Happy Christmas After The First Year

Ho-Ho-Ho-Happy Christmas everybody.

Right that’s the seasonal stuff out of the way – let’s have a quick look back over the past year (almost) that I’ve been contributing to Trials Central.

This is column number 47 and the first one to appear here was on February 4, so it won’t be long before my first full year is up. Many times I’ve been asked why I moved from the weekly press to this website, and the reason is simple – I was not wanted anymore, or more accurately I was only wanted once a month, and as I felt that I still had a few more words left in me and could continue to write a weekly piece, Andy was quick to “snap me up” as it were when he heard I was available. Thanks mate!

I was not wanted because it was the intention to replace my regular column in the weekly press (which I first wrote in January 2001, and never once missed or delivered late) with staff columns and guest columns, and indeed, that’s what happened for a while, but recently I see that it is missing. I know only too well how difficult it is to keep it up weekly, and the replacement for the page four offering that I submitted as regular as clockwork, is no more.

There’s no denying it niggled me to lose my place in the weekly press, but equally I was delighted to have been welcomed with open arms here, with enthusiastic support for my column from Team Sandiford, and in Trial Magazine, which goes from strength to strength.

I wrote at the beginning that I would always have a tenuous connection with trials in my writings, but at times other subjects would be the fuel for my words. That has proved to be the case for I started off with praise for the trials race at The Tough One in Nantmawr Quarry. In early columns there was plenty of material with the World Indoors to write about, cash in club accounts, the legality of Pre 65 machines, then in March after riding the Bemrose trial I wrote a piece about truck tyres that had been discarded over a hillside into Cheeks gully. That prompted many comments and the Bemrose organisers, Manchester 17 and Derby Pathfinders, organised the clearing away of those dumped tyres, only to find some months later that another load had been disposed of in the same illegal manner.

Scotland is always a good event for columns, what with the entry list being published, pre event hype, the Pre 65 trial, the Scottish itself and the analysis a week later, there’s five columns to be had out of the event, and that’s exactly what I produced in April and May. In fact it was my column Too Tough To Tackle that produced the biggest response with 6547 hits to date, which has been far and away the most contentious article to appear here.

I don’t ever set out to be fiesty, each column is churned out as best I can on the day, but sometimes the words flow easily, other times it’s a real struggle. Frequently I sit down at my laptop with no idea what to write, but end up producing something that’s suitable at least I think it is, you may feel differently! The average hit by the end of each seven day spell is around 12-1500, but columns continue to be read over subsequent weeks and some attract significant numbers of hits. One thing for certain, is that it’s enthusiasts that read these words.

Into July I enthused about my trip to the Skerries road races in Ireland with my daughter, two up on the Beta Alp I own. That column produced lots of personal comments to me, indeed our experiences with the puncture in Dublin were seen as hilarious. And that led to another unexpected occurrence.

On the way home, in the van with the Alp in the back, daughter poses the question “when are we going to get a real road bike dad?”

“No chance” says I, “your mother would never let us get away with that”. But then the unexpected happened. A couple of weeks later I went out for an evening ride on the Alp and lost the gearbox sprocket, literally miles from home. Sprocket, bolt, washer – all gone, despite me searching the roadside looking for the missing parts. To cut a long story short, daughter collects van from home, then me from the far distant hills and the next day Mrs R says “what happened last night”. I explained and she retorts, “I don’t know why you don’t get a proper road bike”.

Key quick trip to Lancaster Honda and the purchase of a two year old VFR 800 V-Tec. I can’t believe I did that, but I did and the first ride out was on the Friday Nostalgia Run over the 1913 ISDT Lakeside passes. It was a steep learning curve moving from a 4RT to a VFR 800, but great, so this coming year will again be a mix of all forms of bike sport.

The Reeth Three Day, the Manx Two Day, the Scott one day and loads of other subjects have filled this column for the past 46 weeks, and I trust that future columns will keep you occupied for a few minutes each Sunday evening or whenever it is that you switch on to read Centrally Speaking.

Glad to have your support, keep the comments coming and suggestions for future columns; it’s often the apparently insignificant remarks that switch on the light that enables me to churn out another 800 or so words.

And a fantastic New Year!