There by a whisker…


So, there I was, up in Scotland on the Alvie Estate near Aviemore, where an enlightened laird welcomed the Inverness MCC and their two day Highland Classic Trial – the 2018 theme for the weekend being Edition Montesa. The trial is a great event and this year was blessed with mostly fine weather and 20°C-plus temperatures, with just a light shower on the Saturday to cut the dust.


I ride my Bultaco there because I can and I enjoy it. It’s a one owner from new bike which I picked up from Quinn’s Motorcycles in the High Street, Gateshead in 1980. I recall my dad taking me and the Montesa I had for trade-in into Gateshead, the idea being he’d take the car and trailer home and I’d ride the 12 miles or so back to settle in the engine of the new bike a little.

Dad had insisted on driving (it was his car after all) but when I was in the passenger seat he would drive everywhere at 27mph – when he was in the passenger seat he’d yell at me until eventually I drove everywhere at 27mph and he’d complain how long journeys took. This all in contrast to when he was on his own, or anyone else was in the passenger seat and with the trailer attached, when his performance would then put him on the second row of a GP.

Once we negotiated the route to Gateshead and arrived outside Quinns, there were three brand-new 250 Bultaco Sherpas lined up out the back, consecutive registration numbers with the last one ECU 913W earmarked for me, the others being for Paul Battensby and Kenny Abbot I think. Shortly after this the trials world changed and Fantic 200 and then the mono Yamaha ensured the Bultaco era was well and truly over. My Sherpa was shoved into the back of the garage when it became clear any discount for a cash purchase of the Yamaha I now fancied was way better than the £50 or so offered as trade-in value for my Bulto, which is the main reason I still have it. As it happens, I saw Peter Quinn for the first time in ages at Bultaco Nostalgia in June and enquired about the first service, but I’d just missed the deadline…


Anyway, not unnaturally the Bulto was rebuilt a time or two and hauled out for more regular use when the Yam was moved on, then it was mothballed again when work necessitated I have a Pre-65 trials bike. Now, with the resurgence of twinshock trials, the Bulto is out there again and providing fun. It needs a bit of work because the last time the engine was apart was prior to the SSDT in the Eighties, but with the addition of an electronic ignition the thing keeps firing up and running quite well… except when former North East Centre star man Dave Younghusband happened to be watching me through a section at Alvie and the bike fluffed instead of accelerating up the slot at the end of the section.

Cries of ‘out’ by me were met with a raised eyebrow by the observer who doubted I could have rolled back around the corner by 20 feet… well you have to try and accept what the observer gives you. I never dispute what the observer sees as a) I’ve been an observer, b) I’ve been an organiser trying to get observers and c) I once raised an eyebrow in my dad’s direction when he was observing and he docked me 10 marks for arguing!

After this little hiccup, the Bulto fired up and the rest of the trial was completed quite nicely with starting being a one or two kick affair. Those who were at, or have ridden at Alvie will know the signing off is done in a large shed on the estate where they store wood chips for the heating system.


I pulled up outside, parked up along with 30 or so others and went to hand in my punch card. A few moments later, out I came to ride back to the van, a casual chat with one or two others as I kicked the Bulto over, and kicked, and kicked and checked the petrol and kicked and kicked and checked the ignition kill switch, by now there was a crowd helpfully commenting and offering suggestions… eventually there was little option but The Push Of Shame back to the van – while there was still energy to push… Turns out the plug was whiskered, had I a plug spanner on me a quick change of plug would have sorted the bike out.

Knowing a rebuild is overdue, the mains are grumbling away, it was with some trepidation I went to Bultaco Nostalgia and hauled the bike out of the van. There was some deja vue when no amount of kicking would see it fire up, nor did a change of plug help but eventually, twigging I’d drained the tank, as it’s not politic to have petrol in a bike in my current workshop, did ease matters and hopefully the very nice fellow Bulto rider parked next to me won’t tell the world of my plight. At least The Push Of Shame would have been shorter.


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