we headed to the border, this was scary as there were very high winds on the Autoroute and Ian had the bike move out from under him once, which scared him (so it must have been scary then)! We eventually arrived at the border chaos, there was much pushing and shoving, and we got to the front, filled in the forms, had our passports stamped, exported the bikes and were away into Spain. When we had filled up earlier I had not locked my second fuel cap properly and someone had stolen it – annoying, but not the end of the world. We queued for the ferry and without much ado were back on the European mainland. A quick blast north and we stopped for the night when it got dark and also cold. We set off for Bilbao to catch our ferry and made very good progress. Arriving back in Portsmouth it was still warm and sunny, I changed the clothes I was wearing as I did not need all of my cold weather gear and we rode towards Malvern.
Just before six o’clock saw us at the end of the trip, 3801 miles covered in three weeks. No mechanical breakdowns, no punctures, two lost indicator lenses, a DIN accessory plug that fell apart and a stolen fuel cap was the extent of the bike damage. The cartilage in my left knee is another matter, but the bruises soon faded, and a burn healed without incident. I still can’t believe I actually did it, it was awesome, definitely the adventure of a lifetime. – Georgina Mason (SSDT Observer & WG&DF MCC member)
Copyright & Photos: Georgina Mason – Trials Guru 2014.
Interested in Twin-shock Trials? These are ‘must have’ publications in that case!
Three volumes of twin-shock trials machines from John Hulme/Yoomee.
Absolutely jam-packed with photographic records from the caliber of Eric Kitchen, Barry Robinson and others these books cover the period 1965 – 1985, the golden era of twin damped rear suspension trials bikes.
Click Here for more information on how to order these books.