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.
Saturday (Day 6)
Montesa 250cc 4RT
Helmet: Airoh – Clothing: Alpinestars – Boots: Alpinestars – Waterproofs: Alpinestars – Goggles: Scott.
Sections: 30 – Distance: 61 miles
Hurray Saturday!!! I started the week on a four-stroke and would finish the week on one. The Montesa 4RT will take you around the week in the Scottish no problem – fact. As soon as you throw your leg over the machine it feels solid, the quality just jumps out at you. Before I went into Parc Ferme for the machine I called in to ask Montesa man Martin Sandiford the best way to start the machine as I was not familiar with it, especially as it had the fuel injection system fitted, no carburettor here. He explained that all you do is gently push the kick-start lever down with the throttle shut and it will start every time, no problem. Martin’s a big lad so I thought I had better listen to his advice. I did exactly as I was told and it fired up straight away. I don’t know why but the four-stroke grunt always makes a lad feel good. If any of you readers ever decide to ride in this superb event do not think the week is over on Saturday morning. It’s a long hard day with some serious moor crossings involved. The ride up the tarmac road and onto the track and Mamore road had the Montesa in its element, it really is superb on the road and it just loves the open tracks and moors. The riding position when stood up on the footrests and crossing the moors is perfect, a pleasure to ride. The front and rear suspension is excellent, the front as near perfect as you can get – and remember this is a production machine literally out of the box. Into the sections and the sensation from the engine is that the machine appears a little high geared? This is maybe that with the fuel injection system fitted the tick over for the engine is a little higher than a two-stroke which I am more accustomed to. Another thing you have to take into account is myself, as the trial has been quite a tough week and come Saturday I did feel a little tired. This was highlighted with the Montesa in the sections. In a straight line the machine was perfect but when the section got a little twisty or around tight corners it felt a little heavy.
Another point highlighted was the power delivery which was quite “snatchy”, making me believe that to get the best out of the Montesa you had to be on top of your game. Once on the move and with the machine working though the power was instant and very linear; as I have just stated the machine can do the job it’s designed for but to get the best from it needs a good rider on board. Spaniard Carlos Casas has ridden in a few SSDTs on the Montesa and he feels very comfortable with the machine. I have only owned one four-stroke trials machine so maybe I am not the best qualified to report on one. One thing which did amuse me though was the fact that Casas never carries any tools to make repairs to the machine, he has that much faith in it. For me riding trials is summed up on sections such as Pipeline, straight up with the machine on full song. The Montesa levelled this section and was in its element. The view from the top of here is incredible looking back on Kinlochleven. Riding the last day of this year’s event made me understand what an achievement it is to finish the six days. I set off into the light rain for the final difficult moor of a long hard week. The four-stroke power was a pleasure as I played at being Toni Bou for a few split seconds. The sections on Ben Nevis were roaring with the amount of water coming down them but the Montesa never once faltered or missed a beat; fuel injection is definitely the future.
When I arrived at the final section of the day at Town Hall Brae the instigator of this crazy idea, Trial Magazine editor John Hulme, was there to give me a cheer, his cheer caused me to lose a slack mark!!! but it was the end to an incredible week of trials riding.
Trial Position: 126 – Marks Lost: 65 – Running Total: 310
Engine: (9) Clutch: (9) Front Suspension: (10) Rear Suspension: (8) Brakes: (9) Riding Position: (8) Off Road Performance: (7) On Road performance: (10)
Total Score: (70)
Liked: Superb suspension.
Disliked: Strong power delivery.
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.