THE MEETING OF LEGENDS
We went along for the ride to see what happens when motorcycling legends get together.
From Grand Prix podiums to the summit of Ben Nevis, there aren’t many places that motorcycling legend Sammy Miller hasn’t been on the back of a bike. These days, aged 85, he is still surrounded by motorcycles, his museum in Hampshire home to a vast collection of fully restored classic models.
Against this kind of experience, Dougie Lampkin could seem like the new kid on the block. However, with career highlights that include five consecutive World Indoor and seven consecutive World Outdoor Championships alongside victories in the Scott Trials and World Team Championships, he’s an elder statesman at just 43.
These two motorcycle greats have much in common: a fiercely competitive spirit, unparalleled success in the Scottish Six Days Trial (five wins for Sammy during the 1960s, an astonishing 12 for Dougie in more recent years), not to mention their long-standing love of Belstaff. So, when Dougie visited Sammy at his museum recently, we jumped at the chance to go along for the ride.
Sammy’s connection to Belstaff goes back to 1954, when he wrote to the company, asking them for a suit to wear in the Six Days Trial. While at home in Belfast, he came across an advertisement for Belstaff. Struck by the similarity of the name to that of his home city, he thought he’d try his luck. “They wrote back,” he tells Dougie, in front of the suit he wore that year. “They said, ‘Yeah, we’ll support you at the Scottish Six Day. Send us your measurements and what you want.’ ” It was the beginning of an enduring and hugely productive partnership.
Dougie’s own Six Days Trial record makes for similarly impressive reading. Two years ago, he came agonisingly close to being the first person ever to ride a clean Trial, instead equalling Gordon Jackson’s record of just one dab over the whole six days. As he and Sammy inspect Jackson’s record-setting AJS, Dougie remembers his near-flawless round. “I learnt afterwards that Mr Jackson was following the event night by night and decided that he didn’t want anyone to beat his record,” he laughs. “We settled on a draw.”
The rapport between Sammy and Dougie is instant and infectious. “Go on, get your leg over that,” says Sammy, pointing to another of the many bikes on display. “It’s a while since anyone’s said that to me,” replies Dougie, as laughter fills the room – at least those parts of it not already occupied by motorcycles.
This isn’t a journey to look at static museum pieces, however – not that there are many of those here. These bikes are in full working order, and we’re about to get a demonstration.
“I’m going to take out his replica GOV 132 Ariel,” says Dougie, realising a long-held dream by experiencing first-hand the feel of the legendary bike that Sammy built. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s joined by Sammy, who – against type – opts for a BSA.
“Foundations for the museum,” Dougie points out, nodding towards the patch of ground the two of them have turned into an impromptu play area. “It’s not from Scotland,” adds Sammy, “but it’s good enough to practise on.”
Seeing these two legends riding together, trials masters in Trialmasters, it’s as if the decades between them have disappeared. Certainly youth is no advantage when it comes to the GOV 132. “I’ll get there, eventually,” calls Dougie as he attempts to kick-start some life back into the famed machine. “See if that were a BSA, it would have fired up straight away Sammy,” he teases.
All too soon, it’s time to go home. As we pack up, and get ready to hit the road, the two men shake hands, smiles beaming. Remarkably, it’s the first time the pair have ever ridden together – making history has rarely looked this much fun.