Back In Scotland

IT’S not so often that Friday becomes THE day of the week as far as trialing is concerned, but Friday of last weekend was definitely the day to be out, and the place to be was Kinlochleven – where else? – for the Scottish Pre 65 Trial.

Along with another 179 riders, and what seemed like thousands of spectators, I was fortunate to be at the old aluminium works in the Highland village which was milling with people, exotic (and not so exotic) machinery and lots of atmosphere as the 23rd running of this classic event took place.

This column, frequently written well in advance of the weekend, is being written first thing on Sunday morning in Fort William where the weather is horrendous, but on Friday and Saturday, once again the conditions were totally ideal, though to be fair, it didn’t get warmish until midday on Friday, but it was ideal for trialing.

The trial was to all intents and purposes identical to last year and the year before with minor alterations, and absolutely perfect for that. It gives riders an ideal opportunity to compare conditions between years and whereas in 2005 the water was feet deep everywhere, last weekend Scotland was as dry as most regulars to the area in the first week of May have ever known it (though it’s changing this morning!)

The actual report for the trial will be read elsewhere, suffice to say that after two days and 60 sections, Tony Calvert turned out to be the winner with just one mark lost. Don’t think by any means that losing only one mark over two days makes it an easy trial. It was very, very tricky and though every section was cleanable by all of the top 20 riders at any time, maintaining that level of ability and concentration all the time is a superb achievement and Tony was not only delighted to win, but was an equally popular winner.

Riders that have been around the scene many, many years, tend to tackle any trial with casual indifference. On any Sunday, it’s a case of going out, meeting your mates, glancing at sections and when you ride them, do the best you can but accept that perhaps you haven’t put in 100% effort.

The Scottish Pre 65 Two Day generates a different level of attack. It’s the trial in which everybody wants to get a good result, and as such, the preparation level goes up a gear, from looking after the bike to how you approach each of the 60 sections. It was very clear on Friday and Saturday that riders were working extremely hard to clean every section, therefore from both the riders and spectators point of view, it’s the chance to see some superb rides. Scotland’s sections allow riders to show their ability to the full. They are generally straight and because they were so dry this year, many were either very slippery or very loose which brought in a new challenge to this year’s trial.

What a superb two days, tremendous organisation and a real delight to be part of it.

But there was a downside.

Signs had been erected everywhere pointing out that unauthorised machines were not allowed on the course and such riding was likely to jeopardise the future running of this fantastic trial. Here on Trials Central Andy had already threatened to “Out” such activities, yet last Friday and particularly last Saturday the number of riders taking all sorts of bikes up the Pipeline road and along the Mamore Road numbered in the hundreds.

You might well think that all these illegal riders, for want of a better way of putting it, would be youngsters, but they are not. The trial attracts the older age groups and and all these riders were mature individuals. They will all know, without any doubt, that riding where they are not wanted was against the organisers requests. But like a load of sheep, one goes and the rest decided to follow.

Every trick in the book is used to justify their actions – some quite reasonable. The Highlands, by their very description, is a tough place to walk, but it’s easy on a bike, so why walk when you can take your bike? Others had “official” plates on their bikes, most acquired from years past and carefully kept for just such an occasion and of course they had nothing to do with the oragnisation of this year’s trial.

Speaking with Willie Gordon, the secretary’s husband on Saturday night at the presentation, he told me that already they had received complaints from landowners about the number of bikes off road that were not competing in the trial, but admitted there was no answer apart from appealing to people’s better nature.

It appears there is no better nature, selfishness rules, so should the Pre 65 disappear one day, you know full well who to blame.

On to more happy times now. Sunday was of course weigh-in day for the main trial and though it proved to extra squally, between the horrendous bursts of rain, wind and hail, when the awnings suddenly became very popular places to be, there were enough clear and bright moments to enjoy another traditional pre-Scottish weigh in day. The parade was as popular as ever and the weather was kind enough to stay dry for the riders and fans who turned out in their thousands to welcome another Scottish Six Days Trial to Lochaber.