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.
Friday (Day 5)
Machine: Sherco 250ccHelmet: Nau – Clothing: Clice – Boots: Gaerne – Waterproofs: Clice – Goggles: Scott.
Sections: 30 – Distance: 102 miles
The officials for the event are as always very good at keeping the riders in the Trial exactly up to speed as to what’s going on. When I picked up my route card for the day I was informed that the first group of sections named Doire Dhamh had been cancelled due to the water levels once again being too high in the sections. This was quite good news as it meant that most of the day would be spent riding on the road; much easier than the moors when it’s raining. My machine for the day would be the Sherco 250cc.
I have owned a Sherco in the past and they come with a good reputation in the Scottish; remember the wins Jarvis has taken on the two-stroke? Also Sam Connor’s win was on the Spanish machine. On firing the machine up I immediately felt happy, as the power was oh so smooth. Four new sections had been included to start the day and I arrived at these as it started to rain again! I was quickly at home on the machine, though the riding position felt a little front biased; four cleans proved otherwise as the secret of this machine is the engine. Maybe it was the fact that it was a 250cc that made the power so smooth, or the five speed gearbox making the gears so usable I am not quite sure. It was then on to the six sections at Pipers Burn. Here the hazards were a true test of any machine and it highlighted a minus point on the machine. The front suspension was perfect but for me the rear was a little lifeless; when I hit a rock it felt dead, it absorbed the shock but after that did not respond quick enough to help you up the steps and rocks etc.
The overall handling though was very good in the rivers and on the rocks, and I presume in mud it will grip for England. By the time I reached the lunch check I felt really at home on the machine and looked forward to the rest of the day’s proceedings.
With the rider now fuelled up I set off in the sunshine for the remainder of the day. The sections at the steep river climb named Camasnacroise have been in the event for a few years and need concentration and speed to succeed. It’s a double section with no break so you need to apply yourself fully. I attacked the section in second gear and cleaned the lower of the two hazards before needing a quick prod to keep everything moving; I was happy. This section once again raised the question over which capacity machine suits me best, a 250cc or in the Sherco case a 290cc? For me I would have cleaned both sections on a 290cc but once again it’s a question of trying machines before you buy!
The 250cc is ideal 80% of the time, but when you need the extra bit for the big climbs the larger capacity machines are a must. Apart from the opening section of the four at Meal Nam Each, cleans are for the top riders, for mere mortals like me it’s trying to rescue a three on each section. In these situations the machine felt very light and compact and I was relieved to see the back of them. The sections for the rest of the day were fine to ride and quite enjoyable. The Sherco is not the quickest on the road but I had quite enjoyed the run around the peninsula on the machine, on what turned out to be the driest day of the week.
Trial Position: 120 – Marks Lost: 40 – Running Total: 245
Engine: (10) Clutch: (8) Front Suspension: (9) Rear Suspension: (7) Brakes: (9) Riding Position: (8) Off Road Performance: (9) On Road performance: (8)
Total Score: (68)
Liked: Very smooth forgiving engine.
Disliked: Rear suspension action.
What a week!
The test was one of the best week’s trials riding in my life despite the atrocious weather conditions I encountered. The variety of machines on offer was incredible. For me personally I still like the two-strokes, though I would like to try having a four-stroke for more than one day. I feel as though I have given each machine a very fair appraisal. The main-stream bikes are all very good and fun to ride. The Beta and Gas Gas machines I rated the highest, though I wonder how long it will be before we see a new Sherco? Not that there’s much wrong with the present models! The four-strokes still have their superb reliability and build quality, all though like I have said to convert me I would have to have one for a longer period of time. The Xispa definitely needs more development to bring it on par with the others and I am sure over a period of time this can be achieved. In all there are no really bad machines and I am sure after reading the ultimate trials test you will all draw your own conclusions.
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.