The Twelfth annual Highland Classic Two Day Trial is becoming a very popular event, with the maximum entry being surpassed in less than 48 hours of it’s opening just after midnight on Wednesday, 1st February.
The go-ahead organising committee of the Inverness & District club were surprised at the take-up of entries of which they changed the format after protestations last year that it favoured previous years riders.
Club and company secretary, John Moffat said: “In 2016 we were accused of nepotism where we sent out paper-based entries to every rider who competed in the 2015 event and the Royal Mail were very quick at their delivery for some reason. The official entries opened a day later although this wasn’t the overall intention. Quite a few prospective competitors felt that this was unfair. However, I’d like to point out that quite a few regular riders have supported our event since it’s inception in 2005 when it went from a one-day trial to a two-day affair.”
Moffat continued: ” We are quite overwhelmed at the response this year as we were full by the Thursday evening. We made a conscious decision to reserve some of our entry for special ‘Guest’ riders which has been kept to a minimum and are over and above the 150 rider maximum. These riders were chosen for their contribution they have made to our sport of off-road motorcycling or were nominated by our ‘Trial Partners’ – that is Apico Factory Racing; Putoline Oils UK and Classic Trial Magazine who have been very generous in their support of the 2017 event. As a contingency, we have a 15 place reserve list in opertion, just in case any competitor pulls out, pre-event”.
The ‘brainchild’ of Inverness Chairman, Malcolm Smith who thought up the original idea of the event which takes place on 10/11 June on the shooting estate, Alvie, near Aviemore which is run by the enthusiastic Laird, Jamie Williamson and managed by Estate Factor, David Kinnear.
This year the theme is ‘The Honda Edition’ and the Guest of Honour is 1977 British Trials Champion and Honda factory rider, Rob Shepherd. A special award will be made to the rider making the best performance on a Honda who has not won any other award. there is also a Best Female Rider award.
Shepherd will ride a specially prepared Honda TLR250, but it is very likely that his ex-works TL305 will be there and it is hoped that Rob will demonstrate ride it during the end of one of the days.
Jean Caillou from France will be there, having entered on the ex-Marland Whaley factory Honda.
The ‘Guest’ riders announced so far are: Rob Shepherd – Honda (Guest of Honour); Yrjo Vesterinen – BSA (3 times FIM World Trials Champion); Vic Allan – MV Agusta (1974 – British 250cc and 500cc Motocross Champion); Chris Milner – Triumph (former Comerford Bultaco rider); John Hayden – Yamaha (Putoline Oils UK); Nick Shield – Yamaha Majesty (Classic Trial Magazine tester). It is still a possibility that Nick Jefferies – Honda may appear if TT committments allow.
Other notable successful entrants are former TT winner, Iain Duffus (Fantic) and Yamaha Motor Company’s Rob McElnea.
The event is billed as the ‘Friendliest Classic Trial in Scotland’ and that is helped by a relaxed atmosphere, a great place to ride off-road, sensible flowing sections, a ‘Specials’ category in case some machines don’t fully comply with class boundaries, cheese and wine at the end of Day One and for this some sections lost to the event a few years ago which are very traditional to Scotland.
The Highland Classic 2 Day Trial, Scotland’s premier event of its type will pay homage to Honda Trials with their HONDA EDITION, when the event is once again promoted by the very active and go-ahead Inverness & District MCC on June 10/11 at Alvie Estate, near Aviemore.
The Guest of Honour will be ROB SHEPHERD, British Trials Champion on Honda in 1977.
The decision was taken by the organising committee to continue to feature motorcycle trials brands as their headline theme and have announced the guest of honour, Rob Shepherd who is from the era when Honda was active in British and World trials with their twin-shock TL and RTL300/360 machines which were hand-built by their subsidiary company ‘Honda Racing Corporation’. Since 2013, there has been Bultaco; Greeves and Yamaha with The Thorpe Edition which paid homage to Dave Thorpe in 2014, a regular competitor at the Highland Classic.
The event now enters its twelfth year as a two day trial and permission has been granted by Alvie Estates CEO, Laird Jamie Williamson who is an enthusiastic supporter of the event which now attracts an entry of 150 competitors from a variety of regions of the UK and Europe.
The Highland Classic, sometimes referred to as ‘The Alvie’ or even ‘HC2DT’, has remained firm in that it accommodates Pre’65 and twin-shocks only. There are no classes for mono-shock machines and any motorcycles which have been heavily modified are put to the ‘specials’ category, although there have been very few times that the organisers have had to relegate entries to this class.
The entries will open on Wednesday 1st February and will only be available online as a pdf document from the club website, (www.idmcc.co.uk) and their facebook and event pages on social media. Previous entrants will not receive a hard copy by post. Return of the entry forms are to be made by post to the entry secretary on an ‘earliest receipt’ basis. It is expected that entries will fill rapidly as in 2016 they were full within 5 days! Entries will close when full, or Saturday, 15th April whichever is the sooner.
The first 150 entries received by the secretary will be informed of their receipt of entry and there will be a 15 strong ‘waiting list’ of reserve riders, which represent a 10% fall-back facility. E-mailed entries will not be accepted and all entry forms must be complete and accompanied by the appropriate entry fee, which will be £45.00 (50 Euros) for two days of fantastic trialling in the Scottish Highlands.
For 2017, there will be a ‘Best Female Rider’ award and ‘Best Honda’ cup.
The ‘trial partners’ for 2017 are Classic Trial Magazine; Putoline Oils and Apico Factory Racing.
Reproduced and updated with the permission of Trial Magazine UK (from Issue 57)
Article words: Carlo Ramella – Justyn Norek Jnr (JN) – Tommy Sandham – John Hulme
Photos: Justyn Norek Snr – Honda Motor Co – Alistair MacMillan/West Highland News Agency, Fort William (with permission of current copyright holder: Anthony MacMillan, Fort William – All rights reserved)
John Hulme: “Names are usually registered and remembered when you make a note of something that interests you, and the name Carlo Ramella was one that I had taken on board. It was many years ago, when my interest for collecting trials sales brochures from 1965 onwards started, and this man Carlo Ramella had send me a really nice letter asking if I could help to find some machines after he had seen my ‘wanted’ advert for sales brochures. I emailed him and he sent me a list of machines, I think around 20 years ago. Around two years ago Justyn Norek Jnr contacted me to tell me he knew where there were many interesting machines we could test for my publications, and the collector’s name was Carlo Ramella. If you receive Classic Trial Magazine you will have seen some machine tests on motorcycles from his collection. When Justyn mentioned this ‘Scottish Honda’ I thought it would be quite appropriate to use the test, so please enjoy.
As an introduction to the Honda TL 250 test we will let Carlo Ramella take up the story as to how he came to be in the position to add this machine to his collection.
Carlo: “I have always had a fascination for all Honda trials motorcycles, and several variants of the TL models occupy my collection. I have a special place in my heart for the four-stroke machines, and their association with my trials hero Sammy Miller whose prototype caused such a sensation in the sport. When Miller moved to the two-stroke Bultaco from Ariel in 1965 it killed the big British machines forever. Miller can also be held responsible for the significant year, 1965, that would return in more recent times with the new class for Pre-65 machines. Word has it that Miller designed the world-beating Sherpa T trials model in one week, and its modern lighter weight and easy to ride two-stroke attributes changed the course of the trials motorcycle forever“.
Carlo: “The purchase of the Honda TL 250 came about when I spotted a web advertisement in 2009. My excitement came when I found out it had a competition history with it and the fact that it had been ridden in the Scottish Six Days Trial. I quickly contacted the seller Alan Jones who confirmed that this was the machine belonging to Derek Edgar, who had competed on it in the 1977 SSDT. The details of the email were: ‘Carlo, this machine competed in and finished the 1977 ‘Scottish’ and was ridden by Derek Edgar. The attached photo shows Derek on the machine registration number LFS 5P. Regards, Alan’. I could not believe it, such was my elation at finding a machine with such a sporting heritage!”
Carlo: “However, Alan didn’t want to sell the machine outside the UK and he wanted to avoid all the hassle with paperwork, customs, packaging etc. I am well accustomed with international goods transportation due to my job and know many truck drivers and haulage companies, so I told him that I would take care of transportation, asking him to provide some protection of delicate parts such as the cylinder head, aluminium fuel tank, carburettor, etc. Eventually I managed to convince him to sell me the machine; we agreed a price and I arranged the shipping. When the Honda arrived I had another ‘dream’ in my garage, and it was exactly as I imagined: still with the ‘Scottish’ markings, all original, including the riding numbers for the event. I started the engine and it was so sweet, despite its age. So it was another dream fulfilled, and I rode it in many classic events before this test with my good friend Justyn Norek Jnr.”
Justyn Norek Jnr:
Justyn: “Like Carlo, I am a keen Honda trials enthusiast and especially four-strokes. When Carlo asked if I wanted to test the Honda it was a very easy ‘yes’. Having ridden many Honda trials models it would be interesting to test this one as it was the model which started the adventure. The venue would be one I am very familiar with, at Puy village in the Italian Alps. Carlo has some accommodation here and I also knew his love of red wine would make for good after-dinner conversation! As with most Hondas it started with a soft use of the kick-start lever. I was surprised that it started first time due to its age but the ‘clockwork’ engine was as sweet as a nut, with a very nice ambient exhaust note. I had a quick warm up and it once again confirmed my love of the four-stroke engine“.
JN: “The hazards we tested on I have ridden before, such as the river and rocks. I entered the fast flowing river and once again the superb suspension found on most Honda trials models was evident. This machine is over thirty years old and yet the suspension’s action is still very good. Despite its obvious heavy weight it handles pretty well, but you do have to be precise with your movements. Straight-line riding is okay but you have to pre-plan any sharp corners, such is the weight factor that you have to always take into account. The super-soft power delivery makes up for the handling and, as always, the feel good factor is immense“.
JN: “Out of the river and riding the nearby by river banks is where it’s the happiest as it feels very confident on this type of terrain. The relationship between the fuel tank and seat is very comfortable. Performance wise it could do with around another 100cc as, on very steep climbs, it simply runs out of power. The brakes were once again very good, considering the machine’s age, and as with the majority of Japanese motorcycles the gear selection was very ‘slick’ and positive. As with other machines from this era the clutch is not really for use in the hazards“.
JN: “In conclusion this model is one which needs to lose so much weight to be competitive but that’s maybe why we see so many Honda ‘Special’ trials machines. It’s a pleasure to ride and the quality standard is very high. Sammy Miller worked his magic on the Honda TL 250, producing the Miller Honda which took Rob Shepherd to the British title in 1977. As the rain came down we retired for a lunch of grilled meat and a glass of red wine, and the topic of conversation took us back to the winning years of Sammy and Rob Shepherd“.
Carlo Ramella told Trials Guru that Honda TL250 UK registration LFS5P has now been passed to his good friend and Honda collector, Andrea Merlone and remains in Italy.
Who is Derek J. Edgar?: He is the younger brother of three times Scottish Trials Champion and former Clerk of Course of the Scottish Six Days Trial, Norman F.W. Edgar. Both sons of Norman Edgar senior who had a motorcycle business in Edinburgh (Edgar Brothers) and were DMW, Bultaco, AJS and Honda agents. Derek Edgar worked for Puch Motorcycles and then Montesa Motorcycles in the USA, before returning to live in Scotland to set up his company ‘Derek Edgar Developments’.
He wanted another crack at the SSDT when he was still in the USA and as his father Norman Edgar Snr had imported from the USA under Derek’s direction and assistance, a brace of two TL250s in 1976, a machine was sitting waiting for him to use, registered in Edinburgh as LFS5P.
The other machine from the personal imported batch was LFS4P, purchased at one time by author, Tommy Sandham who had a liking for Honda trials machines. Sandham described the TL250 as: “… heavy, had low ground clearance but was the most fun you could have with your trousers still on“.
Sandham loaned LFS4P to his friend Kenny MacNamee who rode one of the first motorcycle enduros to be held in Scotland, at Rhins on the Galloway coast in 1978. The TL250 was a fine general purpose off road machine, perhaps heavy and low for trials, but for the early enduros, a handy bike to have!
Derek Edgar is now retired to Linlithgow with his wife Theresa. Their daughter Kim Edgar is a well known musician. We hope to bring you the full story of the Edgar Brothers in 2017.
Our thanks to Carlo Ramella, Justyn Norek Snr & Jnr., Tommy Sandham and John Hulme of Trial Magazine UK for this article.
Tommy Sandham who wrote many motorcycle trials books has been in touch recently and informed us that the last three copies of his world famous book, Four Stroke Finale – The Honda Trials Story have been sold to purchasers in Germany!
He said that there are no plans to print any more, having printed a further 100 copies, the very last copies were dispatched to German buyers with an interest in the Honda brand.
Original first editions were changing hands on online auction sites in excess of £100 a copy at one time.
Written in conjunction with Trials and Motocross News staffman, John Dickinson, Sandham also worked at the Morecombe based paper in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.
Sandham was fortunate to test Rob Shepherd’s factory Honda RTL305 along with fellow staffman, Mike Rapley.
Tommy assisted Trials Guru to compile the Honda Trials special section HERE
Honda (UK) has doubled the size of its specialist Montesa dealer network and appointed a new Off-Road Sales Manager to further support continued growth in the UK’s trial bike market.
Five new dealers have recently been awarded a Montesa franchise, extending the network across the UK to ten. Each franchisee has been selected due to its specialist knowledge and experience in off-road motorcycles, and is exclusively able to sell the revered Honda Montesa models loved by high-adrenaline two-wheel enthusiasts.
In a further move to focus more on the off-road market, Honda (UK) has also this month confirmed the appointment of new Off-Road Sales Manager, Graham Foster-Vigors, charged with supporting and developing the Honda and Montesa network. Working within Honda’s UK motorcycle business in various customer and dealer-facing roles since 2007, Graham also has experience in competing in and management of two-wheel motorsport including Enduro and MX. In his new role, Graham will be the principal contact for wholesale and retail performance for Honda and Montesa, as well as overseeing Off-Road Racing, Off-Road Experience Centres and events, such as the Dirt Bike Show, to deliver the best possible promotion for the two brands.
Nick Campolucci, Head of Motorcycles for Honda (UK) comments: “The Honda and Montesa brands are heavyweights in trial biking, and with the sector currently experiencing such strong growth we are in an ideal position to capitalise on this and continue to delight customers with the very best products and technologies from both stables. The expansion of the specialist Montesa franchise network underlines our ongoing commitment to offering our off-road customers the very best in advice, service and expertise; while the appointment of Graham to look after our dealers and keep a dedicated eye on our racing and other promotional activities ties our whole offering together very nicely.”
The five new dealers recently awarded the Montesa franchise are as follows:
Thunder Road Motorcycles, Hempsted, Gloucester
Colwyn Bay Motorcycles, Clwyd
Derbyshire Off Road Centre, Buxton
Kestrel Honda, Coventry
Marsh MX, Merthyr Tydfill
Honda (UK) currently markets four models bearing the revered Montesa badge – the Montesa Cota 4RT260, 4RT Factory Race Replica and 300RR, and the Montesa 4RIDE.
Each model is manufactured exclusively for worldwide distribution at the Montesa Honda facility, in Santa Perpetua de Mogoda, Barcelona.
The Montesa Honda Cota 4RT began a revolution in trial biking on its introduction in 2006, bringing the environmental benefits of four-stroke technology, along with strong power and torque, to a world previously dominated by two-stroke. The 260 model carries a reputation for performance, quality and proven reliability, while the Factory Race Replica offers the more demanding customer the exclusiveness of its superior equipment and the look of the race bike. Such is the reputation of the Cota 4RT, that of the last 17 Trial World Championships won by the Montesa team, the last nine were all achieved on this model.
Moving up the performance scale, the Montesa Cota 300RR (‘Race Ready’) is an exclusive and unique race-oriented machine which builds on the success of the 4RT models but with a focus on increased power and reduced weight to meet the needs of the most demanding racers, particularly those competing against two-stroke models.
Making up the Honda Montesa range is the most recent addition, the 4RIDE. This versatile off-roader, aimed at the ‘pure adventure’ seeker, is light yet strong, powerful yet manageable, and comfortable and easy to handle. Along with strong Dunlop tyres for plenty of grip, the front axle is light and agile with strong suspension to deal with the most uneven and demanding terrain.