Yesterday morning Imola received the sad news of the death of Dave Bickers. It was a hard and unexpected blow to the whole world of motocross vintage. Dave was suffering for some time of cardiopathy and yesterday his heart gave out and left him abruptly. He goes so unexpectedly another great champion of the Golden Era. Everyone, sooner or later, we're leaving this world, but this time we said to our self: too soon, too much soon!
The town of Imola, after having admired him in the Grand Prix of 1964, met him again in mid-May at ASI MOTOCROSS SHOW. He had come only a few days in the city of Romagna just to celebrate with all of us, together with the world of local and international motocross vintage, and now this emptiness seems absurd, out of place, an unbridgeable chasm. Luciano Costa, organizer of the event, had revised him for the first time after so many years in Telford, in February, along with his old team-mate Alan Clough, at the Alan Wright's Show. It was a really pleasant encounter, as well as pleasing was the knowledge of Alan Clough.
Luciano Costa has found them together, united by a long and solid friendship consolidated on the race since the golden days. A friendship that has survived over time, preserved by an eternal passion for motocross and a timeless joy of living.
Located in Telford, Dave had told his adventures with great enthusiasm in the Grand Prix at Imola in 1964. A story told with his warm voice and bright eyes like those of a young champion on the top step of the podium. In the Grand Prix, the first race started with a bursting run by Dave and Don Rickman, who took the lead with authority, chased by Igor Grigoriev, Derek Rickman and Alan Clough. Dave and Don were the subject of a furious battle and crossed the finish line in the order with a tenth of a second of difference and with a final sprint he did redden the uvula of the spectators. In the second race, Dave settled into third position, but on the seventh lap, while was reaching Joël Robert, he was forced to abandon the race due to a failure of the flywheel magnet. It was a real shame because, to win the Grand Prix, would have been enough to get in the top three. Imola remember that thrilling episode for his class of great champion, but who has had the honor and privilege to meet him in the event of last May, remembers him for his great kindness and for his cheerful and communicative character. Imola had also invited on the occasion of the re-union of 2012, but Dave had to give up due to health problems. This year, however, did not miss the opportunity and accepted the invitation with great pleasure. In their second baggage, Dave and Alan Clough brought their vintage motocross apparel and Sunday morning we have revised them magically reassembled in "high uniform" ready to get back in the saddle on two Greeves Challenger like the ones used at Imola in '64. The episode of 1964, was so strongly imprinted in the memory of the people of Imola who had the good fortune to attend the Grand Prix, that Sunday, May 18 the two green jerseys have reappeared in the eyes of those present like a mirage materialized from the vapors of a still vivid memory. At the head of the white Challenger, Dave and Alan have reached the Mineral Waters Park in the parade along with polychrome multitude of other former champions of the Golden Era, their friends forever. To act as a shoulder to Dave had arrived at Imola also his amiable wife Sylvia, who has followed and supported him in every moment of the event. Friday, May 15 morning, Dave had participated with the group of former champions, the historical walk in the Park of Mineral Waters in the footsteps of the old glorious motocross track. Many memories and relived many emotions, too many perhaps, for his weak heart. Certainly the four days of ASI SHOW MOTOCROSS have not helped to keep the body of Dave at rest already tired, but what can we say ... how could we prevent the unstoppable enthusiasm?
Emilio Ostorero remembers him as a great buddy always ready to party. In a race for the world championship in Payerne, says Ostorero, in the ordinate Switzerland at the end of the sixties, Dave and Joel Robert, the winner of the competition, did not lose the opportunity to party roaming around the city prey to the fumes of alcohol on the bikes of the postmens "borrowed" for the occasion. Even the Swiss police was astonished and closed both eyes in front of such unbridled joy. But this is only one of many episodes that can help you understand what the expansive character of Dave. In the photograph in the archive traced by Gian Pio Ottone, we see him with Jeff Smith, his mentor, a great friend and teammate: an extraordinary pair of great friends and opponents.
During the farewell dinner (he wanted to be a dinner of "see you again") in May, organized by Umberto Ciompi in his country house on the hills of Imola, Dave was in the company of Peter Rietman, the grandson of Hendrik Rietman, the “Flying Dutchman” winner of the first international race at Imola on May 23, 1948. Peter, big fan of motocross Golden Era since early childhood, did not let this opportunity slip away and has engaged in a long and passionate talk with Dave. To hear them, their stories seemed the day before yesterday, cool stories fresh, just lived, just around the corner. Wednesday, May 21 morning we said “see you again” to Dave and Sylvia at the airport of Bologna, with the promise to meet them at Imola in occasion of the next meeting. Now this sad news has ridiculously and unjustifiably chilled our souls. We reach Sylvia with a long and warm embrace in the hope of seeing her again soon to remember Dave along with all of us, a great champion, but also and above all a great and lovable person.
Imola, July 8, 2014
Dave Bickers - a brief history
With the sad death of Dave Bickers (76) on July 6th, we have lost one of The Golden Era's most prolific champions. From Coddenham in Suffolk, Dave began scrambling in 1956. Initially astride 197cc DOT and 350cc BSA he swiftly made a mark in the Eastern and South Midland Centres, moving to a factory supplied 197 Greeves in Spring 1957 after catching-the-eye of Brian Stonebridge who, in his new role of competition/development manager, had dramatically improved the Thundersley product since joining them earlier that year. This talented pair began a dominance of the 250 UK motocross scene, effectively establishing a volume sales demand for Greeves' new Hawkestone model, and inspiring the Thundersley factory to support them in the 1959 250cc Coupe d'Europe, in which Brian eventually finished second overall...with Dave in an apprenticeship role. After Stonebridge's tragic death later that year Bickers (by now on a 250) went on to win the European Championship in 1960 and 1961, despite intensive opposition from Husqvarna, Maico, and Jawa-mounted 'works' riders, plus Jeff Smith and Arthur Lampkin on increasingly faster C15 BSAs. In between times, alongside arch rivals Torsten Hallman, Joel Robert, and Roger DeCoster, Dave helped introduce the sport of motocross to a receptive American market, participating in several annual pre-Christmas race series across the length and breadth of USA. Dave also won the 250cc British Championship no less than six times between 1960 and 1966 on a mixture of Greeves. Husqvarna and CZ; then, after graduating to the larger class, gained a brilliant 5th and 3rd in the 1966 & 1967 500 World MX Championship. And it didn't stop there...he was a regular Sunday competitor in winter trials, in between winning innumerable BBC TV Grandstand Scrambles the day previous, nor forgetting his involvement with the ISDT, as well as achieving considerable success in many different types of sidecar events. The list is endless and, no matter how severe the going, he always enjoyed the contest, rarely suffering any major injuries.
On the commercial side, and in addition to the family coach business, he became the official UK importer for CZ; thereafter starting Bickers Anglia, a major aftermarket wholesaler supplying tyres and other consumables to the trade. Not only did he have the knack of choosing good managers he was ably supported in these successful ventures by his wife Sylvia. Last, and certainly not least (and prompted by Bud Ekins, with whom he stayed when racing in California) he became involved in the film stunt world, both as participant and organiser, forming the highly respected firm of Bickers Action, nowadays run and managed by his son Paul. Upon boarding the aircraft for his first ever film job overseas Dave found himself sitting next to David Niven. Dave duly introduced himself, and to his delight, Niven said, "I've watched you many times on BBC Grandstand, and have always wanted to meet you!" In an extraordinarily full life, invariably connected with bikes and/or automotive activities, Dave's modest personality won him many friends, likewise in the sporting world. In recent years he has been a regular contestant in the 5-day Irish Rally, battling once more against Jeff Smith, both on BSA Gold Star outfits...with their wives in the chair!
Who can ever forget Bickers' inimitable style? How -- at peak -- he tackled the Bomb Hole at Shrublands Park, or the way he'd spot Derry Preston-Cobb beside the track at Matchams, and scatter him with pebbles...followed by a thumbs up, or the time he passed Hallman at Glastonbury Tor in mid-air. He was unique.
Author's footnote: I first met Dave at a Dunstable Scramble in 1957, when we were parked next to each other. From 1958 onwards we were often on the same Start-line in UK national and Euro MXGP events. Very few riders rode so quickly or so 'cleanly', generating a universal popularity with fans, also-rans, and his fiercest rivals!
Mike Jackson, United Kingdom