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laird387

British Experts Trials - A Brief History.

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Hi,

Some years ago in the ‘Letters’ pages of ‘Offroad Review’ there was a vigorous discussion as to whether an award should be created to recognise what could be described as ‘the Blue Riband’ of British trials riding. The plan was to link the three most prestigious events in the calendar, namely the Scottish Six Days, the Scott and the British Experts and to make an award to any rider who triumphed in the three events in a single year.

There have been a few examples over the years but as it dawned that if an award were created it would merely be yet another trophy to riders who already had cabinets full of silver the project died.

One aspect had resulted in considerable comment and that was whether the British Experts, which should, by defrinition, have found the best rider of the year, had actually achieved that result and surprisigly many correspondents were of the opinion that over the years the trial had not justified the title, starting with the very first, held in 1929.

The problem, as so often, was one of finding a volunteer club, roughly equidistant from most parts of England, capable of dealing with the complex organisation and the first choice in the Bewdley club found a willing bunch of volunteers but suffering from a severe lack of taxing terrain - it was all just too easy.

Another aspect was that in that period the manufacturers had worked out some of the technical needs of triallers and had moved from simply providing road machines with raised exhaust systems, to creating competition models with shorter wheelbase, modified front fork links to give more direct steering, slimmer petrol tanks, competition magnetos with better waterproofing and then the ultimate - different pinions to give wide ratio gearboxes.

The tyre manufacturers provided the first rudimentary designs specifically constructed to give grip in mud, over tree roots and rocks. Trials success became a matter of performing in the observed sections, not just maintaining a tight time schedule over long distances.

Watching that first trial in 1929 at Bewdley which BSA star rider - and later Competition Manager - Bert Perrigo won on the ‘new’ 350cc competition model, were members from the Stroud area of Gloucestershire, including the inspirational owner of Baughn Engineering, Harry Baughn who later developed a complex sidecar outfit, with driving power to the rear and sidecar wheels. They knew they had access to land that would challenge the riders so a successful bid to run the “Experts’ was mounted and sections that are still in use in classic trials today were introduced like ‘Nailsworth Ladder’ climbig up the steep sides of Golden Valley and ‘Weighbridge’ a sharp rocky climb at the side of the ‘Weighbridge’ pub!

The trial continued in the Stroud area successfully throughout the 1930’s, with epic battles for supremacy each year between the works stars of the Midlands factories, Len Heath with his Ariel, Bert Perrigo and Fred Povey with their BSA’s, Vic Brittain with the Norton and Charlie Rodgers with the Royal Enfield. Local star Jack Williams from Cheltenham won the trial for Rudge in 1932, and was promptly given a Norton contract!

The 1939 event saw the first tie between Jack Williams and Vic Brittain, both on Nortons before hostilities of the second World War closed the trial. When sport resumed in 1946, the trial returned to Stroud to be won by C. M. (Bob) Ray on the Ariel but the sport was far more active after the war, with many riders having been introduced to offroad motorcycling by active service as Despatch Riders, mainly on the favoured WD machine, the Matchless 350 (favoured because it had the first telescopic front forks seen on a British machine) and there were many more clubs keen to try their hand at organising.

In 1947 the trial moved to the Skipton area of Yorkshire and it was no surprise when the entry was trounced by Bradford rider Artie Ratcliffe on a Matchless, followed by the AMC Maestro of Plonk, Hugh Viney (AJS) in 1948 when the trial had a year back in Stroud, Surprisingly, in a period of deep austerity in post-war Britain the 1949 trial was awarded to Exeter, but disquiet in the press persuaded the A-C.U. that the Midlands was a better compromise, and the trial entered a successful phase, mainly in the hands of the Birmingham club and some inspired section plotters.

Certainly the trials where Olga Kevelos was the kingpin of the operation definitely gave the competitors a real challenge and inspirational sections in the Llandrindod Wells area like ‘Ashfield’ just off the Rhayader to Builth Wells road can still lay claim to be a perfect ‘experts’ section!

That was the golden era, for many enthusiasts, for in the late 1970’s the nature of the event changed, as much to reflect the presence of the newer generations of more competent trials machines.

I shall be introducing images from the British Experts trials over the years.

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Hi,

The Experts had a break during the 1939-45 hostilities and returned to the calendar on a misty November day in 1948.

At the head of the queue is Hugh Viney on his works AJS, actually a pre-war motorcycle fitted with the teleforks developed during the wartime period.

The development was spearheaded by the road racing element in the Competition shop, who had seen the Bavarian supremacy on some circuits with the racing BMWs, so arranged to 'aqcuire' one of the German machines through a Swiss friend then hastily copied the oil-damping methods of the teleforks. (It wasn't entirely a happy episode because one of the youngsters of the Collier family who were the founders of the Matchless company 'borrowed the BMW for a test ride, and was killed in a road accident in Greenwich.)

The first machine fitted with the production front forks was the 41G3L Matchless offered for a Ministry of Supply replacement contract for motorcycles for army despatch riders in 1941. The Matchless bid for the contract at the outbreak of the war had been put to side, because the civil servants controlling the bid reasoned that the AMC factory at Plumstead, alongside Woolwich Arsenal, would be certain to be bombed by the Germans attacking the armaments production of the arsenal.

They misjudged because the 1941 replacement bid was created solely because the Triumph factory in Priory Road, Coventry - who had won the initial contract and were producing the Despatch Riders' machines was destroyed in a bombing raid on Coventry.......

Enjoy.

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Edited by laird387
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Hi,

Action from the Llwyncwtta section, to the east of Rhayader, this time Johnny Brittain in 1959 on the 350 Enfield Bullet. Judging by the amount of water in the boggy bit, it was a wet year!

Both Johnny and his father, Vic Brittain, won the Experts - Johnny was arguably our most reliable ISDT rider, with rides on 17 occasions he won 17 Gold medals.

Enjoy.

post-19290-0-90490700-1392883402_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

Alec Wright with Michael Beenham in the chair of KEV 72C, the works Greeves 250 outfit, seen in the 1965 British Experts trial.

Alec is definitely indulging in a 'works dab'.

Enjoy.

post-19290-0-42455100-1393954258_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

Hugh Viney's riding career effectively ended while on his way to the selection tests for the 1954 ISDT at the junction of Old Brompton Road and Finborough Road in West London in a collision between his factory AJS and a car, but certain trials ‘tempted’ him back in the saddle. Just such was the 1957 British Experts.

Enjoy.

post-19290-0-57648000-1394015701_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

Photographed by Malcolm Carling at the 1968 British Experts, is Derek Edgar riding his six-speed works supplied 125cc Puch.

Seen in the stream at Cefnllyn, just before the climb out on to the bottomless bog leading back to the road the 125 Puch had apparently been converted to one-day trials specification by Derek, whose late father Norman Edgar Snr. was in business as Edgar Brothers in Edinburgh at the time and were the Puch Agents.

Derek recalls sheering off a footrest during the event and having to finish on a temporary rig fashioned with a pair of ‘Mole’ grips.

Better known for riding DMW machines, he also scrambled a very quick 250 cc split single Puch in Scotland.

On the 37AT AJS two-stroke trials he rode in a team with brother Norman and Ray Sayer in the 1969 Scottish Six Days.

Derek later emigrated to America where he eventually worked as a development rider for Montesa.

Enjoy

post-19290-0-60863600-1394016694_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

A few miles south of Rhayader on the back lanes to Builth is the farm where we find Roy Peplow on one of the only three unit construction twin Triumph trials bikes actually recognised by the factory.

The trial - the 1963 British Experts. Note the section is marked the way they always used to be - minimal marking to let the riders choose their own route - and make mistakes doing it! I once needed an extra section in a Market Drayton trial I was marking out for an Open-to-Centre - where we had published the regs which said '24 sections in a twelve mile course' or whatever. It was getting dark so, using a four acre field we had to get through to reach the other lane I put the 'Begins' cards on one gate and the 'Ends' on the gate at the far side.

On the day we took an unhealthy number of 'ones' and a couple of riders dropped 'three'............

Enjoy.

post-19290-0-26871200-1395676579_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

The British Experts trials were always open solely to invited riders by the relevant A-CU committee.

In 1958 Dave Curtis earned a ride by virtue of winning a Gold Medal for Great Britain in the ISDT.

Enjoy.

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Hi,

Jeff Smith won the British Experts in 1958, seen here being watched by team mate Tony Davis.

Note that Jeff won this prestigious event on a very standard looking C15T - forks and all..........

Enjoy.

post-19290-0-10293600-1395678089_thumb.jpg

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Hi,

Recently Barry Robinson was given a collection of old photographs that had been found in a house clearance in Harrogate.

We don't know who took them, but happily, there are hand-written captions on some, with locations. After some careful research we've been able to add some further detail - so now I can post them to add further 'spice' to our selection.

This was taken at the start of the British Experts trial, which was based in Skipton in October 1947.

The riders whose backs we are looking at are (48) W. J. Smith and (45) A. E. 'Bert' Gaymer - the Triumph works rider .

Enjoy.

post-19290-0-83546500-1396700043_thumb.jpg

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Hi rhayaderman,

Mike, what was the name of this section in the Elan valley when it was used in the British Experts?

Secondly can anyone recognise the rider and give us his name and bike? Malcolm Bates tells us that the section is 'Caban Dam', many tks for your help.

Enjoy.

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Edited by laird387

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