History In The Making In May

Riders who have received an entry into the Centenary Scottish will have been forwarding cheques, arranging Banker’s Drafts and stuffing knives into the slots of piggy banks as they make arrangements to send their monies off to the Edinburgh and District Motor Club for this year’s trial which is held from May 2 – 7 this year, preceeded of course by the Pre 65 trial.

Whilst those who have an entry know that the entry fee costs £400, it does now include fuel for the bike and lunch each day, which makes it easy for riders who no longer have to transport cash round the trial each day for their food.

They will now also know that the club, eager to ensure that the trial starts with a full house entry of 270 riders, have cut-off dates. All entry fees must be paid by February 25; cancellation of your entry results in a deduction of £10 if made between February 25 and March 13 whilst entry cancellations result in a £100 cancellation fee if made after March 13 and before April 10.

Cancellations made after April 10 result in loss of the entry fee.
The reason the club is doing this is that in the past, having accepted 270 entries, often the trial starts with maybe 10 to 20 entries fewer as a result of riders simply not turning up as at one time some money had to be paid at signing on.

The club are hoping that with this rule in place, a full house can be guaranteed which would be good news for all concerned, the trial, spectators, the town etc. It is also fair to those who entered and were not successful in knowing that at the start of the trial, no spare rides are available.

This being the Centenary Scottish means that it is a very special trial. I stand to be corrected but I know of no other that can lay claim to this distinction but no doubt if there is one, somebody will let me know very quickly.

I was ploughing through Jim McColm’s excellent publication “Six Days in May” the other night, a book that was published some 16 years ago, which is effectively a list of the routes, officials and results of the 25 trials held between 1970 and 1994 interspersed with anecdotes and short articles about riders and officials connected with the trial.

We all know that Nigel Birkett holds the record for the greatest number of rides in the trial, and just for the record, he first rode in 1971 on a 118 Suzuki on which he finished in 120th place. So when he rides this year’s trial it will be the 40th anniversary of his first ride, but only his 39th Scottish, as of course the 2001 trial was not held due to the Foot and Mouth epidemic of that year. And Nigel has finished all 38 that he has ridden to date.

Setting records is nice, but of course there is no way of knowing whether any particular record will be broken. As it stands, Nigel’s effort is a supreme testament to his enthusiasm, dedication, mechanical ability and of course his riding ability in completing 38 times the trial that is without doubt the most challenging event in the annals of multi-day trials.

More to the point, Birks is not just there making up the numbers, he is well up with the top runners and well capable of finishing in the top 80. And just to make life that more interesting, he is also an importer for Scorpa and Ossa with all the responsibility that entails. Few would bet against him finishing this year for the 39th time and I bet that he will ride again next year to make it 40 trials, which would be a record that could be broken, but which is unlikely.

What nobody knows of course is just how long this fantastic event can keep going. I have no prior knowledge, so don’t get me wrong, but the sheer effort invoilved by everybody concerned is simply unbelievable. Those currently at the helm have amazing enthusiasm for the job, but I guess it becomes more difficult with each passing year and for that reason alone, making the annual pilgrimage to the trial is, for me at least, something I hope to do for as long as the trial exists and for as long as I am able.

On the Trials Central Forums there is a fuzzy bit of video filmed in the late 'sixties of riders riding the Blackwater path before the safety rail was installed at the narrow and nasty bit where one mistake would see an unfortunate crash many feet down the ravine into the river below. If you haven’t watched it, I suggest that you do as it’s a fascinating bit of history caught by an amateur cameraman well over 40 years ago.