Biker Nigel helped to put Furness on the world map

Over the years many local riders have put Furness on the map through their successes in motorcycling.

One name that springs to mind is Nigel Birkett who now runs a successful Trials Motorcycle business in Broughton in Furness.

In his early career he worked as a mechanic for Eddie Crooks in Barrow.

Eddie soon recognised “Birks” skills and it wasn't long before he progressed to factory rider status contesting world championships as well as British championships on Suzukis from 1974 to1977.

He switched to Montesa for the next three years. During this period he constantly gained many third and fourth placings at world level and at one round in Switzerland finished runner up to world champion Yro Vesterinen.

During his career he has been Northern centre Champion seven times.

His first time he was aged just 17, a feat now surpassed by Grasmere`s Stephen Dixon who first won it in 2001 and has done every year since 2006, ironically on a Birkett Scorpa supplied by Nigel himself.

Nigel`s won the prestigious Scott Trial in Yorkshire and has competed in the Scottish Six Day Trial for 47 consecutive years.

I remember one incident back in 1975 when his “works” Beamish Suzuki arrived at Eddie Crooks workshop. It was soon built up and running.

“Think you could ride that over a VW Beetle, mine is round the corner?” asked one Eddie`s customers.

“No prob,” said Nigel.”

We all popped round to where the VW was parked.

With that, “Birks” easily rode up its rear and was balanced on the roof grinning, and waving at us when a very irate man burst out of a house yelling: “What the hell do you think you are doing, get that thing off my car !” ”Your car?," said Nigel.

It`s that chaps car.”

“Which chap?," the man yelled.

“Him over ????"

The lad that set up the challenge had disappeared. It wasn't his car at all !

I think it cost Eddie a couple of bottles of wine to smooth things over.

To this day Nigel still maintains his love of the sport and is still regularly competing.

Enjoy the sun on bike - but be responsible

Now Boris Johnson has relaxed the rules on motorcycle travel it`s great to see local motorcyclists getting their bikes out from winter storage and taking advantage of this glorious summer weather we`ve been having whilst stuck in during the lockdown period .

As mentioned on last week;s page there`s no restriction on distance, although Scotland and Wales are still no go areas and pillions must be a member of your household.

Furness Motorcycle Action Group member Gary Chelton was one of the first to hit the road on his immaculate 50 year old 1970 650cc BSA lightening twin, seen here on its 2020 maiden run up the Duddon Valley.

Gary did follow government guidelines only stopping once to take this photograph and then returned home.

Let’s hope everyone behaves in a similar way and we can hopefully get back to the traditional bike meets and rallies again.

Zero tolerance approach

Disappointingly, despite the current lockdown, it`s been brought to the Auto-Cycle Union`s notice many riders have been flouting the rules and risking the future of off road motorcycle sport by illegally using Forestry Commission and other private venues.

Illegal activity on Forestry Commission land is a criminal offence and offenders can be prosecuted. The ACU has adopted a zero tolerance policy with the Forestry Commission and anyone caught riding illegally will have their bike impounded by the police and have their ACU licence terminated.

Other motorcycle sporting bodies will also be informed. I know many law abiding Furness riders do use designated trails and lanes and they are encouraged to inform police via 101 if the see any suspected illegal activity for the sake of our sport.

Phil is on road to recovery

Regular readers will recall a few weeks ago I mentioned former World Champion Phil Read, now aged 80, was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer at a Canterbury hospital.

I`m pleased to report he`s now finished his treatment and doctors are pleased with his progress.

However, he`s quick to point out despite rumours in the national motorcycling press, he has NOT contracted the dreaded Covid 19 virus. He was checked out during his stay in hospital and given the all clear. He suspects the rumours started when a visiting journalist saw him taking oxygen. Phil has COPD which he readily admits is through too much smoking in the past, and he`s been on oxygen to help that.