As always Trial Magazine tries to bring you the best in machine tests with our extensive comparison reports. This time we decided to try something completely unique. We take a new machine from Beta, Gas Gas, Montesa, Scorpa, Sherco and Xispa. We then enter one rider in the Scottish Six Days Trial. He then rides each of the six days on one of the machines provided – the ultimate test! You’re probably thinking: are we crazy?
Words: John Hulme and Nick Shield
Pictures: John Shirt Snr – Andrew Stewart – John Hulme
Last year my good friend Nick Shield and I were having a nice relaxing drink (beer of course) at the Richmond Three Day Trial held near Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales. I suggested that for this year’s SSDT we try something new. Nick is a regular rider and winner at all levels of trials; from twin-shock to modern machines, he rides them all. He has also owned many different brands over the years and ridden in all the events you need to ride in, including World Championship rounds (he has reminded me this was many, many years ago). I suggested we carry out the ultimate trials bike test at the 2009 Scottish Six Days Trial. I suggested Nick could be the rider (he smiled!) After a few more drinks the idea seemed like a really good one and we shook hands on the decision to proceed with the idea. I then approached the organising club for the Scottish, the Edinburgh and District Motor Club. The always helpful secretary of the event, Mairi Jenkins, said she would put the proposal for the test to the committee, who were more than obliging. Nick would ride as number 278 and would be included in the event just like a normal entrant but on a different machine every day. Now that we had an entry I had to contact all the UK importers of the machines for the test. They were all enthusiastic and with the promise of support from the clothing and boot suppliers it was game on. The importers all suggested it would be a good idea to prepare the machines themselves as the Scottish is such a tough event, and where needed small changes would be made. They also agreed to use the machines in a local event just to free them off from new due to the fact that the machines would be straight into competition. To make the allocation for each day’s machine I enlisted ACU man Dave Willoughby to make the draw so as to show no particular favouritism to any manufacturer, although the truth is all the days in the Scottish are hard ones. January 2009 soon came around and I was on the phone to Nick to order him to the gym and start to get himself in shape for this great adventure.
Ready for the off
The 2009 SSDT ran from 4th – 9th May. With all the arrangements in place I headed to Fort William, Scotland for the event’s proceedings. With Nick in fine form and ready for action we checked that all the machines had arrived. The days and machines are as follows: Monday – Scorpa 250cc SYF four-stroke; Tuesday – Beta Evo 250cc 2T; Wednesday – Gas Gas 280cc TXT Pro; Thursday – Xispa 250ccR; Friday – Sherco 250cc; and finally Saturday with the 250cc Montesa 4RT. A superb selection of machines and for me a good one as the week began and ended with a four-stroke machine. With all the machines lined up and ready for the off I was quite excited that the whole project had come to life. Nick would ride the Scorpa in the parade through the streets of Fort William before putting the machine into Parc Ferme on the Sunday, where it would stay until the start of the Trial in the morning.
I now hand you over to Nick for the rest of the week:
As Trial Magazine has all ready tested all the machines we are using in previous issues, I decided to give the machines a score on a rating of 1 – 10 with 10 being the best down to 1 for the worst. There are no bad machines and I have done this evaluation of each machine as fairly as I can.
Tuesday: (Day 2)
Machine: Beta 250cc Evo
Helmet: Jitsie – Clothing: Jitsie – Boots: Diadora – Waterproofs: Jitsie & Alpinestars – Goggles: Scott.
Sections: 30 – Distance: 99 miles
Once again during the night heavy rain had lashed on the machines in Parc Ferme. I had handed the Scorpa back to the owners and put the Beta in on the previous night; the only change was the fitting of the official front number board, something we would do every night. In the fifteen minutes allocated to each rider to work on their machine in the morning I would just change the handlebar position and make any personal touches etc to suit me; this and checking the tyre pressures were the only jobs I would need to carry out. As I was riding as part of the Trial, even though we were carrying out the test, I would move forward by approx 40 riding numbers each day, the same as the other riders. This procedure is carried out so that all the entry takes a turn having an early day in the sections. When my turn came to start, for a few minutes the weather took a turn for the better and stopped raining! I still put my full riding kit on though as the ride to the first group of sections at Laggan Lochs is a long way, approx 40 minutes. I have owned Betas in the past but had not ridden the new model “Evo” so it was something I was quite looking forward to. The Beta support crew had fitted an auxiliary fuel tank behind the front number board to give me the extra fuel they thought I may need due to the length of some of the moor crossings. With the choke lever on the Beta fired into life straight away and I set off for the long road run to the first group. The weather though quite cold was pretty good, with only the odd shower spoiling the stunning scenery.
The three sections at Laggan Lochs have been in the Trial for many years and have not really changed much. The loose rolling rocks have been taking marks for years and this year would be no different. The sections are quite physical, as they are of the longer nature and you have to keep the machine on the go. Straight away the sections made me aware what a small light machine the Beta is to ride. The engine is the same, giving really smooth usable power at all times. My only complaint here was the overall riding position. The way the handlebar and clamps are positioned put me very much over the front of the machine, something which did not suit my riding style but could be easily rectified with a change of handlebars and clamps, or possibly footrests/hangers. On the moors, which were once again quite difficult due to the now driving rain and deep bogs, the machine was in its element. The new rear suspension arrangement on the “Evo” is definitely a major improvement over the previous model as the feel is now much more positive.
On the sections at the major spectator group of the day at Creag Lundie the machine once again came into its own. The sections climb up the boulder-strewn river and with me having to push up a few of the sections the light weight two-stroke is a definite bonus. The lunch break after these sections was a very welcome bonus! On the road ride to the sections at Forest Gate the weather slowly got worse with the rain once again falling quite heavily. The sections were quite straight forward as normal and the Beta pulled me up these no problem, the smooth motor defiantly doing its job. After these sections the Trial route returns to the moors which were in a really bad state and very muddy.
With rain now coming down very heavily the river levels also began to rise dramatically. In one of the river sections on the moors I fell into a hole and water gushed over the top of the machine. I stopped the machine quickly and dragged it out of the river. I then drained the carburettor as a precaution. A quick prod on the kick starter and the machine fired straight back into life. The day just got worse after this as the river crossings became impossible. At one point I and fellow competitor Glen Scholey helped one another to carry our machines across the rivers!! Waist deep in freezing water in the middle of nowhere is not much fun. My ride for a single mark up the last section of the day at Witches Burn cheered me up though, as the big step was in an evil mood; yes I liked the Beta. When I handed the machine back to the Beta support crew I was definitely ready for a hot bath.
Trial Position: 120 – Marks Lost: 69 – Running Total: 118
Engine: (9) Clutch: (9) Front Suspension: (8) Rear Suspension: (10) Brakes: (10) Riding Position: (8) Off Road Performance: (9) On Road performance: (8)
Total Score: (71)
Liked: Small and light to ride – Smooth engine.
Disliked: Riding position, the handlebar footrest distance.
Trial Magazine would like to say a huge thank you to all the relevant suppliers of machines and equipment for the test. We would also like to thank Edinburgh & District Motor Club Ltd for allowing this test to happen.