THE season of night trials is with us again. Perhaps it is not strictly correct to speak of a season, since the “Exeter,” the “Gloucester,” and one or two others are held in mid-winter. But the majority, and especially those well-organised, well-supported, and thoroughly enjoyable events in the South-Eastern Centre, come during the five months from May to September.
The “night trial germ” is a very virulent little bug. It attacks the owners of ears, three-wheelers, and motor cycles with equal force. The symptoms appear strange to the ordinary motorist. What is the use of losing a night’s sleep for the sole purpose of motoring off to Devon or the Peak district in order to assault greasy hills ? Nobody knows but the devotees of the practice. Night trials are different to other trials, and they draw a class of followers of their own. The” scramble” enthusiast will not find his beloved frame-breaking country, nor seas of mud in which to get bogged, in a night trial.
What exactly is the appeal of a night trial ? Let us try to analyse it. The greatest support for these events comes from the London district. Here is a clue. What does the jaded Londoner seek for most in his recration ? Novelty, change, unconventionality. Those roadlovers who have been lucky enough to live in the provinces know the joy of having the countryside on theis doorstep. A mile or two, and
the Open Road is before them, stretching away for miles in unbroken rurality. Contrast with this the lot of the London motorist. If he is a sportsman, his mind revolts at being hemmed in by pavements and policemen. To escape means twenty or thirty miles of funereal processions or soul-destroying arterial roads ; and even then there is no interesting trials country within reasonably easy reach.
The solution to all these problems lies in the night trial. It is the currant in the London motorist’s bun. The surprising thing is that so many sporting motorists and motor cyclists eat the bun and leave the currant ! The whole essence of a night trial is unconventionality : perhaps that is why conventional folk look so askance at this attempt to bring a little bit of adventure into modern motoring. But what could be more logical, really, if you object to crowds, than to travel by night ; or if you like North Devon, Dartmoor, Dorset, or the Peak district, than to go there ? Lack of initiative prevents many people doing these things. A night trial overcomes it for them. It is the only way, in fact, to encompass 400 or 500 miles at a week-end. And what better method is there of blowing away the cobwebs, after a hard week’s work ? A little too strenuous, says someone ? Well, it is impossible to say until it has been sampled. It is tiring, of course, to cover such a mileage in twentyfour hours, but it is worth it. Perhaps there is a moon ; moonlight
riding or driving holds a fascination of its own. The summer night is very short ; 4 a.m. finds daylight in possession again, and with a start at 10 p.m. or midnight, there is not really a big mileage to be covered during darkness. Dawn is one to the greatest rewards of the nighttriallist. Then there is breakfast at 4 or 5 a.m., another novel experience. Walking down the streets of a town such as Cheltenham or Exeter, the dainty fripperies in shop windows contrast strangely with the dirty be-ponchoed figures of competing motor cyclists. One feels smugly superior to the poor wights who slumber all around. How much they are missing.
The rabid enthusiast finds the winter night trials, with their storms, rain, snow, and numbing cold, just as enjoyable, but for newcomers to the Great Game, a summer night trial makes a good start. The hills, generally speaking, are not so numerous or severe as in a one-day trial. The organisers make allowances for the errors which may arise from weariness after the night. Another reason is that in most night trials the course has to be suitable for cars as well as motor cycles.
But what does it matter if an award is won or not ; or if one has footed everywhere and parted from the model ? It is enough that one has had an experience that is denied to the vast majority of people ; that one has been in the company of fellow enthusiasts who understand and appreciate the same things.