PR Whitaker

Member Stories


1960: My first Scott Trial: A Walk In The Park


I came from a family who had no connections with motorcycling and so the interest in the sport and the Scott as a schoolboy came from a neighbour with a road side-car outfit who occasionally passed down the odd copies of The Motor Cycle, "the blue un". There was one article with a report by the late Alan Jefferies (turns out to be the 1956 Scott trial) which has lodged in my memory, with a photograph of a rider by the name of Ferguson riding a 197 Wozzer, obviously a Villiers special, somewhere in the wilds of Arkengarthdale. Now at the time my knowledge of the world was restricted to annual trips to the coast and a 20 to 25 miles radius of Leeds cycling to spectate at various trials and scrambles, Arkengarthdale could have been on the moon as far as I would have been aware.

There were no junior sections in those days so one had to wait until they reached the legal age of 16 before they could compete in trials and in my case it was 17 as I had not saved enough £sd from paper rounds etc. At that age I became a proud owner of a second hand DOT (Devoid of Trouble) and after serving a twelve month apprenticeship attempting to split, not the atom, but the various types of rockery in West Yorkshire, the bike was transformed into NBT (Nowt but Trouble).

It was the back end of 1959 and spectating at a Harrogate centre trial with a couple of mates, Fred Reeves and Tony Lake, we were approached by an individual (later we found out the gentleman was a Mr R.L Futers, secretary of the meeting for the forthcoming Scott trial) who was trying to persuade the three of us to ride in a real trial and handed out a set of regs for the same. To ride in the event was out of the question as we were still on 'L' plates and a full motorcycle licence was required in order to ride in a National event, but the seeds of interest were planted and we fixed the "Bobby Dodger Lights" to our bikes and rode up the A1 to Richmond. Even a simple journey like this was not without incident. Fred dropped his bike on the greasy cobbles in Richmond square right in front of a bus about to depart, an indication that we were not quite ready for competing in the Scott. Despite our rudimentary knowledge of Yorkshire we did manage to locate the sections at Washfold, a favourite with spectators and riders retiring early, no doubt to sample the wares of The Green Dragon hostelry. With the confidence and arrogance of youth we had already arrived at the conclusion that this event was a piece of "p..s," or more formerly, "A walk in the Park".

Twelve months later, 12th November 1960, three young Turks from the West Leeds Club, having passed the motor cycle driving test, obtained an ACU competition licence to compete in national trials, and more importantly acquired three new bikes, were entered in the Scott Trial and about to shake up the trials world (ahem).

This was my first Scott trial which eventually extended to a dozen plus or minus and I would love to boast of the fact that I had so many finishers certificates that one of the bedroom walls is plastered with them, but alas the truth is a little more modest with just four finishes and two of those outside the time limits, and as you will see from this article the year 1960 was not one of them.

A member of the club, the late Geoff Broadbent, ex works Royal Enfield rider, advised the three of us that if we informed the Dunlop tyre company of our competition number along with details of our entry to the Scott, tyres were available at a 50% discount. I can assure you we did not need telling twice and more importantly that allowed a tyre change once a year as opposed to the present day once a week, times were tough.

Not one of the trio had transport other than our trials bikes, but club member Arnold Teal, who farmed on the outskirts of Leeds and was a useful scrambler at the time in the North of England offered his services which were gratefully accepted. Arnold had recently acquired an ex WD Austin utility from Harry Carrs Auto-wreckers of Leeds for the princely sum of £5 (bear in mind that a skilled wage was in the region of £10/£12 a week) a standard model with one windscreen wiper and fitted with cable brakes, the deluxe version came with two windscreen wipers and hydraulic brakes. Maximum speed was around 50mph if you were brave enough and could keep it in straight line and I vividly remember that tank was reluctant to stop. The day before the trial Arnold bolted two beautiful chrome Lucas headlights to the wings that could have easily graced a Rolls Royce or Bentley, but more of that later.

The Scott Trial at the time counted towards the British Trials Championship and consequently was supported by the motorcycle trade industry, and the cream of the UK trials riders rode the event along with the ordinary club man who were out to make their mark. For the superstars it was a question of "am I going to win?" but for the club men the aim was to finish and more importantly, finish within the time limit to gain a coveted Scott finishers certificate. At the start the trade barons were out in force checking each bike for displaying their wares, Dunlop tyres, tick, Reynolds chain, tick, and the rider was supplied with a little blue and yellow steel container with the appropriate size split and half link chain, the Lodge and KLG reps looked down their noses at the young whipper­ snappers warped sense of humour when he replied he was on Bosch plugs, but it was not a warped sense of humour. A fellow apprentice's father worked for the Bosch distributor in Leeds and supplied a handful of Bosch plugs when he heard that I was competing in the Scott, you know the old tykes motto "if there's owt for nowt have it for thisen", I would have used a lighted candle down the plug hole if it had worked. The start format was the same as today, riders set off at 20 second intervals, Fred Reeves the first of our trio, at No.74. I followed at No. 114 and finally Tony Lake riding shotgun at No.127 and that was the last we saw of each other until late at night. The clerk of the course was a masochist by the name of Eddie Bentley, who a few years later emigrated to South Africa, whether that was to escape the cold winters of the North East or the wrath of Scott competitors can be debatable, but it was soon obvious that he had plotted an event that was certainly not going to be a walk in the park. There was the leg out via Underbanks, Clapgate down Dicky Edge which could often be a stopper despite not being observed on the ascent on the way back, and then an anti-clockwise circuit from Washfold. Travelling down one of the old mining tracks around Booze, riding far too quick for my ability, I came an almighty purler over the bars, it must have been fairly spectacular from behind because Paul England riding no.149 on a 150 Greeves stopped to enquire that I was alright. Fortunately there were no injuries apart from my pride and no damage to the bike other than straightening a lever or two. Having learnt a painful lesson, I rode a little steadier, through the sections of Bridge End, Whaw Bridge, CB, Hungry Hill, Tottergill, Fremington Edge, all names from the programme although I had not a clue where I was, and it was proving a very lonely ride with all the fast boys in front, and there could not have been many riders behind or they had probably retired. To make matters worse the weather had turned, drizzling, a freezing mist on the tops descending and the daylight fading making it difficult to follow the course marking in places. I now realised that I was way out of time and even to this day I do not know where I was but a sign post appeared through the gloom, which I assume must have been between Fremington Edge and Hirst Moor, with two fingers, one pointing towards Richmond via the old road and the other to Richmond itself. I followed the track sign posted Richmond until it came out on to tarmac which must have been the road from Reeth and by this time I had shot my bolt, not even having the energy to lift the clutch lever, and just rode with a whiff of throttle in third gear and now in complete darkness (must have been in the region of 4 o'clock). Bear in mind that the trial was at the time held in November; a couple of years down the line a competitor retired somewhere in the wilds and the mountain rescue teams were sent to out locate the individual. If memory serves me correctly he was eventually found in the early hours of the Sunday morning having managed to light a small fire to assist his location. The following year the Darlington club brought the Scott into the month of October to gain an additional hour of daylight which remains to this day. Suddenly as I reached the outskirts of Richmond an apparition stepped into the road frantically waving their arms an obvious indication to stop, and as I approached the shadow my heart sank, for it was one of the boys in blue, and I thought to myself what a way to end the perfect day, knackered, lost and booked for riding at night without lights, no front light, no rear light obscured number plate etc. etc. I explained to the officer that I had retired from the trial but didn't know where the start was; my faith in the law was maintained when no notebook and pencil came out of the top pocket and then given instructions to the start. As I thanked him and about to depart he said "if you get stopped again for heaven's sake do not mention that you have been stopped before otherwise I will be in serious trouble". With a reassuring promise I followed his instructions to the finish about two miles away and it must have been about 6 o'clock by this time. Arnold and the team were awaiting my arrival and I was welded, glued or frozen to the bike as they had to prise my hands off the handlebars and lift me off the bike into a vehicle with the engine and heater running, whilst someone removed the boots, socks and wet clothing and vigorously rubbing my feet and hands to assist the circulation and plying me with copious amounts of hot tea. Whilst receiving this treatment the bike was loaded into the back of the Austin utility and we were ready for the off The engine was fired up and the lights switched on but the calculation for mounting the Lucas chrome units were slightly out, the beams pointing almost vertically into the sky indeed the vehicle would not have been out of place on an aerodrome guiding aircraft onto the landing strip. This presented no problem for out of the back came two chick food bags, binding string and they were wrapped around the lights to act as deflectors and this worked whilst we wended our way through Richmond at 15 to 20mph but as soon as we reached the Al and the speed increased the deflectors became useless and the beams were illuminating the stars, a more technical approach was required. From out of the back of the utility came a 4lb lump hammer and Arnold proceeded to knock seven bells of s--t out of the wings and his panel beating or should we say his metal bashing skills had the desired effect of turning the convex mudguards to concave thereby lowering the beams onto the road instead of the moon, whether it would have passed the modern day lighting regulations is debatable. From there on it was plain sailing and we reached Leeds between 10 and 11 o' clock. By the way none of the trio finished so the trials world was not turned upside down.

That 1960 Scott "walk in the park" had turned into a Baptism of Fire.


This article is dedicated to the memory of Spen Valley club man Alan Mortimer who sadly passed away one week before the 2015 Scott Trial. Alan had been a member of the petrol team for a number of years and had ridden the Scott Trial on several occasions in the late 50s and early 60s and was proud of the fact that he had finished within the time limit and obtained a coveted Scott finishers certificate.

I am also indebted to Maurice Rispin, the Scott historian, for checking the dates, senile decay can play havoc with the memory.