Thanks Sheep!

Trials riders have a lot to thank sheep for!

What on earth is Rapley getting at now? Let me explain. I’ve been up in Scotland this weekend for the Lochaber Club’s Ian Pollock Memorial Trial at Kinlochleven and enjoyed two fantastic laps that took us up the long rocky path to the SSDT sections known as Blackwater, then across a large tract of moor to the remote part of the Mamore Road, and then down Loch Eild Path back to the village.

During the long journey back home to Carnforth last night, my pal Graham and I got to talking about how trials have developed over the years and how fortunate we were to have been able to do last Sunday what we had just enjoyed.

It seems impossible to me to even consider asking permission to ride over the land that we did; after all it was Easter, there were loads of walkers about and riding motorcycles over those stretches would seem alien to most people.

I’ve no idea who the club asks permission from, nor do I know how difficult it is to get that permission and we got to talking about getting permissions from farmers to run what we consider to be the normal run of the mill trial – i.e. four laps of ten sections over a decent sized farm.

Many clubs get that permission with no difficulty whatsoever and we reckon that’s because of sheep! Whilst sheep farmers now use quad bikes extensively to look after their flocks, quads are a relatively new phenomenon and prior to the four wheelers, they used trials bikes. Twenty years ago they were on TY250s, prior to that they were on Bultacos, Monts, Ossas and anything else that happened to be available and was relatively easy to start and be reliable.

The fact that most farmers had trials bikes and now quads, means that they have great understanding of what is needed to ride a bike and of the land used for competition. Indeed, many farmers want to be asked about using their land and many offer it up to clubs for use even if it is not particularly suitable. Hence my first sentence suggesting that trials riders have a lot to thank sheep for.

A tenuous connection? May be, but think about it and I hope you’ll see it all adds up.

Getting back to Sunday’s trial, there was a healthy turn out of riders to this popular Scottish event that takes place just three weeks before the SSDT. It gives potential SSDT riders a brief reminder of what they have let themselves in for in May and others a rare chance to get a taste of the Scottish.

The trial is named after Scottish rider Ian Pollock who was tragically killed in a road traffic accident during the trial many years ago and the trial is a fitting tribute and memorial to a fine young man who is no longer with us. Good on the club for organising the event and providing such a wealth of excellent sections and terrain on which to ride. I have absolutely no idea for how long it will continue, but make the effort to take part if you possibly can as the journey north may well be long and arduous, but the trial is certainly well worth it.

Whilst taking part I got to chatting with Mark Whitham, the SSDT clerk of the course, and asked when the Scottish routes will be announced. They are unlikely to be announced this week, but should be available next week. He tells me that there are still some decisions to be made regarding some new groups they have located, but he also told me Monday’s confirmed route. Whilst I cannot divulge what Monday’s planned route is to be, I can tell you that it is nothing like anything that has been plotted before and seems to me to be a very tough first day. What I can confirm is that it will finish at Lagnaha, which of course is always the most popular and readily accessible spectator group.

We took our evening meal on Saturday in Fort William, then walked up and down the High Street. It’s strange not to see trials bikes in shop windows and not to recognise folks walking the length of the town, stretching their legs after a meal. It was also very easy to get a table in the Alexandra for a meal, something that is not easy to achieve during the “week of the trials!”

The weather last weekend was great, the temperature moderate and the trial superb, so we can only hope that the same can be said in just three weeks time.