The 1960s were a very conflicted time. Here in the U.S., people became increasingly aware of and uneasy with the war in Vietnam, and by the end of the decade it became the most divisive topic in the country.
In that same decade, the country was rocked by three assassinations that not even the triumph of landing men on the moon in 1969 could assuage. In Great Britain and Europe, the decade was rocked by economic and political upheaval.
Against the backdrop of these world and national events of the time, it would have been easy for achievements and remarkable individual stories of some of the U.K.’s greatest motocross and trials riders to have been all but forgotten.
Thanks to the work of veteran moto-journalist Andy Westlake and his series of books Off-Road Giants from Veloce Publishing, those days are not only remembered, they are brought to life in vivid narrative and more than 100 great period racing black and white images in Volume 3 alone.
The images are fascinating in themselves; look closely and you’ll see a number of competitors wearing neck ties to go with their pudding bucket helmets!
But don’t be lulled into thinking the competition was prim, proper and low-key; you’ll also see monster rooster tails of dirt flying from the motocrosser’s rear tires, high speed wheelies and the bikes of the day catching huge air.
In the 16 chapters of Volume 3 devoted to some of the greats of the decade, Westlake recalls their triumphs and difficulties with insightful story-telling. The individuals Westlake recalls were amazing competitors, indeed.
For example, he leads off with the story of Scott Ellis, whose career in trials and motocross started at age 14 with a victory in the Stratford-on-Avon trials event, spanned 48 seasons and included victories on more than 20 national trials, an ISDT gold medal, and factory rides for Ariel, BSA, Dalesman, Greeves, Puch and Triumph.
There is the remarkable story of Olga Kevelos who was one of the very few women to make it into the elite level of competition in trials, motocross, road racing and even formula 3 auto racing. In a career of 22 years in competition, she captured many local and national honors that included a gold medal at the ISDT in 1949.
In the 1951 ISDT in Italy, Kevolos was on a gold medal pace until day five when she rode her factory-backed Parilla off a cliff, demolishing the bike and taking a beating that included knocking out her front teeth. Despite the crash, Parilla paid a bonus and gave her a gold watch to compensate for the gold medal she didn’t win.
She went on to win bronze at the ’52 ISDT and another gold in the ’53 Czech ISDT—amid a storm of controversy for riding a CZ, which was built in Czechoslovakia—then a communist bloc country.
Eric Chilton’s profile tells of his dominance in ISDT competition, which included five gold, one silver and one bronze medal in only ten starts!
Others included in Volume 3 include John Banks, Bill Faulkner, John Trible, Tommy Barker, Tim Pritchard, Dave Bickers, Nick Thompson, Rob Taylor, Bill Martin, Gordon Blakeway, Les Archer, John Griffiths and Gordon Adsett.
Are most of these names unfamiliar? All the more reason to give the Off-Road Giants series a look—the stories and images will make you glad you made their acquaintance.
- Title: Off-Road Giants, Volume 3
- Author: Andy Westlake
- Published: 2014, 128 pages, hardcover.
- Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England
- ISBN: 978-1-845847-45-6
- MSRP: U.S. $45; U.K. £25; Canada: $50