Rapley On The Grass

If you are one of what I hope is the majority of trials riders that has an ACU Trials Registration Card, then you will have received by now (or will shortly receive) your renewal form for 2009.

The cost to be licensed is just £10 and whilst trials riders are notoriously tight, I think it would be fair to say that this is a relatively insignificant amount in the grand scheme of things.

Being a registered ACU rider brings proof that should you ever be unfortunate enough to have to make an insurance claim, then the fact that you are registered would make the process of claiming infinitely easier.

However, insurance claims by trials riders are few and far between (I guess), but there are other advantages. The most obvious is that you will regularly receive a copy of Sport Moto, the ACU’s own publication that covers every aspect of ACU sport. Depending upon the time of year, there will be features on road racing, trials, motocross, enduros, grass track, speedway, supermoto, mini-bike racing, and if I’ve missed anything, that too!

So whilst you may not have the slightest interest in other forms of bike sport, that is no good reason not to have a look at this magazine. It’s been published for a number of years now, but in recent months has become very good indeed. Obviously the Editor has a lot to cover in a relatively few number of pages, but he’s doing a good job and if you look at the Autumn issue which has just landed, there is a cracking cover shot of Scott Trial winner Graham Jarvis and inside a three page spread on this superb event.

But if, like me, you are keen on high quality photography, then take a look at page 26 and see the fantastic grass track picture of Jason Handley, taken by Alan Whale. Many moons ago, Trials and Motocross News covered grass track for one season before the management chopped it because there was not enough advertising to cover the editorial pages it took up. I was the Editor of the grass track section and it was one of the most satisfying aspects of my journalistic career.

The grass track boys had not had weekly coverage before and they loved it. Many rang the TMX office with their news and right from the very start Alan Whale was one of the photographic contributors. His work was superb, and as you can see from the Jason Handley picture, his work is still superb.

One of the riders who regularly rang was the great, but now regrettably late Simon Wigg (Alexz’s uncle) who was a world champion long track racer and probably the best grass tracker and long tracker ever to have come out of England. He had forthright views on everything about the sport, but his views were always very positive and constructive, never negative. I never knew him well having only met him the once, but he was obviously a great guy and his passing was a sad loss.

I’ve never ridden a grass track bike, but I have ridden a grass track sidecar and one of the last features I undertook before the section of the paper was folded was a “test” of a British Championship race winning grass track sidecar outfit - the type that uses a clockwork direction track. It was powered by a four cylinder 1000cc Yamaha engine, but for the life of me I can’t remember the names of either the driver or passenger.

But what I do know is that it was phenomenally difficult to drive. I drove it with the regular passenger beside me and only managed half a dozen very slow (though they seemed fast to me) laps of the track we had marked out. To make it turn right it had to be on the power all the time, but to keep it on the power meant it went fast, which meant it was very physical which meant that I was knackered after a lap.

To save my energy I throttled it along the straight and backed off on the corner approach – at which point it wanted to pull left!. My brave passenger had the answer, he was leaning over me from my left shoulder and took my throttle hand and opened it up. Sorry pal, I couldn’t hang on and as I say, after about six laps, I had experienced enough.

I never did get to write the article as the grass track section was pulled the following week, but I have always remembered the experience, if not the location or the bike’s owners.

And this is the first time my experience has made it into print!