The Roughriders DVD

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Back in the 1960s, the big beasts of British motorcycling still ruled the scrambles roost. This DVD captures some of the flavour of that era…

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Thanks to the wonder that is YouTube, Editor Westworth went suspiciously silent when he should have been working a couple of weeks ago.

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Then he started yelping and squeaking, and it turned out that he’d unearthed some old footage from Grandstand, of big singles slugging it out in 1960s scrambles action. Wow! There went the entire afternoon…

Inspired to seek out more of the same, we ordered ‘The Roughriders’ from Duke Video, a double-bill of archive programmes from the late Sixties. This felt particularly relevant as I’d not long ago written about the Matchless G85CS – AMC’s last ditch attempt to build a four-stroke which could compete with the two-stroke competition from overseas.

Jeff Smith MBE offered some pithy quips for that article – including the wisdom that as a BSA rider he normally only saw the G85s in his mirrors! And here was a DVD which featured Jeff himself, both getting muddy and talking about his work at Small Heath on the scrambles machines. Couldn’t resist.

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However the 55 minute DVD wasn’t quite what we were expecting. These are two documentaries about scrambling, not all-action footage of entire races or meetings. Each programme contains as much ‘behind the scenes’ (actually staged) footage of the riders at their homes, with families, driving across Europe and catching ferries and so on, as is dedicated to actual scrambling on track. It’s all very jolly-hockey-sticks in places. We even get to see Jeff mowing the lawn!

In ‘The Roughriders’, Jeff Smith and Arthur Lampkin on works BSAs take on the likes of Rolf Tibblin and Bill Nilsson at several classic venues including Namur, Sweden and Hawkestone Park. Then in ‘Three in Europe’ we follow John Banks, Vic Eastwood, Dave Nicoll and Keith Hickman on the championship trail in the late summer of 1969, riding works BSAs.

The films include footage from the Luxembourg, French and Swiss GPs, and provide an historically entertaining view on the scrambles scene of the time. There are some breath-taking segments of near-impossible riding, including a couple of scary hill sections in dreadful weather, and some very near misses which would have modern H&S wallers weeping into their tea, but the films don’t quite capture the tension of a full race meeting.

Instead they provide an interesting insight into how motorsport was presented back then: all clipped vowels, BBC English, and very genteel ‘racy’ humour. Interesting, even if it wasn’t what we anticipated. Probably not a DVD we’ll want to watch again; and I’m off to rummage through the listings to see if I can find full-length race rounds to watch from start to finish.

RC Reviewer: Rowena Hoseason


‘The Roughriders’ DVD by is

also available from Amazon

, and you’ll find quite a few ‘watched once’ copies on , too.


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