I spend much of my working week when I’m driving around between appointments thinking about what the contents of the next column will be.
Then, just when all seems lost and I’m about to send an empty e-mail to Andy for the next column, something happens that strikes a chord.
It would be great to write each week about the future or indeed the immediate past or the present, but it’s not like that and sometimes I have to delve back into the memory banks for a history subject. And so it is this week – but not the whole column!
At last week’s Manx Two Day Trial I spoke with secretary Vanessa Cubbon about programmes from the 1966, 1967 and 1968 event. It was a personal request as I wanted to know for certain when I first rode the trial (1966 on a 250 Royal Enfield Crusader as it happens), and lo and behold, looking through that 1966 programme brought up a subject.
Let me ask a question; current Beta trials bikes are unique in the trials world in that they have the fuel in the frame, all other bikes have a separate fuel tank. So when was the first fuel in the frame trials bike?
Give up? OK, let me tell you what I know and can remember. Back in 1966, I’m pretty sure that I went to the Manx Two Day from my home in Slough with a rider called Henry Tindell, possibly with his dad, Alf, as well.
Henry was a shade a younger than me I think and though his trials career was pretty short, he was a very capable rider. In fact I can remember him winning a South Midland Centre trial – and in those days winning the trial outright was no mean feat.
And Henry did it on a home made bike. Alf, his dad was a garden shed engineer and he had crafted a competitive but fairly rustic trials bike using a 250 Villiers engine. But where it differed from everything else around at that time (Greeves, Dots, Cottons, Bultacos etc) was that the petrol was housed in the frame.
Alf had started with a length of tube about six inches in diameter and had quite literally built his bike for Henry to ride around that. I can imagine it now; you hang the piece of tube up in the workshop than start welding down tubes, engine plates etc to it, but I’m sure it was not like that and he had a jig to make it.
My relationship with Henry as a trials riding friend was very short. I had already moved to Exeter in my job from Slough but had left my bike in Slough until I could find a garage for it somewhere close to the lodgings I was in. After that 1966 Manx, when I returned to Exeter I took the bike with me which not only severed my trials riding connections with the South Midland Centre, but also with Henry Tindell.
Anybody know where he is now?
I certainly don’t recall seeing any other machine between that Tindell special and the advent of the fuel in frame Beta, though I’m happy to be proved wrong. It’s only a small and relatively insignificant subject but I’m sure somewhere along the line, it will jog the memory of at least one of my readers.
Whilst talking about the Manx Two Day, much discussion went on between riders over the direction the trial will take in the future. Somebody told me on Saturday that from next year onwards there will only be one route, but when I asked the question of a Manx rider and club official, he was adamant that no such decision had been made.
One of the problems I face as a rider and commentator in print about the sport is that it is only too easy to air one’s own views rather than the views of the majority. I’m also very aware that as I get older and therefore less competent, my views are sometimes not those of the majority.
However, more than one rider on the Clubman route with whom I spoke said that the Saturday route this year had been spot on, but Sunday’s route had been unnecessarily difficult.
Following that statement, let me put in front of you a few statistics.
The size of the field in each class (or number of finishers where the number of starters is not known)
National route Clubman route
1999 152 115
2000 127 131
2001 No details
2002 79 152
2003 91 184
2004 78 197
2005 65 210
2006 64 211
2007 46 229
2008 27 248
Looking at the above table, it seems to me there are two comments:
1 Either go to one route for the whole trial or
2 Make the national route easier, thereby encouraging the top 60 or so clubman riders to move onto the national route, which would then allow for an easier clubman route to be plotted.