Andy Westlake is the author of three Veloce books. His latest, Off-Road Giants (volume 3), is published in December.
“Twelve years my senior, my brother, Rod, took me to watch my first scramble at Bulbarrow Hill in Dorset in March 1961. At the time, little could I have realised that over 50 years later I would be reliving those magical days with some of the stars who were flying past on their bellowing four-strokes and screaming two-strokes, not more than a few yards from where we were standing.
“Living where we did on the borders of the Wessex and Southern centres meant that virtually every Sunday we went off in Rod's old ex-GPO Morris Eight van to see some of the UK’s top riders, like the Rickman and Sharp brothers, Jerry Scott, Ivor England, and Badger Goss in action. As a spectator sport in the UK, scrambling in the ’60s was probably only second to football, and thousands used to line the tracks cheering on their favourite riders, my own personal hero being Triss Sharp. Triss, who raced both a superbly-finished, Triumph-engined special and a lightweight Greeves, always rode as number 71, and I recall going back home after the first event and making a replica race plate to put on my pushbike, which rather aptly was also a Triumph.
“I had to wait until 1969 before I got my own two-wheeler – a 1959 125cc Douglas Vespa from one of my dad’s workmates – but, by the end of that first summer, I'd progressed to a 1961 250cc Honda Dream, and by April the following year had passed my test and had begun to expand my riding horizons. In the winter of ’72, Rod and I started riding in trials – he on a 250cc Cheetah, and me on an elderly Greeves Scottish – and, although I soon realised I was not going to be a future works star, we had a lot of fun. By the time I'd progressed through a Cheetah and a Minarelli-engined Cotton to a MAR Ossa in 1974, I was managing to pick up the odd award or two.
“Working in a well-paid job gave me the money to pursue my love of bikes and travel, but the new digital age saw a major downturn in the UK’s print trade, and in 2000 I was given the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy and start a new life. Marriage to Jill saw me move to Devon, and it was thanks to her encouragement that I decided to become a full-time motorcycle journalist and author. It was one of the best decisions of my life, and today I go around with a permanent smile on my face. It’s a dream job.”
Check out Andy's interview with BBC Radio Devon in 2008 ...