Rob testing the Cotton Minarelli 170cc trials machine in 1968. Italian Minarelli motors replaced the 37A Villiers powerplant.
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Having ridden a 250 Bultaco in the 1966 Scottish, I moved on to ride Cottons and rode a 250 Villiers powered bike in the 1967 & 1968 events.
1968 SSDT on Foyers with the 37A Villiers powered Cotton. Rob was fourth in the event.
In the late sixties Cotton changed from the 250cc Villiers 37A motor to the Italian made 170cc Minarelli engine. I was given a large gearbox sprocket to carry in my pocket.
The idea was to fit it when we were due to do long stretches of road work.
The problem was, I was always so late on time I didn’t have the time to swap it!
On the final days’ lunch check, the thought of doing 30 miles an hour back to Edinburgh was very daunting indeed. It wasn’t helped by seeing the works Greeves fitted with minute rear sprockets.
Their cruising speed was around 70mph. Bill Brooker was the Greeves competition manager and he really had his finger on the pulse.
On more than one occasion he went out of his way to help me. My idea of a true sportsman and excellent competition manager.
It was short on ‘flywheel effect’ inertia and dreadfully low geared. Thanks to my pals at Head Wrightsons, a brass band was machined to fit onto the flywheel.
This made a big improvement to the engine characteristics, wheel grip and so on.
Entered by Norman Crooks Motorcycles, I rode with this modification in the 1969 Scottish and won the best up to 200cc class.
Rob Edwards in 1969 on the Cotton at Coalasnacoan in the SSDT on his way to win the 200cc Cup.
To solve the low top speed problem, I had sent Cotton a drawing of my flywheel modification but had heard nothing back. I wasn’t surprised when one week after the SSDT there was a half page advert in the Motor Cycle News, telling riders how good the modification was and how much they would sell you one for. I was gobsmacked!
However, I didn’t receive any thanks for the 200cc cup win or flywheel modification!
After winning the Alan Jefferies Trial, I decided to treat the Minarelli to a set of piston rings. I rang the Cotton factory up and in due course they posted them to me.
Unfortunately you’ve guessed it – I broke one when fitting them.
I rang Cottons for another set. Two weeks later they still hadn’t arrived.
When I phoned them, the top man answered the phone. ‘Mr. D’ said that he wasn’t going to send me anymore rings until I explained exactly what I had done with the others.
It was then I decided it was time to move on.
When Pat Onions was in charge of the competition shop there was never a problem.
Things were changing and it was time to abandon ship.
But where to? – Rob
1968 – Rob Edwards (centre) discusses the Cotton Minarelli with Cotton’s competition manager, Pat Onions (left) and frame builder Eric Lee. The photo was a factory publicity shot.
Rob testing the Cotton Minarelli 170 a bike which he made some modifications to make it more competitive.
To Be continued …
Trials Guru: The factory Cotton Minarelli that Rob Edwards rode was to become the production Cotton ‘Cavalier’ which was produced at around five machines per week. Supplied to customers in ‘kit’ form to avoid purchase tax. The 1969 Scottish – Rob Edwards came home in a creditable tenth position and another Special First Class award on 59 marks on his 170cc Cotton. The eventual winner was Yorkshireman, Bill Wilkinson who was to be the last British rider to win on a British built machine, a 250cc Greeves (WWC169F).
1969 SSDT Programme with a 1968 photo of Rob Edwards on the 250cc Cotton on Glenogle section on the first day.
Rob remembers! : Isn’t it always the way? You start writing about one thing and another one pops into your head! Anyway, here is something I remembered about my Cotton days.
I traveled a lot with Brian Hutchinson. The problem was that Brian worked on the family farm. I would be at the farm at 4.30pm but it would be 6.30 pm before we started our journey.
One time in particular we set off for South Wales with light snow falling.When we reached the M1 motorway, the traffic was almost at a standstill. This didn’t bother ‘Hutch’ – he went straight across into the fast lane that nobody was using because the snow was too deep.
No problem! he had the Austin A55 pick-up to 80mph in no time and we had the fast lane to ourselves all the way to Sheffield!
We finally arrived at Merthyr Tydfil at 1.30am. No bed and breakfast or anywhere was open. It was freezing cold – you know its cold when your breath freezes on the windscreen. Close to death, we drove to the railway station and as luck would have it there was a gas heater on the wall.
You had to reset it every minute but this was the Ritz compared with the pickup. We took turns pressing the start button.
Unfortunately one time it didn’t ignite. I was woken up by the smell of gas and a hissing sound. The next second, there was a tremendous bang and the heater left the wall it was on and splattered against the opposite one.
We were last seen running flat out along the platform with the station master in hot pursuit shouting: “I’ve rung the police boyo you’ll not get away”.
It was back to the “pickup hotel” after that! – Great memories – Rob
The 1969 SSDT Official programme front cover, the year Rob Edwards came home 10th and won the up to 200cc cup on the Cotton Minarelli.
Words: Rob Edwards/Trials Guru, John Moffat 2014.
To read all of Rob Edward’s story of his life in trials, click… here