The British Team won the Trophy in  ISDT 1953 in Czechoslovakia and by now followers of the sport are aware of the following drought. We almost snatched victory in ISDT 1954 at the home rematch in Wales where victory was handed back to Czechoslovakia only by a Jury decision. In the subsequent years Britain has hardly lacked riders of the calibre required to pick up a basket full of gold medals. But the question is asked  ‘why has it fallen short of winning the trophy?’ The problem lay in the British origin of the event as a testing ground for the reliability of the kind of bikes the average British man could walk into a Motorcycle dealer and the British Manufacturers loved it. They got good results it helped their global dominance and they threw a lot of resource at the event to ensure their bikes were adequately prepared and had the right riders to win Trophy’s and Medals.

Photo - ISDT 1953 (photo from Speedtracktales Archive)

photo of riders during the night stage of the ISDT 1953 (photo from Speedtracktales Archive)

On the other hand over on the european continent, which too had its own Motorcycle manufacturing industry, the event was seen very much as being an off road event to test riders skills and durability and in order to best achieve a good result increasingly bikes were being built that would specialise at this role and not be souped up production road bikes keeping to what was the traditional spirit of the event. By 1953 the wheel was starting to come of the British ISDT cart in that the lightweight off road 350cc single european bikes could run rings around British big classic 650cc twins. When they raced in Europe the courses were increasingly being made to suit these lighter bikes and the British riders were again being pushed to use their skills to stay on top. Did it work? well yes we really had many of the worlds greatest trials riders who were more than capable of standing up to the line when asked to win. But in reality the bikes were going to become increasingly the teams greatest handicap. But it really took  the reality of the long drought of wins coupled with the global decline of the relevance of British Motorcycle Industry for the Manufacturers who had so enthusiastically support the sport financially to finally pull their plug from supporting the event in 1968 after which British Team attendance at the ISDT was mostly funded by the riders and their own generous sponsors and families.

As Britain headed to this rocky shore, there were signs which it ignored, amongst these is the editorial in the 1953 issue of ‘Motor Cycling‘ which whilst celebrating the victory of the British Six Days team in Czechoslovakia points out the writing on the wall as far as the suitability of the british machines used was concerned.

You can now read a copy of the whole ‘Motor Cycling‘ report through our issuu.com library of historic magazine reports of the ISDT, and we reproduce the editorial of that issue below written by the mighty sports journalist and ex ISDT rider Graham Walker , father of the Famous FI racing commentator Murray Walker. Who not only comments on the situation of the difference in machine performance but the declining interest in the British Media with the event which as this site shows had been worthy of Cinema News Reel reports and daily newspaper coverage.

Motor Cycling

Vol, LXXXVIII. September 24, 1953 No. 2278.


Great Britain Wins the Trophy!

WE offer our heartiest congratulations to “Skipper” Hugh Viney (500 A.JS.), Jim Alves (650 Triumph), Jack Stocker (500 Royal Enfield), Johnny Brittain (500 Royal Enfield) and Bob Manns (500 Matchless) on their magnificent performance when losing no marks in the 1953 International Six Days Trial, the 28th in the series, thereby winning for Great Britain the premier award in the event, the Trophy, which has now been won by British teams on no fewer than 16 occasions. And we include in these felicitations team manager Len Heath and the manufacturers who produced the machines on which our men rode to victory. Nor have we forgotten Bob Ray (500 Ariel), Don Evan (500 Royal Enfield) and Ted Usher (500 Matchless) of Great Britain’s “A” team in the Vase competition, who finished unpenalized but who were faced with an impossible task in the final speed test. The fact that we lost the Vase to smaller machines because of the schedules set in the concluding speed event implies that the Czechs might well have won the Trophy again had their team not lost at an earlier stage that one vital mark which made an all-out fight between British and Czech Trophy teams unnecessary in this speed test. Thus, although the “big machine” policy of the British selectors has been successful on this occasion, we suggest that next year really serious consideration should be given to the selection of a British Vase team mounted on smaller capacity models, particularly in view of the growing world·wide demand for lightweights. Nor should experiments with 350 c.c. sidecar outfits be dropped so long as the current speed schedules are retained.

All sportsmen will sympathize with the Czech Trophy team in their defeat by so narrow a margin and will wish to congratulate the Vase team who retained that award in an event notable for its highly efficient organization. Whilst conditions appear to have been not too strenuous, the number of frame and suspension breakages, ignition troubles, “holed” pistons and other mechanical failure indicate that once again the I.S.D.T. has served an invaluable purpose in exposing where further development is required in the design and production of normal, road-going motorcycles.

We have only one regret; the daily newspapers appear largely to have ignored this major contribution to the British export drive.