The top trials iron of all time

WORDS & PHOTOS: PHILLIP TOOTH ARCHIVE IMAGES: MORTONS ARCHIVE

With more than 1,300 trials wins during his long career, many consider Sammy Miller to be the most successful trials rider ever. But he is also a formidable motorcycle developer. Here’s how he came to turn a humble Ariel into the definitive trials iron of the four-stroke era.

By the standards of its day, Sammy Miller’s Ariel was radical indeed

No motorcycle in the history of trials competition comes anywhere close to the amazing tally of wins racked up by a 497cc Ariel with the registration plate GOV 132. It started out as a works 1954 Red Hunter model HT, but don’t let that ‘works’ prefix fool you. The success of GOV was down to the riding and development skills of an Irishman by the name of Samuel Hamilton Miller.

Sammy Miller started his trials career in 1953 with a bike he built around a 1929 Matchless 250 frame and a new 197cc Villiers engine. After honing his skills in events around his native Belfast he entered the 1954 Scottish Six Days Trial, riding to the May event and home again with an award as the second best newcomer.

Back in Ireland he tried his hand at road racing and won the Cookstown 100 on a battered old AJS 7R. After just a couple more races he was offered a ride on a 200km/h 250cc NSU Sportsmax production racer, and a 350 Manx Norton. He showed what he was capable of by finishing second to John Surtees, on another Sportsmax, in the 1955 Ulster GP and finishing third in the Italian GP. Sammy was second again in the 1956 Ulster GP behind Taveri’s 250 MV, and after watching him in the Isle of Man TT he was offered a ride with the Mondial works team for the 1957 World Championship.

Read more in the April issue of CBG – on sale now!