First published in Trial Magazine No. 4 – 2007
The early eighties saw what was then the current breed of twinshock machines coming to the end of their development with all the factories having achieved what they considered was the ultimate machine. Bultaco, Montesa, Fantic and numerous other, smaller concerns had superb machinery, but big developments were in the offing.
Words: John Hulme
Pictures: Mike Rapley
Much was going on behind the scenes, with Yamaha in particular looking at a greater involvement in the sport with further development of trials bikes, for they wanted to eventually launch a new, revolutionary single shock machine they had on the drawing board. But Yamaha didn’t have a particularly good reputation at the time with their standard TY250 twin-shocker, whilst one of the big players in the game, Bultaco, believed that their new engine in a revamped chassis was the answer.
All of which brings us round to the machines we have tested here. The Majesty was in fact a stop gap for Yamaha; for they encouraged talented engineer John Shirt (who at the time was big into speedway products) and trials legend Mick Andrews to develop a machine based on the TY range which had never been a big hit in the sales room. The Majesty was the end result in varying forms, the name coming from the initials of Mick Andrews, John Edward Shirt and Trials Yamaha. The 320 version was an instant hit and took Andrews to a World Round win at the West of England club organised British round in 1980, following the first introduction of the bike in 1978.
The Bultaco on the other hand was introduced to the trials world back in 1965 by the legendry Sammy Miller, a machine which went on to achieve success in many different guises right at the top of the sport, including a run of World championship titles.
Both the machines we have on test are owned by Lancashire’s Nick Shield who rides them on a regular basis in the classic British Trials Championship. However, he favours neither bike as both have their own individual characteristics. As Bultacos have won so many World championships it’s easy to think that the bike is the best, but then comes the question, best for whom? Both machines have significant engine capacity when compared to the machines of today as the Majesty is a 320cc version, whilst the Bultaco has one of the fairly rare 340cc, six speed engines. But the power of both machines is so different, as is the way they ride.
Over or around!
The most important feature of the Bultaco is its power unit. Compared to the engine characteristics of the Majesty which has super smooth power, it’s a monster and delivers great punches of power at low revs which would easily catch you out. Opening the throttle at low revs encourages the engine to respond incredibly quickly, which makes you realise that the machine comes from a world champion’s pedigree. It has great gobfuls of torque and continues to drag you over obstacles that you think will stop it; however, it definitely takes some riding, and some hanging on to.
The Majesty on the other hand is nice and smooth at the bottom whilst the torque from the machine as you open the throttle more is incredible. This is definitely a more forgiving engine to ride and you can use this motor to its full potential in any of the lower gears, where as with the Bultaco in a higher gear you really have to be at your best. One thing that is quite evident with both bikes is that you can ride them better if you do not use the clutch. Jumping off modern bikes sometimes makes this difficult to adapt to, but they are definitely better ridden that way.
When riding the machines up a river full of boulders, the best technique with the Bultaco is take an aggressive approach and ride over obstacles, where as the Majesty likes to be ridden smoothly and it’s best to feel your way around the obstacles. Aboard the Bultaco you get the feeling of standing in the machine where as with the Majesty you stand on it as the footrest position is noticeably higher than the Bultaco, which gives it a feeling of having a high centre of gravity though this maybe due to the Majesty having a massive inch and a half more ground clearance.
The Majesty is so agile and light it acts more like an extension of its riders intentions than the Bultaco which feels long and heavy though the weight difference is only a few pounds. There’s no doubt the Majesty is the easier bike to ride.
When swapping between the machines you quickly notice how much easier the Majesty is to start with its right side kick-start and the fact that it starts in gear. The Bultaco on the other hand was quite difficult to start. The kick-start is mounted on the left and is quite high when at the top of its stroke, the fact that it does not start in gear just makes the job even harder.
One of the big plus points for the Bultaco though is the six speed gearbox. The Majesty is only five speed and the gap between the higher gears especially third to fourth is quite a big one where as the Bulto gives you a better choice throughout with the very high fifth and sixth gears ideally suited for the moors and road.
The suspension on both machines was very different, much like the engines really. The Bultaco had Spanish Betor components fitted at the front and these felt quite stiff, whilst the Falcon shocks at the rear were faultless. The Japanese front forks fitted to the Majesty felt a lot smoother and plusher, whilst at the back Nick had chosen to try some Rockshocks and these were set up similar to the front suspension, on the soft side. Whether this is because they are angled as opposed to the more upright position on the Bultaco we will never know.
On the cosmetic side of things both the bikes look really eye catching. The Majesty obviously jumps out at you with its yellow frame and contrasting white fuel tank whereas the Bultaco looks pure “works” with its plastic fuel tank and functional looks.
Jekyll and Hyde
Both these machines are totally different in all areas and are truly Jekyll and Hyde machines. They have both won at the highest level though the Bultaco gets the edge having won five World championships where as the Majesty’s biggest claim to fame was the famous English World Round win in 1980 by Mick Andrews. John Shirt never kept any records of the Majesty sales whereas the Bultacos sold in their thousands in their hey–day, but as the years passed, they became less popular as riders tried other, more modern machines. The Bultaco enjoyed twenty years of success in the sport whereas the Majesty was only around for five years, the Bultaco was always favoured by the top riders where as the Majesty gave the clubman their ideal machine.
To establish a winner is always going to be hard but for me the Majesty has the edge due to its ease of riding, but for the overall decision I will leave it to you. What does amaze me is how well Nick rides the Bultaco. His win of two Classic rounds on this machine earlier this year didn’t come as a surprise as he has lots of ability, but having now ridden the Bultaco, I think it was a superb achievement.
As we all know, twin-shock machines ceased development in early 1983 when Yamaha shocked the trials world with the introduction of their incomparable mono-shock model, the TY250 Mono, which changed the face of trials forever, though it did incorporate some of the Majesty development.
Unfortunately, whilst the revolutionary TY can’t be blamed for finishing Bultaco, the Spanish factory finally closed its doors forever due to financial reasons in 1984 – and thereby hangs a tale to be told another time.
+ Strong engine – Starting
+ Power – Footrest height
Model .. Bultaco Sherpa – Majesty Yamaha
Type Both Single cylinder 2 stroke
Capacity.. 340cc – 320cc
Bore x Stroke.. 85 x 60 mm – 80 x 64 mm
Power .. 19.4 bhp@6,000rpm – 23 bhp@ 6,500rpm
Compression Ratio.. 9:1 – 8.5:1
Gears.. 6 – 5
Wheelbase.. 1346 mm – 1296 mm
Ground clearance.. 305mm – 344mm
Weight.. 92 Kg – 87 Kg