Category Archives: People

Reg May the master craftsman

This article first appeared in Classic Trial Magazine (CJ Publishing Ltd) and is re-produced with their permission.

Talmag Trial left to right: Reg May (Norton 500T); John May (350 AJS) & Bob Gollner on WJJ580 – Photo courtesy of John May – May Family Archive

Words: John May, Yrjo Vesterinen, Derek Cranfield, Dave Campling and John Moffat

Photos: May Family Archive; Eric Kitchen, Barry Robinson, John Hulme, Heath Brindley & Norman Hawkins.

Reg John May was born on 18th May 1925 in Chiddingfold Farm-Hand Cottage in Surrey, moving in 1929 to Honey-suckle Cottage, Hambledon which was next to the local pub called the ‘Merrie Harriers’.

An only son, Reg was educated at the local school, his father was known as ‘Punch’ and his mother was Edith.

Young Reg was particularly good with his hands and excelled at wood-work at school. He initially took up employment in the local brick-works and coal-yard. He was conscripted into national service in the army, serving in Germany and then in Palestine as part of the peace-keeping force.

On his de-mob, Reg took up employment at G&S Valves at Milford, Godalming, Surrey. It was at this time he met an Irish girl called Mary, who was one of two sisters who worked at a stately home in the village. Reg and Mary married in 1949 and moved into ‘Hatch Cottage’ where he remained for the rest of his life.

In the 1950s, Reg took up employment at Vickers Armstrong at Weighbridge in Kent where he rode to and from work on his trials bike. May’s first competition machine was a DKW in 1952. A year later he was winning events riding under the Weyburn club, before switching allegiance to the Witley and Waterlooville clubs.

Reg and Mary had two children, John and Pam. John May went on to be one of Britain’s finest ISDT and enduro riders in the 1970s.

He started with Comerfords at Thames Ditton in 1959 as a motorcycle mechanic. Reg had many good friends in the sport and in particular Bill Elliot, Mick Dismore, Bob Gollner and Comerfords work colleague, Derek Cranfield to take in the national trials.

In 1967, Comerfords promoted Reg to foreman/manager of their new competitions department. It was where the company developed the Comerford Cub and Bantam machines. They also built the Comerford Triumph Trophy 250.

However, Reg May will be forever remembered for his capability of tuning and improving Bultacos, which Comerfords imported to the UK. It was said many times that May could set up a Bultaco better than the factory; such was his reputation and skill.

Reg rode in the International Six Days on two occasions, 1962 and 1965 on a Greeves which expired during the event. He had struck up a friendship with movie star, Steve McQueen.

McQueen’s 500cc Triumph was prepared at Comerfords where the actor visited a number of times to check on progress for the 1964 ISDT at Erfurt in East Germany. Reg had ridden with McQueen in the 1961 Welsh Two Day trial.

John May: “Steve McQueen was riding one minute ahead of my Dad and called him his smoking buddy”.

In 1965 when the new Bultaco Sherpa was eagerly awaited, Sammy Miller loaned Reg his spare Sherpa on which he won the Beggars Roost Trial, a trade supported national event. He then went on to ride the first of the Bultaco Sherpa T models to come to the UK, a machine that is still in the family.

Reg May mod10 - Heath
One of the very first Bultaco Sherpa T model 10s to be imported to the UK was this one, owned and ridden by the late Reg May of Comerfords, now owned by his son John – Photo copyright Heath Brindley, Bristol

Reg also prepared close friend and motorcycle dealer Bob Gollner’s BSA Gold Star on which he won many scrambles in the early 1960s.

May Reg 1972 2 - red
Reg May working on his Bultaco in Fort William, which had suffered tank damage in the 1972 SSDT – Photo copyright: Eric Kitchen

John May: “Dad had many friends in the sport, probably too many to list, he enjoyed a game of snooker when away from bikes which he played with Derek Cranfield. He also liked gardening and grew his own vegetables. He really did have green fingers, he was good at it. He also liked a little whisky which he took from time to time”.

Reg May - Alan Lampkin - 1977 SSDT
Reg May (left) watches over Bultaco teamster Alan ‘Sid’ Lampkin as he fixes a puncture in the 1977 Scottish Six Days – Photo: Norman Hawkins

Derek Cranfield: “Reg and I became real good friends when we both worked at Comerfords; we travelled together all over the country to all the national events. We always used my car and trailer as Reg did sometimes like a wee dram now and then. We both liked traditional jazz music and every week would see us at some gig, we even promoted the odd do at the village hall at Hambledon where Reg lived. He was brilliant at making bits for bikes, if he found that a part needed modifying, he would make it or mod it, he was the first to put Bultaco fork inserts in to AJS and Matchless forks and if he found a modification that worked he would share it. I have so many memories of things that we got up to. Like when traveling with the car and trailer, a wheel went past us down the road from the trailer but somehow Reg would rig something up to get us home, or coming home from jazz on an icy night Reg and Mary, his wife were in their car behind me. His lights suddenly went out, then went on, then out, then on again. Reg was spinning round and round down the middle of the road on black ice. In my rear view mirror, it was like a light house, we did so many things together. We were both in charge of the British Bultaco team in the ISDT at the Isle Of Man when the down tubes on the front frames cracked, the team being Sammy Miller, Mart and Sid Lampkin. We found a garage where they would be passing the next day and had a man ready with welding gear waiting, pulled Sid in first, he laid the bike on its side, the bloke started to heat the parts up when whoosh, there were flames as petrol had leaked from the carb, in two seconds Sid had gone, Sammy and Mart did not want to try that, so the frames were wired together, they did not retire. We had great back up on that occasion by a lot of Bultaco dealers”.

When a young Barry Sheene was racing 125cc Bultacos, he and father Frank would engage Reg to solve their mechanical problems. They visited him at Comerfords many times to improve their race bikes.

Keith Thorpe was the workshop manager at Comerfords and his son Dave who was eventually to become World Motocross champion for Honda. Reg made a frame for Dave’s Suzuki when he was racing in the schoolboys.

Reg, adept at modifying frames and experimented with suspension set-ups, not only carrying out work at Comerfords, but also privately in his garden shed at home. He took on a lot of private work for friends and local riders.

John May: “When I was twelve, Dad built me a Triumph Cub. I did all the nationals and attempted the Scott and Scottish Six Days. He wouldn’t let me loose on a motocross bike until I had done two full seasons at trials. I did six seasons at motocross before specialising in enduro. Dad was behind me all the time with advice and encouragement, when it was needed. I qualified for the top thirty-five British Motocross championship two years running. In 1975 my name was put forward by Ralph Venables for selection for the British Trophy team. I eventually rode in eight ISDTs and had five golds, one silver and two retirements”.

Reg May assisted Robin Humphries with the development of the R.E.H. forks, hubs and cylinder barrels in particular. He also developed the 200cc Yamaha motor for use in the Whitehawk, built by Mick Whitlock and assisted Bob Gollner with his projects.

Reg May was mechanic and tuner to Martin Lampkin when he won the first World Trials Championship in 1975 and was there when Lampkin won the SSDT for Bultaco. Later there was a Finnish superstar that benefitted from Reg May’s input, three times world Trials Champion, Yrjo Vesterinen.

Mart 2 Reg
During a testing session in 1975, Reg May (left) checks the jetting on Martin Lampkin’s Bultaco with Martin himself doing some work to his machine – Photo by special permission and copyright: Barry Robinson, Ilkley (All rights reserved)

Comerfords’ directors sanctioned forty standard 340cc Sherpa model 199B machines to be modified by May to create the ‘Comerford 340 Vesterinen Replicas’.

May was well-known for keeping his cards close to his chest when it came to machine set ups. Customers were not permitted to enter the completion department at Comerfords. But one thing Reg kept secret from his employers was the machine preparation he carried out for Gordon Farley who had worked at Comerfords and had been responsible for the creation of their Comerford Cub.

Farley had moved to Montesa in 1969, but his friendship and trust built up with Reg May was to continue with May preparing the Montesa engine in secret. At that time there was intense rivalry between the Bultaco and Montesa factories and it simply was work that could not be carried out in the public eye.

John May: “Dad and Gordon would take themselves away from preying eyes to meet up to set the Montesa carburation up for the Scottish, no-one knew about it at the time. It wouldn’t have looked good if it had got out”.

Dave Campling has been around the motorcycle trade most of his life, retiring from MCN in 2002. He was an engineer until Bert Thorn invited him to work for Comerfords in 1967. He remembers Reg May: “When Reg was experimenting with engine sizes on the works Bultacos and also John’s Villiers Cheetah, he had all the ideas and knew how much he could get away with in terms of sleeving the barrels and boring out to maximums, but he couldn’t work out what the cc’s would end up as .We sat in the cafe opposite Comerfords one morning chatting about it and he gave me the measurements on the back of his fag packet. I then worked the maths and told him what he would end up with. He was over the moon and later in the week we had a couple of Low Flyers (Famous Grouse) in the Witley clubroom to celebrate”.

All the Bultaco riders who were contracted to Comerfords had utmost faith in Reg May’s ability, this included Malcolm Davis and New Zealander, Ivan Miller and Vic Allan whose bikes were all breathed on by May. This culminated in Allan’s double British Motocross Championship wins in 1974 on the Spanish built Pursang models.

1979 - Martin Lampkin - Reg May - EK Photo
Scottish Six Days Trial 1979 – Martin Lampkin inspects the rear tyre of his Bultaco, with Reg May offering advice. John Metcalfe is watching closely. Martin was narrowly beaten into second place to Malcolm Rathmell (Montesa) – Photo world-wide copyright: Eric Kitchen – all rights reserved.

With the advent of Pre’65 trials, this gave Reg May a new interest in riding trials with a beautifully prepared 16C AJS and a 500T Norton. He even built a girder forked 250cc BSA and enjoyed many Witley club events and the annual Talmag in the early days. He also rode in the Pre’65 Scottish with his AJS.

Yrjo Vesterinen remembers Reg May:

“Nineteen seventy-four was an important year for me. For the first time I was able to ride all the European Championship series. The series opener was in Northern Ireland in February, with the second round in Belgium. On route, my travelling companion Tom Sjoman and I, decided to stop in London and visit my sister, who was living there at the time.

An important and exciting visit to Comerfords, the Bultaco importers in Thames Ditton, just outside Central London, would follow. What an experience that was, I had never seen so many motorcycles in one location before.

Successful businesses are not solely about the merchandise, it is about the people that do the magic day in day out. It was a really friendly bunch of capable and knowledgeable people that we came across.

At the back, behind the car workshops there was a smaller workshop that we were told was a special place. There Tom and I were greeted by a certain white-haired gentleman with friendly warm smile on his face. This was the famous Reg May, he was the ace spanner-man at Comerfords that every self-respecting Bultaco customer craved to get their bikes fine-tuned by.

Reg knew everything that was worth knowing about Bultacos, it was all in his head. He didn’t use manuals; Reg knew more than any manual could ever hold. Be it carburation, ignition timing, in fact anything that would make a Bultaco run and perform better than the factory settings. That was his speciality.

After our initial meeting, the next time I was to meet Reg would be In Scotland that same year, 1974. He had been persuaded by Comerfords to lend me his own Sherpa for that occasion. My own machine had been left in Italy after the European Championship round there as there was not enough time to drive from Italy to Edinburgh. Bultaco had chartered a private aircraft to fly Martin, Sid and me to Scotland immediately after the trial in Italy. All the English riders had their own spare machines waiting for them, naturally all prepared by Reg. However, mine was special though, as it was Reg’s own 325 Bultaco!

The bike ran beautifully all week apart from some usual mid-week repairs. However, Reg was not happy as I was not cleaning his bike on arrival to the car park like most others did with their mounts. My excuse was that scrubbing his bike with a dry rag would scratch the paint work. Reg was still not impressed, but said no more on the matter. I did try clean the bike properly after the trial though.

It would take many years before my bikes would start to get a full ‘Reg May treatment’.  In 1981 I had returned to Bultaco after a year with Montesa. My Contract with Bultaco was backed by Comerfords and I started to spend more time in England and Reg was looking after my bikes whilst I was there. In the summer of 81 I met Diane Hadfield and from then on I spent most of my spare time with her. Diane’s parent’s house was not far from Comerfords and that led to me working with Reg on an almost daily basis whilst in England. It was then that I really got to know Reg well However I disliked the smell of his workshop. That odour was a mixture of exhaust fumes, welding gases, cigarette smoke, oil and petrol. It would stick to your clothes it was not pleasant and ultimately I suspect that those fumes may have ultimately damaged Reg’s lungs as well.

What I learned was that Reg was an especially talented fabricator. That came very handy when we started designing a new frame for my Sherpa. I had some new and fresh ideas that I was convinced would help to improve the handling and in particular the rear suspension of the Sherpa. Reg tirelessly cut and re-welded the frame as well as fabricated new air-filter boxes, exhausts and winging arms. I would then go testing, quite often with my friend Colin Boniface, who also worked at Comerfords. It was handy to swap bikes in order to see what progress we had made, if any!

Both Reg and I were working on the theory that my bike would be the basis for the next new production bike and once ready and tested we would hand it over to the factory.

That was never to happen as the factory finally closed its doors for good in 1983. Like they say, the rest is history. I moved on, got married, and started a family with Diane as well as building a new business with her. Reg stayed on and continued to develop bikes from the point where we, together, had managed to achieve.

Reg of course used to look after the bikes for Martin and Sid Lampkin and Scot, Vic Allan in their quests for stardom. Only decades later did I find out about some of the magic details that he had engineered into Martin Lampkin’s 1978 works bike. I am the current custodian of that very bike and whilst rebuilding the engine I came across an ingenious main bearing arrangement in it. I suspect that they didn’t even know about this little secret at the factory. It was designed to reduce engine vibration that the 348cc long-stroke engine suffered from. Whilst Martin’s bikes ran beautifully, Vic Allan’s bikes literally flew.

Reg May was passionate, energetic; he loved motorcycles and Bultacos in particular. He had a great dry sense of humour, I have been told, although I rarely understood his jokes. It would take years of practise for a foreigner to achieve that. I still miss Reg May to this day”. – Yrjo Vesterinen


Back copies of Trial Magazine and Classic Trial Magazine may be obtained from the publishers direct – HERE

Dave Rhodes is in!

David H. Rhodes, the well known Canadian trials dealer will be inducted into the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame on Saturday, 17th November 2018, during their annual banquet held in the Delta Hotels Burnaby Conference Centre. at Burnaby, British Columbia.

Dave Rhodes

Dave is originally from Oswestry in Wales and is known throughout the trials world as ‘Outlaw Dave’ after he emigrated to Canada. His trials business is known as Outlaw Trialsport in Alberta, Canada, established for over 30 years.

Dave Rhodes - Canada Hall of Fame 17-11-2018
From left: Al Perrett, Steve Crevier; Dave Rhodes; former world racing champion, Steve Baker and Bob Work – Photo: Miss Helen Rhodes


We at Trials Guru congratulate Dave on this accolade, which is very much deserved, being a life-long trials enthusiast, as a dealer and rider. He has many friends in the sport across the globe.

Rick still has the passion at 82

JY - David Richardson
David ‘Rick’ Richardson on his 200cc Seeley Honda TL200E at Forfar. Photo: Jimmy Young

Thanks to Graham Riddell of Graham Riddell Photography based in the Scottish Borders, we have been granted permission to reproduce an article written on Scottish trials enthusiast, David ‘Rick’ Richardson. What is not generally known is that Rick actually encouraged a young Willie Dalling to take up the sport of trials. Dalling of course went on to be an expert Scottish rider and Clerk of the Course of the Scottish Six Days Trial.

Words: Graham Riddell

Photos: Jimmy Young Archive & David Richardson

Dave ‘Ricky’ Richardson has been riding motor bikes for over sixty years and only stopped competition at the turn of the Millennium. At 83 years of age, he cuts a slim physique and is still in full control of all his faculties.

I first met Ricky whilst out and about on my own personal photo-walk searching for inspiration and was making my way back from a local pine wood when I stopped to take a picture of a house that interested me with fallen leaves and intriguing shrubbery around its gated entrance.

Rick - 1

An elderly man walking his little white dog (Jenny – a cross between a poodle and a Bichon Frise as I later learned), came strolling up and stood directly in front of my view and exchanged pleasantries about the weather and then our conversation somehow led to the subject of motor bikes. I don’t remember how exactly, but he started to tell me about him riding old classic bikes and how he had several friends, some local, who also partook of this social and exciting activity.

Intrigued by his tales, I enquired his name and if he wouldn’t mind telling me how old he was, thinking that the bikes he drives today will be somewhat pedestrian. It took me by complete surprise when he told me he was eighty three years and had been riding bikes for most of his life.

An idea was formulating in my head indicating that I had to explore this more deeply and so I ventured to ask if he would allow me to include him in a project I have been running for several years now entitled, ‘People of the Valley’. This random collection of persona is from everyday folks I meet and who live in the Tweed Valley here in the Scottish Borders. I have been greatly impressed by the diversity of skills and talent I have thus far encountered and so was keen to include Ricky in my personal Hall of Fame!

Rick - 2

We agreed that I should call him and arrange to meet, and if his friend was available he could join us too. And so it was that a few days later I came to photograph and interview Ricky and his friend, seventy year veteran Dennis Bellville, who also brought along his vintage bike – a shaft-driven, 1951, Sunbeam 500 incline twin, in classic war-time green.

Dennis had kindly come over before having to head back to his part-time job later in the afternoon and I was grateful for the opportunity to photography both these wonderful characters with their bikes and thereby archive another small piece of local history.

As Dennis disappeared off into the distance to return to work, I took a few more shots of Ricky with his wonderful 1962, silver Triumph 21, four-stoke twin, which he had bought in 2016 ‘unseen’ and to his dismay arrived as just a box of parts. He set about rebuilding it, even hand-crafting a new oil tank. The result is a spectacular, light-weight machine that beams with as much pride as Ricky’s satisfied smile.

Rick - 3

His collection didn’t end there though. Next he showed me another classic he had personally rebuilt, a stunning, blue 1962 Triumph T100 – a 500cc four-stroke twin which came to his possession in 2008. A friend had contacted him about an old machine in need of some TLC. When he told him the registration, Ricky quickly realised that this was was a bike he had previously owned and sold, back in 1963, and so acquired it back and set about rebuilding it and has brought it back to life and its former glory.

Whist his silver Triumph 21 is a favourite, he never rides it far from home as the petrol tank capacity is limited and he once ran out of fuel when out on a ride. Fortunately he was close-by to a friend and walked a mile or so to his house where he was able to get assistance.

Rick - 4

The T100 however has been on long touring rides to the western Isles including Mull and Skye and also down to the Lake district.

Ricky’s skills are not confined to only riding motor bikes. At the age of fifteen on leaving school he served his apprenticeship as a coach-builder at the famous K&I Coach-works in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Edinburgh, where he grew up and learned vital skills that were to serve him well through his career. He suffered a serious injury while working there shattering his leg, and the physiotherapist recommended he take up road cycling. He did and fell in love with the two wheels mode of transport getting into motorbikes in his early twenties.

Mart Buuron 1977 Callart - D Richardson photo
Dutchman, Mart Buuron’s 348 Montesa goes up in a fireball after the fibreglass ruptured on Callert in the 1977 event. Rick was one of a group of people who helped extinguish the blaze – Photo: David ‘Rick’ Richardson

At the age of twenty, he began his two year National Service with the Royal Navy serving on aircraft carriers (HMS Bulwark (R08) and HMS Centaur) as an aircraft mechanic, when on occasion he famously repaired the catching mechanism for the incoming Sea Hawks and single prop Gannets, after one had become snagged by one plane’s propeller whilst attempting the hazardous landing, thus ensuring the fleet and ship remained operational.

Motor cycles caught his imagination and he began learning new riding skills in Reliability Trials, firstly as a Novice, then progressing through to upgrade to a Non-Expert and finally an Expert with several class wins along the way. Modest about his past successes and achievements in these classes, he did remind me of his final win back in the late 1990’s at the ‘Grey Beards Trial’ – a one-day event near at Whiteadder near Gifford.

Through the 1970’s up until 2005, Ricky remained an active rider competing in Motorcycle Reliability or endurance trials with two Edinburgh teams, Edinburgh Southern and Edinburgh St. George.

On one famous outing with his trials pals with Edinburgh Southern Motor Cycle Club, they scrambled up to the top of Ben Nevis, then took a trophy photo of themselves with one of their bikes, a Spanish built OSSA 250cc two-stroke machine, perched on top of the trig-point with one rider on top and the others around each side. With a humorous glint in his eye and dragging on another JPS Blue cigarette, he passed the photo to me saying that it might just pass the Guinness Book of World Records for the Highest Motorcycle in Britain!

Ricky moved down from Dalkeith to Peebles here in the Scottish Borders with his wife and continued to commute to work, then on retirement they moved to Ellibank Gatehouse before finally settling in Innerleithen in 2000 where is was able to help care for his wife who has sadly now passed away.

Approximately 26 years previously he and a group of close friends, started the Lothian & Borders Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Club which met at the Leadburn Inn until it was destroyed by fire in 2005 by a tragic motor accident. They continued meeting after the Inn was rebuilt until the owner, himself a bike enthusiast, acquired new premises in Eddleston earlier this year. However the Inn didn’t have the required parking facilities for a mass bikers’ gathering and so today the club meet at the Black Barony Hotel also in Eddleston, on the second Thursday of the month. They also have an active Facebook page.

But Ricky had yet one more surprise in store for me.

Far from being an elderly gentleman pottering about on his old classic machines, he just bought himself a new BMW G310, a single cylinder, 313cc roadster with rear exhaust outlet which he plans to go touring on next summer, especially if the weather is as good as this year. And true to form, he had modified it by adding a new rear mudguard.

For my part, I want to thank Ricky for sharing part of his story with me and I wish him many more years of happy, safe motoring.

Trials Guru Comment on David ‘Rick’ Richardson: “I have known Rick even before I started competing in 1974. Rick was a regular competitor at events when I used to observe, before I had a competition licence. He is one of Scotland’s great enthusiasts. I remember the late Willie Dalling telling me, when I visited him at his home at Shawfair Farm  cottages near Dalkeith, that it was watching Rick practising on his trials bike that inspired Dalling to take up the sport. Not a lot of people, except Willie’s immediate family, know that fact.”

About Graham Riddell Photography:

Professional freelance photographer since 2007, supplying photography stills for a wide range of clientele from publishing in lifestyle magazine editorials, calendars, press and PR launches, corporate and public events, businesses marketing and corporate communications in charitable and public organisations.
Families commission me for portraits of their children, anniversaries and special occasions including weddings (particularly the smaller wedding party looking for an affordable package for their big day), often at local venues here in the Borders.
My Art stock photography includes my wall art collection ‘Lightscapes’ which has been exhibited widely over the years both here in the Scottish Borders and further afield, from Peebles, Galashiels, West Lothian, Edinburgh, London, and even Times Square New York.
Check out the web site for more information or to see Graham Riddell’s work online.
Whatever your needs are, get in touch today.
Website: HERE


Original article: HERE

The First American

Mike McCabe was the first American competitor to enter the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1972.

Mike McCabe-02b-medal-1972

Here is his recount, in his own words, of his Highland Adventure, riding a Sammy Miller supplied Bultaco Sherpa T.

“The most fun, but maybe the most scary thing I’ve ever done” – Mike McCabe

The road to Scotland

In the late 60’s and early 70’s, the Spanish factories that made trials bikes were sending their sponsored riders to the United States to put on trials schools and promote trials as well as their bikes. In 1968 the first trials school I knew about was Sammy Miller’s, for Bultaco, in St. Louis. I managed to get an entry, and went with one of my riding friends, ‘Doober’ Dotson. I rode a Greeves and ‘Doober’ rode a Penton.

The school was on Saturday, and then there was a trials event on Sunday. For some reason, we had to be back in Tulsa on the Sunday and couldn’t stay for the trial.   After the school, I asked Sammy Miller what I could do to improve my riding – “Get a Bultaco” he said. So, just as soon as I could, I bought my first Sherpa T.

In 1969, I heard about another school and trial being put on by Mick Andrews for Ossa in Columbia, Missouri. So off we went – same deal, school Saturday, trial Sunday.  I lucked out and won the trial, and got a trophy from Mick, which I still have.  Fast forward to the year 1970 and Mick is back for another school. Again, I won the trial, and also became better acquainted with him.  We started communicating by mail and the occasional phone call.

In 1971, the North Eastern Oklahoma Trials Team (NEOTT) decided to have Mick do a school here in Tulsa. Everything got arranged and while Mick was in New England getting ready to compete in the SSDT when he broke his shoulder. They called to say he couldn’t do our school, as he was looking for someone to operate on his shoulder. Well, I had just had my first knee surgery and suggested my doctor.  After talking to Doctor Myra Peters, she agreed to see Mick.  The Ossa factory rep, Roy Weaver, drove Mick and his wife, Jill, down to Tulsa where his shoulder was repaired.  He couldn’t travel for a few weeks, so he stayed with us in Tulsa and it was during this stay that he first suggested that I might like to ride the SSDT  – see, all that long winded story did lead to my going to the 1972 SSDT.


My wife, Carroll, as usual, was super supportive and we began to try to figure how to do it. I had to get an entry and an International competition license, both which were difficult to do – another story there.  Then, how to pay for the trip, how to get a bike and so on. Sammy Miller agreed to rent me a Bultaco for about $90.00 for the week, and it turned out to be the bike he had just won the British National Championship on, with registration number COT 6K.

At that time, you had to arrange for your own fuel and support for the event. At the time, one of my riding buddies was Kirk Mayfield and I talked his Dad into letting Kirk go with me to Scotland. The plan was for Kirk to chase the trial in a car with gas and supplies for me. Nowadays the entry fee includes all your fuel, and the fuel stops are manned by the British Army.

So off we went to London where my friend, Tony Bentley who was also the subscription manager for the English motorcycle newspaper I subscribed to, met us at the airport and kindly put us up for a couple of nights. Tony also arranged for a rental car – a Hillman Hunter estate car. The first couple of days in London, Tony took us around to all the motorcycle shops we’d heard of and read about.

One of the shops was the official Bultaco importer for England, Comerfords at Thames Ditton, Surrey. This is where I really got lucky.  We met Peter ‘Jock’ Wilson, their Bultaco UK manager, who was also going to manage their SSDT team.  Their team was sponsored by Castrol Oils, who were doing all their gas stops and support.  So Jock got me sponsored by Castrol, which enabled me to get fuel etc. at all their stops.  So that let Kirk Mayfield skip every other fueling stop, and made it way easier for us to stay on time. (Note: You are allowed to be one hour late/per day – more than an hour late and you are excluded, so staying on the route, and assigned time is a big deal.)

We then went down to the South coast of England to Sammy Miller’s shop to prepare the bike. We took it apart, stuffed it in the back of the little station wagon, and drove ten hours up to Scotland.  Considering that we were driving on the wrong side of the road, completely lost most of the time, it was fairly uneventful except for the time in the middle of the night when Kirk fell asleep while driving – I was asleep in the back, with the motorcycle, when things started flying around – we both woke up in the center median going the right way, so we just went on – how do we survive our youth?

Mike McCabe-1972-prog

In 1972 the trial started in Edinburgh at Gorgie Market and then was centered for the rest of the week in Fort William. So we got to Edinburgh, went through tech inspection and found the hotel Mick Andrews had arranged for us and got ready for the big adventure!

Mike McCabe-1972
Mike McCabe leaving the SSDT start area in 1973 at Edinburgh’s Gorgie Market. The venue is still there being a night-club, ‘Corn Exchange’ and recreation area today. He was to encounter snow at the ‘Edramucky’ group of sections a few hours later!


Monday morning, and off I go, riding through the huge city of Edinburgh, in traffic, on the wrong side of the road, over The Forth Road Bridge and out into the country side, finally getting to ride some sections.

The weather was dry and lucky for me, the trial that week was mostly good weather. The first days’ route was 160 miles and 24 sections, mostly road riding and fairly easy sections.

But that didn’t last very long – the rest of the week was much harder and the whole trial comprised of 749 miles and 161 sections.

By Thursday morning when I got ready to go out my clothes and boots were soaking wet and I was tired and sore and I thought “What have I gotten myself into?” But, knowing that I was also the first American to compete in the SSDT, I was determined NOT to be the first American to DNF.  Thursday evening the town of Fort William puts on a street party for the riders and fans – really great fun and a break from the almost constant riding and working on the bike.

Finally, the last day and the long ride back to Edinburgh, with sections all along the way – and to the finish: probably the most anti-climactic part of the whole trial. Just ride in to the finish, they check your bike to see if all the marked parts are still there, and it’s over.

Kirk and I drove back down the whole length of England, returned the bike to Sammy’s shop, Tony took us to the airport and we flew home. A few weeks later my finishers’ award came in the mail.

1973 – Do it again – bring some friends

Mike McCabe - 1973 - SSDT
The SSDT 1973 with (from left) Rodger Bickham, (Ossa); Kirk Mayfield (Ossa) and Mike McCabe (Bultaco). The Castrol Range Rover (GTX1K) which promoted Castrol GTX lube is also in the photo.

After a year of rest and lots of fun memories, I decided to do it again in 1973.

Mike McCabe-06b
Excerpt from the 1973 SSDT official programme showing the Team listings.


This time Kirk was old enough to get an International license, another friend, Rodger Bickham from Kansas wanted to ride, so off we went – we were actually officially listed in the program as the North Eastern Oklahoma Trials Team, so we finally got to live up to our name as a ‘Trials Team’.  Also, in 1973 there were seven Americans entered – but that’s another story …

Special thanks to Mike Wm. McCabe for allowing Trials Guru to use his article which first appeared on the NEOTT website in the USA.

TG Logo 2

Gary Mac is the top Scot

Gary MacDonald (Scorpa) (Medium)
Gary Macdonald (Scorpa) in the 2016 SSDT – Photo: John Hulme/Trial Magazine UK

Trials Guru is always looking for something of interest in the world of motorcycle trials and we think this article will be just that.

Photos: John Hulme/Trial Magazine UK; Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven; Kim Ferguson/Kimages; Gary Macdonald personal collection; Barry Robinson, Ilkley; Iain Ferguson/The Write Image, Fort William.
Words: Trials Guru

For many years Gary Macdonald, from Kinlochleven, Argyll, Scotland dominated the Scottish Trials scene, winning eleven Scottish Premier Trials titles, this in itself makes him the most successful Scottish-born trials rider of all time.

But he had gone that one step further, by winning the British Expert A Trials championship in 2010 riding a 300 Gas Gas, this made Macdonald the first Scotsman to take a British trials title.

Born on the fifteenth day of November 1983, son of a trials riding joinery contractor, Arthur H. Macdonald a local to Kinlochleven. Younger brother of David Macdonald who also rode trials in his younger years.

IMG_20180115_0001 (11)
With elder brother David (left) a young Gary Macdonald attempts to climb aboard the family TY80 Yamaha on Christmas Day – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

Gary began riding at nine years of age on a TY80 Yamaha, many noticed that he had a natural ability. He had other interests such as shinty, in which he played for the Kinlochleven High School team, taking the Highland cup. The TY80 Yamaha was his first trials motorcycle, but it was given as a ‘shared’ Christmas present by his parents, Arthur and Sandra to both Gary and his older brother, David.

IMG_20180115_0001 (2) - red
Fording a river near his home at Kinlochleven on the 80cc Fantic – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

The Scottish ACU Trials Championship began officially in 1955; the first winner of the ‘Trials Trophy’ was the late A.M. ‘Laurie’ MacLean from Haddington, East Lothian who won it three times on the trot. Macdonald would lift this trophy eleven times, the first occassion being 2001 followed by ten times in succession, 2006 – 2015.

Other multi-winners include Leslie Winthrop from Humbie, Midlothian (nine times) and Gavin Johnston, Inverness (eight times), Macdonald aspired to win and he did so, rarely surrendering even a round to his rivals, such was his dominance of the Scottish scene.

IMG_20180115_0001 (10) - red
Gary with his Fantic 80 Mono-shock – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

Inspired by his Dad and his Uncle James, a motor engineer from nearby Ballachulish, both trials riders in the Lochaber & District club, young Macdonald used to stick a coke can between the frame and rear tyre to make his push-bike sound like a motorised trials bike.

IMG_20180115_0001 (5) - red
Receiving an award from Graham Jarvis in 2000 when the name Bultaco was dropped in favour of the Sherco brand – Photo copyright: Barry J. Robinson, Ilkley.

When Gary left Kinlochleven High School, he started work at his Uncle James’s Lochside Garage at Ballachulish as a mechanic, he attended college at Kilmarnock for two years. However during this time it occured to him that he was unable to hone his trials riding skills, so he quit and went to work for his father as a joiner which he does to this day. This gave Macdonald the opportunity to ride more often and practise his skills. He was also able to take a month off and travelled with Graham Jarvis, minding for him at the World Trials Championships.

Gary Mac
British Championship action at Kinlochleven on the John Lampkin Imports Beta – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Macdonald: “Graham actually carried out minding duties for me at a European round in 2002.”

As a young boy, Gary used to watch many trials videos before and during when he first started out competing; his favourite being Steve Colley’s training videos. Later he studied Steve Saunders, ten times British Champion and Wayne Braybrook’s trials videos. Macdonald was also studying world round and Scottish Six Days videos to see how the professional and experts riders cleaned the hazards.

Wayne Braybrook is one of the top riders in the 1980s that Macdonald watched closely. Seen here in the 1997 SSDT on Ben Nevis – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Gary had the ability to then go out and imagine himself riding like the superstars of the day and that is how he learned his craft, almost self-taught. He effectively emulated his heroes and copied them.

Gary: “I watched the SSDT and Pre’65 trials when their routes were around my home in Kinlochleven, I would be about six or seven years old and that most definately inspired me to take up the sport. My favourite riders back then were Steve Colley and Rob Crawford at that time. I broke my leg when I fell off my TY80 near my house and Rob signed the cast, which I still have.”

Rob Crawford (Yamaha) tackles Leanachen in 1995, he signed young Gary Macdonald’s plaster cast – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Young Macdonald, tried hard and with it came the pain of the broken leg which was put in plaster, but he was also very fortunate to have areas of ground where he could legally practise within walking distance of his home.

Gary’s first ever event was an overnight success, he completed the event with a clean sheet on the Youth C-class route to take the win.

Macdonald: “It was a Dunfermline Trial, I was ten years old, it is my most treasured win of all!” said Gary who has never lost his schoolboy enthusiasm for the sport.

Being brought up in Kinlochleven, it was many miles to travel to compete in the Scottish national events and to this day Gary is eternally grateful for the time, effort, encouragement and financial help given by his parents, Arthur and Sandra.

Gary continued: “Many people provided help and support over the years, Malcolm and Rhoda Rathmell at Malcolm Rathmell Sport from 1999; John Lampkin of Beta UK, who signed me for the BETA GP team in 1999. John Shirt of GasGas UK supported me in the 2010-2011 seasons. It was an amazing time which saw me become ACU British Expert champion.”

IMG_20180115_0001 (4) - red
Macdonald has led the Scottish Six Days on numerous occasions since his first attempt in 2002. – Photo copyright: Iain Ferguson, The Write Image, Fort William

He continued: “I had an enormous boost when Adrian and Mandy Lewis who ran the local trials business ‘Lewisport’ at Strontian. They supported me as a youth on a Gas Gas 125 and a Beta 125, they’ve since moved to the USA where they still run Lewisport to this day.”

Gary Mac - IL
World Trials action at Aonach Mor, Fort William on the Gas Gas, Gary Macdonald under the watchful eye of his ‘minder’ Ally Morrice – Photo: Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven

Gary also obtained support from local tree-surgeon Ken Oliver. “Ken has been brilliant, he is a true gentleman and has been a massive help to me over a period of years. He did nice things like getting my helmets customised, one of which was the tiger skin Shoei. Also Mark McComisky helped me, he is the funny-man of trials, who also supported my efforts in the last few years”.

JOM - Gary Mac 2013 - Kimages
Being interviewed on the Sherco at the SSDT finish – Photo: Kim Ferguson/Kimages

Macdonald was also fortunate to have the services of local men, Ally Morrice and Peter Davidson to call upon as minder at British Championship and World rounds.

IMG_20180115_0001 (6) - red
The SSDT is the most important of events for Gary Macdonald, here he is pictured with Ripon enthusiasts, Keith & Judy Blythe from Melmerby – Photo: Gary Macdonald Collection

Gary also commented: “One man who is sadly no longer with us, John Davies from Dunfermline, himself a former Scottish Scrambles Champion, he believed in me and was a fan from day one and did the best for me and guided me whenever he could. John was chairman of the Scottish ACU trials committee and made sure that I went to Rugby to be trained at the ACU. This allowed me to coach riders for a few years. The SACU covered my travelling and accommodation costs for the course, but it was John that made it all happen.”

Gary hasn’t stopped trials riding completely, but his main sport now is cross country cycling at which he excels. Macdonald has applied his experience gained in trials sport to that of the push-bike. He trains physically even harder than he did when riding motorcycles.

In 2017 Gary decided to enter the Pre’65 Scottish Trial, he won at his first attempt and is the very first Scotsman ever to have won the Pre’65 event.

Gary: “I am indebted to Martin Murphy of Leven Homes Ltd in Kinlochleven for his support during the 2017 and 2018 seasons by supplying me with a BSA Bantam on which I won the Pre’65 Scottish and the Drayton Triumph twin, both specially built by Drayton’s Jim Pickering. He also lent me a Honda TLR200 on which I won my class at the Highland Classic Two-Day at Alvie Estate”.

There is one piece of unfinished business that is always at the back of Macdonald’s mind, that of the Scottish Six Days Trial.

The last Scotsman to win the SSDT was Bob MacGregor of Killin who won it twice, first in 1932 when the event became a one winner event and then again in 1935, Rudge mounted both times.

Macdonald’s aim was of course to take the win and he came very, very close to achieving his goal, not just once but three times. A third place in 2003, when Joan Pons took the win, another third place in 2013 with Dougie Lampkin in first position and a runner-up spot in 2015, again Lampkin taking the win. This in itself makes Gary Macdonald the highest placed Scotsman ever in the history of the event, other than MacGregor’s two wins of course. The only Scotsman to be on the podium of the Scottish Six Days Trial other than Bob MacGregor is some achievement.

Gary: “The Scottish Six Days is worth more to me than the world championships, it’s the one thing I wanted to have and I was so close in getting what I wanted, that North British Rubber Company trophy in my hands. The first time I lost my grip on it was in 2003 on Pipers Burn, that will haunt me for life.”

Macdonald has competed against the best riders of his time, but who did he admire?

Macdonald: “Thinking about it I was really impressed by the achievements of a Scots rider, the late David Page from Edinburgh, although I never met him, I did hear about his achievements. David Page was the best we had in Scotland back in the late 1980s, he was an amazing rider who mixed it with the best of his time. He dominated the youth scene in Scotland and was unbeatable. The sad thing was he died of leukaemia at aged 18 and never got to realise his true potential. I am sure he could have been a British champion or even higher than that”.

And what does Gary Macdonald do now, after all he has achieved more than any other Scottish born trials rider?


Gary has more recently taken up cycle sport, particularly Cyclocross, like a steeplechase with road push bikes.

But the story doesn’t end there – to be continued … !

TG Logo 2

Donald Buchan from Perth

Fifteen minutes with former Scottish trials rider – Donald Buchan.

By far the most unusual machine in the 1968 SSDT was the 50cc Sachs powered Heldun ridden by Perth & District clubman, Donald Buchan. He finished in 119th position and a second class award on 508 marks lost – Photo: Ian Robertson, Midlothian

Interviewed by Grandson, Callum Buchan

Photos: Buchan Family; Ian Robertson

Special thanks to the Classic Racing 50cc Club UK for link to their article on Heldun.
Where and when were you born?:

I was born on the 1st of February 1940 in Perth, Scotland.

What is the family history in relation to motorcycles and can you tell us about Jimmy Buchan’s achievements in racing?:

My father, Jack, rode in the TT, the Scottish Six Days and the International Six Days. My brother Jimmy was in my father’s sidecar for the International Six Days at sixteen years of age in 1951 in Italy!

Jimmy rode the Isle of Man for the first time in 1954 and won the Clubmans TT in 1955 riding a BSA Gold Star. Then in 1956 he won the Manx Grand Prix double riding a Manx Norton.

Tell us about the retail motorcycle business you owned in Perth?:

‘Buchan Motorcycles’ was opened in 1960 by my father on Rannoch Road, Perth. In 1972 I took over the business, not because my father had decided to pack it in, retire and play golf all day, but because he felt you’re never too old to travel and got on his bike.

He planned on going from the foot of Argentina to the tip of Alaska. Off he went on his bike with insufficient cash banking on his charisma to be his currency and his iconic tam o’ shanter to explore the other side of the world.

Unfortunately, having reached as far as Mexico, he took ill before making it to the U.S and couldn’t complete his journey.

By the mid 1970s I opened a branch of the business in Forfar and in the next decade another in Perth Town Centre.

As you sold Bultaco and Montesa, did you deal directly with Comerfords and Montala Motors/Jim Sandiford?:

Yes, I dealt with all them directly and also dealt with Greeves Motorcycles, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki directly.

You rode a 50cc Heldun (mistake in SSDT programme saying 60cc Heldun) in 1968. Tell us about the Heldun and how did the SSDT ride come to pass?:

Having spoken to the Heldun representative at the 1967 Motorcycle Show, chatting about trials, they suggested I visit the factory at Birmingham for a test ride. This lead to me being offered a bike for the SSDT for the following year. The Heldun was powered by a Sachs engine.

In 1968 SSDT I completed the SSDT which is mentioned in this article  (they made a mistake in calling me John instead of Donald!)

Donald Buchan 3
The official ISDT souvenir badge given to riders and officials in 1969

You rode the ISDT in 1969. Tell us about the bike you rode on? None of the Scots finished in 1969, not even Ernie Page, what put you out of the event?:

I rode on a Greeves, it was a Comerfords International Six Days model, 250cc, part of the British Vase B team. I was hit by an Italian rider, I think on day two and fractured my ribs causing my premature departure from the event.

Donald Buchan 1
Donald Buchan’s 1969 British Vase B Team badge from his Barbour Jacket

How many times did you ride in the SSDT?:

I think it was five or six times.

Any favourite events in trials in Scotland?:

Any Scottish champion trial, none in particular. I competed in the length and breadth of Scotland, from Rogart to Ayrshire. Riding various bikes from the aforementioned Heldun to Triumph 500cc.

Were you a member of Scotland’s oldest motorcycle club the Perth and District Motor Club?:

Yes, I was a member from the late 1950s until the late 70s.

Did you organise any events?:

Yes, I was the trials convenor for a few years of the Perth & District MC.

Did you scramble or road race at any time?:

Yes, I road raced on a 50cc in Errol 1958 and at Beveridge Park, Kirkcaldy in the early 60s. I took part in various organised scrambles and hill climbs.


Many thanks to Donald and his family for putting this interview together.

The article on Heldun, linked to in this article is the copyright of the Classic Racing 50cc Club UK.

TG Logo 2

Other ‘Great Scots’ in the series: HERE

Jeff Smith Trials Expert

jeff_smith_cvr_mktg (Resized)

Coming on to the bookshelves in February 2018 is a new biography written by Ian Berry on Jeff Smith, a man who really should have no introductions, he was of course not only World Motocross champion but also was a very good trials rider, who won the SSDT (1955) and Scott Trial (1954 & 1959).

The book, which is hardback and has 450 pages will be published by Motorsport Publications LLC and Ian hopes to have copies available for the Telford Off Road Show on the weekend of 17/18 February. Price to be announced shortly.

Carlos Casas – SSDT Ambassador

Carlos Casas (Montesa-ESP) (Medium)
Carlos Casas (Montesa 4RT) – Photo: Trial Magazine UK

Short video presented by TRIALS GURU on Carlos Casas, the ‘SSDT Ambassador’.

For many years Carlos has enthused about the Scottish Six Days Trial to Spanish and Catalan competitors that this has ensured a healthy interest in the event.

With acknowledgement to Trial Magazine UK

Also an article on Carlos HERE

Click on the centre button to run video: