The Manx For 40 Years

Looking for some material for this week’s column, I picked up on the current thread running elsewhere on this site that relates to the South Midland Centre.

I originate from Slough, though as I left there some 42 years ago I can’t pretend to know what happens down in that area now. However, it was where I was born and brought up and where I used to attend my first trials as a spectator and observer with my dad and his friend Maurice Everett.

In those days youth trials didn’t exist, ALL trials were on the road so you had to be 16 before you could start riding competitively. Dad made me take my bike test before he would let me ride in trials and reckoned that 17 was plenty young enough to start – so almost a year had passed from the legal age of being able to ride until I actually rode my first trial.

That didn’t seem to matter to me at the time and when I had my first bike, a Triumph Cub, it wasn’t long before I was out on the roads learning to ride it, then I took my test just a day or so after my first trial, the Farnham Royal Club’s Home Guard Cup Trial in December 1963.

Whenever I interview anybody for one of my regular monthly features in TBM, most folks to whom I speak can remember when they first rode and who taught them. Strange, but I have absolutely no recollection of learning to ride a motorbike – it just happened! I suppose being a keen idiot on a cycle, moving to a motorcycle came naturally, but I simply do not remember how or when I first rode.

I’m digressing a bit! The thread elsewhere is asking the question of which clubs run good trials nowadays. Nene Valley and Hilligdon and Uxbridge seem to be the regulars, but when I started I rode with HUX, Farnham Royal, Wood Green, Kenton and Kingsbury, Cambridge Matchless, Wycombe, Barnett, North East London and West Middlesex Amateur. I know they all still exist (they are in the ACU Handbook), but do they all still run trials? I don’t know.

Wycombe trials were always very good, particularly for an observer and we regularly observed at Common Hill Wood and Great Wood. The first had some great, rooted climbs that challenged the bikes of 45 years ago, whilst Great Wood had some big climbs and some muddy hills – I bet that nowadays they are innocuous.

I fact only last week I met with John Bull who at one time was SM Centre champion and who rode DOTs when I first knew him. It has been well over 40 years since we met and much water has passed under the bridge in that time, but he’s still an enthusiast, I’m still an enthusiast and many of the names I threw at him from those far off days are also still enthusiasts. It must be in the blood!

I’m writing this column on Thursday evening as tomorrow (Friday) I’m off to the Isle of Man for the Manx Two Day trial which is previewed elsewhere on this site. I can’t be certain but I think this is my ninth consecutive year at the Manx and I’ve ridden many times before, both on sidecars and solos. What I do know is that this year is the fortieth anniversary of the first time that I rode the Manx which was in 1968 on a 250 Bultaco. I thought that last year was my fortieth anniversary, but having checked it as best I can, I think I was wrong twelve months ago and it is really this year. I don’t know if there is anybody else riding this year who rode prior to 1968, though thinking about it I suppose Dave Thorpe is an obvious candidate as well as some others. It would be interesting to know.

The Manx is definitely one of the highlights of my year, and though it’s an expensive place to get to, at least I only live 12 miles from the ferry terminal at Heysham.. No doubt the trial will be up to its usual form after last year’s near cancellation because of that ridiculous foot and mouth scare.

Trials come and go and without being unkind, most just disappear into the haze which I call a memory. But let me remind some of the older, former sidecar competitors with just one short sentence. Remember those pig huts at the end?

Curious? Just ask!