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 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.
Thursday (Day 4)
Machine: Xispa 250cc R
Sections: 28 – Distance: Approx 50 miles
After a good soak in the bath on Wednesday night it was down into the restaurant at the West End Hotel for some well-earned food. Sat looking out of the window we watched as a force ten gale blew up Loch Linhie. Soon there were scenes of commotion as the wind began to blow the tents and awnings over in the car park opposite where the Trial is stationed for the week. It lasted for about ten minutes before the storm passed over. This did not look good for Thursday’s tough day ahead.
Soon word got around that the route for Thursday would be much shorter and based around Kinlochleven; phew! The course plotting team led by Rab Patterson had decided it would be too risky to send the riders out onto Rannoch Moor the following day and so the clerk of the course Mark Whitham and his band of helpers had to start planning a new route at eight thirty in the evening. On Thursday morning it was announced that the riders would leave the start in pairs at minute intervals starting at ten thirty. I went into Parc Ferme and got the Xispa out to adjust the controls to my liking. As you are all well aware the Spanish machine is new to the trials scene and I looked forward to riding something totally new. The machine fired up with no problems at all, with good news that today’s route would be only fifty miles based around Kinlochleven. As I headed out of Fort William towards the Mamore road it was obvious the machine was not suited to being pushed on the road as the gearing was way too low; this was also echoed on the tracks and moors as the day progressed. In the sections the front of the machine felt very stable if not a little low resulting in the steering feeling quite heavy, but maybe this was just a personal thing. The front suspension was fine but the rear was not for me at all, maybe it needed setting up better as the damping was virtually non-existent.
For example at the famous Pipeline sections the machine ran well and I felt confident on it but the rear shocker literally bottomed out and bounced its way up the section. The machine feels as though it just wants to be developed, as if its full potential has not yet been realised. The gearing would cost me a few more marks, as I wanted to go faster than the machine would, though the carburetion was quite clean and the performance of the engine overall was quite good.
Small things spoil what potentially could make a good machine. Towards the end of the day a small amount of water had found its way into the air box; this probably found its way in through the vents around the seat area. A little more thought and this problem could be eradicated. On the ride back to the finish at the end of the day my thoughts turned to how this new machine could be improved? All it really needs is some more development and the quality of the components improving; maybe an area the factory could work on to improve what is basically not such a bad machine.
Trial Position: 124 – Marks Lost: 27 – Running Total: 205
Engine: (8) Clutch: (6) Front Suspension: (7) Rear Suspension: (4) Brakes: (8) Riding Position: (8) Off Road Performance: (6) On Road performance: (7)
Total Score: (54)
Liked: Responsive engine.
Disliked: Front and rear suspension.
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.