Yes, you’ve read the headline correctly, this is the very last weekly column from me, and whilst some have been easy to write and others have been a struggle, this has certainly been one of the most difficult. I’ve written it, re-written it, edited it and filed it many times before finally sending it to Andy.
You may well be surprised at my announcement, revealed last week by Andy, but there are very good reasons for me calling it a day. This column is the 200th that I have written for Trials Central which brings me to a total of 476 weekly contributions that have left my keyboard, the first 276 being for Trials and Motocross News.
At the request of John Dickinson I wrote the first of these weekly columns in January 2001 just over a year after I had left full-time employment with T+MX. I knew he had a space to fill on page four and I was happy to take up the challenge. It seemed to be an easy task at the time as I had been writing professionally for a great many years and talking/writing about bike sport was second nature to me. But within a few weeks the dreaded foot and mouth had hit the nation, bringing off road sport to a halt, so for the best part of 19 weeks I wrote about the hobby that has occupied my entire life when there was no sport taking place. A tough opening, I think you will agree.
Without wishing to bore you, I had my first contribution published in Motor Cycle News in 1961, when I was just 14. I wrote a letter that was critical of the Sharp brothers, scramblers of that era, which resulted in replies derogatory to my opinion. Forty nine years later, having written for many bike sport publications, totalling millions of words, you have to ask what has changed Nowadays, I try not to be derogatory, having learned to be more tolerant, but I’m not afraid to be controversial when the need arises.
And the reason for calling it a day is simple. I have just completed a nice round figure of ten years of columns, which seems a good enough reason, but in fact there is more to it than that.
I’ve always been a great believer in knowing when to call it a day. The essence of being a columnist is to be interesting, possibly controversial, but always topical – and that is something very difficult to achieve. I absolutely hate to see somebody continue when they are past their best, and I am very conscious of the fact that whilst I am still around and about the sport of trials, riding and organising, and hope to be for many years to come, some columns I consider to be good and interesting, whilst others are no more than space fillers created because I have agreed to write a weekly column and it’s pride that prevents me from missing a week. In addition the gap between me and the youth about whom I should be writing, is getting ever wider.
It doesn’t mean that I shall stop writing altogether as Trials Central owner Andy Greig has said that there will always be a place for me when a suitable subject crops up, and for that I thank him. But I’ve now done it every week for ten full years and have never failed to deliver except when on holiday or when, in T+MX days, somebody else’s words were used to fill page four.
Many of the guys that I ride with, week in and week out, have paid complimentary remarks to me about my words, and for that I thank them all. But to make sensible comment about our sport, which in reality is very conservative, has been increasingly difficult. Sometimes I can sit at my laptop and my column is finished in 20 minutes.
Sometimes I start it Friday and on Monday evening I’m still thinking about what to write. That fact alone tells me that the time has come to call it a day.
Don’t for one minute think that I am retiring from the sport – far from it. I shall continue to ride trials as frequently as I can on either my Beta or the 200 Fantic I acquired last year and which is now beginning to come good, and I shall continue to be the secretary for Lancs County (as long as I am re-elected at the next AGM). I also have plans to ride the Normandale Series this year and once the weather is warmer, the road bike will be out again. Touring on that is most enjoyable as is attending road race meetings.
I did plan, for this last contribution to look back over some of the past 476 columns, but I can honestly say that once I’ve written it, filed it for publication, checked that it has appeared as I have written it, I never (well rarely) look at it again. It’s the next one that concerns me, not the last one
So whilst I am sure that many of you will have some that you remember, few are fondly remembered by me.
However, there was one, which appeared before my move from T+MX to Trials Central and it was the column I wrote about kicking over my Montesa whilst it was on its bike stand in the garage, the throttle was stuck open, I accidentally knocked it into gear and it fired off the stand and into the partly open garage door. That went down well and everybody seems to remember that one – as do I – for it cost me over £600 for a new garage door
So with that vivid reminder now firmly implanted in your sub-conscious, I’ll bring this last column to an end, with sincere appreciation for the backing offered over the past four years by Caroline Sandiford, John Lampkin and Jake Miller and I really appreciate the many thousands of postings that have been made following each of the past 199 TC contributions. So with these final words, I wish you all happy trialing, and thanks for your support for the past ten years.