Cut Out The No-Hopers

Two weeks ago I wrote about the eligibility of Pre 65 machines in the Pre 65 Scottish – a column that proved to be enormously popular (over 3600 hits) and highly controversial (87 postings).

I’ve read all through the postings and value the comments made, and I promised last week that I would put my final point of view, which of course may well be totally wrong – or totally right, depending on your point of view of course.

Without getting into a long drawn out document, this is how I see it as briefly as possible.

1965 was 43 years ago, therefore development will have continued. There is absolutely no way anybody would want to ride a machine in 2008 that is in exactly the same condition as it was in 1965. Everything about a Pre 1965 bike is a dog when compared with today. That’s my view.

Therefore you have to accept that the machines about which we are talking must have received development. If you take it to the extreme and if there had never been a Spanish/Japanese/Italian/French invasion of trials bikes, British bikes of 1965 design would inevitably have developed. It’s a fact of life, because if there was no development, we would all still be driving round in Austin Sevens, and Sellotape would not have been invented! Materials and production methods have changed enormously, therefore 1965 machines would have benefitted from those improvements.

There is a valid argument that there should be a rigid specification declaration for all Pre 65 bikes. That’s great in theory and would have worked well if it had been implemented within a few years after ’65, but a booming Pre 65 scene took a long time to come about, and back when the Pre 65 scene took off was the time to draw up specification guidelines, not now. But life isn’t like that, and it’s only in comparatively recent years that all this hoo-hah has arisen.

So, if you accept that we can’t turn back the clock to 1965, then you have to accept developments made in the intervening 43 years. Simple as that to my mind.

As it was the Pre 65 Scottish that brought all this up (again), let us now ask the question, “what should be allowed”. First and foremost, the Edinburgh Club members involved with the Pre 65 trial, will do exactly what they wish – and perhaps that is the best answer to it all. But you all wanted my view, and again, it’s simple.

I say, allow any machine to take part, with whatever modifications may have been made, as long as the outward appearance of the machine bears a significant resemblance to the machine as it appeared pre 65. That analysis would prevent single shock suspension and it would mean that the engine profile should stay very much the same. OK, so the engines will feature electronic ignition, reed valves, five speed gearboxes; front forks will feature specially made internals and wheels will be fitted with tubeless tyres whilst frames will be modified with increased ground clearance and reduced weight. So what?

I can well understand those folks who would like Pre 65 bikes to be close to how they were back then. But having just had a look at the picture of myself riding a Triumph Cub in 1964, there’s no way I would want to be riding the same bike in that state now. It had spindly forks, a huge tank, rigid footrests, spluttering ignition, bendy steel handlebars, appalling levers, control cables that broke and brakes that didn’t. Aaaahhhh, those were the days and it was fantastic when I had my first Bultaco, which was still not very good, but oh so much better than the Cub!

Inevitably there were some niggles amongst the 87 postings about some riders always getting a ride and some riders who never get in year after year. Again, I have a viewpoint about that. It’s simple, of the 300 plus entrants that want to ride, select the 180 who are the best known, ride the best and have the best machinery.

The trial doesn’t need old codgers on old dogs who struggle to get round and year after year, there’s plenty who, in my opinion, should never be in the trial. There are those who find the course a struggle, and in my view they are preventing good guys on good bikes from getting a ride. Many of the riders ride no more frequently that perhaps half a dozen times a year, some even less than that. They do the Pre 65 Scottish because of the prestige, but take a look at the retirement list, there’s far too many riders simply not up to it – and I do accept that machinery will have been a valid reason for some.

So there you have it, my views, right or wrong.