Sometimes, Trials Guru is approached by individuals who have found a trials motorcycle and are keen to discover it’s history.
We are not always able to assist due to the complexity of the task, but here is an instance where we were able to help, almost immediately upon receiving the request for assistance!
Words: Mark Morris
Assistance and Co-operation: Tom Milton Jnr (USA)
I came into contact with John Moffat at the Trials Guru website, via the Greeves Riders Association after seeking information regarding my newly acquired TE 250. John provided the key information necessary regarding its’ history, allowing me to find out more about the Greeves Scottish in my possession.
The story of my search has its roots in my long ago interest with the Greeves marque.
When I was a teenager back in 1978, my best friend had a Cotton trials machine which I admired from afar. I was keen to find something similar and after trawling the pages of the ‘Exchange and Mart’ found what was described as a ‘Greeves Scottish’ close to where I lived. The bike was great fun to ride and I always regretted selling it.
Many years passed and different bikes came and went but the Greeves always had a place in my heart and at the back of my mind I knew that I would like once again to own one, but realistically thought it would not be possible.
With no particular thoughts in mind I went along to the Telford Off Road Show back in February 2017.
As I walked down the line of Scramblers on the Greeves Owners Association stand, I stood back in disbelief, when I saw before me my old Greeves. It had stood in a barn for many years before being bought by its current owner. Furthermore I learned that it wasn’t actually a Greeves Scottish but an early ‘Hawkstone’ scrambler (I later was told that the gearing was similar enough in both Scottish and Hawkstones for the Hawkstone to be used as a rudimentary trials bike).
After returning home I found myself wishing more than ever that I had kept the Greeves when I was younger.
Unfortunately later that month a relative died, but had left me some money in their will and so it was with this incentive that I went out to look for another Greeves to own.
I decided that I wanted a ‘Scottish’ because not only could I fit lights if need be but I would have less trouble getting it through an MOT.
My search started on ‘e-bay’ and I soon found a bike I could afford. This was a 1962 model TE 250. Once delivered I put it through an MOT which it passed first go (despite having been stood unused for many years in a shed) I then joined the Greeves Riders Association and VMCC. The GRA managed to trace my frame and engine number back to the date the bike was originally sold and it brought up an interesting anomaly. The bike had been purchased directly from the Thundersley factory by the ‘Scottish Clubman’ magazine. This was unusual insomuch as it was routine for bikes to go from the factory directly to agents or dealerships.
I was piqued and intrigued to find more about my bikes slightly unusual history.
My next stage in finding the bikes history was to ask if anyone could help on the GRA forum. It was from there that I was given John Moffat’s details by enthusiast Brian Catt.
Amazingly, John had a recollection of the bike from the registration (I luckily had the original logbook) and in no time at all, he had put me in contact with the original owner Tommy Milton Jnr. who lives in the USA.
Tommy very soon got back in contact with me to happily confirm that it was indeed his first trials machine dating from 1962 and he recounted how his Dad had rashly promised to get him a new bike if he buckled down at school.
Tommy Milton Senior was a director of the Scottish Clubman Ltd., a monthly magazine for car and motorcycle sport enthusiasts run by amateurs, and he had agreed a deal with Greeves for the bike at a favourable price in return for an article in the magazine after a few months use. Tom Junior and Senior travelled down from their home in Edinburgh to Thundersley to pick it up, which they did on a Friday afternoon. (Apparently, there is a picture of delivery being taken with a Greeves sales executive and also Robbie Allan, older brother of Vic, who was working for Greeves at the time).
On the following Saturday, Tom Jnr rode it part of the way north to run it in, and when he got home, he took off the lights and got it ready for the CSMA trial near Gifford, East Lothian the very next day. Although he was only a novice he got the best non-expert and a first class award. Two weeks later he got another first class and was then classified in Scotland as an expert. Tom Jnr also went on to win the Pinhard prize trophy for trials in 1967 – his name appearing on the trophy alongside John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Grahame Noyce, Dave Thorpe and many other notable motorcyclists.
Tom Milton on his 1967 Pinhard Prize win: “Regarding the Pinhard, I think it is true to say that, while ‘Trials’ is shown against my name on the Sunbeam Club list, it was really a combination of other factors, such as being a long-time committee member of the Melville Motor Club and a co-organiser of their scrambles and trials events, as well as one of the youngest ever members of the Scottish ACU Management Committee, and as a result being a Steward at other club’s scrambles, that contributed to the award”.
In September 1963, Tom won his first trial, at Loch Lomond. The photograph of Tom was taken during that event – the bike has a different tank fitted now although the original is still with the bike and was obviously changed at some point to save weight.
Apparently, an article on the bike was written for the Scottish clubman magazine, and it would have appeared in one of the 1963 issues. When the magazine was wound up, a full set of back issues was lodged with the National Library of Scotland in George IVth Bridge in Edinburgh.
The next stage for me is to try and get the bike re-registered back into its original number, thereon I hope to restore it to as close to its original condition as possible. As the lights were taken off straight away I would be grateful for any suggestions as to what type of lights were fitted. Originally the bike has rock guards fitted also.
If anyone has any photos of the bike at Greeves with Robbie Allan and the Greeves staff or records showing its review in the clubman magazine I would be very grateful to hear from you via John Moffat and this site.
For more articles like this one or do you have one to share? Then have a look through Trials Guru – Dedicated to the Sport.
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Words: Trials Guru – Rob Farnham (Oz) – Mick Andrews
Additional comments by: Don Morley, Reigate, Surrey
Photos: Rob Farnham – Rob Edwards’ personal collection – Mick Andrews’ personal collection – Yoomee/John Hulme, England
What is 644BLB?
It was the registration number allocated in January 1961 to a 350 Matchless, which was used exclusively as an AJS and owned by the Associated Motor Cycles Ltd competition Department at Plumstead, South East London.
The motorcycle was to be used by factory supported riders and we know that AJS factory rider, Cliff Clayton used it in the 1961 Scottish Six Days Trial. Clayton was a member of the Barham MCC, and lived at Gillingham in Kent.
644BLB however, was to become better known in the trials world as Mick Andrews’ factory AJS, as he competed on it from 1962-1964 when factory supported. It was a machine that took Andrews on two consecutive occasions to the runner-up position in the Scottish Six Days Trial (winners Arthur Lampkin – BSA C15 – 1963 & Sammy Miller – Ariel – 1964).
Don Morley, the well-known photo journalist spent a great deal of time researching the works trials AMC machines when he was preparing his book, Classic British Trials Bikes which was published by Osprey. Don had photographed many, if not all, the factory models over the years.
Morley told Trials Guru when discussing some articles, that some AMC trials machines were registered as one marque but actually used as the badge engineered stablemate. 644BLB was one such machine, an AJS in use, but registered as a Matchless. The same method was employed for the machine registered 164BLL, issued to Gordon McLaughlan. There has never been a definitive reason for this other than perhaps the AJS 16C was a slightly more expensive model than the corresponding Matchless variant G3C and as the factories had to pay the then ‘Purchase Tax’ on a registered machine, perhaps they saw this as a way of saving some money?
Don told Trials Guru that: “I should really have paid more attention to the finer details of the works bikes when I had the chance back in the days when they were used week in, week out by the factory supported riders. I have questioned many of the stars of yesteryear about the finer points of the machines they rode some time later, to find that most hardly touched the machines as they usually were repaired, modified and serviced by the relevant competition departments. No disrespect intended, but I take most of the so-called modifications by riders with a pinch of salt.”
Where is 644BLB?
Our article begins with a message sent through social media to Rob Edwards, the former factory Cotton, Montesa and, at one time, AJS teamster. Rob had ridden a factory supported but privately bought AJS in the 1964 and 1965 SSDT, it was registered ‘970PL’ and had bought it from Comerfords in 1963.
The enquiry came to Rob Edwards facebook page in December 2016 from Rob Farnham from Queensland, Australia (who we will refer to as ‘Oz’, his shortened internet name, for the rest of the story) who had seen Rob’s story on Trials Guru and a reference to his promotional trip with his employers, Montesa Motorcycles ‘down under’ in 1975. A photo was within Rob’s story sitting on a 350 AJS which Noel Shipp of Wollongong owned at the time and was reputedly Mick Andrews’ AJS factory machine.
Oz picks up the story: “I purchased the bike from Noel Shipp in December 2008, as being a bit of and AMC competition bike nut, it was an opportunity too good to miss. Sadly Noel was unwell then and died in the September of 2012.
Noel had shipped 644BLB out from the UK in 1970. I have a note of who he purchased it from, but he was actually after another trials machine, a Triumph I think, but took the AJS as his second choice.
Obvious changes have been made between 1964 and 1970, mainly the bottom frame rails and footrest hangers.”
“I have done very little to it as I have too many projects but was only spurred into motion following a request from John Cuff, a member of the bike club I’m a member of, the Historical Motorcycle Club of Queensland as he needed some bikes for club magazine articles for 2017. He had seen my Matchless G80CS but knew nothing of the 350 AJS, 644BLB. His main interest is trials and competition machines so he was very excited when he saw it.
Most of my previous research had drawn a blank so was quite excited myself on Rob Edwards response to my post on his facebook page.”
Oz had been doing a lot of digging in an attempt to catalogue the machine’s history, but over the years details of ownership had been lost and of course never rely on people’s memories.
Oz had heard that after Mick Andrews had handed the AJS back to Plumstead, Gordon Blakeway had ridden it. This was false as Blakeway had been issued with 187BLF, the ex-Gordon Jackson machine when Andrews was still riding 644BLB for the factory and was subsequently riding the 250 James (306AKV) for AMCs in 1965.
It was likely that after Andrews moved on, 644BLB would have been moved on also as the factory was in financial decline and several machines were sold off to dealers, the most noteable being Comerfords in Thames Ditton, Surrey and it was most likely that 644BLB would have found its way to this dealer given their connections with the factory.
Oz clarifies how he undertood matters initially: “I was actually led to believe that Rob Edwards had made his debut in the Scottish Six Days on 644BLB in 1965. This was caused by the caption in ‘British Trials Motorcycles’ by Bruce Main-Smith on pages 12 and 13 which read: ‘Rob Edwards (opposite bottom) made his Scottish debut on Andrews’ ex-works 350 AJS, with unofficial factory support’. The photo does show Rob Edwards, but I now know through Trials Guru’s Rob Edwards Story and AJS & Matchless Trials articles that this was actually Rob’s own private but factory supported AJS (970PL). The photo in Main-Smith’s book was taken from a rear view and the machine had lost it’s rear registration number plate, making identification difficult. On top of this, Noel Shipp had told me Rob Edwards had been a privateer rider post 1964, which is one of the reasons I contacted Rob Edwards via his Facebook page.”
In reality, Rob Edwards had taken over the berth left in the AJS official team for the 1965 Scottish Six Days, riding his own AJS, suitably modified as Andrews’ mount 644BLB was not available, this occurred due to Andrews moving to ride the James. So why did the AJS competition manager not allocate 644BLB to Rob Edwards? That may remain a mystery, was it by then sold off or did they not have time to prepare it for the arduous SSDT?
Oz is keen to find out who purchased and rode 644BLB from around 1964 until it was exported to Australia in the 1970s. He still has the road fund licence tax disc from 1970 with the index ‘644BLB’ and ‘350 Matchless’. This would be the last time the machine was road registered in the UK.
Research indicated that as the machine had left the UK shores, the registration mark had become void due to the mid 1970s ‘amnesty’ that was afforded owners to have their vehicles applied to the DVLA computer at Swansea.
For many years it was thought that the ex-Gordon Jackson AJS (187BLF) had been exported to Australia, even Jackson himself believed it to be so, but it was actually the Clayton/Andrews machine 644BLB that had gone ‘down under’.
The AJS & Matchless Owners Club were contacted in January 2000, but their archivist, Mrs Pat Hughes confirmed that the later competition model records were missing, they had all the road going machine despatch details from 1946 onwards. So another blank was drawn, but the important thing is that the machine still exists half way around the world from where it was built and used. The only confirmation was that the motor number stamped on the crankcases was that of a 1961 model G3C Matchless.
The Mick Andrews connection:
Mick Andrews has been asked many times what he did for a living and simply answers that he commenced a motor mechanic apprenticeship with Kennings when he left school in his home town of Buxton in Derbyshire, but quickly earned a place in the AJS factory trials team riding their works prepared 350cc 16C model, registered as 644BLB at seventeen years of age in late 1961. His name had been put forward to AMC’s Hugh Viney by Ralph Venables. Viney had sent a letter to Andrews, which was the way it was done back then, offering him an AJS.
Mick Andrews told Trials Guru: “I had a Matchless which my Dad Tom bought for me and I had some good rides on that. I came home from work one day and my Dad said that I had better have a look in the garage and there stood a gleaming AJS sent up by Hugh Viney for me to ride. It was 644BLB with a blue tank and gold lining, it looked beautiful”.
Andrews first appearance on the factory AJS was at the national St. Davids Trial in Wales when he partnered Gordon Jackson and Gordon McLaughlan. That was in 1962, also Andrews’ first time in the Scottish Six Days Trial. In 1963, Mick was second in the SSDT to Arthur Lampkin. Andrews went on to not only win many national trials on 644BLB, but it also established him as a force to be reckoned with in the sport. His last SSDT on 644BLB was the 1964 event, again finishing runner up to Ariel’s Sammy Miller, riding in the factory team comprising of Gordon Blakeway (187BLF) and Gordon McLaughlan (164BLL) with the fuel tanks refinished in ivory white with simplified lining and gold monogram, the penultimate time an AJS team would compete in the annual classic. In 1965, the final AJS team comprised of Gordon McLaughlan (164BLL); Gordon Blakeway (187BLF) and new recruit, Rob Edwards (970PL) who took the best 350cc cup.
Mick Andrews: “I did hear many years ago that my old works AJS had been sold to someone in Australia, but I never did see it again. It’s nice to hear that it is still around, OK maybe not exactly as I rode it, but still it’s good that it has survived this long. I was in New Zealand with my wife Jill in 2010 and a bloke came up to me and said, you’re Mick Andrews! I said how do you know me? The chap replied, ‘well I moved out here some years ago, but I did all the work on your AJS, I worked in the comp shop’. I couldn’t believe it, you see Hugh Viney told my Dad and I that we were not allowed to modify or change things on the motorcycle, so my dad sent the AJS back to the factory every Monday morning and they sent it back up to Buxton so I could ride it at the weekend, we never really touched it the whole time I rode for the factory. I never met the guy before, but he made sure the motorcycle was well prepared each week for me to ride.”
Andrews continued: “When I rode for AJS I always rode with the long-stroke motor, never the short-stroke, I didn’t like them. They seemed to suit Gordon Jackson, he liked the sharper power delivery, but it wasn’t my choice. In 1964 we were all offered 250 James to ride, the two Gordons were not happy and handed them back, but I said to the then AMC team manager Eddie Wiffen, that I’ll stick with the James (306AKV) and never looked back.”
The long stroke motor looks to have stayed with 644BLB and having examined the engine number it is that of a 1961 G3C Matchless and is in keeping with known serial numbers. The factory did not usually build special factory bikes from scratch, they normally chose one or two from the production line and used these to register them for road use. They were usually tested and them the dispatch clerks booked them out to the ‘Competition Department’.
So what happened to 644BLB after its time as a works machine expired? It is still a bit of a mystery, apart from the obvious, that it was exported from the UK to Australia. Motorcycles change hands and sometimes many hands at that. Without the old style ‘Registration Book’ or buff log book as they were universally referred, it makes it difficult to trace a machines’ history.
What is known is that this AJS, or Matchless as it was registered with the authorities is concerned, was sold off, through a main dealer is most likely as many ex-factory AMC machines were disposed of in this manner.
At one stage, the registration number re-appeared on a 350 AJS in the annual Pre’65 Scottish trial at Kinlochleven in the hands of Andrew Arden, whose father Maurice was the man behind Big John Products, a one time sponsor of Mick Andrews. However, it wasn’t the original machine, it had been in Australia for 15 years or more and the machine was a replica, the dummy registration number plates used purely as a ‘nod’ to Andrews achievements on his original Plumstead built machine.
It was discovered that Noel Shipp bought 644BLB from a UK sales agent, a Stan ‘Rodwell’ or ‘Phelps’ based in Ilford, Essex, so the motorcycle was shipped over.
From photos taken in 1975 during Rob Edwards and Mick Andrews trip to Australia, one notices that the bottom frame rails had been removed and replaced by a plated assembly which gave a flush area to mount an alloy sump-shield in an attempt to loose some weight. This was not a factory modification as AMC believed in making the factory machines look exactly like the standard production competition models.
Having said that, the late model factory trials machines all sported the lowered rear subframe and short, but kicked up rear mudguard fixing loop. This allowed shorter rear suspension units to be deployed while maintaining the same rear wheel movement.
The tank appears to have been changed over the years. Initially it had an alloy competition tank finished in blue and gold lining.
Oz: “As previously mentioned Noel Shipp fitted the black 2 gallon AJS competition tank at some point although when he got the bike it had the red fibreglass Matchless G85 style tank on it. This is actually an interesting tank as its shape and fitting is definitely for a G85 but there is a drip recess around the fuel cap and the bottom of the tank is finished off quite roughly. It has ‘R. E. G Mouldings’ inscribed on the bottom, maybe someone over in the UK knows of them?
I bought a polished alloy Lyta Gordon Jackson style tank from Rickmans for another project which requires a fully painted tank, it seems a shame to rough up such a nice tank and I eventually found the black and silver painted tank on eBay, so my current plan is to use the painted tank for the other project and the nice shiny one could be painted up similar to the one used by Gordon Jackson.”
History of course records that Andrews rode the 1964 Scottish with a Jackson style tank in off-white/ivory with the gold AJS monogram.
Oz confirms that the primary chaincase has an alloy inner case with an outer steel component. Production AMC trials machines were never supplied with alloy chaincases, only the factory ones had them.
Oz who is a lover of originality added: “Of course there is always the matter of whether the bike should be conserved as it is or perhaps restored back to factory finish circa 1964. While 187BLF looks very nice, any traces of its history will have been wiped away during the extensive restoration, in my opinion it has been somewhat over done.”
“At present 644 is neither ‘fish nor fowl’ as the wheels have been restored, the tank isn’t original to any period, I have the correct style of tank and muffler, and a very good frame repairer who is more than capable of making original pattern bottom rails, however I have several other projects before I even think about what should be done with it, so that may be an interesting area for discussion on your website?”
So there we have it. It would appear that the former AMC factory AJS, 644BLB has found a new home at the other side of the world, without the factory dispatch records it isn’t possible to identify 100% and without a shadow of a doubt this is the ex-Andrews machine, but the evidence certainly points firmly that it is.
It’s a nice end, because if this is truly 644BLB, then its good news that it survives and hasn’t gone to the AMC factory trials machine graveyard and it’s in a good home.
Or is this the end of the story? We will have to wait and see because researching old motorcycles history is something that never really stops.
Trials Guru … 644BLB Post Script!
James Holland founder of JHS Racing Ltd the motorcycle performance centre in Bristol, read this article and came in with additional information.
James: “Back in 1998 I made contact with Noel Shipp in Australia as I was keen to establish the whereabouts of Mick Andrews’ ex-works AJS. Noel wrote to me and sent me some photographs of the bike he had bought from England some years previously. He wanted around £5,000 for it, which in 1998 was a lot of money for a machine that was many thousands of miles away. I was very tempted, but I had to be sure that it was the real deal. I spoke to Mick about it when the photos arrived, but it had been many years since he last saw the AJS and of course he didn’t do much work on it as the factory took care of all that.
There were some details that did point to it being a works AJS, but I had a lot of committment going on back then and I decided that I wouldn’t re-import the bike and left it at that.
Noel Shipp sent me a nice letter in the November of 1998 and also detailed separately the frame and engine numbers which I believe are still valid to this day having spoken with John Moffat who was given them in confidence by Rob Farnham.
It’s amazing that this article should be written many years after I walked away from a deal that could have re-united Mick with the first factory machine he ever rode in anger and on which he was propelled to stardom.” – James Holland, Bristol
Interactive Trials Guru – Do you have information about 644BLB that you would like to share and perhaps have added to this article? Get in touch using this online form:
Jon Stoodley is a trials superenthusiast and more, who lives in Muskogee, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, United States of America.
He has been a reader/follower of Trials Guru from the very start and he has kindly written this article for us.
Photos provided by Jon Stoodley/JSE Trials
An observant man once said, to the effect, “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you.” Each of us came into the sport of Trials or ‘Mototrials’ as it is called in some areas, from different directions. Some of us were, in a way, born into the sport as a result of their father’s or even grandfather’s influence. Some, like me, were involved in other forms of motorsports and thought we would ‘give Trials a shot’ and took up the sport.
I had been involved in racing cars and motorcycles as a hobby since I was 15 years old and one fateful night, in 1971, while I was sitting on my TT bike, waiting for the flagman to start my race, I looked around and thought to myself, “Darn. These guys are trying to run me over all the time and I’m not having fun anymore!” So, that was it, I sold my bike and equipment and just took some time off to see what I wanted to do next. As I always loved motorcycles, I was pretty sure they would be involved somehow in my future, but to what extent, I didn’t know.
A short time later, I went to a big off-road motorcycle and equipment show in South San Francisco. There were lots of bikes and stuff on display as well as local motorcycle sports clubs being represented. Over in one corner, was a small booth with a group of riders who had some of their bikes on display. The bikes were weird looking little things with little seats and what looked like street tires on them. I had seen a few photos of them in magazines, so I had an idea they were what was called ‘Observed Trials’ bikes and a bunch of guys in the U.K. bounced around on them all over the countryside. They didn’t look loud, mean or terribly fast like other racing bikes but they were very compact and simple.
One of the riders at the booth came over to me and in a friendly way, asked me if I was interested in riding the, new to me, sport of Observed Trials. I told him I didn’t know much about the sport but was curious. He introduced himself, “I’m Whitey Webb and I’d be happy for you to meet some of the other riders here.” Whitey took me over to the group, which was friendly and welcoming and obviously really enjoyed the sport they were involved in. I hung around their booth for some time and Whitey turned out to be a good salesman as I decided to give this weird sport a try at their next event. There is a Zen saying that goes, ‘When the Student is ready, the Teacher will appear.’
I guess I was ready as a great teacher appeared. Whitey Webb is the father of Kip Webb, a top level U.S. National Trials rider as well as the grandfather of Cody Webb, past U.S. National Trials and EnduroCross Champion. I guess I got real lucky!
So, I converted a bike I had laying around the shop and showed up at my first Trials event, secure in the knowledge that an experienced and supremely talented racer such as myself would surely show this bunch of old ladies how to REALLY ride a motorcycle, well, we all know what happened next. I flopped, dabbed, crashed, dragged and moaned myself through the sections and loop and generally made a complete fool of myself. My shins were as bruised and bloody as my over-inflated ego at the end……but, you know what? …. I actually had fun. Looking back, I had lots of fun and everybody was helpful and encouraged me to keep going and, most of the time anyway, didn’t laugh when I made rookie mistakes and I made a LOT of them.
That was it, I was hooked. Something about this, in the U.S. anyway, relatively unknown sport spoke to me. It was challenging and rewarded personal effort, but most of all, it was enjoyable, if even in a sadomasochistic way at times. But there was something else….the people. This sport attracted a certain kind of person and I became aware that these were the kind of people I wanted to be around.
As far as motorsports is concerned, Trials is a weird sport. It’s a lot like golf in that I have friends who are as passionate about golf as I am about Trials. They are always buying the latest, high-tech equipment and a couple of them have even been to Golf’s Mecca, the famous St. Andrew’s Links in Scotland. Trials is also like Golf in that it looks so simple but in reality, is much more complex than a description would indicate. Don’t believe me? Try explaining Golf to a person who has never heard of it: “Well see, you got this little stick and this little ball. There are a bunch of holes in this huge lawn and you try to knock this little ball into the holes with as few whacks as possible. You win if your score is smaller than all the other people. It’s really exciting!”
Then there’s Trials: “Well you see, we got these spindly little motorcycles with no seats. We look for places that nobody would ever ride on (and some places you can’t even walk over) and thrash these little bikes through rushing water, boulders, and other nasty stuff while trying not to fall off.
Oh, yea, and we do it for hours on end in rain, snow, sleet and flood. It’s really exciting!” You can get an idea of what I mean, in that the physical description does not do justice to the reality of the experience.
In Psychology it’s called “having a mental equivalence”, in that the person you are describing the experience to, does not have the retrievable mental images necessary to accurately frame the physical descriptions you are giving them.
What is it about this sport that I enjoy?
Well, you get to ride for hours in some of the most beautiful scenery around. It’s personally challenging and rewards practice and commitment.
The other participants are helpful and supportive, probably because we are all trying to solve the same problem of trying to ride the section successfully. We all have a common purpose.
The bikes, in comparison to other forms of motorcycle sports, are a lot less expensive and you can get a good entry level bike at a very reasonable price. The bikes, in most cases, are well under-stressed in use and seem to last forever. At least here in the U.S., trying to find a Trials bike in a motorcycle salvage yard is next to impossible. They are just passed on from one rider to a new owner.
I’ve rode events alongside first-time beginners and World Champions and in what other sport can you say that? You can ride just for fun or compete on a serious level, the sport allows for both types of riders at the same time.
Trials is a reasonably safe sport and injuries are rare. A Clubman rider can compete on Sunday and he or she can have a more than reasonable expectation that they can report for work on Monday, unscathed. The list of positive attributes of this sport goes on and on.
Another point is that Trials riders are, as a general rule, easily approachable and love to share. It’s fun for me to wander around the event pits and talk to riders. If I admire one of their bikes, inevitably the next thing I hear is “want to take it for a ride?”
The approachability factor applies not only to Clubman riders but also to World Champions. I’ve chatted with Martin Lampkin when he got to my sections early (even though I knew, in part, he was buttering me up so I’d go easy on Dougie if there was a close call on his scoring. Martin was as good a salesman and had as good a sense of humor as Whitey Webb), I’ve drank beer and talked about motorcycles with Mick Andrews for an afternoon, sat around camp with Tommi Ahvala and talked about everything and sat with Dani Oliveira, 125 World Champion, in the GasGas pits while he was putting on some small parts he had brought from Spain to make an otherwise stock bike work at the World Round level.
This reminds me that Trials is primarily a sport of talent, not machinery. At the World level, of course, the competition is so intense that any advantage, however slight, is important but for most of us mere mortals, the bikes anyone can buy are essentially race-ready and require little preparation. I don’t know of any other motorsport here in the U.S. that one can buy a stock bike, do reasonable maintenance and adjustment and enter it in a National event and have a good chance of doing well, it not winning. Trials is a ‘no excuses’ sport.
The sport of Trials has, and continues, to mean a lot to me. I’ve got long time Trials friends all over the world because we share a common experience. The very nature of Trials competition promotes camaraderie and friendship and I would imagine this is because of the fact that we are alone in the section and essentially competing against ourselves. Like I say, Trials is a ‘no excuses’ sport, you can’t blame the other riders for cutting you off in the turn, running into you or jumping the flag at the start.
I love Trial’s rich history, it is one of the oldest and most enduring forms of motorsports there is and one only has to look to the Scottish Six Day Trial to get an idea of the sport’s remarkable lineage. Although I don’t compete anymore I really, really enjoy helping to set up an event, helping new riders and observing a section.
I sometimes think I enjoy checking a section more than I did riding in competition. Even after checking sections at three World Rounds, numerous Nationals and over a hundred plus clubman events, I still love standing in a section encouraging the riders. I always want the riders to do well in my section and I always get there early to make sure it is safe, there are no tree branches hanging down in their way, no unnecessary debris is at the entrance or exits, the boundaries are secure and whatever I need to do to make the section as trouble-free yet challenging as I can.
I enjoy seeing the riders analyze the section, picking unique lines through the obstacles and then using their talents to conquer the problems set before them. I take pride in the fact that Trials riders help each other and you only have to see the upper class riders take time to answer the questions of the lower class riders and watch as the spectators cheer on and encourage both beginners and World Champions.
I like the fact that people of all ages and genders can be involved in this equal opportunity sport and even old geezers like me can participate to whatever level they enjoy. I probably appreciate my time spent with other Trials people now more than I ever have. There are not many activities one can say that about.
When my friend, John Moffat, asked if I would write a piece for The Trials Guru, I first thought of a technical article. Through the years, I have written many technical articles for both Motocross and Trials publications but John suggested: “how about a letter from America?” This got me to thinking, “how about a love letter to Trials?” a passion that chose me and I’ve enjoyed for over 46 years and counting. I’ve tried to give back to Trials what my talents would allow. It’s been a really good investment as Trials has rewarded me tenfold. I love this sport.- Jon Stoodley
The Premier Trial Sport Website for photos, articles, news and the history of motorcycle trials
Words: Trials Guru – KK Cameron – Rob Sutherland – Tommy Sandham – Raymond Leitch – Mairi Grant
Photos: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven – Grant Family Archive, Rogart – David Sutherland, Brora
Back in the mid 1960s and up to the late 1970s, there was a unique event organised in the rural county of Sutherland in northern Scotland. It was called the ‘White Heather Trial’ promoted by the Sutherland Car & Motor Cycle Club and was the most northerly permitted motorcycle trial in the United Kingdom.
Held on a Saturday because of the deeply religious area being predominantly Free Church of Scotland which scorned sporting activities on a Sunday, the organisers respected this and therefore capitulated.
This allowed the Lochaber club, based in the Fort William area, to organise a Sunday event where the Free Church influence was not quite so strong and this made for a unique trialling weekend in the north of Scotland. This created a weekend of events in the Highlands of Scotland, not a two day event as such, but two days with events.
Centred at the hamlet of Rogart, which means: ‘great enclosed field’ it was a somewhat dispersed crofting community with the nearest village being Golspie, some nine miles distant. However Rogart does have a railway station and this had opened up the area somewhat over the years.
The trial started at Rogart and used sections at Davoch; Rhemusaig; Reidchalmie; Pitfire; Sonny’s; Kinnauld; Kerrow and Sciberscross in the Glen of Strath Brora.
Scibercross Lodge was built in 1876 and was one of the many hunting lodges built for, and by, the Third Duke of Sutherland.
The Grant Brothers – The Prime Movers:
Whilst there were a number of local club members that assisted in the running of the trial, the prime movers of the Sutherland & District Motor Club, White Heather Trial were undoubtedly the Grant brothers, John and Bill.
John was the older and Bill the younger, twin sons of Ian Grant and Jessie Magarry, born on 4th July 1928 at Dalmore, Rogart.
The family home called ‘Rowallan’ was built in 1889. Ian Grant moved along the road to the Bungalow when he married Jessie as his father was still Rowallan. They were only out of Rowallan for a year or two, but it was never bought. This is where the Grants ran their grocery business for many years.
They lived in Rogart all their days, the only exception being the time they spent in the Middle East during a stint in the obligatory National Service.
John and Bill left Rogart to train at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, serving as motorcycle dispatch riders as part of the Royal Signals, until 1949. They then returned home to help their parents run the family business.
John and Bill Grant’s connection with the Scottish Six Days Trial began with Bill becoming an observer in 1967. This was followed by a commitment as Chief Marshall before Bill became the Assistant Secretary to Ally Findlay where his in-depth knowledge of the event was invaluable.
The SSDT ‘influence’ was evidenced with the type of competition numbers allocated to competitors at the White Heather. The riders had a large numeral on black background fixed to the front and nearside of their machines in the late 1960 events. An idea taken from the SSDT at that time.
Not ‘medically identical’ twins, the Grant brothers were fiendish practical jokers. Some may remember the pranks that John and Bill played when they took their turn at attending the SSDT in alternate years, because the ‘absent one’ stayed at Rogart to run the family business in the village. Many people, including riders and officials didn’t realise there were two Grant brothers, because they were so alike in both appearance and mannerisms!
Daughter of John Grant, Mairi, former SSDT Secretary told Trials Guru: “They generally took their bikes down to the SSDT at Fort William. They would head down the main road to Beauly, then cut over the top to Drumnadrochit before heading on down to Fort William, a delightful run even today“.
The Grants had a preference for Velocette road motorcycles, which led to them to convince the marque owners club to hold their national rally at Rogart, run in the August.
John Grant passed away in 1998 aged 70 and ten years later, brother Bill aged 80 years in December 2008.
Trials Guru’s John Moffat: “I got to know Bill and his twin brother John through the friendship they struck up with my late father, many years before I found myself working with Bill in the SSDT office at the Milton Hotel in 2002. When I was 18, I observed at the SSDT in 1976 and Bill was Chief Marshall that year and his nightly ‘Briefing Meetings’ were a mandatory part of the duties and that was where he imparted his direction and knowledge to the officials and observers.
Bill‘s advice was always positive and he was a very knowledgeable chap to have on call as his experience gained through many years helping both Jim McColm and Ali Findlay, indeed steered me through a very adventurous week in Fort William in 2002.
We had great fun in the office, as he always had some story or other to tell in the short lull between the workload. As most of the stories he told me involved previous Scottish Six Days Trials, I must say I was always enthralled by them! He usually began his ‘lesson’ by saying the now immortal words: ‘Now, let me tell you this … ‘
I for one listened intently to what Bill had to say for this was the time to learn. I didn’t interrupt him. He had such a relaxed style that anyone who ignored him probably did so at their peril and no doubt came ‘unstuck’ shortly after!
The motto should read: When an experienced person speaks, it pays dividends to listen.
The Grant brothers have now passed into Scottish Trials folklore, they were true motorcycle enthusiasts“.
Competitors memories of the White Heather:
Kenneth ‘KK’ Cameron, from Fort William:
“The bike you see in the photo came from Donald Buchan dealership in Perth, most of my bikes were from either Donald or Jimmy Morton at Sorn, Ayrshire. My memories of the White Heather are that it was a great trial and one I rode many times. The one thing that I remember well was riding with Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron and ‘RM’ – Roger Mount, Allie affectionately called us by our initials.
We were looking a difficult section up on a steep hillside, that no-one was cleaning. After looking at it for a while, Allie told us how to ride it. Approach quite fast in second, shut off power till you reach here, then give it a wee squirt here and shut off again, then another and so on. I can’t remember how many ‘wee squirts’ were needed but there were quite a few. Allie then gave us a ‘master class’ on how to do it. Allie was a brilliant rider, needless to say neither ‘RM’ or ‘KC’ followed his example“. – Kenneth Cameron, Fort William
Tommy Sandham, author – Four-Stroke Finale, The Honda Trials Story, originally from Airdrie, now Magor, Monmouthshire:
“I remember the White Heather trial. I think I did it twice and recall it was held on a Saturday, so that meant either a day off or a half-day on Friday to travel up to Sutherland. I was based in Airdrie then so it was quite a trek with a trailer.
I well remember riding round and coming into a village and there was a Policeman standing in the middle of the road waving the trials bikes through! The first and only time I recall this happening. Then we had a lunch stop which again was unusual and the village hall was filled with cakes, sandwiches etc made by the local people. Everyone seemed to be involved!
When the White Heather was finished it used to be a rush back South to Fort William where there was another trial on the Sunday.
The weekend involved two bed & breakfasts and a lot of miles to cover but it was once a year and I remember it very fondly“. – Tommy Sandham, Magor, Wales
Rob Sutherland from Brora, now living in New Zealand:
“I’ve spent some time trying to recollect the goings on of the White Heather so here they are”.
“My uncle, John MacDonald, my Mums brother who resides in Rogart to this day, was a clubman rider and former SSDT competitor on an ex- Brian Payne AJS (YNC526), which he bought from Alex Smith. I spent much of my early years with my grandparents in Rogart so the ‘WH’ was an on your tongue word being probably the biggest one day event in the Parish, apart from the annual sheep and cattle sales”.
“Uncle John had become an organiseralong with Billy and John Grant and with others whom I cannot remember the names of now. By the time I started riding the event in 1976 on my brand new 348 Montesa Cota, I had been an active spectator prior to then and from memory, to me it could have been a world championship having riders of note travelling up from the North East of England which back then was to a young boy another country. They competed along with the prestige of Scottish riders such as Roger Mount, Ally Macgillivray and riders of their era.
Not forgetting that weekend was a double-header as the Lochaber trial was held on the Sunday, which I suppose made the long trip more worthwhile for the far travelled riders.
I had followed the trial on my late 1960s 250 Cota from the age of fourteen as I was very familiar in getting to see the Rogart side of the trial without riding on the public roads so you can imagine how I yearned to be sixteen and get in there with the stars who could clean what a young boy thought impossible“.
Sutherland continued: “I bought my 1976 348 with a five hundred pounds loan and topped the massive £799.00 purchase price of with my apprentice wages. The bike came from McGowans Motorcycles in Inverness and the salesman was Billy Lumsden who was, at that time, one of the top local riders and rode a Beamish Suzuki. Billy tragically lost his life in a road bike crash in Inverness. His younger Mike continued the tradition, as he rode trials with Gavin Johnson in the early days.
My first ‘WH’ was the 1976 event as I had just turned seventeen two weeks prior and as I think it may have been the first year schoolboys were allowed to ride, as long as our parents collected us for the public highway part of the trial which ran from Rogart North West to the Kerrow and Scriberscross, then down the Glen into Golspie before heading back to the Mound for the Aberscross and quarry group of sections.
The trial route changed yearly although some of the hardest sections were kept, but it did give the diversity with different sections to ride. It may just be my memory but I seem to remember large numbers of spectators at sections which only added to the competition a young sixteen year old from the Highlands could dream of, having spectated at the SSDT and having some of the big names from the SSDT ride in my own backyard.
I rode three White Heathers I think before getting into motocross, but had so much fun riding and practicing with John Moodie, Ray Leitch and the travelling adventures attending all Scottish championship trials. In fact I think the last ‘WH’ I rode in, a young John Lampkin was there on an SWM along with Glen Scholey and Rob Edwards taking in the double header weekend.
I remember these riders taking part… Steve ‘Butch’ Robson, who would become my best man; Gordon Butterfield; Dave Younghusband; Rob Stamp; Geoff McDonnell; Ray Crinson; John Winthrop; Robin Cownie; Walter Dalton; Keith Johnston; Casper Mylius; Alan Adamson; John White; Billy Matthews; Roy Kerr and Graham Smith from Hawick“. – Rob Sutherland, New Zealand.
Douglas Bald, Scottish Trials Champion in 1968:
“I have very happy memories of the white heather trial , can’t remember much about the actual event itself, but I do remember this occurrence no names but his initials were I. D. B. M; he liked a serious ‘swallie’ (drink) and as always l was the chauffeur.
We decided to go to the local barn dance and as would happen, we got back to our digs late to find the place dark and lock fast. This gave us no alternative but to gain entry, it unfortunately coincided with the local ‘Bobby’ doing his beat.
It took some explaining I.D.B.M was always a little argumentive after a drink and to this day it was the nearest l have ever been to being lifted by the Constabulary!
I can’t remember the date, but the police car was a Morris 1000!“
Iain Lawrie captured the action in 1979…
Ray Leitch who lived at Culloden, near Inverness:
“My very first White Heather trial I ever rode was in 1976 and I was number 1, but I lost the kick start on my Montesa Cota 247 half way through the event. Lots of ‘bump starts’ later and I finished about second last! I got betetr after that though.
I was sponsored by ‘Cawdor Castle Tourism’ and my brother Sid hand painted their monogram on the tank. That is the Bultaco you see here supplied originally by Stodarts of Oban, but later fitted with the Steve Wilson frame and swinging arm.
Those are Marzocchi air shocks which were modified from a set off a KTM motocross bike. Also riding round the trial with Rob Edwards was for me the highlight of all the White Heather trials I competed in“. – Ray Leitch
Simon C. Valente from Edinburgh, now in Yorkshire:
“My first ride in the White Heather was I think in 1975, in 1977 I returned, travelling with my elder brother Peter and Graham Smith of Hawick, who was then an up and coming rider working towards his peak of winning the Scottish championship a few years later, in Graham’s Volkswagen camper van.
A few minutes before the start, opposite the Rogart Hotel, a small crowd had gathered to watch Willie Dalling who was on a 348 Montesa at the time, flailing away with a foot pump to square up his rear tyre on the rim. Suddenly an almighty bang, reminiscent of the one o’clock gun going off at Edinburgh Castle, reverberated around the village, as Willie’s inner tube exploded inside the tyre.
Being a strong and sometimes fiery character, you could almost see the steam exuding from Willie’s collar as, without a word, he unbuckled his watch and handed it to his wife Creena before starting the task of replacing the tube.
Meanwhile the audience turned away in respectful silence to leave Willie to work off his temper with the tyre levers!
That year was the first when Rob Edwards came to Rogart to take on and of course beat Scotland’s finest of the time, Alan Poynton, John Winthrop, Robin Cownie et al, and local favourite John Moodie from Rovie Farm. I collected a first class award on my TY175 Yamaha.
The trial was a heck of an adventure, after an early start it must have been past 5 o’clock when we were tackling the final section, before packing up and joining the charge towards Fort William for the Lochaber trial the next day – Great days!” – Simon C. Valente
Peter Valente from Edinburgh:
“I recall Rob Edwards offering me his spare front brake for the following day’s trial after the linings came off mine on the 348. I should have taken it as riding without a front brake was a bit hairy – not to mention getting down from the top of Sciberscross.
Still the strongest memory of the trial is Willie Dalling using a footpump to square his rear tyre on the rim just before we were due to start. One of the bystanders asked Willie how he would know when he had got the tyre hard enough. Someone (it might have been me) said that when it went bang you would know that it was just too hard, at which point the tube burst. I’m sure you can imagine Willie’s reaction as he set to while the trial departed.
Then there was the rope with a bit wood on the end to go behind the stanchions to haul riders up a waterfall section that many fived. No doubt we’d find that one easy enough nowadays“. – Peter C. Vanente
White Heather Photo Collection of the Grant Family, Rogart:
Tommy Milton Junior, originally from Edinburgh now Northern Virginia, in Washington DC:
“A great dip into nostalgia remembering the trial at Rogart. I believe it became one of the events that counted towards the Scottish Championship.
I know I took part in it at least twice; you have produced the evidence for that, but I cannot remember if I rode a third or even fourth time.
By the autumn of 1968 I was only back in Scotland intermittently, as I had started working for British Road Services based in Oxford.
I really liked this trial. Attractive area, welcoming local people, well organised event, with the Club even fixing accommodation. I stayed with a very nice couple and I remember the lady made a terrific breakfast.
And, finally, the sections were mostly rocky climbs, which suited me and, especially, my Ariel”.
“I also remember the trial finished at what I think was the local cattle market. The first time I rode, many people came to join in the general socialising, including a number of pretty teenage girls all dressed in Highland gear. I remarked to one that it was very nice of them to have welcomed us lowlanders by dressing up. Oh no, she smiled, we’ve just got back from a dance competition in Golspie!
I am grateful to see the photographs of me on my Ariel, RFS651, which I still have. I bought this bike from Davy Dryden from Uphall, West Lothian.
I had always wanted an HT5 since, as a kid, I had watched Laurie McLean practising on our pushbike trials area, and when we were all at the E&D clubroom one Sunday night after a trial I overheard Davy complaining that he could not get to grips with it.
So later we agreed a deal. I was very happy and I think I won two or three trials with it in 1967/68 season. I have always wondered if anybody has won a Scottish open event on a Classic 50’s four stroke since then?“.
More images and information on White Heather Trial to follow shortly.
Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven
Grant Family Collection, Rogart
Special thanks to all the contributors, photographers and riders who have shared their memories of the White Heather on Trials Guru.
This article and photo-feature is dedicated to the people of Sutherland in north Scotland and in particular the Grant family of Rogart. It now sits in the Trials Guru ‘special section’ entitled ‘Great Scots’.
Did you ride at Rogart in the White Heather? Then tell us about it, maybe we can add your memory on this article.
Interactive Trials Guru:
Riders’ memories of The White Heather:
Richard Mackintosh, Inverness:
“My first ever competitive trial was the 1976 White Heather. An event that was to kindle a lifelong interest in the sport albeit sometimes interrupted by that nasty thing called work. I learned the rudiments of riding in a local woods and streams in and around Beauly from late 1975 on my fairly decent Ossa Mar, a £300 purchase from A. N. Other! Finding some out some months later that another Beauly lad John ‘Bull’ Davidson who by this time lived in Inverness was right into the sport too and palled around with previously spoken about Billy Lumsden. That led to getting some tips, advice and garnering further interest and being able to get a wee bit more practice in I guess. Anyway, trying to run before I could walk I entered the trial and had so much fun. I have a recollection I was about 38th or so out of about 80 riders. Dropped a barrowload of marks but there were plenty of also rans behind me. I can’t recall but it was probably the following year I became aware of the luminaries such as Rob Edwards being there too although it could have been that very year. Rob, a delightful fellow who I met briefly a number of times including my soon to follow 3 x SSDTs – another case of me trying to run before I could walk, had a great memory for faces and always had a few kind words. Back to the trial, it really was a great mix of sections, people looking on and you really felt part of something especially as a sport newcomer. All these cracking riders coming to participate and little old me being part of it. Just magic! The double-header of being able to shoot off to Fort William the following day , a bonus. Something,I’d forgotten about until I started reading this fine article. I think maybe 3 times or so I participated, Who could forget Robbie Sutherland in the coming seasons who really started to make his trials bike ‘speak’ and made us all envious when he got his 4 stroke CCM. Oh my, the sound! Ray Leitch, a fine rider often in the points. A shoogle here, a shoogle there, but feet firmly on the pegs. We travelled together to a number of trials and believe me, there weren’t many people who could get a Mk 3 Cortina and trailer chapping faster on the way home. Anyway, the White Heather, there couldn’t have been a better intro to the sport could there?” – Dick Mackintosh
Peter Bremner, Chairman Edinburgh & Disrict Motor Club Ltd:
“Well, this article brings back some great memories as Tommy Sandham said, it was a long drive up. Myself and Stan Young did that journey, we left Edinburgh about lunchtime and after a brief stop in Inverness at the West End chippy, non stop to Rogart in time for a couple of pints and it was 10.00 pm closing time in those days.
Seeing the picture of Tommy Milton Jnr, ‘Kerrow’ was one of his favourite sections. I managed it once for a dab, not only did I ride the trial, but was SACU steward a couple of times. On one occasion I came across Jock Fraser on the down side of the ‘Struie’ he had been involved in an accident. All the trials guys that were there duly helped get the bike on another trialer with Jock and his wife in another car.
His car was not driveable so what could be done with his trailer? I had my works van but no tow bar, but a single bike trailer can be wedged into a Ford Escort van with the doors only slightly open. There it stayed all the way back down to Fort William on the Sunday. And yes, the drive down to Fort William was interesting with trials bikes on trailers and pickups at various speeds!
My abiding memory is the way the whole village helped to put on the event“. – Peter Bremner
Ian ‘Midge’ Middleton of Dumbartonshire, an organiser of the Loch Lomond 2 Day Trial:
“I have recollections of the White Heather Trial and rode it from 1975 to the last one in 1983.
I was amazed to see the photograph of Geordie Shaw of Perth and Loch Lomond Clubs riding at the ‘Scriberscross’ sections on his Greeves in 1967″.
“That was quite a bit before my time, but I recognised him straight away, even before I saw the photograph caption. Geordie Shaw was great mentor to me and I couldn’t wait to have a go at the Trial, having heard all the tales from Geordie. Sadly Geordie passed away in 1975 when still quite young, probably aged mid-thirties or so. After a long and arduous drive in 1975 on roads that had not yet been upgraded or improved in any way it was tremendous adventure even just to get to Rogart, the Trial epicentre. There was no Dornoch or Kessock bridges, no improved A82 or A9 roads, and it was very much the long way round, traveling through many small villages and towns.
Once there myself and my two travelling companions ventured into the pub to be greeted by Pete and Simon Valente whose first words to me were..’you look absolutely shattered’. I certainly was bit tired having driven 225 miles on fairly primitive roads in a very slow van. I was even more shattered after the event, but very happy at having completed my very first White Heather Trial.
Even more amazing for me was to encounter the lads from County Durham, Weardale and North Yorkshire who would have had to travel at least twice the distance to get to Rogart. The well known folks from the far South from where I am sitting were ‘Big’ Billy Maxwell, Ray Crinson, Walter Dalton, Rob Edwards, Gordon Butterfield and Colin Ward Senior. After finishing the Trial, the next task was to get everybody packed up and into the van for another arduous drive South on Saturday evening to Fort William, for the Sunday Trial run by Lochaber Club. The White Heather was always a special and fantastic event, because it was a massive one lap trial with probably about 50 sections or so, and you were lucky to be finished at 5.30-6.00pm having set off at 10 in the morning. It seemed to closely resemble a day in the SSDT. I also remember lunch halts at a local school house which must have been opened up specially for the Trial. With the local ladies providing soup, sandwiches and tea. You had to be quick because time was short to get round the long lap.
The Grants also provided a route card with a sketch map of the route and the names of all the sections and section numbers. This was presumably all influenced by the SSDT processes, which having read the previous articles, the Grants were also already heavily involved with. Being a very long one lap fifty section Trial it was very challenging, but immensely enjoyable. For me, it was ‘not a walk in the park’ and that was all part of the challenge in taking part and actually finishing. There is probably nothing like it in today’s world, and it was a shame that it finished in 1983, because the younger lads of today are missing out on something really special. The sections called ‘Quarry’ was always pretty scary for me and they were always the last group at the end of the Trial when you were very tired. The group was just at the side of the main road leading to Rogart. You always had to be very careful to get the best line at the Quarry sections and have a really good blast up the steep rocky and narrow path, because if you were unlucky enough to fail and get a five, there was no way of restarting or going off to the side to get out of the sections.
If you took a five the only way out was to turn around and go back down which would have been a nightmare. That worry was the best incentive to get the right line, open the bike up and make bloody sure you got out the ends cards.I think I got through the Quarry sections without ever getting a five“. – Ian Middleton.
Ian Middleton kindly supplied Trials Guru with the official results for 1975/76/77/78 & 79:
Readers of Trials Guru will know of Rob Edwards and if you don’t then may we suggest that you have a read through Rob’s story by clicking on the link here on Trials Guru
Rob was probably best known as a factory rider and brand ambassador for the Spanish Montesa, but he started off as a local rider who competed on the international stage as his skills were honed.
Rob did however ride a multitude of machines in his early years, one of which was a 1963 350 AJS 16C which he bought from the Surrey dealers, Comerfords.
Words: John Moffat & Rob Edwards
Photos: All from Rob Edwards’ Private Collection – Photographers credit where known on each photograph, all rights reserved.
Edwards was to ride his AJS week in – week out and, having cut his teeth on his elder brothers’ Matchless, he knew how a big four-stroke performed.
A lucky break came in 1965, when Rob’s name was put forward to the AMC competition chief, Hugh Viney by factory riders, Gordon Blakeway and Gordon Mclaughlan who rode works machines for the Plumstead factory.
Rob was well known to the two Gordons as he lived in Thornaby with local noteable riders Blakeway and Mclaughlan, who had a business in Guisborough, young Edwards was a known quantity.
Rob had ridden the AJS registered as 970PL as a private entrant in the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1964, the following year, factory rider Mick Andrews had moved over to ride the two-stroke James, which was part of the AMC group, this left a spare berth in the AJS team for the 1965 Scottish.
Rob Edwards takes up the story:
“I was allocated number 210 in 1964 on my AJS 350 that I bought from Comerfords, I entered as a ‘privateer’ and rode under the Middlesbrough & District, my home club. The event still started and finished in Edinburgh. On the Thursday, we went over the Corrieyarrick Pass. I think I had been following behind Peter Gaunt and what happened next I wasn’t to find out until sometime later. I found myself sat on a banking at the side of the Pass, which is an old General Wade military road. I had no idea at all how I came to be sitting there.
Alan Morewood from Sheffield, who became a top sidecar driver, came along on his 500 Ariel as he was number 205 that yea. He stopped and asked if I was Okay? ‘Yes, fine’ I said; ‘Bye’ he said and rode off”.
“A couple of minutes later and Alan was back. ‘Rob, are you sure you are all right, you look dazed?’ said Alan. ‘No problem’ I said and off he went again. Somehow I managed to get back to Fort William to finish the day’s run.
The first person I spoke to asked what I had been doing to scratch my face? Then someone said, ‘never mind his face, look at the back of his bike!’
The rear end was totally out of line. I then realised that I must have hit a pothole in the road with the front wheel over Corrieyarrick, cartwheeled and that explained my rest on the bank.
We pulled the bike back into line with a length of pipe that we found. Apart from a bit of a headache, it was back to business as usual.
The rest of the week was not as eventful and had a good old needle match with my mate Sid Lampkin who was on a factory Cotton that year”.
Edwards:“A few weeks before the 1965 SSDT, I had an out-of-the-blue phone call from Hugh Viney, the competitions manager at Associated Motorcycles (AMC) who owned the AJS & Matchless brands; wanting to know if I would ride in the ‘works’ team in the forthcoming Scottish.
It seemed that they wanted Mick Andrews to concentrate on scrambling and ride the 250cc James in trials, which AMC’s also owned.
And so it came to pass that I became the third member of the AJS factory team.
However, there was no time for them to prepare me a bike and Mick’s bike 644BLB wasn’t available for some reason, so I would need to ride my own AJS which for me was not a problem.
Both the ‘Gordons’ – McLaughlan and Blakeway, had put my name forward to be in the team to Hugh Viney, so a big ‘thank you’ to them both for that gesture, which I have treasured all my life since.
My week was going well, I was clean on the Tuesday.
Later in the same day, we were looking forward to riding the new section ‘Pipeline’, introduced the previous year.
There were so many stories about ‘Pipeline’ that I wasn’t really sure if it had been cleaned yet or not.
I had teamed up with Alan Chant from Bexley-Heath who was on a 350 Matchless.
In those days all the ‘big bikes’ were grouped at the back of the field.
As we rode up to ‘Pipeline’, the spectators were all heading back into Kinlochleven.
Alan and myself walked the hill and both agreed on bottom gear.
Alan went first and he cleaned it.
I went next and after a bit of a shaky start, by trying to go too fast too soon.
I settled down and at the right speed things were a lot easier and guess what, I cleaned it.
I bet the spectators who left early were a bit peeved!
On the Thursday, I parked my bike close to the first section on ‘Mamore’ and went off to view the sections.
When I returned to my bike, there was a large pool of oil on the floor underneath!
A stone must have flicked up from the front wheel and hit the small alloy casting that the oil feed to the cylinder-head connects to and smashed it.
There was no way of fixing it, so I set off free-wheeling down to the road, expecting to retire from the trial.
I was sitting by the road side at the gate, that is the entrance to the famous Mamore path, when a car and trailer pulled up.
‘Whats up Rob’ the chap shouted over, I explained my plight.
‘No problem mate, give me two minutes and I will take the one off my bike’ he said.
In all the confusion and despair, I hadn’t noticed that the bike on the trailer was a 350 AJS, what a stroke of luck – for me anyway.
The engine had ‘gone bang’ and the fellow had retired from the trial.
You don’t have to be good with luck like that!
He got me going and I forget the lads’ name but I am indebted to his sportsmanship and generosity that day.
On the sixth day, we did Town Hall Brae in the centre of Fort William. We were then faced with the long ride back to Edinburgh.
For me it had been a great week thanks to Gordon Blakeway and Gordon McLaughlan”.
In the 1965 Scottish, Rob Edwards rode number 207 as part of the works AJS team comprising of Edwards, Gordon S. Blakeway (No. 178) and Gordon O. McLaughlan (No. 177).
Rob rode his own machine registered 970PL with many of the works style modifications carried out.
However, history records that it was Triumph that won the 1965 Manufacturers Team Prize, the Blackford Challenge Trophy.
Taken from the Official Results of the 1965 Scottish Six Days Trial:
Award 16 – For the best performance by a competitor on a solo motor cycle from 251-350 c.c. – R. Edwards (A.J.S.).
In the 1965 Scottish, Rob lost sixty-three marks and gained a Special First Class Award, just six marks behind his friend Alan Lampkin who went on to win the following year.
Rob talks about his AJS 16C:
Edwards: “When the SSDT started and finished in Edinburgh, on the sixth day after the lunch check at Crianlarich there were no more sections until the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill in the city. This was purely to see if your clutch still worked. You had to stop between two yellow lines and when the official dropped his flag you could move on – simple.
When you passed a third yellow line, that was the end of the observed hill. The path was so flat, nobody actually treat it like a section. However, I did see a rider who when the flag dropped he picked up the front wheel and tried to wheelie to the ends cards unfortunately he tipped his bike over backwards and his score went up by five points”.
Rob: “After the Blackford Hill stop/restart test at the SSDT, was the final scrutineering test when you wheeled the bike onto a wooden workbench for inspection.
The AJS had one big problem, the swinging-arm bushes, they wore out at an alarming rate”.
Rob Edwards: “If the scrutineer thought that there was excess movement in the bushes, your score could go up by five marks.
I can still see my Dad, Bob at the bottom of Blackford Hill, with a cup of tea in one hand and an industrial grease gun in the other.
After my cup of tea, I pumped the swinging arm full of grease. It only lasted for 100 metres, but it was enough to get through scrutineering”.
Our thanks to Rob Edwards for his recollection of his AJS and suitable photographs from his private collection of memorabilia for our special section on AMC trials machines. All photographs are copyright with permission to display granted for this article and the Rob Edwards Story only.
Back in 1977, having previously acquired the tooling and stock of the BSA competition shop at Small Heath, Alan Clews decided to create a trials machine. It is believed that Sammy Miller had already approached Clews to supply him with BSA motors to power a trials machine of Millers own design. Clews’ CCM (Clews Competition Machines) brand was by then already well established, having risen from the original ‘Clew-Stroka’ motocross concept from 1971, by using BSA B50 motors as the power-plant, but with the capacity increased from 498cc to 600cc.
Clews had built a reputation of making high quality motocross machinery which performed as well as they looked. In the hands of Lancastrian, Bob Wright; Cumbrian Mick Barnes and later Vic Eastwood and Scot, Vic Allan, the CCM was a serious racing motorcycle.
Based in Bolton, Lancashire, England the company had grown considerably from modest beginnings. Mike Eatough made the frames, before setting up his own venture called EMC.
There seemed to be a market for a four-stroke trials machine and Clews was eager to fill the void and to produce one, Made in Britain! Honda had already launched their TL125 and for the US market, the TL250 trials models, developed with the help of Sammy Miller and the company’s ‘Bials for Trials’ programme.
The eventual CCM production run of their 350T machine was very modest, with just over 100 machines ever produced by the factory. It utilised a variant of the BSA B40 – 343cc unit single, which CCM claimed the capacity as 345cc by using a bore of 79.25 mm and stroke of 70 mm, with compression ratio as 6.2:1.
Quality components were sourced from European manufacturers, From Italy, Marzocchi supplied both front forks and remote reservoir rear shocks, German ‘Magura’ controls, the Italian, ‘Grimeca’ hubs and brakes and gold anodised Spanish ‘Akront’ wheel rims. With American-made Preston Petty motocross red plastic mudguards also fitted front and rear. This particular combination, with the chromed chassis made for a ‘good looking’ machine, this in itself did not make a 100% competitive trials machine however.
The B40 motor was treated to an Amal MK2 concentric carburettor and a revised primary drive alloy casing, finished in black with the CCM motif in relief, with a novel little oil breather/catch bottle fitted to the nearside crankcase. But at heart it was still a BSA B40 which had been developed from the 1959 C15 design.
Given the more modern riding position, the gear pedal was fitted in such a way that it was accessible by the rider standing up on the foot-pegs. The gear pedal passed behind the kick-start lever.
Backed by Castrol Oils UK, riders of the caliber of Dave Thorpe, (who left Bultaco to ride the CCM prototype) and Nick Jefferies were employed to develop the CCM 350T for the factory.
Jefferies entered the 1978 Scottish Six Days Trial riding number 220 on the 400cc CCM prototype, backed by Castrol, but failed to finish the event.
Thorpe entered the 1979 SSDT on the 360cc CCM factory machine with riding number 250, with Thorpe shadowed most of the week by motocross rider, Dick Clayton whose riding gear had been rumoured to be literally stuffed with spare parts.
Dave Thorpe did finished the 1979 SSDT in 95th position on 397 marks lost, which was not a good day at the office for him, having been 11th position the year before on a Bultaco!
V. R. Moyce from Wickham rode a production CCM 350 in the 1979 SSDT and finished in 190th position on 597 marks lost.
Many of the Bolton built CCMs were bought by private riders who wanted something different.
In 1979 Honda launched their own British built four-stroke trials machine, the TL200E (the ‘E’ stood for ‘England’) made by Colin Seeley in England, but ‘adopted’ by Honda UK as their own model and marketed through their comprehensive motorcycle dealership network.
The frame was made from Reynolds ‘531’ tubing, argon brazed and finished with chrome plating to both frame and swinging arm.
The wheelbase at 51.5 inches followed almost the same dimensions as the Bultaco Sherpa it was designed to beat in competition.
Whist the CCM 350T was never destined to become a trials ‘world beater’, the machines did sell reasonably quickly. They were not produced in significantly high numbers, hence now they command extremely high prices for their rarity value alone.
CCM later became part of the ‘Armstrong-CCM’ brand, but that is another story!
Not generally known, but here we have Ariel HT500 registered as 786GON, known as ‘Sammy’s other Ariel’. During the late 1950’s and 1960’s Sammy Miller had access to two HT500 Ariels, his famous version GOV132 and the machine pictured here. The bike is now in Italy in the possession of a collector, having been owned by Jock Wilson (Comerfords) Ernie Page, Roy Kerr and Tim Beaven, plus some other individuals
The machine was put on sale in early 1965 by motorcycle dealers, Comerfords Limited in Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey along with GOV132. Comerfords having taken over the support from Ariels to Sammy Miller when the factory had ceased manufacture of trials machines. 786GON was for sale at £350, which was almost £150 more expensive than a brand new Greeves two-stroke at that time.
Arthur Fowler bought 786GON, but returned it for sale at the end of 1965 to Comerfords and Jock Wilson purchased the machine.
After selling the bike to Harry Rayner, Wilson bought it back from another owner, John Parry, at which time Jock Wilson slowly restored the machine to its former glory.
Wilson sold 786GON to Scotsman Ernie Page, himself an accomplished trials, scrambles and ISDT competitor, who owned Page Motors in Edinburgh, who at that time had a sizeable motorcycle collection. After a period of time, Page sold the Ariel to former employee, Roy Kerr, himself a former Scottish trials champion.
After some years under the ownership of Tim Beaven, the bike was then sold to a private collector in Italy called Carlo Ramella. The Ariel lives on but in its new home in the Italian alps.
Justyn Norek a design consultant from Turin, made the following observations of 786GON when a test of the machine was undertaken by the German ‘Trialsport’ magazine in March 2014, here they are:
“Frame: In Reynolds 531 tubing, modified with steeper steering angle, oil in frame.
Fuel Tank: Beautifully styled in fibreglass, very light and slim design, one bolt mounting with depression in front part to allow full lock of the steering, with the fork coming close to the tank. Perfectly done by Butler Moulded Laminates, the creation of Chris Butler. Also the builder of the Butler trials machine. It has a metal logo on the top of the tank a real work of art.
Seat Base: Integrated with the rear mudguard, another artwork in fibreglass by Butler. Very slim viewed from the top, in cream white finish, synonymous with Miller’s Ariel. It also had the integration of the rear registration number plate. The seat is perfectly designed to be light and slim, but still comfortable.
Exhaust system: Starting with the beautiful curve, extremely compact and well tucked-in to the motorcycle. It terminates with a small silencer breathing out the hot expelled gasses on to the rear tyre knobs. This ingenious idea allows for cleaning of the rear tyre from any mud and leaf-mould and also warms the tyre rubber for better grip.
Kick-starter and Gear Shift levers: Bored out to shave more weight from the machine.
Speedometer: Mounted to the engine plate and protected by the aluminium shield from mud etc. It is not the easiest to look at when in operation, but who looks at the speedometer during an event. This was merely an attempt to keep the machine street-legal.
Chain guard in fibreglass, neatly styled with simplicity, weight-saving and functionality.
Front mudguard: Again in cream white fibreglass by Butler. minimal and beautifully shaped and in perfect aesthetic harmony with the fuel tank, seat base and rear mudguard units. This creates an unforgettable aesthetics of this historic motorcycle.”
Technical Specification of 786GON:
ARIEL 786GON – Technical Specifications:
Engine layout: Single cylinder, vertical cylinder in light alloy.
Bore & Stroke 81.8 X 95 mm
Compression ratio: 8.5: 1
Max power: 24 hp at 5800 rpm
Carburetor: Amal monobloc.
Oil system: Dry sump with double oil pump and separate oil tank.
Frame: single down front tube in Reynolds 531 steel – Weight around 14 kg.
Front: Hydraulic telescopic forks with sliders shortened from Norton road-holder, yokes from BSA shortened to shorten wheelbase.
Rear: Rear swing-arm on silent-block bushes with chain oil system incorporated, Armstrong shock absorbers.
Wheels: steel rims, tyres front: 2.75 x 21, rear 4.00 x 19.
Brakes: Front: drum type 180 mm – Rear: drum side type 180 mm
Main dimensions: wheelbase 1340 mm
Ground clearance 220 mm
Seat high: 810 mm
Steering head angle 63.5 degrees
The magazine Trialsport in Germany carried a full report using material from Justyn Norek Snr and his son Justyn Norek Jnr. If you can read German language, here is a link to the article on the internet, (you may need to right click on the link to open it):
When Honda/Montesa launched their new to market 4RT (Four-Stroke Racing Trial) model in 2004, there was one southern English trials dealer who was particularly taken by the new fuel-injected trials machine from Montesa.
Based in Bedfordshire and with a background in the motor trade on the technical side, Mick Gallagher decided that he would find out as much as he could about the seemingly complex machine.
Mick or ‘Munch’ as he is universally known in the trials world, had been in touch with the then Montesa UK importers, Jim Sandiford Imports Ltd in Bury, Lancashire and a dealership was agreed.
The new model was brought into the UK in time for the 2005 trials season and had been rigorously tested in the previous year’s Scott Trial by factory development rider, Amos Bilbao. No apparent problems were encountered even although sceptics wondered how all that electronic wizardry would stand up to inclement UK weather, but it did, and still does!
The Montesa 4RT uses the PGM F1 fuel injected technology taken straight from Honda’s Fireblade, except it manages one cylinder instead of four. Munch began collecting as much data as he possibly could from a variety of sources and soon established himself as the oracle on the 4RT.
Over the period 2005 until 2009 when Sandifords were still importers, many riders purchased their machines from MSPORT, Munch’s dealership. Many had their bikes breathed upon for increased performance or even just detailing.
Munch himself a trials rider, on Montesa 4RT of course and each year has a week’s holiday at Fort William where he is one of the 30 strong observing groups of officials at the annual Scottish Six Days Trial.
In late 2009 the importership of Montesa was transferred to Pidcock Motorcycles, who sold direct to market and did not operate a dealer network. This didn’t upset Munch too much, for by now more and more riders were seeking him out to repair their now ageing machines and saw what improvements were possible over the standard product from Montesa. MSPORT became an independent dealer, but specialising in 4RT models and this is what they do to this day. This is a common feature of the motor trade with franchise official dealers and those who are classed as independent but use genuine parts for repair or if the customer has a restricted budget some aftermarket or non-OEM parts.
Either way, it’s the build up of knowledge over that past 10 years on this particular model of trials bike that sets Munch and MSPORT apart and still keeps the Bedfordshire dealership buzzing.
MSPORT are 100% independent and can upgrade a customers 4RT bike to M-Spec using many innovative parts, sourced from all over Europe.
MSPORT are always keen to hear of someone who is selling a 4RT or is looking to buy a new or newer model. Whether it be a decal set or a complete motor tune or re-map or suspension upgrade, Munch is your man!
This Trials Guru article was written on April, 3rd 2014.
Sadly, Mick ‘Munch’ Gallagher died on the evening of 16th March 2016 having suffered a cardiac arrest while playing five-a-side football. The Trials world is poorer as a result of our good friend’s passing.