Two columns in just a few weeks, crikey, it’s like old times. Anyway, bear with me now while I spout off again.
So, after nearly 30 years trials have almost gone full circle following the ACU’s recent announcement that ALL British Championship events will run under the no-stop format. Some will smile knowingly and say that it had to happen and they are surprised it didn’t happen sooner whilst others will consider that it’s the end of the sport as they know it.
And the real answer is that it is neither of these, our fabulous sport will continue just as it has always done, in fact at club level where probably 95% of trials riders compete, I claim that it will not make a blind bit of difference as clubs will be able to run their events just how they wish, whether it be no-stop or stop allowed. However I wouldn’t be surprised if within a year to 18 months everybody will have gone back to no-stop then we really will have gone full circle. Certainly in two of the four areas in which I regularly ride, the North West Centre, the Northern Centre, the Yorkshire Centre and the Cheshire Centre, they have already returned to no stop (Northern and Yorkshire).
I can’t recall exactly when stop permitted came into being , but I have no doubt that somebody out there will know for definite. I think it was probably somewhere around 1983 to 1985 – a time when I was riding sidecar trials before moving over to the enduro scene, so stop allowed or no-stop wasn’t something that was likely to bother me at the time. (Riding a sidecar was a matter of staying upright and riding enduros was a matter of staying on time!) Anyway, let’s say it was in the mid’eighties. I’m reliably informed that the first time stop permitted came into use was for the French National Championship series and was then taken on by World Championship events, a time when Eddy Lejeune, Steve Saunders and Thierry Michaud were at their peak.
I was chatting with Chris Myers about this the other day, asking him if he could remember when it happened. Chris didn’t remember, but he did come up with a telling comment.
He said: “It ruined trials for me, at just the time I was at my peak. I remember a section in the Wye Valley Traders (then a British Championship round). Tremorithic it was called, a fabulous long steep gully with several sets of steps and loose rocks. No stop it was a brilliant section, but once stopping was allowed it changed it dramatically. Riders could divide the section into bits and cleans were easily achieved by those who could ride by stopping. For those, like me who had only ever ridden no-stop, cleans were a distant dream”.
Those long in the tooth who were around in those days will know exactly what Chris meant and whilst I remember seeing Steve Saunders at his very best when he could ride using both styles, it did become apparent even then that when stopping was permitted, many previously useable sections became worthless.
So, British Championship events are back to no-stop. Personal opinions are not valid anymore because it is a fait accompli. I believe that the pecking order will not change, those who won before will win again and those further down the finishing list will remain there. That’s the nature of things.
However, if all trials (I mean club events) go no-stop, some riders will find life difficult. My club and many clubs like Lancs County have a series of trials aimed specifically at newcomers, beginners and returnees to the sport and where stop allowed is used, they can get away with stopping mid-section and still get a three come the end. With no-stop, to be fair to everyone, the scores of those riders will soar and I believe will discourage them even further. Will we lose riders? Maybe, I don’t know, but the less determined may well say that near maximum scores are sufficiently discouraging for them to call it a day.
One thing that I have vowed never to do in this column is to promote events as it would lead to dozens of requests from all over the country for me to publicise such gatherings, but as this is one that I have personally been involved with, I’ll allow myself the luxury.
On December 28 at Crooklands Hotel, just off junction 36 of the M6, Arthur Browning is the guest speaker at Kendal Classic’s Christmas Luncheon gathering. Arthur is arguably the most famous all-round motorcyclist of modern times and we’ve been friends for over 30 years, so he accepted my request that he be the guest of honour that day. Tickets are available through John Bethell on 01539 723502. Plug over.