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At Home With The Lampkins

Published: 08 May 2016

Updated: 03 May 2016

This off-road-riding dynasty has been winning since 1954. Chatting to them in their sheds brought back a few memories. Since this article was originally published Martin Lampkin has sadly passed away.   

he first motorcycle trial in which Arthur Lampkin competed was 54 years ago. Now, in 2010, he’s finally called it a day. “I’ve finished with riding in pre-’65 trials,” he admits. “My glasses were steaming up in the sections,
I couldn’t see a thing.” But he’s still riding, and he’s still fettling bikes too. 

Arthur was followed into the world of off-road riding by his younger brothers Alan (also known as ‘Sid’) and Martin. Their sons and nephews took up the sport too, and now a third generation of Lampkins are starting their riding careers. There are a lot of shelves laden with silverware in this part of Yorkshire.

These days the bikes that Arthur rides most are his modern Beta trail bike (son John is the UK importer) and a Honda Pan European tourer, but the bike on his workbench is a Gold Star scrambler that he’s recently bought to restore. This one came from an ex-racer and old friend. 

“It hadn’t been used for years. It’d been left in a barn and the building had collapsed around it.” While we were there parts were being sorted to send off for plating. The reference source for the restoration is an old copy of The MotorCycle. It’s front cover shows Arthur riding a similar machine. 

“I started trials on a 197 James. Then I had a Royal Enfield Bullet. In 1955 I got my first works BSA trials bike, OOH760, a 350 Goldie.” Scrambles riding soon followed, and Arthur was a natural. In a BSA team led by Jeff Smith he rode Goldies in the 500 class, winning the British Championship in 1959, until the factory switched to the C15-based 250s. In 1961 he won the British 250 Championship and was runner up to Dave Bickers in the European Championship.

“I did both trials and motocross, six months of trials in winter and six months scrambles in summer. Then when the television scrambles started it was 12 months of scrambles.” The televised scrambles of the 1960s were good for factory prestige, but trials were important too and he achieved some of his most famous victories on the C15T, registration XON688. He still owns the bike and has just restored it.

“It’s won the Scottish (in 1963) and all sorts of things. The factory kept putting different frames on it and this that and the other, but it always kept the same registration number.” Arthur’s still smarting at the £600 cost of re-chroming the frame.

“I was almost always with BSA except for a year with Cotton (1964), but that’s best forgotten. My last year with the factory was in 1966 or ’67. I’ve still got the letter from when I got sacked. Mind you, everyone else got them too, except Smithy.” XON688 is a much nicer memento of his time with the factory.

With no works ride Arthur cut back on competition, but he certainly didn’t retire. Passengered by Colin Pinder he was runner-up in the 1977 British Sidecar Trials Championship on a Bultaco-powered outfit. 

Alan also earned a BSA factory ride in trials and scrambles, winning the Scottish Six Days on a C15 in 1966 plus a clutch of ISDT gold medals. In the 1970s he rode Bultacos in national and international events. 

Younger brother Martin started his career on BSAs too, though without official factory support. “I rode a C15 in the 1968 Scottish Six Days, it was prepared in the factory, but they painted it white to distinguish it from the proper works bikes.” They ran no works bikes. In his second Scottish (though still only 17) Martin finished fourth.
“I know where that bike is now, but I’m not letting on. I want it back.”

Although Martin started his career on Birmingham-built BSAs, the marque with which he had most success was Bultaco. “The Bultaco thing happened because me and Sid had no bikes for the Scott trial so Comerfords (the British importer) lent us a couple. I finished third so we got invited to the factory to ride in the San Antonio trial, based at a farm owned by Mr Bulto. 

“It was a press event and there were 60 or 70 brand new bikes there. Sid was there too and Sammy Miller obviously. I won it and Sammy was second. I never looked back. It was a bit special.”

Martin won the European championship in 1973, but the bike on his bench is his 1974 works machine. “They called them Whispering Wonders, but I never got on with them. Malcolm (Rathmell) beat me to the European Championship that year. It didn’t suit me, it was too low at the front. But it’s been in bits and I want it back in one piece. There’s some silly little things missing.”

The following year, with the title upgraded to full World Championship status, and riding an upgraded bike, Martin won the title by one point from Finland’s Yrjö Vesterinen also riding a Bultaco. There were also three Scottish Six Day trial wins on Bultacos,
plus lots of British Championship trials success. 

“I started on Bultaco in 1971 and rode them through to 1978, they evolved a lot. All I’ve got is praise for Bultaco. And old man Bulto made a trials rider out of me. He had so much faith in you, you just didn’t want to let him down. I had a chance to go to a Japanese manufacturer, but I wasn’t that bothered about money.”

When Bultaco went into decline in 1979 Martin switched to Italian manufacturer SWM, for whom he won a British Championship. His last competitive outing before handing over to the next generation was on a Honda in the 1987 Scottish Six Days trial; he finished twelfth. 

Nephew John took over as the family’s most successful rider in the Eighties. And son Dougie was a phenomenon from the mid-Nineties, winning a total of twelve indoor and outdoor World Championships between 1997 and 2003. The weekend after out visit he was racing his Beta in Italy in the Hell’s Gate Enduro. He won.

And there’s now another generation of Lampkins ready to follow in Arthur’s muddy footsteps.

Words Hugo Wilson  Photos Gary Freeman

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