My design influences go back to the 1960s when I was motorbike mad. I would ride anything I could get my hands on, from an NSU moped to a Triumph Thunderbird.
To give a flavour of the times; at the tender age of 14, I was riding my Royal Enfield 350cc Bullet home after a jaunt into the local countryside, when the village bobby hailed me. All he said, which has baffled me ever since, was “What would your parents say if I told them about this?” My reply was probably along the lines of “Dunno” or “Not much”.
That old Enfield was a lovely bike and would fetch a small fortune these days. I wasn’t big or strong, never have been, but the Enfield was, and had lost its kickstart lever (back then the idea of an electric starter on a motorbike was something to joke about). This meant little fourteen-year-old me had to jump-start it; I had to jump so high to land on the saddle and simultaneously let the clutch out that I frequently overbalanced, fell into the road on the other side of the bike, bringing it down on top of me.
Anyway, my general liking for motorbikes in a few short years distilled to a love of ‘Observed Trials’ competitions, a winter sport which, back then, embodied exactly what I enjoyed most on a motorbike; a day-long jaunt into the countryside which was not restricted to roads and included a number of short and interesting challenges in the shape of ‘observed sections’. These sections were the competitive part of the whole event, so even if you weren’t very skilled, a good ride was to be had anyway. Trials motorbikes of those times had to be quite versatile; often being ridden to the event start, round the thirty or so miles of the competition route, and home again in the evening, in all weathers.
My love of cycling ran parallel to my love of motorbikes, which in my mind were virtually interchangeable. My ideal day out on a bicycle was a jaunt into the countryside, not restricted to roads and including a number of ‘interesting’ challenges to my riding skills.
The design of those classic, versatile trials motorbikes, like the 1963 Dot pictured above, was an obvious source of inspiration for my ideal true cross-country bicycle.
Nowadays, a motorcycle Observed Trials competition is most likely several laps of a very short circuit; competitors are never very far away from their tools, spares and the refreshments van. Modern trials motorcycles have thus lost their versatility and evolved into very specialist machines, and events are occasionally cancelled because of bad weather!
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