Trials Guru, the website that is just that little bit out of the ordinary, presents: ‘Chairmans View’ – a special section dedicated to that elite band of charioteers, the sidecar trials brigade.
Mike Rapley an experienced sidecar driver has been beavering away sorting out suitable images and material for a bespoke sidecar trials venture on Trials Guru. Supported by more images where indicated, we hope you enjoy ‘Chairmans View’
Adrian Clarke told Trials Guru: “The original 400cc Honda with BKS sidecar and Honda/Miller frame. It would rev and rev so was ideal for mud sections or climbs, but not much bottom end for rock sections. Barry Kefford built us a duplex cradle frame that was stronger and handled better, it went some way to taming the beast”.
Barry Watson the sidecar ace from Richmond in North Yorkshire added: “I do remember the Honda outfit that Adrian rode and he was in a class of his own on that. In fact on everything he ever rode. Adrian retired, then made a comeback in 1984 when he rode my Italjet outfit with my passenger Ron Suttill in the chair at the Manx Two-day. Poor Scott Roland was British champion and he lost more marks in one day than Clarkey lost in both days. I rode against him for three years and beat him once, that says it all”.
Barry Watson speaking to Trials Guru commented on Arthur J. Lampkin and Colin Pinder and the Bultaco powered trials sidecar outfits: “The Bultaco ‘A.J.’ & Colin Pinder are on in the photo by Mike Rapley is the 370cc they used for a while, he also ran a 325cc which was always a bit better than everyone else’s. We tried the 370 bike for a couple of months when Appleyards wanted us on Bultaco but we could not get it to grip, but the power was fantastic! We eventually ended up on a 325 Bultaco outfit. Actually it was an outfit that the Lampkins built up for Martin and Sid to do the 1977/78 Northern Experts and was the bike we beat Adrian Clarke on. The deal on the bike was done at a Bradford Motor Club dinner with Colin Appleyard and the Lampkins. The early Bultaco soon stared to rattle with use, but that one never did. They had something special about setting bikes up no doubt with the input of Reg May, who spent a lot of time at Silsden in the 1970s and early 1980s. Another guy who could set up Bultacos was the late Blackie Holden. I had two delivered to Blackies in boxes for him to set-up straight from Appleyards as did many other lads from the Richmond area. Blackie did not like them starting up before he had done his bit on them, he was another wizard with the spanners”.
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Barry Watson: “I rode solos for many years before taking up sidecar trials, I had a good passenger in Ron Suttill and we had good outfits to ride. Ron was a Coverdale sheep farmer and rated as one of the best sidecar passenger’s in is day . Ron only passengered with me and had three rides with Adrian Clarke. He used to say I won’t ride with anyone else, but Adrian persuaded him. Adrian hadn’t got a Manx sword and he wanted one as they didn’t give them out when he won the Manx Two Day trial in the 1970s. 1980 was the first year they presented the Manx swords to the sidecar class”.
“Robin Luscombe took over in the mid to late 1980s, becoming the invincible force in sidecar trials, effectively taking over from Adrian Clarke’s domination in the 1970s. Richmond Motor Club in Yorkshire became heavily involved in sidecars with their Gerald Simpson Two-Day trial having almost ninety entries, with around thirty outfits at a Sunday club trial. Former Scott Trial clerk-of-the-course, Bruce Storr was a very good sidecar passenger, essential if you are to have a good team who work well together. Andrew ‘A.G.’ Brown and Andy Kearton; Les Richardson and my two sons David and Garry all gave sidecar trials a try and were quite good at it. Steven Lambert with Dave Suttill; Mike and Cynthia Ryde were all British Championship contenders back in the day”.
“Another top sidecar man was my travelling partner and long time friend, Mick Wilkinson from Kettlewell, who took to sidecars like the proverbial duck to water. Like me, he fought hard to beat Clarkey! Mick won a lot of sidecar trials, one of few riders to win the British Experts trial solo and sidecar. In those days, it was the blue-ribband of the trials year. Mick was a member of the Richmond sidecar team with myself and Clarkey. When Clarkey retired, we adopted Rappers into our team, needless to say, we won a lot of team awards for Richmond Motor Club!”
“I had briefly played with a friend’s sidecar before I joined Trials & Motocross News, but only on a rough patch of ground. What got me interested in the first place was watching Ron Langston and Doug Cooper charge massive hills at Butser Lime Works when I was a kid watching the Hoad Trial.
Anyway, Bill Lawless at TMX was keen for me to borrow a sidecar for a test which Mannix Devlin and I did with Jack Mathews, which is where I picked up his famous comment, “Remember, when it stops it’s still on wheels”.
We borrowed a Kawasaki KT 250 with a Barry Kefford sidecar and took part in two trials, the second of which was the Dave Rowland, where we rolled it down a 100 foot hillside into a stream on the track from ‘Hawks Nest’ and to this day, every time I go past there I look in wonder how we never killed ourselves! I bailed out as did Mannix, but then he leapt over the edge and tried to catch up with it. Anyway, we did rescue it and finished the trial but it was well bent when we returned it to Barry.
Following that we obtained a 310 Montesa with a BKS sidecar and after a year or so the paper bought us a new Beamish Suzuki outfit which we had for a couple of years which was then replaced with another the same.
We rode all the British Championship trials from 1979 for five years and retired in late 1983 when Mannix got married and I went to compete in enduros.
We won five nationals, the Colmore, Peak, Mitchell, Kickham and Knut and loads of smaller sidecar events, scoring in thirty-six consecutive British Championship rounds when the points only went top tenth place. We finished third in the Championship in either 1981 or 82 and either third or fourth the following year, I can’t recall which.
I was quite disappointed not to continue but that’s how it was and went to enduros, winning the Clubman Championship outright in 1985 and the Over-40 championships in 1992 and 1993. I rode the 1988 ISDE at Mende in France and finished way down the order but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I also won the Clubman North of England 250cc championship a couple of times but have no idea what years it was.
Back to solo trials in 1998 at the age of 51, believing that I was never going to get any quicker and that’s what I’m still doing.
Oddly enough, I finished dead last in the Knut trial on a solo in 1967 I think it was and won the sidecar class in 1982. I won the Clubman class in the Bemrose last year, which possibly makes me the oldest ever winner of a main class in a national trial, though I’ve no way of proving that!”
Part one – Sidecar Trials in the 1980s
When I started sidecar trials in January 1980 it was on an old RL250 Suzuki bought from the Rumbold brothers whose father was on the Bradford Club committee and Alan Jefferies Trial secretary. To say it was a ‘challenge’ was an understatement, I was still finishing last in club trials in the September, but Bradford sidecar stalwart Donald Bridge who built sidecars, encouraged, instructed ran sidecar trials in Bradford kept helping and it stated to click.
In those days we would get twenty sidecars at a Bradford club trial and I remember over sixty at my first Manx in 1980!
Once a month, the Bradford crews would venture north to Richmond and at that stage Richmond had the top guys, Barry Watson, Mick Wilkinson, Norman Iveson and the Bradford aces Jim Reilly, Colin Bilney, Steve Kirk and Des Campbell were fighting for local pride, not the win.
In the Nationals, it was John Gaskell taking over from Colin Dommett, with Joe and Paul Howells, from the West Midlands, Ken Wilkins and Williams from the south, and a very strong East Midland Centre with Walt Bulloch and Brian Pearce, Bruce Melville and Chris Lamb, the amazing Geoff Gadsby and Mick Gaunt on the Bitsa BSA / CCM and Bill and Kath Sherras.
If you never saw Gadsby you have no idea what you missed, we used to call him ‘Odd Ball’ as he reminded us of the tank driver in Kelly’s Heroes but could he ride!
I doubt anyone else could ride that bike out of the car park, in fact I remember one year when it was running properly, no missing, revving out etc, and he couldn’t ride it either, but when it missed and popped etc – he was amazing!
During the early 1980’s sidecars started to change, or rather the top manes changed, as Scott Rowland, myself, Bernard Chambers, all in their early 20’s started to challenge the old-guard, along with Bruce Rushton who started sidecars in the 1980’s and went on to do his share of winning and became the ‘go to’ man for a new chair. He must have made a few hundred!
Bikes also changed, out went the Suzukis, Montesas, Bultacos and in came Fantic! Scott Rowland winning the Championship in 1984 and 1985 on a 240 then a 300, but amazingly the little 156 Fantic did a great job with a sidecar. I think Will Hawkes, a real character from the south, was one of the first on a little Fantic, but plenty followed!
In those days British Championship weekends like the Hoad and Pierce Simon, West of England and Presidents, had Sidecar Championship one day and a solo the other, so the local town would be full of riders all enjoying a beer, how it’s all changed!
After playing bridesmaid to Scott and ‘Antman’ King in British Championship for a couple of years, when I could beat them in the Manx and non-championship nationals, but not the series, I moved to the 301 Fantic from my trusty 350 Italjet and my run of championships started.
Unfortunately by then, Gaskell, Rowlands and company had parked up their sidecars, but Davy McBride, Tim Hawkins, Bruce Rushton, Bernie Chambers and from the Isle of Man, Ray Baxter and Mark Bimson were the main threat.
The world of sidecars didn’t change much then for a few years, the next change came in the early 1990’s with water cooling, and a few more youngsters! I’ll tell you about that soon – Robin Luscombe
Rapper’s – 1978 British Experts Sidecar action:
Greensmith Trial 1978:
More trials sidecar action to follow soon, here on Trials Guru – ‘Dedicated to the sport’.
With special thanks to: Barry Watson, Adrian Clarke, Colin Dommett, Robin Luscombe and Mike Rapley for their assistance and enthusiasm in collaborating with Trials Guru to bring you this dedicated page to the sport of Sidecar Trials.