John Rock and the 1957 ISDT
Tim Gibbes from Palmerston NZ has shared his memories
I've just been on Google fishing about & found
your site & even better found a profile about John Rock. We met first I think in 1957 when we formed the
first Australian Team for the ISDT which was in Czechoslovakia, which John has
related to very well on the profile. Couldn't remember how we came across the
Jawa & CZ bikes, but this story tells it all, thankyou. Later in 1958, the same group of Aussies went to
the Isle of Man for John & Maureen's wedding, & of course we drove
around the TT circuit while there. A couple of team photos attached & another of
John carrying his front guard, what a hero. Probably met a few times since then but ones I
recall were >
can not remember how, but 2 Jawa 250s & one CZ 125 bikes had been
made available to us for the event, with factory support. The bikes
were made in Czechoslavakia so it was good propaganda for the regime.
- Calling on John & Maureen at their home in
Perth a couple of times, looking at the basement full of bikes
- Starting our International MX Series in Perth once
or twice, when I met some great people involved with WA motorcycling sport at
these events, from where we travelled across Australia then on to New Zealand,
where I live. Wonder if any of your members remember these events?
- John called at my home when he & some friends
rode their vintage bikes around parts of NZ. John rode a Triumph about 1907
model single gear belt drive.
- Met John again at the MX des Nations event held in
WA quite a few years ago, where the VMCC of WA had a display of bikes. I was
with the NZ MX Team
- In my spare moments I've
been able to find some old boxes of photos & clippings along with diaries
so have been entertaining my self by piecing these together to entertain
myself. These include that 57 ISDT & a few other bits of
Australian team comprised of John Rock from Western Australia & Tim
Gibbes from South Australia riding the 250 Jawas, Les Fisher (NSW) on
the CZ, while Roy East (NSW) was the Team Manager.
The event was held in the North of Czech near the Polish Border, based in the mountain town of Spindleruv Mlyn.
year the British had decided not to support the event, as they sold no
bikes behind the Iron Curtain, but the Brits really did not like
me being there, as I was already on of their ISDT team riders.
had been riding Jawas for the South Australian importer a few years
before, so had a bit of an idea what the bikes were like, & with
the local support as more than just helpers, it all looked good. The
bikes were really just standard production street bikes with upturned
exhaust pipes, cross bar on the handlebar, & knobbly tyres. The
tyres were locally made Barum, which were not of high quality, as most
Iron Curtain goods were in thos days, almost like cardboard, they wore
the bikes were nothing like the factory units the Czech & other
friendly Communist State riders had, which were very impressive.
we arrived at the event, we had slight transport problems. All 4 of us
travelled all the way from England in my 1949 Austin A40 pickup, a
distance of nearly 2,000 Kms. As the front seat was really only wide
enough to fit 2 people, the 4 across was a bit of a squeeze,
necessitating a revised driving format, driver #1 pushing the
accelerator & foot brake, plus some of the time steering, driver #
2 the clutch operation & shared steering duties, driver #3 or #4
who sat on #3s knees, the gear change & general observation.
we got to the ISDT HQ of the event at Spindleruv Mlyn, put the A40 up
on blocks, so we could strip it as we got time. We will get back to
that story 6 days later after the ISDT.
ISDT itself was very, very wet, stormy & plenty of fog, possibly
one of the toughest of all ISDT events. Spindleruv Mlyn, in the
Krkonose (Giant) Mountains, is in the north of what is now the Czech
Republic, almost on the Polish border, and well known as a winter snow
ski resort & recreational area. In those days the chalets were all
Trade Union¯ run, so people from each area of an industrial town would
holiday together, also an ideal way of having Big Brotherā€¯ keep
We were told by some friendly locals, that the normal
population of the then Czechoslavakia was 16 million Czechs &
Slovakians, & 48 million Russian soldiers, KGB police etc. Thats 3
Big Brothers to every local not very comforting when Big Brother¯ keeps
order with an AK47 machine gun slung over his shoulder.
hardly saw any views as the cloud & rain blotted out any chance of
that for the whole 6 days. Many of the marquees & tents had been
blown down by the wind & rain, so conditions were unpleasant.
local Czech support group, Mr. Plachta, Stan Cerney & Dr. Zimmer,
were particularly helpful to us. Any problem they would talk us through
the repair routine, as well as set-up pickup points¯ out in the bush,
when our bikes needed more than just maintenance. In those days all
parts of the bikes were marked so officially it was not permitted to
change any thing, even though illegal running repairs had been going
for years, & in fact is still very rife in the ISDE.
also taught us how to shake hands frequently, so we could be passed so
called illegal¯ unmarked parts from hand to hand during the handshake.
We realised quickly why so many Europeans shake hands frequently,
especially during a major sporting event!
John Rock was
a trials rider mainly, but relished the muddy conditions. The metal
these bikes were made of was very low quality. His front mudguard
brackets broke off, but as it was a marked part, had to carry it over
his shoulder for 3 days, see the photo with this story getting all the
mud & slush spat off the front wheel in his eyes & face. A
tribute to the tenacity of the man, & he was rewarded with a well
earned Bronze Medal.
Les Fishers CZ was not to get too
far. The rear chain adjuster on the rear sprocket side broke, allowing
the rear wheel to pull forward on that side, throwing off the chain.
Regrettably a rare DNF for Les.
My 250 Jawa also
suffered electrical problems & metal fatigue. But we sorted our way
through those, the electrics with good advice from our support crew.The
ignition switch & main wiring loom were housed in a nacelle type
compartment screwed into the top of the petrol tank, so some of the
replaced wires from the generator & ignition system ran up the
outside of the petrol tank.
As well, the battery &
tool box bolted to the rear left side of the bikes frame, broke off
from metal fatigue, another case of very poor metal quality. Another
marked part, as also was the battery. The battery was a very necessary
piece of equipment, as the bike was coil ignition.
So I wrapped
the battery in a plastic bag, put it down the front of my jacket, took
leads from there to the aforementioned switch & wiring loom on the
petrol tank, & carried on, with varying degrees of pain from a big
bust & an occasional acid burn from the battery, till I was able to
repair the box with help from behind the bushes¯!
to my very clever support crew & their helpers I got to the end
& achieved a Bronze Medal, which possibly should have been more of
a bravery award for the crew!
Our first ever Australian Club
Team at least finished the event with 2 out of 3 riders winning Bronze
Medals, & under the conditions, with distinction
1957 ISDT Aussie Club Team Jawa-CZ. Tim, Dr. Zimmer, Mr. Plachta, John Rock, Roy East, Les Fisher
1957 ISDT John Rock 250 Jawa Bronze & earned it, Les Fisher 175 CZ
John Rock ISDT 57
East, John Rock, Les Fisher & the photographer Tim Gibbes arrive at
the Austrian - Czechoslavakian, ready to enter the Iron Curtain.
1949 Austin A40 pickup, one of many race transporters of the famous old days!
Try fitting 4 big guys into one of these & driving 2,000 kms each way!
weather was not exactly the best! The crates of bikes in the middle
were ours ready for us to assemble & prepare for 6 days!
Tim Gibbes & his 250 Jawa used in the 1957 ISDT which had a few problems described in this story.
a bronze medal was the reward. One of the several rubber bands to hold
the battery box in place can be seen above the 181 riding numer!
The flowers were possibly a fitting memorial to a long suffering bike that had much attention!
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