Today was one of those days that make me feel grateful that I work in the bike business.
For the public launch of the Barbour protective wear collection at Stafford this coming weekend, we have had our friends Cliff and Kev at Ace Classics build a 100% accurate copy of Steve McQueen’s Triumph TR6 SC from the 1964 ISDT.
This morning was the official unveiling, and so we met up with Kev, the bike, and Mick Duckworth who is writing a piece on the Triumph for Classic Bike magazine.
We met up at a lovely little trials course not far from Betchworth, just outside Reigate.
The bike looked stunning, with a simply amazing level of attention to detail. It started first time, and sounded as good as it looked.
But the ‘coup de grace’ was a visit from former Triumph works rider Johnny Giles, who knew McQueen well and who raced against him at the 1964 event, where he actually won the 750cc class in which Steve was also competing.
A factory test rider from the early fifties, Johnny competed in fifteen ISDTs; he took twelve gold medals and three silver. Not bad going!
What an honour it was to hear his stories of the event and his dealings with McQueen.
Steve, apparently, was a bit flash and liked to play to the crowd. But what you would expect of a Hollywood actor?
But he was also generous to a fault and treated the entire US and UK teams to a great steak dinner at the nearly International hotel.
But Johnny really came along to ride the bike, and although well into his eighties, he was no slouch.
He loved the bike, but swiftly worked out that it wasn’t a genuine competition bike. It didn’t have the upgraded forks of his factory prepared machines.
The grin on his face as he flew around the tight little trials course showed that the bike brought back fond memories.
He also liked the Barbour outfit that we supplied for the shoot.
Back in the day, he and the other Triumph riders, were given two Barbour suits a year; one paid for by Barbour, one by Triumph.
After Johnny had had a couple of runs, Kevin and Mick took it in turns to put the bike through its paces.
It wasn’t a day without incident and, at one stage, the bike did end up on its side in the hedgerow, a rider trapped beneath it.
But luckily, no real damage was done and by the time we get to Stafford it should be back to its original condition.
All in all, it was a fabulous day. Good bikes. A great setting, terrific company and superb weather.
It really doesn’t get a lot better than this.