Category Archives: People

Colin Dommett 1940-2023

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

Main photograph: Mike Rapley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trials Guru on Colin Dommett:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ralph Venables MBE – Remembered 1914-2003

This article by John Moffat, first appeared in Issue 32, the Spring 2020 edition of Classic Trial Magazine by CJ Publishing Ltd. Due to copyright restrictions the images used may differ between the two published articles.

Image copyright: Classic Trial Magazine

‘Remembering Ralph’

Trials Guru writer, John Moffat looks back at the life and times of the doyen of motorcycle sport journalism, Ralph G. Venables MBE.

The title is a play on words, deliberately so, as Trials & Motocross News under the editorship of Bill Lawless ran a weekly column written by Ralph Venables which was entitled ‘Ralph Remembers’.

Ralph, pronounced ‘Rafe’ and he didn’t let anyone forget it, lived for much of his life in the small village and civil parish of Swallowcliffe, Salisbury in Wiltshire and was often referred to in articles as the ‘Squire of Swallowcliffe’ and the ‘doyen’ of trials journalist and writers.

Ralph was very much of the old school of journalism, he took up the task after he realised that he would never be a top-flight trials rider, even although he was brought up in the company of the famous Heath brothers, Len and Joe, who were re-known trials and scrambles competitors immediately post war.

Born in the year that the First World War broke out, 1914 in Oxford, it was recorded that his first motorcycling event was not until 1920, in company with his elder brother to spectate at the Southern Scott Scramble near Camberley, Surrey.

His parents moved to Farnham in Surrey where he met the brothers Heath and that became a life-long friendship and Len Heath featured many times when Ralph recounted his life in the sport, so significant was his influence.

It was further recorded that Ralph suffered injuries in a road traffic accident whilst competing in a Schoolboy Trial near Croydon, Surrey. Schoolboy trials are not a new phenomenon, some private schools promoted them early last century. The accident was sufficiently serious that Venables spent some time in hospital and resulted in compensation being paid to him for his injuries, so it is assumed the car driver wasn’t devoid of fault.

Other interesting facts about Ralph include being an official of the Sunbeam M.C.C. which is of course the club that presents the annual Pinhard Prize through the ACU to recognise meritorious performance or efforts by a competitor or club member under the age of twenty-one years of age.

In 1957, the year of the writer’s birth, Ralph reduced his motorcycle club activities and branched out into article writing for the then Motor Cycle when it was owned by the Illife family and of course now the title is owned by Mortons Media, Hornchurch.

Venables had a remarkable memory for people, places and events which was second to none. He may not have been a successful competitor in his own right, but he got to know all the top flight trials and scrambles riders of various eras and could spout forth many facts and figures, which earned him the moniker of being a walking, talking encyclopaedia.

I got to know Ralph many years ago, around 1988. Ralph had conversed with my late father on quite a few occasions and that was my effective ‘calling card’ to be able to speak with him.

It has to be said though that many Scottish competitors referred to Ralph as the ‘Poison Pen’ as he could be quite unkind with his description of some of our countryfolk in his columns and this did not endear him to competitors north of Hadrian’s Wall.

I wonder who recalls Ralph’s attempts to persuade the ACU to reduce the dimensions of the standard trials tyre reduced from four inch to three- and half-inch section back in the mid-1970s? Gordon Farley did a back to back test using his factory Montesa Cota using both sizes with the former British Champion failed to get grip on a variety of sections using the smaller section tyre.

I was fortunate, by the time I got to know him, Ralph had mellowed slightly, but he could still pack a punch. I had it on good authority that when I started writing some articles on Scottish competitors, Ralph had been heard to say: “I do hope that you are in no way paying John Moffat for his articles by the word, otherwise you will be severely out of pocket”. Ralph had made the incorrect assumption that I was writing for money. Being paid for journalism is one thing, I was only doing it for enjoyment and recording sporting matters for posterity. Ralph it is safe to say, wrote for money and I certainly never had a problem with that.

I did challenge Ralph on the point and he admitted freely that is what he had said, but gave me some advice at the same time. He told me:” Please be economical with words John, why write five when one will do?”. I took his advice on board and discovered that sometimes, less is indeed more!

Venables or ‘RGV’ as he was sometimes known in the motorcycle sporting circles was a trusted, unpaid scout for the British motorcycle factories, especially keeping company with their Competitions managers of the magnitude of Brian Martin (BSA); Hugh Viney and latterly Bob Manns of AMC, Jack Stalker of Royal Enfield and many more.

It was Ralph that effectively ‘discovered’ a sixteen year old from Derbyshire called Michael J. Andrews. Venables would have a quiet word in the ever listening ear of Hugh Viney and a factory AJS 16C was soon trundling its way to Matlock strapped to the inside wall of the guard’s van by railway from Plumstead in East London. Andrews would soon make his name on the factory machine, going on to ride for Rickmans, then Ossa and of course Yamaha. Mick only had a short and abruptly short apprenticeship with the Kenning Motor Group, but, made a living out of riding trials machines, a facet that was in its’ infancy in 1963.

Andrews was not alone in this special attention from Venables, many were tipped by him to these industry insiders and factory mounts were dispatched for these young men to try out the machine and eventually sign ‘works’ contracts.

Venables was the ‘eyes and ears’ of motorcycle trials and indeed scrambles in the 1950s and 1960s. He reported for the Motor Cycle and latterly Motor Cycle News when owned by EMAP (East Midland Allied Press) which had kicked off production the same year as Venables commencing writing for the rival paper Motor Cycle.

Ralph was a master wordsmith; few could beat or even equal him. He had a command of the English language and he used it sparingly but very effectively. It was indeed a matter of the pen is mightier than the sword when it came to his weekly columns.

Was he controversial? Of course he was, all good journalists can stir things up and get people thinking, it is part of their job, it sells papers, it gets people talking and R.G. Venables was in the master class at it.

Venables of course had great respect for Sammy Miller, eleven times British Champion and the most famous of all trials riders. However Ralph was not a fan of Sammy’s riding style. Ralph was quoted as saying that Sam was “far too crouched over the front of his machine for my liking”. Ralph wasn’t afraid to say what he thought or comment on what he liked or disliked. With Venables you either took it or left it, that was his terms.

When I got to know Ralph a little I told him that if I was being totally honest, the first page I used to turn to in Trials & Motocross News was the one in which his column appeared. Some months later Ralph actually commented how pleased he was when people told him that very fact.

In early 1994 I asked Ralph a few times if he could perhaps feature a few Scottish competitors in his column, to me that may make up for all the negative things he had written perhaps thirty years previously about my fellow countrymen. To my astonishment and delight in the April 29th edition of the paper he did indeed feature “Highland heroes on home ground” as his full-page column, ‘Ralph Remembers’. In fact, his opening short paragraph read “…John Moffat has been nagging me mercilessly in connection with my column. He wants me to devote a whole page to Scots pictured competing in the Scottish Six Days Trial”. Not only did he feature them once he did it a second time when suitable photographs landed on his desk at Swallowcliffe. Ralph first spectated at the SSDT in 1937 an event he attended as spectator, reporter and an official observer. He particularly enjoyed staying at Gordon Blakeways’ hotel at Strontian, Kilcamb Lodge, which he described as the ‘friendliest hotel in the Highlands’ on more than one occasion.

Sadly, Ralph passed away in February 2003, having suffered from Motor-Neuron disease, but my connection with him became very memorable indeed, as he died on exactly the same day as my late Mother, Betty Moffat.

Obviously I had my hands full in early February that year, so much so that it was only a fortnight later when I was able to catch up on affairs that I notice when Ralph has passed away and of course to my surprise that it was on the exact same day as my Mother. I wrote to Pam, his widow expressing my sincere condolences to her and mentioned that fact. Pam sent me a very nice letter, by return, thanking me and also offering her condolences to me on the loss of my maternal parent.

Sammy Miller once told me: “John, don’t tell me stories, bring me facts, I like facts”. Venables was similar and here is a fact, not a story.

I spoke to Ralph at an early Pre’65 Scottish, it was before I took up riding that event twenty-three times. He was up the ‘Loch Eild Path’, watching the trial as he had done for some years, it was a hot day and he had stripped off his shirt and was bare chested. I thought he looked very fit for an octogenarian. Later the same day I spotted him, still bare chested coming down at a fair old pace from the Pipeline back into the village of Kinlochleven. I shouted: “Hey Rafe, you must be fit, I saw you up Loch Eild Path not that long ago”. He replied: “Yes John, you certainly did and it’s not just a case of one being physically fit, but also knowing where all the short-cuts are, good day to you”.

As well as loving motorcycle sport in the form of trials and scrambles, that is of course scrambles and not motocross, Ralph had a love of fast, sports cars and he owned an Allard, MG, Aston Martin and Daimler before ending up with a Reliant Scimitar before dropping down to a more modest Ford Fiesta in later life.

A press cutting photograph of Ralph Venables astride his beloved 1964 AJS 16C – registered BFN10B, it was originally owned by Mick Waller. (Photo Credit: Unknown)

He also liked the short-stroke 350 AJS, and he owned BFN10B, an ex-Mick Waller machine which he offered to me for around £3,500 in the mid-1990s, a motorcycle I regret not buying when I had the chance, I should have bought that one. Venables also obtained a rare Honda TL250 via Dixon Racing, a model that wasn’t officially imported into the UK by Honda as it was destined for the USA market primarily.

After writing three hundred columns of his ‘Competition Commentary’ for Motor Cycle News, nine-hundred and fifty-three columns entitled ‘Sporting Scene’ for MCN and a further five hundred ‘Ralph Remembers’ for Trials & Motocross News, Ralph finally retired at the age of eighty years of age. I think that must be some kind of record that will be hard to break, don’t you?

Copyright: This article first appeared in Classic Trial Magazine, Issue 32. Back copies may be purchased from their website:


Eric Kitchen at 90

The doyen of motorcycle trials sport photography, Eric Kitchen from Cumbria, North West England has reached 90 years of age, today 6th January 2023.

Trials Guru website salutes Eric who has over the years brought images to many people of both International and domestic trials events over a 60 year period. He came to the forefront of trials images when Trials & Motocross News appeared in late May 1977 and has been exciting us ever since with his sharp, focussed and innovative photography.

Eric Kitchen at work during a Pre65 Scottish Trial at Mamore – Photo: Jean Caillou

Not a professional photographer, Eric was for many years in the motor trade with Eric Kitchen Motors and latterly EK Brakes and EK Motor Factors Ltd. His son Anthony runs the family business nowadays, himself a former trials rider.

Trials Guru ran a bespoke article on Eric some years ago, here it is:


50 Years a Trials Rider

This article was written by the late Peter C. Valente in March 2020. It first appeared in the newsletter of the Lothians & Borders Classic Motor Cycle Club and is reproduced with the club’s permission and that of Peter’s younger brother, Simon C. Valente, himself also a trials rider from Edinburgh, Scotland. Trials Guru wish to publish Peter’s article to a much wider audience, as a tribute to his life as a trials rider for fifty years.

50 Years of Trying Not to Dab’ –

Words: the late Peter C. Valente – March 2020

Photos: Supplied by Simon C. Valente

Main Photo: Graham Smith; John Moffat; Peter Valente & Roy Kerr – Photo: Eric Kitchen.

I’ve been asked to write about my trials career, but where to start? A bit of context – I’ve always had road bikes, the first being, of course, an ex-GPO Bantam, but at age fourteen (don’t ask). This was followed by the Super Cub (Cub engine in Bantam cycle parts), then a CD 175. I was fortunate enough to get my first trials bike alongside the Cub; a four speed Bultaco bought from a classmate.
Most of my friends started on some sort of Villiers- engined machine but I decided to skip that as they weren’t the most reliable with the self-extracting flywheel doing so on the way to a trial being typical. We used the bikes on the road as well; having collected the hard to find Motor Cycle News from the paper stall at the Waverley then hearing the Bultaco echo round the station when acceleratting up the ramp being a favourite.
I’ll try not to let this be a list of personal achievements, such as they might have been, but instead try to relate to the changes in and history of the sport as I see them. I started competing in early 1971 so, if my arithmetic is correct, I am now in my forty-ninth consecutive season; I keep going in the hope that one day I’ll get the hang of it.

That first trial was the Campbell Trophy Trial run by the Dunfermline MCC in April 1971.
A group of us set off from Edinburgh to cross the Forth with the old GTX can full of petroil hanging from the trials jacket belt. I’m not sure how the police would view that nowadays.
The Bultaco had a u-bolt clamp arrangement for the handlebars and it didn’t work too well, the Spanish metal being prone to break if overtightened. The bars rotated forward on a sharp drop in to a burn and the concomitant opening of the throtlle shot me in to the
opposite banking. It took a while for this novice mechanic and his pals to straighten out the twisted fork yokes and resume action; I rigged up a proper clamping arrangement for the next event.

Looking at the results again I see I don’t appear as a finisher and can only think that the time spent sorting the bike put me over the time limit, though I did do all the sections. Still, I wouldn’t be the only one not to have finished his first event.
I count myself lucky that I started riding when I did; I’m sure history will recall the Seveties as being a golden age of trials (many of us see it as such). Not only did we have what we saw as proper trials bikes, as opposed to the preceding British stuff, but we stoll had real trials to ride with good sectoons connected by roadwork, other events with real moor crossings – a full day out on the bike unlike today’s run round a field events.
Looking back with the benefit of experience those early Spanish bikes were, in comparison with today’s bikes, lightly modified road machines, but better was to come. As to the events themselves we still had everyone riding the same route (today’s events can have three sets
of markers in each section to cater for varying abilities – in those days you just got on with it) and it was possible to ride events of different status.
The north east of England was a favourite Centre of mine for riding but I also rode in Yorkshire and Cumbria. Anything in the southern half of England was ridden as part of a summer holiday trip with a couple of pals.

Lucky White Heather!

1979 ‘White Heather Trial’ at Rogart in Sutherland, Scotland with Rob Edwards (Montesa) – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

The trip up to Rogart for the White Heather run by the Sutherland and District club was a bit of an adventure in the days before the A9 was
modernised and we took a day off work to travel on the Friday. That part of the country really did seem like a different world then. The terrain was majestic and we enjoyed what I recall was an eighty mile lap, each section done once but meeting the same observer at two different sections. The trial took place on the Saturday because the Kirk wouldn’t permit a Sunday event, something of a novelty for a big city guy like me. The Lochaber club ran an event the following day so there was always some “spirited driving” to get the trailer down to Fort William before the ten o’clock closing.
Anyway, events being as they were, it was possible for someone with my level of abilities to ride in a National in England and I even recall riding a British Championship trial, probably the Allan Trophy or the Travers. Sure, it was a hard day out but we were riding the same sections alongside such names as Rathmell, Lampkin and Edwards. If I was that age now and at the same relative level of ability this just would not be possible. Sections are now so technical that unless you have the technique to be able to clean them then you won’t get very far in to them. Where we rode round rocks nowadays they ride over the points which makes dabbing a bit difficult. That’s not to mention the vertical faces used today.
I moved on to one of the early slimline casing five speed Bultaco after a year or so for £200 according to the receipt I still have (I wonder if it’s still about in a shed somewhere, I hand painted it grey in Tekaloid with a white Dulux gloss frame). While I know where the four speeder went I sold the five speeder to my brother and can’t recall who subsequently got it.
It was possible to know where bikes went in those days as they were all registered, but as few are these days they tend to disappear without trace. Sadly this also means there are few famous bikes about, unlike the works bikes of yore.
Trials bikes had the front number plate across the forks for practical reasons but one day I got hauled over by a Panda car for having no lights. When the cop spotted the front plate as a second offence we came to an arrangement whereby if the reinforcements he called up
agreed with me that lights were not required he’d let me off with the number plate offence.
They did so I proceeded on my way unpunished.
I tended to float about in the “finishers” part of the result sheet, which came below the top ten percent who received first class awards, but that Bultaco must have been the bike that eventually got me the necessary best novice award to rise to non-expert status. I never did reach expert status; that needed a certain number of first class awards or an outright win in a National. Back then most trials in Scotland had National status so there was plenty opportunity for promotion.
After a couple of years my first new bike arrived (I think I’ve only ever had two new trials bikes) in the shape of an Ossa MAR MarkII, purchased from Quinn Scooters in Gateshead, at that time Peter Quinn sold a lot of these in Scotland. I debuted that in a Perth event in the September but it didn’t push me up the results any and I see that I was listed among the
many retirals in the November at the Colonial Trial which the Edinburgh St George club ran on a time and observation basis. I’ve no idea why I was classed as a retiral but I see there were some prominent, and fast, riders so listed. On reflection that could have been the time I cut my hand when I rode through a barbed wire fence, brakes not really being a feature on the Ossa.
Mention of the St George reminds me that we had a good number of trials run in the area by the three local clubs which, in addition to the St George were the Edinburgh Southern and the Melville Motor Club. None of these clubs currently are involved in organising trials as far as I am aware but the Melville is active in other fields. The Edinburgh and District “only” ran the Scottish Six Days.
Somewhere along the line I found myself with the post of trials secretary for the Melville, a post I held for about three years from recollection. Laying out the Peebles trial which ran over the hills to the Douglas valley was good fun and I remember a couple of January the firsts spent laying out the following day’s fancy dress trial at Standburn brickworks where
were allowed use of one of the emptied kilns as a nice warm office; I can’t see that happening nowadays, nor the free can of beer for each competitor.
I always thought the Ossa to be my favourite bike of that early period of my career and I see it took me to a best non-expert award at the 1975 Fancy Dress trial (no fiddling, honest). I even occasionally managed to beat my brother Simon riding the Ossa and in so doing managed a first class award at the 1975 Evening News trial, which was for riders below
expert status so the award did not count toward promotion to expert.

Peter Valente on the Ossa at an Edinburgh St. George ‘Hungry Snout’ trial.

Here come the Japanese:
Well, things have changed a bit since the first episode: by now I had hoped to be in my fitiieth consecutive season but the last trial I managed to do was in March this year so I’ve fallen short by a month. I can’t see us being allowed to travel and assemble in numbers this year, and quite likely not next year so maybe my trials career has come to a halt. One lives in hope so I will be taking the chance to spruce the Montesa up a bit.
Last time I wrote I was riding the Ossa, which I kept a couple of years then, in mid-1976, my brother Simon and I both bought Suzukis from Heron Rossleigh (HR sponsored the UK works trials team) at Bathgate. As a sidenote the salesman there was John Wilson, who I knew
from day release classes in a previous existence; he went on to run his own shop in Uphall as you will know. Though both bikes were ostensibly identical, Simon’s was softer than mine with a smoother power delivery. Strangely enough when we both had identical Ossas the same had been the case.

Peter Valente, Beamish Suzuki mounted

The first batch of Suzukis were from Japan direct but ours were
equipped with the chromed Beamish frames made by Mick Whitlock, who went on to build the Whitehawk Yamahas (I’ve a tank/seat unit for one of those if anybody happens to be looking). Yamaha were the first Japanese company to produce a competitive trials bike for production I think and Suzuki followed. Honda, as I recall, beat them both to the punch with the TL 125 but, whilst quite popular, I wouldn’t have called it a serious contender though they’ve apparently been commanding big prices in recent years as a bike to be used rather than collected. Somewhere along the way, not sure when, I had a Kawasaki 250 but that was a very brief period of ownership as I could not get on with the lack of flywheel but the suspension was excellent.

On paper the Kawasaki was good but it was not the bike it should have been and did not sell well.
Japanese trials bikes came as something of a revelation. Some found the suspension lacking but that was easily sorted with a set of gas Girlings once the originals had been bent anyway; the main novelty was that the brakes pretty much worked, even when wet, and electronic ignition obviated frequent adjustment of the timing, but the real boon was being
able to start in gear with no fishing about for neutral.
Though the results seem to have mysteriously disappeared from my files, I recall that the Suzuki gave me my best result to that point (and possibly ever) when, from memory, my team (Melville Motor Club) won the first SACU Inter Club Team Trial and I think I finished third.

Something definitely went wrong that day as I even beat the current Scottish Champion. I had my first go at the SSDT with the Suzuki but on the third day a rock dented the fork slider meaning I had no front suspension and, whilst I carried on, I retired later in the day as I couldn’t really go fast enough on the rough let alone ride the sections.

Peter on the Suzuki in the 1977 SSDT at Altnafeadh, before the front forks stuck down.

Just looking at results for that period it can be seen that trials generally in Scotland were much tougher than the average event now, indeed some sections routinely used then seem to be regarded as rather difficult by people at the same riding level now. The major trials use sections of much greater severity and technicality these days, way beyond what we did in the day, but in terms of what the average clubman
riding is, I feel justified in saying what I do. It was not unusual for the bulk of finishers to have scores over 100 (even over 200 in some cases) then, whereas nowadays even I can finish in single figures occasionally. We often used to ride in the north east centre of England and most of the entry managed round in mid double figures there.
I mention scoring systems as, somewhere about this time, there was a fundamental change which had large effects on the nature of the sport and I’ll probably expand on that next time.
Traditionally the requirement was to ride a section without stopping, if you stopped then a five mark penalty was incurred. The change meant that you could come to a halt and, provided you remained feet up, then no penalty was incurred for that, in line with continental practice. Unfortunately for me the old system was too ingrained in my riding
style and, as I never really went practicing, never got the hang of the new way; if I got in to trouble my instinct was to somehow keep going rather than pause, collect myself, then carry on.
I tend to keep road bikes for ten to twenty years but in my twenties I seemed to change trials bikes fairly frequently. Good as the Suzuki was, things move on and in the autumn of 1977 I traded it in with Jack Gow for his personal 348 Montesa. This, the Malcolm Rathmell Replica, was a massive leap in both design and quality for a Spanish bike as it had folding alloy foot controls and pegs, a well-designed air filter and the chain ran in plastic tubes.

Peter Valente enjoying the Highland Classic on his SWM – Photo: Iain Lawrie

Mine was from the later production run which had the lower third gear and concomitant lower sixth which perhaps reduced the 80 mph capability on the road but at least it had the gusseted headstock so the frame did not part at that point, which fate even befell Rob Shepherd’s works bike in the middle of nowhere in the hills at the Scottish Six Days – I think the Army might have been involved in recovering that one.

Peter’s 348 Montesa with a different colour scheme – ‘Just to be different’

The only tale of note I recollect with the 348 was when the front brake linings came off at Rogart and, for some reason, I refused the offer of the spare “works” set from Rob Edwards for the next day’s Lochaber event – a bad decision as I ended up retiring due to the cross-country work really needing a front brake. I mentioned last time the journey from
Sutherland to Fort William could be “interesting” and I’m sure this was the same year that, descending to the sharp right hander at Spean Bridge, we were overtaken by Rogart’s John Moodie in his tweaked Fiat with a speed and sound resembling a low flying aircraft, three
bikes flailing behind. Just before the right hander there was a sudden bright red glow of brake lights and the Fiat went left, John having decided the slightly less tight left turning was a safer bet, so we got past him again. But he might have beaten us to the bar nonetheless.
The Montesa did, though, get me round the Lakes Two Day in January 1978; that was some trial, with a foot of snow on the moor in places and the rock sections having been salted to remove the ice. I’ll not go in to the tale and laughs of the absolutely freezing overnight farmhouse accommodation where six of us, me, Simon, Jock McComisky, Jimmy Morton, Ralph Bryans and Andy Alexander shared one room and three beds. Suffice to say it was cold enough for me to wear a woolly hat in bed.
It was back to Suzuki in early 1978, the black engined model that pulled well but was rather flat. I see my first event on that, at Buckholm, Galashiels cost me 190 marks but I was far from last. Things perked up in April when I finished midfield at Lanarkshire MCC’s Valente Trophy trial, won by John Reynolds on the works Suzuki. Also in April, I bought a TL250 Honda, rather rare and sought after by some, being a fourstroke, but as a trials bike it made a good boat anchor so it was not in the garage for long. Neither was the Suzuki really as I sold it after a year and moved on to a Fantic 200. Now, this was an extremely popular machine with the clubman but was up to World Championship trials as well, being lighter
than the bigger Spanish stuff with excellent power characteristics and was probably the first of what might be called the modern twinshocks.
Three of us had a holiday at the Bath Two Day in both 1981 and 1982 but I couldn’t get the hang of the different going down there, but did, having seen the locals using the technique in the trial, manage to master the ‘stoppie’ in the carpark of the Clandown Rangers football club, where the trial was based, after a few samples of the local ale in the clubhouse.
1983 saw my second go at the SSDT, as a member of the Hawick team, and the Fantic survived taking me to a finish with no trouble except a gear lever bent against the casing at the final group in Glen Nevis but I managed to get back to the finish with a bit of jiggling. The results were issued in start number order so I don’t know exactly where I finished but it was toward the back of the field as I had lost quite a few marks on time. I’m not sure why I sold the 200, but it went to Richard Thomson whose son is the man responsible for filming the exploits of Danny Macaskill – trials is a small world. Fantic had dropped the 200 and I ended up buying a new 125 in early 1984 as the 240 which replaced the 200 did not appeal (a lot of folk couldn’t get on with it really).
It was while I had the 125 that I also had a few seasons of enduro riding on an IT 250 Yamaha – nothing spectacular but I did get a second place in the Clubman class at an event in the north east of England. My first enduro was a multi-lap event in Nottinghamshire and I well
recall one part of the lap where there was a jump, complete with photographer.
I hadn’t had a chance to practice on the bike beforehand so was not aware of the tendency for the Monocross suspension to pitch the bike on to the front wheel. First time round I had a front wheel landing and decided I obviously had not gone hard enough to get the front up
so corrected that on the second lap; this resulted not only in a worse front end landing but my whole body being kicked forward such that my knees were above the crossbar on the handlebars. I managed to recover and keep moving , but it’s funny what you notice at times like that, I don’t think the photographer got the shot as I remember seeing him with his
mouth agape. Next time I slowed down for a look and saw there was a lip on the edge of the jump which is what had caused the problem by kicking the back end up.
My period with the 125 was fairly uneventful but it was never the bike the 200 was. While the steering and suspension was better it did not have the flywheel weight of the 200.
Anyway, I went back to college for a couple of years in the late Eighties so decided to sell the Fantic to avoid being distracted. This did not mean an end to trials as, due to the generosity of friends, I did get the loan of a bike from time to time. By now I had the Guzzi Monza for the road so still enjoyed frequent riding on that.
As my return involved the monshock era this is probably a good point to bring this chapter to a close!

Just for the fun of the sport, Peter and Simon rode with these badges.

Peter C. Valente’s Obituary on Trials Guru in 2021 – HERE

Chris Milner Remembered

Chesterfield is a large market town in Derbyshire, England, and was home to trials and motocross rider Chris Milner, born on 1st January 1952, a quiet, extremely modest man who let his performances on a motorcycle speak for him. Chris passed away after a long battle with cancer on 25th September 2017, but before he succumbed to the disease he made some notes to enable his story in motorcycle sport to be told and recorded for the benefit of his family. This showed the courage of the individual and his desire to record his life as a sporting motorcycle rider for his children and grandchildren. His widow Ann Milner agreed to have his notes released to a wider audience, those who are motorcycle enthusiasts and the friends he made when competing in trials and motocross events over the years.

Words: John Moffat and the late Chris Milner

Photos: Colin Bullock; Malcolm Carling; Alan Vines at the Yoomee Archive (Some images are watermarked for copyright purposes).

Publication: This article first appeared in Issue 36 of Classic Trial Magazine.

In the beginning

“My interest in motorcycles started by my Dad taking me to scrambles almost every weekend since I was ten years old; I really wanted to be a scrambler. When I was 12 years old he bought me a 197 DOT to ride in our local wood. The DOT made way for an almost new Triumph Tiger Cub which we bought for £98. I started riding in trials from the age of 14 and managed to get a Saturday job with the then Ossa importer Eric Housley at his Clay Cross workshop. I sold the Triumph to buy a new Cotton 32A, and started getting results in the local club and centre trials.  Mick Andrews worked at Eric Housley’s and started to take me practising, and my results really improved. When the Ossas arrived I was given the use of a demonstrator model and really enjoyed the extra power. In 1969 I started to do a few nationals, and Eric entered me in to the Scottish Six Days Trial and the Hurst Cup Trial in Northern Ireland. Dave Thorpe left Triumph and started riding an Ossa for Housley; he lived locally and offered to take me to Scotland. This was to be a very interesting trip – two motorcycles in the back of Hillman Imp van with the back doors open all the way to Edinburgh!”

1970: On the Otley built 125cc Dalesman Puch on ‘Worsleys Wash’ in the Northern Experts Trial.


Chris met his wife Ann by chance the same year, when he was 17 and Ann was 16 years old. Accompanied by a friend, Ann went to the Chesterfield supporting riders’ meetings to socialise. After a few meetings Chris eventually asked Ann out on a date but trials riding was still the main priority.

“In 1969 Dave Thorpe had a much earlier number than I did for the SSDT, so he arranged for me to go to the start at Gorgie Market with John Hemingway. Unfortunately my riding gear was in Stephanie Wood’s van and she had left to follow Dave over the Forth Bridge so I was left at the start with no riding gear or tools.  Luckily, other riders came to my rescue with their spare gear although some did not fit me very well. I somehow managed to finish the first day in second place behind Don Smith. The next job was to find my riding gear! I managed to track it down to the Station Hotel where a lot of the Yorkshire lads were staying. They bought me a few pints to celebrate my first day’s result, but I was not used to drinking. I was a bit rough the next day and my results slumped down to around 13th place, I ended up finishing the week in 50th position. I rode the Ossa again the next year in Scotland, finishing in 48th position. Around this time I also got to ride in my first scramble on an Ossa; unfortunately it ended badly, with me waking up in Darley Dale Hospital. When I eventually managed to persuade my dad to let me have another go, we bought a new 250 Greeves while still riding the Ossa in trials. Then Eric Housley lost the Ossa importership to Peter Fletcher and Alan Kimber, who had set up OSSA MOTO UK. I had to sell the Greeves as I had decided to concentrate on trials and so bought a new 250 Bultaco.”

1972: In total control on the 250cc Bultaco on Hollinsclough during the Bemrose Trophy Trial.

“I began to get some good results in the nationals, which was when Comerfords got in touch and gave me a 325 Bultaco with sponsorship through Barrie Rodgers’ Derby motorcycle dealership.”

1974 at the British Experts on the Barry Rodgers supported, Comerfords supplied 325cc Bultaco Sherpa (Model 125)

“In 1975 I was lying in fourth place in the Scottish on the Friday when, going up the very steep ‘Caillich’, I fell and broke a bone in my left hand. Somehow, I managed to get the Bultaco down the hill and onto the Mamore road to ride back to Fort William. Jock Wilson took me to the hospital in Fort William, and they confirmed it was broken and put a pot on it. I took the pot off in the morning and managed to ride the machine back to the finish in Edinburgh but unfortunately dropped down to sixth place.”

Kawasaki Offer

1976 Kickham Trial, Chris Milner on the standard 250cc KT250 Kawasaki

“The next year I was offered a Kawasaki. I was promised a machine the same as Don Smith but I only received the standard KT250 machine. I soon realised it was a big mistake, so I contacted Comerfords a week before the ‘Scottish’ and they agreed to give me a 250 Sherpa for the SSDT and I came home in 15th place. They followed that up with another 325 Sherpa after Scotland. Comerfords were incredibly good to me and gave me a new machine every six months; I also got a bonus payment for good results, funded by Shell, and I had my entry fee paid along with some expenses.”

Wedding bells

Chris and Ann married in 1976 after a two-year engagement.

“I started racing again and bought a new 250 Bultaco Pursang from Comerfords, and gained expert status in the East Midlands centre. In those days there was a meeting within a 60-mile radius of home every weekend, and the prize money was rather good too. I decided I need something a bit quicker and so I bought a 400 Maico. I was still riding for Comerfords in trials and they noticed I was winning a few centre meetings and so they sent me an ex-Vaughan Semmens 360 Pursang. It was a quick motorcycle but not as good as the Maico, but it was almost new with free spares thrown in.”

1978 motocrossing on the 360cc Bultaco Pursang

“In 1978 I decided to have a go at the East Midlands Championship in both trials and scrambles – luckily the meetings did not clash – and I won both that year. I managed a 15th position in the Scottish also the same year. I really enjoyed the Scott Trial, finishing 12th one year. I won four Scott spoons and was immensely proud to have finished both the Scottish and Scott Trials every time I entered.”

1979: Winning the Best 250cc award on the Comerfords’ Bultaco Sherpa Model 198A at the SSDT.

Patter of tiny feet

Ann gave birth to their first child, Karen, in 1978, followed by Debbie in 1980 and then Alison in 1987. “By 1978, Comerfords was importing KTM motocross and enduro machines and they arranged a sponsorship deal for me through P&S Motorcycles. I rode the KTMs for about four years, still with a deal through P&S. I rode Bultacos for about seven years for Comerfords then gave up scrambling to concentrate on trials.” 

Chris was now receiving support through a local dealer on Fantics in 1982 and he rode the SSDT on the 200 model in 1982, coming home in 35th place, and then the new 240 Fantic.

1981 – Under the umbrella, working on the Fantic 200 at the SSDT

“I then bought a Tiger Cub with the Pre-65 Scottish in mind. The first time I competed was in 1990 and I finished third, with Mick Andrews and Dave Thorpe on zero marks; I lost one dab on Pipeline. I entered most years from 1990 but unfortunately I did not have much luck in the dreaded ballot! I rode my last in 2016 and finished in 50th position, as I was not very fit after being in hospital for a month with Sepsis prior to the trial.”

:2016: Chris Milner rode his last Pre-65 Scottish, finishing in 50th position.


Chris and Ann were blessed with seven grandchildren, four girls and three boys. Their grandson, Jack, showed a keen interest in motorcycles from a young age. For Jack’s third birthday Chris bought him an electric OSET, which he loved. As Jack got older he often went cycling and attended the trials events with Chris. None of the girls really took an interest in motorcycles but they did enjoy supporting him whenever he rode. The couple’s last grandson was born in May 2017 and Chris was fortunate enough to have seen him for a few months before he died at the age of 65.

Results Do the Talking

In a riding career that spanned almost five decades, Chris Milner won five Nationals trials including best performance and tied with Martin Lampkin at the ACU Inter Centre Team Trial. He competed 12 times in the Scottish Six Days Trial; twice on an Ossa, seven times on a Bultaco, twice on a Fantic and lastly on a mono-shock Yamaha TY250R. He came sixth overall in the British round of the World Championship at Congresbury, Bristol, in 1978. Chris is the only rider ever to have won the East Midlands Champion Trials and Scrambles in the same year – 1978.

Adrian Clarke 1979 British Trials Sidecar Champion and four-time British Experts sidecar winner 1977–80: “Chris was already a competitor in trials when I started road-based trials in 1969 on an Ossa Pennine. Ralph Venables dubbed him the next Sammy Miller. He had some very strong early results and he was also an incredibly good scrambler, and was the only person to win East Midlands trials and scrambles championships in the same year. Chris was a sheet metal worker and an excellent car body repairer. He was self-employed most of his working life. He used his fabrication and engineering skills to build some extremely competitive motorcycles over the years. He just seemed to be always around, riding locally when he stopped doing the big national events. A true enthusiast, a very nice guy, and it was a pleasure to have known him.”

Dave Thorpe on Chris Milner: “He was an exceptionally talented trials and motocross rider and I had to be on my game to try and beat him. We travelled to events quite a few times together, one particular time we travelled to the Scottish Six Days, when it started in Edinburgh. We stayed in a bed and breakfast where the landlady came across as being very prim and proper, but she took a shine to young Chris. The next morning at breakfast, which was a cooked ‘full English’, Chris had been given a rather runny egg. He said, “I cannot eat this”. I said “well, you’ll have to, or she will be offended!” Chris then opened a drawer and tipped the egg inside it! Another time we travelled to Ireland for the Hurst Cup, leaving our van at Liverpool. On the way to the boat I lost him but got on the boat with all the other riders, assuming Chris must have got on as well. During the journey I was called to the radio room; it was Chris. He had managed to get on the wrong boat and was on his way to Heysham!”

Chris Milner on the Eric Housley supported 250cc Ossa ‘Pennine’ seen here on Hollingsclough section of the Bemrose Trophy Trial in the Peak District in 1968.

Steve Wilson on Chris Milner: “Everything Chris did, he did well; everyone he met, he treated well; simply one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.”

We are left with fond memories of a quiet, unassuming man from Chesterfield that excelled at his chosen sports in off-road motorcycling, his results certainly spoke for him.

1971: Chris Milner riding against the clock at ‘Bridge End’ on the Cotton Minarelli in the Scott Trial.

As stated, this article was written for Classic Trial Magazine by John Moffat in 2021. Back copies are available from the publisher HERE

Richard Sunter

The name Sunter in the world of motorcycle trials covers five decades of competition, which started with Richard and carries on into the present era with his two sons Mark, John and daughter Katy. Residing from what many term the home of trials, North Yorkshire, the farm at Healaugh is situated close to Reeth and is in the heart of Scott Trial country. It was this event back in 1968 that we first witnessed Richard’s name in the awards of this world famous event. Married to the sister of former Scott Trial winner, Philip Alderson and with daughter Katy married to Dan Thorpe, it’s certainly created a Yorkshire trials dynasty.

Words: John Moffat – Trials Guru; Richard J. Sunter

Pictures: Reiner Heise; Barry Robinson; Malcolm Carling

(This article was written for Classic Trial Magazine issue 21 of 2017)

Born in 1951 into a farming family which had no real interest in the sport, Richard J. Sunter, later to be known to all as either ‘Ritchie’ or ‘Sunt’ was to break the family mould at aged twelve when his Dad bought him a 150cc James three-speeder for four pounds and a replacement tyre which cost eight pounds, double the price of the motorcycle.

Richard was the first of his family to have a trials machine and has lived his whole life in the North Yorkshire Village of Healaugh, moving only a few hundred yards, “from one end to the other”.

Living on the back-door step of the Scott Trial, the event grabbed his attention as a young boy and he had to have a trials machine.

His first real trials motorcycle was in 1968, the Otley built Dalesman with the Austrian Puch 125cc four-speed motor, supplied by The Kart House at Darlington.

Richard Sunter: “I didn’t really like it that much, my Dalesman had those spindly front forks from a Puch moped and to be honest Ray Sayer had a six speeder and it went much better than my model. I eventually bought the 250cc Cotton with the Villiers motor and got on much better with that, riding my first Scott in 1968”.

The Cotton was replaced by the 170cc Minarelli powered model, which was developed for the factory by Rob Edwards.

With Montesa making in-roads into the UK trials market in the late 1960s, it was inevitable that Sunter would sample the 247 Cota and really liked it. Rider/dealer, Norman Crooks at Northallerton supplied such a model and Richard was happy to remain on the marque for two years before obtaining support from Len Thwaites of TT Leathers on an Ossa MAR in 1972.

Richard rode the 1972 Scottish on the Ossa and finished in a very creditable fifteenth position and best newcomer, losing 115 marks and took home the Albert Memorial Trophy for his efforts.

Sunter: “That was when the Scottish started and finished in Edinburgh, it was a long haul on the road back then on the first and last days”.

Sunt became friends with Michael Alderson from Woodhall, near Askrigg. “Michael was a handy trials rider and keen to do nationals and we were good friends. I got to know his younger sister Angela, we started courting in 1976 and we got married in 1978. We all knew each other through trials, farming and the Aldersons being agricultural engineers”.

Richard and Angela Sunter have three children, John Richard who was born in 1980; Mark born the year later, and Katy who arrived in 1984. All three followed in their father’s footsteps by becoming trials riders in their own right. Katy of course married Dan Thorpe in 2015. This effectively created a trials dynasty in North Yorkshire with Angela’s younger brother, Philip Alderson part of the extended family of well-known trials riders.

Richard Sunter hasn’t changed much over the years and still sports an all year round tanned face due to his continued working on the farm, out in all weathers. He is a very modest individual who points out that he never won a national trial. However, the reader needs to appreciate that Ritchie rode against the very best riders in the world, at the top of their game and any number of twenty riders were capable of winning a national trial week in, week out.

Sunter: “I was approached by Team Kawasaki Trials manager, the late Don Smith who was also their development rider. The first machine I had off Kawasaki was the 450 model, which was quite honestly a beast of a thing to ride. When I signed for Kawasaki, they had no motorcycles available for me to ride, so I rode my Ossa in the meantime and my expenses were paid by Kawasaki. I was never paid a salary, I was still earning a living from farming and they covered my travel expenses to nationals and European Championship rounds”.

Richard Sunter aboard the works 450 Kawasaki in a typical Yorkshire Centre event – Photo: Barry Robinson

The lime green coloured Kawasaki KT prototypes arrived three days before the 1973 Scottish Six Days and like most experimental machines, they required careful preparation for what was the toughest trial in the world. The team were still fettling them at the Gorgie Market on the Sunday weigh-in in Edinburgh on the cobbled roadways that intersected the market. His team mates were Mark Kemp and paratrooper, Jack Galloway.

Sunt posted a twentieth place overall in the 1973 Scottish, losing 137 marks and took home the best over 350cc award for his efforts, wrestling with the big bore machine and was the best performer of the Kawasaki team that year.

1975 SSDT on the 247cc Montesa Cota UKR on the Ben Nevis group of sections. – Photo: Rainer Heise

With production planned of the KT ‘Kawasaki Trials’ model, Richard received his pre-production 250cc machine from the factory in August 1973. Two months later, on October 2nd, he came home in second place in the Scott Trial, this was to be his best Scott result finishing second behind Bultaco’s Malcolm Rathmell.

1973 Scott Trial, Richard Sunter on the pre-production 250 Kawasaki came second overall. Photo: Malcolm Carling

Richard enjoyed riding the Montesa Ulf Karlson Replica 247 model which appeared in 1975 after the he left the Kawasaki factory team having enjoyed two seasons on the ‘green-meanie’. The Montesa was provided by Jim Sandiford, the Montesa importer and this relationship lasted up until 1977, by then Richard was riding the 348 model for Sandifords. This was the year of the inaugural World Trials Championship and Sunter took part.

At the early season Hurst Cup, he posted a seventeenth place and in that years’ Scottish a nineteenth place.

Richard Sunter is listed for posterity as winning fifteen Scott Silver spoons and is classified as a top spoon winner with other famous names in the trials world.

1979 Northern Experts on the 349 Montesa – Barry Robinson photo

With farming being an all-consuming occupation, time came at a premium for the Sunters and trials riding had to take a back seat from 1977 onwards, such were the pressures of being self-employed.

Sunter: “I didn’t give up completely, back in 1971 I did a bit of scrambling on a 1969 side-pipe CZ that I traded for a trials machine for a bit of the fast stuff, which I enjoyed when time allowed. I still have the CZ and Mark has ridden it a few times in classic scrambling. I recall racing it at Pickering and one of the North East events near Doddington, but trials were my true love really, I still like to do my bit as it were”.

Richard has indeed maintained a strong interest in the sport by helping the Richmond Motor Club and in particular their Scott and Reeth Three Days events. His favourite piece of ground for marking out is beyond By-Pass and for many years was in charge of route-marking the Scott onto the moors there.

Sunter: “I usually inherit Katy’s cast off Gas Gas machines which allowed me to get some bike-time in which I still enjoy”.

Richard Sunter was one of those riders who competed with the very best of that era, which included the Lampkins, Rathmell, Hemingway, Edwards, Andrews, Shepherd and just about anyone else who made up the who’s who of trials in the days when British riders were the force to be reckoned with in European and then World class events. His place in the history of trials is assured.

This article first appeared in Issue 21 of Classic Trial magazine in 2017, copies are still available HERE

Rodger Mount


For a few years now I have been pestering a resident of Fort William to tell me about his trials riding days. Initially this fell on deaf ears – all the excuses were dragged out, such as “I have a terrible memory” and “nobody will remember me riding now”. I was undeterred, however; this man had been the Best Scottish Rider in the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1971, 1972 and 1974, I had to get his story. Finally, during a vacation at the luxury accommodation at his Fort William establishment, I wore him down over a perfect breakfast one morning. The proviso was that if he gave an interview, I had to be finished by eight o’clock at night as he is an early riser. Lochaber in North West Scotland has produced many fine trials riders over the years, and also several Scottish Trials Champions. This is possibly due to the Scottish Six Days Trial being run on their doorstep, where the terrain ensures a steady supply of ground to hone trials riding skills. One such man is Rodger Charles Mount.

Words: John Moffat (This article was written for Classic Trial Magazine and first appeared in Issue 38).

Pictures: John Moffat/Trials Guru; Alistair MacMillan Studio, Fort William (permission of Anthony MacMillan) – John MacDonald, Fort William – The Mount Family, Fort William – Alan Vines/Yoomee Archive – Eric Kitchen – Some images: Yoomee Archive.

Rodger Mount (247cc Montesa) on Loch Eilde Path in the 1972 Scottish Six Days.

Born in the March of 1951 in Inverness and raised in Fort William, Rodger was the oldest son of Charles and Elizabeth Mount. Rodger’s mother and Farquhar ‘Fachie’ MacGillivray were siblings, which makes Rodger Mount and Alastair MacGillivray, who was Scottish Trials Champion in 1974 and 1979, first cousins. Rodger was the oldest of three brothers, followed by Kenneth and the late Colin Mount.

Royal Marines

The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge, “In memory of the officers and men of the commandos who died in the Second World War 1939–1945. This country was their training ground.” – Photo: Yoomee Archive.

Rodger’s father, Charlie Mount, and business partner to be Mike Beacham, arrived in Fort William as Royal Marines in 1939 at the outbreak of the Second World War. Charlie was brought up in Birchington, near Margate, Kent and was a time-served bricklayer, as was Mike Beacham. Originally deployed on the Orkney Islands, when the commanding officer realised both men had a trade they were directed to the engineering deployment and began laying the foundations for the Army Nissan huts and buildings at Achnacarry Castle, the home of the famous ‘Commandos’ from 1942, based in Lochaber, which was to be their training ground. Most of the big houses in Lochaber were commandeered by the British Army for Commando training, including the ‘secret’ base at Inverailort Castle, close to ‘Piper’s Burn’ and the home of Mrs Cameron-Head, a supporter and landowner of the Scottish Six Days in later years.

Charlie Mount struck up a friendship with Mrs Cameron-Head, doing building and renovation work on her property after the war years in exchange for shooting rights on her property. When the war had ended, both Beacham and Mount had met their intended spouses in Fort William so they returned to make their home and livelihoods in the Lochaber town. They formed their builder’s partnership, ‘B&M’ – Beacham & Mount, which lasted for several years until Charlie Mount decided to go on his own and formed ‘Modern Builders Limited’ who had their base in Fort William’s North Road.


Young Rodger was to be educated at Fort William Primary and Lochaber High schools.

Mount: “I couldn’t really be bothered with school, I wanted to leave as soon as I could; so at fifteen, I packed in school and began a bricklayer’s apprenticeship with my father’s firm, Beacham and Mount in Fort William.” Rodger worked hard at his apprenticeship and by the time he was ‘time-served’ he could lay up to one-thousand bricks or three-hundred blocks per day, and made a good living out of it.

Modern Builders Ltd yard in North Road, Fort William – Photo: John MacDonald, Fort William Collection.

First Taste of Off Road

When he was fourteen and still at school, Rodger and his good friend Alister ‘Queerie’ Weir were allowed to take turns riding around on Ali McDonald’s BSA C15T at the back of McDonald’s shop in Alma Road. McDonald was, along with his brother Hugh, an accomplished trials rider and had ridden the Scottish Six Days many times with their friend Ron Thompson. Rodger was quite taken with the little BSA and reckoned he could get good at this trials lark, so at the age of sixteen he bought a 250cc Greeves from local rider K.K. ‘Kimmy’ Cameron in 1967. He can’t remember exactly which Edinburgh-organised trial that he first entered, but he did pick up the ‘Best Novice’ award at his first attempt. At the next event he took the ‘Best Non-Expert’ award and soon rose to the ranks of a ‘Scottish Expert’. He learned his craft on the Greeves but soon needed something a bit more up to date.

Rodger Mount on his first trials machine, a 250cc Greeves bought from friend, K.K. ‘Kimmy’ Cameron. – Photo: Mount Family Collection.

Rodger was becoming a more forceful rider; being a bricklayer kept him physically fit and he was as strong as an ox. He was stockily built and was a rider who took charge of his machine. He favoured the state-of-the-art ‘knees bent outwards’ style of riding similar to Malcolm Rathmell. Mount was known to throw himself around on top of his machine to maintain both balance and forward motion, and refused to take a dab unless absolutely necessary!

Practice Makes Perfect

Rodger had joined the local Lochaber and District MCC, and his eye was firmly set on riding the big local trial, which of course is the Scottish Six Days. He entered the 1969 event, aged 18, on a new 247cc MK1 Montesa Cota and was issued with riding number 112. The Montesa was bought for Rodger by his father, who had taken a keen interest in his eldest son’s sport. The machine was supplied by Donald Buchan of Perth and registered LES711G.

Rodger Mount on the first of his 247cc Montesa Cota machines in the 1969 Scottish Six Days Trial – Photo Alistair MacMillan Studio, Fort William

Mount: “I had a new machine every year without fail; that way you had less effort to keep it running spot-on and I had a good wage packet from working for my father. I practised a lot back then, in fact I was never off the motorcycle, they were well used. Starting in 1968, for three years we had sixty council houses to renovate for Highland Council in Kinlochleven.”

Rodger Mount on the first of his Montesa Cotas at a Scottish national trial in 1969.

“I would ride the trials machine from Fort William over the hills and Mamore Road to Kinloch, timing myself for the journey. Then at lunch time I would go practising on some sections near the village, then ride home again at dinner time, then go out for another hour on some sections near the house after dinner.” Rodger found the handling and power characteristics of the Montesa Cota much to his liking and far superior to his second-hand Greeves. His first SSDT was uneventful but disappointing, as he failed to finish.

1970 SSDT on the 247cc Montesa, Rodger Mount tackles ‘Pipeline’ – Photo: Alistair MacMillan Studio, Fort William.

At this time he was riding in all the Scottish national events along with Lochaber stalwarts Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron, Archie MacDonald, James McManus and his cousin Alastair MacGillivray, known locally as ‘Ali MacGill’. The following year, 1970, Rodger entered the SSDT on a MK2 Montesa Cota and was allocated number 118. He came home a very creditable 37th place, beaten only by fellow clubman Archie MacDonald who had his best ever placement in 32nd place. Best Scot that year was Allie Cameron, also on a Montesa, with Mount fifth-best Scotsman. This made Rodger even more determined to better his score and final position.

Front Cover

In 1971 Rodger’s photo appeared on the front cover of the SSDT official programme, but not feet up; he was captured in a position where the front wheel had connected with a large boulder and was set to go over the handlebars on the famous ‘Grey Mare’s Ridge’.

Watched by Billy McMaster Jnr, Sammy Miller and SSDT Secretary, Jim McColm (on the far right), Rodger Mount comes to grief on the Grey Mare’s Ridge, this photo adorned the cover of the 1971 Scottish Six Days official programme.

However, 1971 was to be Rodger’s year, on yet another Montesa Cota, but the model with the much smaller and lighter alloy hubs. He was to win the Allan Hay Memorial Trophy for the Best Scottish Rider, in 12th position, and that made RC Mount the highest ever Scottish-born finisher since 1935 when Bob MacGregor won the second of his SSDTs. This record he held until Les Winthrop finished in ninth position some 19 years later. The headquarters for the ‘Scottish’ at that time was the Highland Hotel in Alma Road, Fort William. The daily results were posted up manually each evening and Rodger was astonished to find he was lying in 12th position. A local man who frequented the hotel bar ‘acquired’ the leaderboard sheet that night, and it is one of Rodger’s prized possessions from 1971 to this day.

One of Rodger Mount’s prized possessions, the hand-written Day 3 results taken from the master scoreboard which was at the SSDT headquarters at the Highland Hotel in 1971, (Photo copyright: John Moffat/Trials Guru)

Rodger also claimed the Scottish ACU Trials Trophy, wrestling the crown from his rival, Kenny Fleming. This was Rodger’s first title, just five years after taking up the sport, and he went on to dominate the series, being Scottish Trials Champion in three successive years 1971 to 1973. He relinquished his crown to his ever-improving cousin and travelling companion, Ali MacGillivray.

Mount: “I literally handed the 1974 Scottish Championship title to my cousin Ali MacGill. I had met my wife Dora in 1973 and spent some time with her when she was a teacher at Gracemount Primary School down in Edinburgh and I couldn’t be bothered competing in the final two championship rounds, and that gave the title to Ali!”

Alastair MacGillivray seen here in the 1980 SSDT on Cnoc A Linnhe, was handed the 1974 Scottish Championship by cousin Rodger Mount – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven


1973 was to be a bitter-sweet season for Rodger. He had bought a new Montesa for the SSDT, but he failed to secure an entry in the dreaded ‘ballot’. This greatly frustrated the reigning Scottish Champion as he had a good chance for not only the Best ‘Scot’ award but perhaps an even higher finishing position, having finished in 20th place in 1972 as a member of a Montesa team, but still no ride! Rodger approached the Yorkshire-based Dalesman concern through Competitions Manager Bill Brooker, who agreed to let Mount ride in the official works Dalesman team. This was the first time a reigning Scottish Champion had not secured an entry in the Scottish Six Days, the Scottish trials community was rather surprised at the time and the tongues were wagging.

Rodger Mount on the works Dalesman-Sachs in the 1973 Scottish Six Days – Photo copyright: Eric Kitchen

Mount: “I thought Jim Sandiford might have entered me in the official Montesa team as I had remained loyal to the brand, but his teams were by then full – Jim was a gentleman and couldn’t put someone out when he had already agreed a place. Bill Brooker came to my rescue and gave me a 125 Sachs-powered Dalesman that had been ridden by Peter Gaunt. It was quite a good machine really, but we couldn’t get it to respond correctly when we got it home to Fort William. I contacted my friend Ron Thompson who was a good engineer and mechanic, he played about with the carburetion until he got it running crisper.”

Grim determination written all over his face, Rodger Mount makes a concerted effort on ‘Laggan Locks’ on the factory Dalesman in 1973. Photo copyright: Eric Kitchen

Rodger weighed the little Dalesman into the Gorgie Market sheep pens in Edinburgh on the Sunday and noticed that the rear wheel had only one security bolt. He spoke to Bill Brooker, who said it would be fine as it was only a 125 and wouldn’t be a problem. He started off the week with some good rides and was in front of his two team members. On the Friday, however, the security bolt sheared, and it is not an item that riders usually carry or an item that support crews carry in vans either! Rodger had three punctures as the wheel kept pulling the valve into the rim, and he became two hours over the allotted time and was excluded.

Mount: “When Bill Brooker heard what had happened, he was not only horrified but very apologetic, it had never happened before!”


With the bitterness behind him, Rodger switched back to his Montesa after the Scottish and bought another new Montesa Cota towards the end of the 1973 season, which was to become sweeter. The final round of the Scottish Championship was to end in a nail-biting finish at the Edinburgh St George Club’s Colonial Trial at the ‘Hungry Snout’ near Gifford in East Lothian, a four-hour drive from Fort William. Two riders had gathered enough points to win and were level-pegging going into the final round. They were Mount and rival Ernie Page, who had by then established himself as a British Trophy International Six Days Team rider. Page was the Ossa distributor for Scotland, Mount was on the Montesa. The Scottish ACU Championship was an 11-round series in those days and Rodger was keen to take his third Scottish title.

Mount: “It was a tension-filled day, I can tell you! Ernie wanted to be Scottish Champion as he had won a Scottish Scrambles Championship a few years before and this would have made him the only Scotsman to win both Scrambles and Trials titles, but I was riding well and wasn’t going to give in.” The final scores were tallied, RC Mount was proclaimed the trial winner on 33 marks lost, and the title went to the Fort William man once again. Ernie was runner-up on 46 marks. Rodger finished on the championship on 77 points, runner-up was Ernie page on 76, Alastair MacGillivray was third on 61 and Allan Poynton fourth on 53. MacGillivray was title winner the following year and Poynton became Scottish Champion in 1976. Rodger married his sweetheart Dora Black in 1976 after a short engagement and they had three children: daughter Laurie was born in the April of 1977; Roger, who became Scottish Youth Trials Champion and latterly Scottish Premier Trials Champion in 2004, was born in January 1982 and Steven, also an exceptionally good trials rider, was born in April 1983. Son Roger served an electrical apprenticeship with Archie MacDonald, another trials connection.

So why did Rodger Mount stop riding trials at the ripe old age of 25?

Mount: “The family came along and that took up a lot of time, I was still working for my father’s firm and, in 1978, he had bought the Cruachan Hotel in Achintore Road which is the main A82 trunk road. I had won the Scottish Championship three times, so I reckoned I had proved myself. It was a busy hotel, and I built the main extension, which doubled its size. I was also the breakfast chef, so I’ve been cooking full Scottish breakfasts for nearly 40 years! My Dad said I missed my vocation, I should have been a chef. I ran the Cruachan with my brothers for two years then I wanted out, so they bought my share in the hotel and I bought Myrtlebank to run it with Dora as a guest house. Then a few years later we bought the property next door, which had been hotel owner Ian Milton’s house and doubled the accommodation of the business. I was just too busy to ride trials. I had another go when I treated myself to a new 349 Montesa in 1979, but I had lost my edge and I don’t like coming anywhere other than first! I did the Scottish on it that year, but the gearbox broke and I was out due mechanical failure.”

Rodger made a return to trials in 1979 with this 349 Montesa Cota, watched here by his mother, Elizabeth and infant daughter Laurie Mount – Photo: Mount Family Collection.

Business Life

Rodger and Dora have built up a successful guest house business which is regarded as one of the best in Lochaber, all done through sheer hard work and maintaining high standards.

Rodger Mount hard at work as ever in the kitchen of the Myrtlebank Guest House, Fort William – Photo copyright: John Moffat/Trials Guru

Mount: “Quite a few of the people I rode in the Scottish with stay here at Six Days’ time; they have stayed here for years and so have their children, who now compete. We are usually fully booked for SSDT week and I start the breakfasts at 06.00am, so that the early riders have a good breakfast in them for the daily run – that is important! My oldest son Roger is a keen fisherman like myself and he also took a liking to the trials, so I bought him a machine and he was a natural at it. He became Scottish Youth Champion and then won the Scottish Trials Championship in 2004. He should have ridden for longer as he was particularly good, but then work and children came along.”

SSDT 2000 – Roger Mount – Gas Gas – Cameron Hill – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

“Steven was also an exceptionally good rider, he also had a natural talent for trials, and he too should have ridden longer. They both fancy riding the SSDT together next year – if they get through the ballot, of course.”

1971, left to right: Allie ‘Beag’ Cameron, Kenny Fleming, Rodger Mount and Alastair MacGillivray

On asking Rodger if he had ever been paid for riding or winning trials he smiled and replied: “Only once, Hugh McDonald told me that if I beat Kenny Fleming in the Scottish Championship to win it, he would give me 100 pounds. This was at the time when new Montesas were around 400 pounds to buy new. Well, guess what, I did beat Kenny and Hughie paid me the 100 pounds in cash.”

The time had flown by and it was now close to nine o’clock in the evening. True to form, Rodger took a yawn and said: “Right, it’s past my bedtime; see you in the morning!”

1971 SSDT with Rodger Mount at home on the 247cc Montesa on ‘Laggan Locks’

 Alistair MacMillan & West Highland News Agency:

Whenever the 1970s SSDT photos are looked at when pulling together an article, photos emerge with the copyright of Alistair MacMillan or West Highland News Agency stamped on the back. Alistair, affectionately known in Lochaber as ‘Scoop’, was a journalist and photographer. He initially reported for the Highland News, covering news and pictures in the Lochaber area to the extent that the local newspaper: ‘The Lochaber News’ was born. He also covered articles for the Press & Journal, playing a significant role in increasing circulation locally from six copies to around three thousand, as well as national papers and radio stations. 

Mr. Alistair MacMillan of West Highland News Agency was a great supporter of the Scottish Six Days Trial and made every effort to contact the daily newspapers with photographs and reports from Fort William and Lochaber during SSDT week each May.

The Express called him ‘Our man on the mountains’ due to the number of mountain rescue reports he covered! Alistair reported extensively on the Lochaber & District Motor Club and the Scottish Six Days Trial from the early 1960s, for both the Lochaber News and the Press & Journal. He also took footage of the events for Grampian TV, BBC and STV news as well as performing radio interviews for BBC Radio Scotland. A lot of skill and bulky equipment was required to do this back in the day! A trials magazine used his dark room to process their photographs and would take their prints, still wet, to the nearby telephone exchange for a wire-man to transmit them to make it for that week’s edition. Again, a far cry from everything being done from one device at the touch of a button and being instantly accessible. However, it was his forward thinking that meant he was the first to photograph all competitors of the Scottish Six Day Trials at a specific section, which gave riders the opportunity to purchase a copy at his office at 101 High Street, Fort William and later at the Milton Hotel, the Trial Headquarters. Alistair MacMillan’s images are now copyright of his son, Anthony MacMillan, who has given permission for Mr. MacMillan’s work to be exhibited on Trials Guru website.

Watched by local man, Archie MacDonald, Rodger Mount (247cc Montesa) in the 1972 SSDT – Photo: Alistair MacMillan Studio, Fort William.

With thanks to C.J. Publishing Ltd, this article on Rodger C. Mount was written specially by John Moffat for their Classic Trial Magazine in 2021 and first appeared in Issue 38.

Back issues of Classic Trial magazine available HERE

For more articles on Scottish trials riders, go to Great Scots on Trials Guru: HERE

Coming soon… The Rodger Mount Story

Mount: “It was a tension-filled day, I can tell you! Ernie wanted to be Scottish Champion as he had won a Scottish Scrambles Championship a few years before and this would have made him the only Scotsman to win both Scrambles and Trials titles, but I was riding well and wasn’t going to give in.”

Read all about one of the finest Scottish trials riders to come from Fort William, here on Trials Guru – Dedicated To The Sport.


Toshi Nishiyama, The SSDT and Honda

SSDT and Honda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toshi Nishiyama in 1974 on the TL145 at the SSDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Exciting news has been made available to Trials Guru that former World Trials Champion Bernie Schreiber will be returning to Montana USA on the 40th anniversary of his double US National Championship victories there in 1982 to conduct a two day trials school during an event of five consecutive days that includes the annual Whiskey Gulch Two-Day Trials in Butte, Montana, June 15-19, 2022.

Schreiber, America’s only World Trials Champion (1979) and Scottish Six Days Trial winner (1982) will be holding his signature “Master Class Experience” two day school to start off the festivities and will be the Guest of Honour for the ‘Champions Day’ celebration held on the third day. Schreiber will also take part in the finale, the Whiskey Gulch Two-Day Trials, an event that brought in over 100 riders from eight different states in 2020 as part of the Conquer The West Trials Series which began in 2017. This is a two day event series in the western USA where riders take part in at least four events to earn points towards their respective final positions and has expanded to include ten-two day events in 2022.

Montana is of particular interest to the 1979 World Champion ever since winning those two US Nationals on his way to securing the 1982 US National Championship title as the two events were a stark contrast of back to back days. The first National held in Bozeman on July 3 was very easy as Schreiber’s 7 mark winning score proved, yet the second one in Whitefish was anything but as Schreiber’s 144 mark score still stands as the highest winning score in the history of The US National Championship series.

Montana native Rich Hilbun organized that second record setting national in Whitefish and recently had the idea to contact Schreiber about returning on the anniversary to conduct a trials school. The five day format was the result of their following discussions along with Dan Larson of Mossy Rock Trials & Off-Road who organizes and sponsors The Whiskey Gulch Two- Day Trials which began in 2009 and has taken place annually without interruption since.

Schreiber, who has a very unique approach to instruction that combines elements of hands on riding together with a strong focus on the mental side of the sport said, “I’m proud to be Guest of Honor at the Whiskey Gulch Two Day Trials in the beautiful state of Montana. The gold and silver treasure state of America is every trials rider’s dream destination to discover the outdoors and off-road riding. In 1982, I remember taking home gold twice in Montana. Rich Hilbun and Dan Larson at Mossy Rock Trials & Off-Road are excellent organizers and together we came up with a plan to make this happen. It is very exciting returning in 2022 to teach, ride and celebrate in such a memorable place. Who knows, I might take gold again, but will be very happy with silver as well!”

Hilbun, who made first contact with Schreiber about his return said, “ That second 1982 national in Whitefish, we set the sections up to be difficult because the previous round in Bozeman was so easy. The weather didn’t cooperate and it poured down rain. I remember Bernie saying it was like a round of the world championship. That was a great compliment and with Bernie doing his trials schools all these years later we thought to have him come back on the 40th anniversary, and are honored to have the legend of US trials return. Bernie made such an impact on the sport then and still today. We are all excited to host him as the Guest of Honor for the 2022 Whiskey Gulch Two-Day Trials week!”

Larson, who has owned Mossy Rock Trials & Off Road since 2011 and is an authorized dealer for TRS and Beta motorcycles, began his shop repairing bikes for trials riders primarily providing a means for riders in the South Central Montana area to have support and also specializes in restoring used bikes said, “ As the organizer of the Whiskey Gulch Two Day Trials for the past 12 years and sponsor of the event with Mossy Rock Trials & Off Road since 2011, it is such a privilege to host America’s greatest of all time trials riders. We have such a beautiful trials area here near Butte and I am thrilled Bernie will be making history with us once again! We will have the following classes for the Whiskey Gulch Two-Day: Novice, Amateur, Intermediate, SR Intermediate, Advanced, SR Advanced, Expert Sportsman, Expert, Championship & Vintage/Classic.”

For information on the Schreiber Masterclass Experience Trials School and Champions Day, please contact: Rich Hilbun at

For information on the Whiskey Gulch Two Day Trials and partnership opportunities, please contact:

Dan Larson at

Words: Matt Liberatore