The 1970s are often thought of as the heyday of British trials when names like Mick Andrews and Martin Lampkin (Dougie’s dad) led the world aboard Ossas and Bultacos and regularly made the front page of MCN as a result.
For the man in the street these twin shock, air-cooled machines were just as popular, with dealers showrooms packed with the latest line-up from Spain, Italy and Japan. A typical event would usually attract a three-figure entry made up of all sorts of riding abilities: works stars, clubmen, and rank novices all rubbing shoulders together in their chosen weekend sport.
Forty years on trials has changed dramatically. Sections have become ‘colour coded’ for different levels of ability. The modern monoshock machine now looks – and performs – like a BMX with an engine, and for most manufacturers sales of new bikes can be counted in hundreds as opposed to thousands in the 70s.
However, thanks to some enthusiastic dealers dotted around the country, today twin shock trials is far from dead, as exemplified by the Twin Shock Shop on the edge of Sidmouth in south Devon which has arguably the largest stock of ‘70s and early ‘80s trials bikes in the country with Ossas, Bultacos, Montesas and Fantics sharing space with Honda TLRs, Beamish Suzukis and Kawasakis.
Founded by Matt Osmond in 2005, the business is very much a family concern with both mum, Julia, and dad, John, working there.
“I started riding when I was six and progressed from a TY80 to a Gas-Gas which I rode in the British schoolboy championship and also did the first year of the European junior championship,” Matt told MCN. “Then I went to university and that was the end of trials.”
Not for long though. University life wasn’t for Matt and back home in Devon the idea of a business working with motorcycles was born.
“Dad had ridden trials since the early ‘70s and going along with him to watch a couple of classic and twin shock events - great atmosphere and lots of friendly people – I got myself an old Honda TLR to restore and have a go myself.”
Once restored it attracted a lot of interest it wasn’t long before other riders asked Matt if he could work on their bikes – and the Twin Shock Trials Shop was up and running. Matt worked on the bikes and sourced stock leaving his mum to deal with the increasing volume of phone calls and paperwork.
“Dad joined us in 2008,” Matt said. “We relocated to his car body repair workshop and since the things have taken off. He’s got a passion for bikes, lots of specialist knowledge and he can talk about them all day long.”
“Bike sales and restoration are the mainstay of the business and typically we have about 60 bikes for sale. These range from a rough project at around £500 through to a gleaming nut and bolt restoration of something rare or unusual costing up to £6000”, he said.
“The cheaper bikes will usually be something which runs but needs a bit of TLC whereas a competitive ready to ride bike like an Ossa, Bultaco or a good TLR Honda is £1000 - £1500.
“We have a good turnover of stock and during the last four or five years have bought and sold several rarities, including the ex-Mary Driver works 250cc Greeves – complete with dings in the petrol tank and Scottish Six Day scrutineering marks still visible – the ex-Scott Ellis Pathfinder – used in the original period Greeves advertising brochure – and an immaculate 125cc Saracen which was like new.”
“We also supplied the 350cc Triumph which Steve Saunders rode to victory in the Scottish Two Day classic trial in 2011 and have sold many bikes to trials enthusiasts across the globe.”
For a trials enthusiast it’s like being a kid let loose in a sweet shop and with such a choice of machines I’m still in a quandary whether to choose a MAR Ossa, a beautiful Fantic or that gleaming Golner KT250 Kawasaki.