Will The Manufacturers Bring About Change?

Following on from last week’s column in which I criticised the way trials riding at the very peak of ability is perceived, there were a significant number of replies to the posting, the majority of which seemed to agree with my words, though inevitably, I was also accused of being an out of touch “flat cap”.

First of all, I’m definitely not out of touch and I did say that whilst the style of riding has changed over the years and has to the outsider become less interesting, I’m an enthusiast and enjoy the sport as it is. That’s why I continue to visit big events in the UK, it keeps me in touch, precisely so that I can’t be castigated for failing to visit events, and then preaching on here (and elsewhere).

That was a valid criticism thrown at other members of my journalistic profession in the past, and one that I’m not prepared to have thrown at me.

However, moving on further from last week’s column, the next point that I want to make is the reaction from the manufacturer’s importers. Rhoda Rathmell made a comment to me in the Isle of Man when we were chatting after the two women’s events. I said that I had enjoyed them, particularly because the sections were ones that I could relate to and she said words to the effect “ that since she and Malcolm had left travelling the world scene (minding for Graham), whereas no-stop riding looked likely to become reality, it has since gone back to the days that encouraged lots of trick riding”.

She also thought that going back to stop allowed had been a backward step (pardon the pun), and for the importers, it did little to help sell bikes.

The facts as I see them are as follows. If I were a bike manufacturer, I would like to sell as many machines as I could produce. That would be the aim of my business. If the bulk of my business is the sale of machines to “Joe Public”, to encourage those sales, promotion would have to be aimed at them, i.e. get as many bikes in events in which Joe Public takes part. Then they can see them, ride them and assess them. Joe Public cannot in all honesty relate to how he could ride the bike when comparing his ability with those at world level. Sure, have a rider in world trials as a promotion, but that is unlikely to be the main sales aid for business success.

In fact is that not the way it is all going now? Only Montesa/Honda have the very big promotion with four factory riders, and that is funded not from trials bike sales, but from the sponsors and the size of the Honda corporation. Gas Gas, Scopra, Sherco and Beta have all scaled down their world efforts, so why do they not carry their influence further and get the sport at World level back onto a similar footing (or at least as close as possible) to the events in which Joe Public competes?

Or am I so far off the mark I have it all wrong?

The inevitability of retirement comes to us all, even so it was a bit of a surprise to actually learn that Steve Colley no longer intended to contest British Championship rounds. At the age of 35, he can look back on an incredibly successful career, during which time he has upheld the highest standards possible of a professional sportsman. It’s very difficult to be ultra-competitive, over an extended period without some mud sticking to you following a minor spat, but in my view Steve has come through it all unsullied. He’s been a real star indoors, he’s won the very best trials outdoors and he’s displayed a professionalism that has never previously been seen in the UK.

So well done to Steve from all his UK and world supporters. You’ve been a real asset to the sport.

Who will win the Scott Trial has been the subject of many postings on this website over the past few days, and I can’t even begin to suggest who of the likely four will come out tops. So much can happen during the Scott that good fortune as much as skill is an ingredient for success, but the winner will be the rider who manages to combine both. Graham Jarvis has the lure of the Scott winning record to become his alone, whilst Dougie needs to win with his closest rival having a trouble free day. Sure as eggs is eggs, it will be a fascinating day.

So here’s the plug. The Scott takes place this Saturday, October 20, starting at 9am from the field at Feldom Lane, not far from Richmond and Marske. There are a large number of vantage points around the course, all of which are listed in the superb Scott Trial programme, proceeds from which go to the local Scott charities.

Car parking at various points around the course is reasonable, but the best bet for quick and easy access to the spectator points is by bike – road, trail or trial, and if you are out on a bike, it will mean one less car clogging up the narrow lanes.

I have not missed a Scott since I first moved north in 1978, like many folks I have my own itinery for the day. That includes a spell of observing, which this year is at Black Hills, one of the more vicious parts of the course, high up in the escarpment above the Reeth to Tan Hill road. I’ve observed there before and a few years ago the first rider through (was it John Conway?) had a good ride, followed by a couple of cleans, but then the mud moved onto the rocks and it became a real battle ground. The survivors go through in about two hours, but at that point they are only about half way round and there’s loads more to do. It’s good fun and there’s the chance to see some action both before and after the observing stint.

So the point I’m making is to get yourself out on Saturday morning for one of the trials that is a highlight of the year. Let the girls go shopping, get yourself and a load of mates up onto the moors and be part of history, for the Scott Trial is exactly that, history in the making.