Stephen (Butch) Robson
I always liked bikes, push bikes first and my dad rode trials so I went to watch him when he rode. It was not every week, only now and then. Watched the Travers, The Alan, Scott and the Summerfield 2 day which started at Alston; 1st day was the Alan Course, 2nd day was the Travers Course. Riding around, I would see Dave Younghusband or Alan Butterfield washing their speedway bikes in the street.
We travelled about a lot and lived on a farm in Wales. Dad bought a Dot, I was about 8 or 9 and could not touch the floor but he would set me off riding round a field and I would ride round till it ran out of petrol and I fell off ! When I started Moorside school they had a motor bike club ran by one of the teachers. Every Friday night he would open the metal work room and we would go and watch people fixing bikes and riding round. The teacher would organise trial competitions in the school holidays and I became very friendly with Ossy Byers, older brother Alan who was a couple of years older than me and he rode trials. Those days were really good, I would push bike to a trial literally miles away or a moto cross to see the Logan brothers & Kenny Minns battle it out and sometimes it was a battle, literally fists flying and everything. Monday night was Brough Park Speedway, Thursday night was Teeside in Allan’s Moskovich van, Dr Feelgood blasting out, happy times.
When I was 14, my dad could see I was keen as anything so bought me a Montesa 247. That was it, we were off trialling every weekend; mam, dad, my brother and sister. Would love to say I was a natural but NO! It was hard, everyone rode 1 course but I stuck at it, got better and better. Mid-table with the adults was a normal day out, then dad said we’re off to the Schoolboy National at Rob Shepard’s farm. My first National as the top schoolboy in the North East, in my head top 10 should be achievable. What a shock, first time I ever saw a young kid called JR on an Ossa, 4 marks lost all day (he would of beaten Toni Bou that day he was outstanding) & met my long-time friend Chris Griffen, he was second, I think 18 marks. I was in the bottom 10 of the results, 173 marks lost. Two ways you can respond to that, crumble and never go back or what I did was to think if they can do that so can I. So, the next year in February we went to Quinns motor cycles for new chain & sprockets for the Montesa. Came home with a brand new MAR Ossa, some salesman Peter Quinn. First time out that was it, everything clicked, I finished 5th overall against the adults. Over the next few weeks I was always in the top 7 as a 14 year old kid. April came, Nigel Birket turned up at a Newcastle trial with a works Suzuki so while everyone was watching him I finished second behind Ritchie Sunter with Birks third. So that year it was Schoolboy Nationals and my first sight of mud, Wetherby Saturday night rials and my first sighting of Glen Scholey. I never quite managed a win in the Schoolboy Nationals, I had a couple of second places so was happy.
Into the adults and I bought myself a Beamish Suzuki 250. It was pretty and I loved riding it, did the Scottish six days on it and got a first-class award. Also first year in the Scott trial and I had heard about the famous Scott short cuts. Keep looking ahead, they flag you to the end of a field and turn you back so just before Under banks on the way out I spotted a famous short cut so I turned and headed down the field as fast as I could. Now this was when the short cut was not a short cut, it was flagged round because it was a quarry face so when I stopped, the bike was still bouncing and handlebars in 2 pieces. Ooooh bugger…next year. Fate then kind of intervened, I chopped the tip off a finger so injured me, and my dad, went to observe with our bikes in the middle of the fells, he had a 325 Bultaco by this time. So, between riders I would do a bit of practicing, could not clean his section on the Suzuki so he says try it on the Bultaco and cleaned it every time. So, at the next trial, ‘dad can I borrow your Bultaco’. Then I met Steve Wilson, the Bultaco works rider, who took the Bultaco away, did his magic and that was me winning. I started doing the British championships and rode the world round in Wales! That year I was North East champion and the Montesa importer Jim Sandiford had the idea to sponsor every centre champion with a bike through the local dealer. So I started riding for Quinns doing the British round of the World championship, all the British championship rounds, the Scottish six days and the Scott. I did not get an entry to the Scottish six days that year so after speaking with Jim Sandiford he got in touch with the Montesa factory who entered me. It was strange going to sign on and the secretary looking at the number and saying ‘Do you speak English?’ Me “Wey eye.” ‘Just you’re down as Montesa Spain on the entry form.’ I had 2 really good years with Montesa, centre champion again, Special first class in SSDT, Scott spoon and in the top 20 at the British rounds (points only went to 10th in those days so it was an achievement to get in to top 20) got to know all the top riders.
Then in December, John Brown at RSG asked me to ride a Fantic again with a similar deal; 2 bikes a year, spares & clothing. I had one last trial to do on the Montesa at Bath. Then the phone call came, Brian Fowler Fantics team manager will take a bike and riding gear to Bath at the start for you. The results then really started to happen. There was a slightly more powerful 200 Fantic came along just before SSDT so I went to the Pollock the week before the Six days, there was Fantic number 1 Nigel Birkett, I won he was second. SSDT I was right in the mix by Tuesday I was 12th overall, Wednesday I was 10th, I slipped off the pace the last couple of days I think, ended 17th but only 4 or 5 British riders in front of me! Went to ride in France, Italy and Austrian world trials that year. I was in the top 10 at the Wainwright and top 10 of one of the mud trials down South so scored British Championship points that year. Then it was time for the 240 Fantics by this time I had a young family and a bike shop so was not on a bike as much as I would like even so I had another top 20 finish in SSDT, Rode in Italy and Swiss world rounds. At the Scot trial I was 2nd fastest 5th overall and second to Nigel Birkett at the Travers, he was on TY mono. I also had an 8th place at the British experts and I also got to ride in the superstars trial, both were by invite only. The superstars trial was for the best riders in the country / world.
Then 1984 I stopped riding, no bikes until I had a mid-life crisis at 40, whatever it was LOL!
My favourite memories from trials are the people, Norma Heeley with her famous picnic basket, I was like Yogi Bear LOL. She had a hip flask in the basket and I would often drink it before I even started riding! The life-long friends I have made, Jimmy Mckeown & Bill, Chris Griffen, Glen Scholey, John Lampkin, Birks, Sunt, the lovely Rob Edwards RIP, Bucko, Wobbler (CA2Specialist cars ), Graham Tales and myself were riding round a British Championship trial in the 80’s and walking a section I looked up to see my dad talking to Graham’s dad like they were long lost pals when I asked my dad about it, turns out they were stationed in Hong Kong together on National service in the early 1950’s.
Trials for me has always been fun with a social side as the 2 go together. I now prefer to ride the twinshock bikes and travel to most trials with Ossy Byers (Audit CNC) doing Kia rounds, Costa Brava, Santigosa, Ventoux, Pre 65 Scottish, Leven Valley. I have been fortunate enough in recent years to win a Kia series (Thanks go to Gerry and Freddie XX for organising) and The Leven Valley 2 day trial at Kinlochleven (Thanks to the organisers up there Tam, Martin, Jim Lorna, etc, etc) Highland 2 day (which I was taken to in a carry cot). My 2 favourite places riding are in Yorkshire and Scotland.
So, with the world being turned upside down, thank you for the chance to revisit my past and I hope someone enjoys reading a brief encounter with the past. If I have not mentioned anyone by name, sorry there are only so many I can remember.