Bolting a chair onto the side of a trials bike makes no sense. Sidechair trials are almost unknown in the civilized North Island, but we had heard that in some parts of the wild South Island they exist as some sort of rite of passage into manhood. Well, we North Islanders are men, too. The Kevs (Tither and Pinfold) with their Gasser and The Johnnies (Lawton and Ravenscroft) with our Beta boarded the Queen’s Birthday ferry, heading to Kaikoura to take on the South Islanders and to prove our manhood.

John Lawton was to be the rider, I was to be the passenger. Lawton has strong opinions on everything. I strongly disagree with nearly all of his opinions. Riding one of these chairs, the first thing that becomes apparent is that the normal ways do not work… turning the handlebars to the right is no guarantee that the bike will go that way. So after a few arguments with the machine we realized that we needed to invent new ways to get favourable responses from it. Then we discovered the second thing… it is not very useful if the rider and the passenger cannot work together – they need to be on the same page, and unless the machine is on that same page then there is no chance of the combination working as a whole.

We planned to use our natural abilities to overcome any challenges. The result was a complete failure. We completed the first day’s competition in last place and had some spectacular crashes along the way. Seeking to improve our performance, that evening we decided to compromise – I would do everything that Lawton told me to do without question and I would do nothing else.

With this revised plan in operation, on the second day we were making progress, until, in one section Lawton forgot to tell me where to go. As we crashed, we entered into a lively debate about who should do what and when.  Following the debate, a second compromise was reached that evening – together, we would plan our attack on each section and we would work as a unit.

With this cunning plan in place, we made spectacular improvements on the third day, attacking each section with testosterone-loaded aggression, but in a marriage of harmony – with each other and with the machine. We ended the third day in first place, clearly the most improved team in the competition and leaving no doubt that we are real, hairy-chested men (I mean that in a sensitive, caring-for each-other sort of way).


John Ravenscroft

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