I was supposed to be going left but I was going right. Big rock, cliff, drop off, then left, right, left. I was not in control at this point. I flew up a slippery slab of granite, trying to lean forward whilst falling off the back of a motorbike, then snaking up this steep slope. I was on one bloody wheel! The Marshall, a smiley grey haired woman, had to step out of the way as I ran over the exit marker flag. My God! What happened there?! She was laughing as she waved the next muddy rider on.
40 and a half years ago, my primary school mate Stephen Duffy and his Dynamic Dad got a Yamaha TY 80. This was and remains the coolest trials bike a kid could ever dream of. Me and my dad went up to a quarry somewhere in Whitworth, Rochdale, to see what it was all about. I rode up and down on our family Honda Monkey Bike through thin puddles.
The queen had her Jubilee. And that was it. That was the beginning and the end of my trials career as the Duffy’s went on to present ‘Kick Start’ or whatever they ended up doing as a family, all on their shiny funky trials bikes.
In the ‘70’s, Trials Riding was cool. Blue Peter presenters fronted shows about it. Nowadays the Do Good Brigade make it ever more difficult for this innocent sport to be carried out miles from anywhere in deserted quarries and wasteland.
Anyhow here I was, on my very own 1979 Mk3 250 Beamish Suzuki Wonder Bike.
Quickly discovering: this sport is bonkers.
As I bounce over nasty rocks, guided by flimsy blue red and yellow flags, as I turn left to exit ‘the section’, which is basically a test of balancing skill and nerve, there is this massive rock in the way. It’s got tyre marks over it. It’s green, slimy, it’s wet. Am I meant to go over it?! I try to ride round it and there is another massive rock with blood all over it. It’s pointed, it’s nasty. What do I do?
I pull the throttle back and hold on for grim death and try to go over the first. The front wheel lifts up and I put my foot down and the Marshall shakes his head ‘tut tut’ as I am not supposed to do that, put my foot down, and my back wheel gets stuck between two shards of black gritstone. “Five” says my mate Geoff, who has kindly introduced me to this mad sport. “You missed the exit flags”. I did not even see those. I got five points, thinking that was cool – only this sport the one with the least points wins.
I have entered a ‘beginners’ Classic Twin Shock Trial, one of the oldest forms of motorsport and one of its simplest challenges: To get around or over a series of natural obstacles without falling off or putting your foot down or getting killed, which has happened. Old people can do it. Someone I met, a retired financial advisor, was 72, riding a 50 year old bike and making me look like Granny.
Another poor sod fell off the back of his old British Brute, the heavy bike made of iron girders almost landing on his head. ‘Sit down over there for five minutes’ said the Marshall, as he disappeared over the hill for the next section, bruised and undeterred.
The best bit is flying over the moors between the sections, over bumps, down drops and through mud banks, all controlled by a motorcycle club who make sure nobody dicks about.
But even better for me was seeing all those dream bikes of my youth. It’s a mobile motor museum. Exotic names like Ossa, Montessa, Bultaco, Fantic, Yammy, Beamish, from when trials riding was at its peak [and on BBC2] now being ridden by ageing men as they are supposed to be ridden. HARD! It’s beautiful that these old machines are still being cared for, re-engineered, re-developed and used in anger.
Sat on the floor at home now by my log burner, my thighs are killing, the back of my legs sore, my shoulders ache. I stink of burnt two stroke oil and my ears are rattling with engine noise.
I feel great. I’ve done something special. Can’t wait for the next one. But my muddy bike and boots need a serious clean.
If you enjoyed this, you can watch my new documentary for ITV4 about the greatest road racing motor cyclist of all time – Joey Dunlop – ‘The Man Who Conquered the TT’ 10pm June 6th and there's a genuine Director’s cut with exclusive extras via www.conqueredthett.com.