Trial models 1997

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Trial models 1997

Trial models 1997
Hop again

Small, quiet and yet sooo spectacular. MOTORRAD shows the latest rock hoppers.

Peter Mayer


No, in the quiet world of trial athletes you just don’t like the loud, intrusive sounds. Especially not when the tried and tested with boastful sayings should give way to something new and supposedly better. Understandable, because nowhere else can the latest technical craze be more embarrassing in an inexperienced hand than when a section lets the high-tech horse and rider fail miserably.

Nevertheless, even in trial sport, technical development does not stand still. On the contrary. In off-road racing, trialists were the first to enjoy an aluminum bridge frame or a hydraulically operated clutch – not just because they were new, but because they made sense. But it is precisely this actually positive trend that claimed its victims among manufacturers. With an overall global market of just 14,000 machines per year, expensive new developments are difficult to finance. And so it is no wonder that the trial world is firmly in the hands of those who would rather grab a hand than calculate: work in Italy beta and Fantic at the Stollenrobern, Scorpa in France and Gas gas in Spain. Only Montesa leaves the circle of idealists in the balance trade and produces – although in Barcelona, ​​Spain – as a well-established subsidiary of the Honda group without pecuniary worries.

And it is precisely the Montesa that, after the double strike in 1996 – last year, the Catalans and their local works drivers Marc Colomer and Gabriel Reyes won both the World Championship and the European Championship – the trials scene with the Cota 315 R. wants to set a new technical benchmark. Of course, not without resistance from Fantic, which at least does not want to miss the optically sporty connection with a new aluminum frame. But both of these things are only noticeable at second glance, at least for those who are less in need of trial technology.

Low center of gravity for safe balancing acts, but high ground clearance for climbing tours on high stone steps. Gentle engine characteristics for full traction on slippery surfaces, but aggressive power development for steep climbs with minimal start-up. The spring elements respond as soft as butter on bumpy terrain, but the fork and shock absorber are not puncture against rough blocks. These are the key data with which the engineers are confronted with the climbing parts – and which ultimately help the trial irons to achieve their highly unusual, function-specific design.

But what about the current trial technology? Subject chassis. While Honda is currently celebrating itself as an innovative trendsetter with the aluminum-framed Moto Crosser CR 250, the majority of trialists, as I said, have long since got used to the shiny pedals. As early as 1990, Beta installed an aluminum bridge frame for the first time. Even back then, lower weight, stiffer design and, above all, compact design spoke in favor of the innovation. Nevertheless, it took until today for each brand to find its own identity when it comes to aluminum frames. While Beta uses two brackets welded to the main profiles for the swing arm mount, engine mount and footrest attachment, Montesa lets its pin-straight aluminum profiles flow into a light metal casting for the same purpose. Fantic prefers a traditional, idiosyncratic design. The frame of the section forms a frame made of aluminum half-profiles, which is elaborately welded together, which in a sense descends in three steps to the footrest mount.

Only Gas Gas and newcomer Scorpa are not yet enthusiastic about the shine of the aluminum chassis. The Catalans rely on a now chrome-plated bridge frame made of two narrow square steel profiles, which ingeniously run in one piece from the steering head to the swing arm mounting. In order to keep the overall width in the tank area as narrow as possible and the steering angle as large as possible, Scorpa even went a step back and since last year has been using a conventional single-loop frame instead of the steel bridge frame.

What is still starkly different in terms of the chassis is more similar when it comes to the powertrain. Small, light and foolproof, 250 cc two-stroke engines dominate the balancing act. Only the Scorpa and the Gas Gas pour the quarter liters a little more generously and wait with eight or 30 cubic meters more, while Fantic is the only one in the field that works with an exhaust control system that has long been common in Enduro and Moto Cross. It can’t do any harm, even if the trial propulsion sets are satisfied with a meager but sufficient 17 to 20 hp maximum power in favor of full power in the lower speed range.

More striking are the differences in the dimensions of the units. While Scorpa has to rely on a broad-based Rotax engine originally designed for enduro sports due to a lack of in-house development and Beta, Fantic and Gas Gas rely on proven in-house design, Montesa is breaking new ground. In order to save weight, the Honda unit even dispenses with the obligatory sixth gear, thereby realizing a narrower engine housing, as it were. Ultimately, the basic requirement to be able to pull the massive frame tubes far down, past the engine housing.

Because the deeper the masses – and not only trialists know this – the more stable the balance. And for this purpose, the suspension specialist Showa was even called in. The Japanese developed an extremely short shock absorber especially for the Cota 315 R, which not only saves height, but also saves a pound of weight despite the same spring travel.

At the front there is broad agreement in the camp. Apart from Gas Gas, which after bottlenecks at Italian suppliers quickly put a self-made construction in their triple clamps two years ago, Paioli sits with his 38-millimeter forks – the spring is in the left spar for weight reasons and the damper unit is incidentally in the right spar resides – firmly in the trial saddle.

In this respect, World Champion Colomer’s preparatory work has clearly borne fruit. A simple frame, small and light motor housing and a lot of slimming work in detail reduce the weight of the Montesa to 75 kilograms, believe it or not, six kilograms less than the class-heavy Beta. All the more astonishing as the Cota 315 even falls below the minimum seat height of 52 centimeters for the Beta or Gas Gas by two centimeters. Not so with the Fantic, which is larger than the competition despite the new frame.

And how do the motorized free climbers ride? Hand on heart, casual and hobby drivers feel very little of all the changes. Perhaps that the Honda looks smaller and the Fantic more stately than the competition. Perhaps that the clutch actuation on all machines has very, almost too short release paths despite the sensitivity required for the trial. Last but not least, that the engines stall much faster at low revs than most amateurs would like.

However, deeper-looking impressions are reserved for specialists such as DM pilots Andreas Kindsvogel, Matthias Hofmann and Hans Greiner. And what do they think? The beta convinces with a mature concept and good workmanship. The Fantic impresses with a lively, easy-revving engine, which is overshadowed by the slightly oversized chassis. The Gas Gas JTX 270, which by the way is still available with 140, 240 and 340 cm³ displacement, provides a healthy and proven basis. The Montesa impresses with its low weight, the smooth and easy-turning engine and the extremely low center of gravity, but it also suffers from its considerable price difference. Only the Scorpa does not want to please any of the specialists with a broad and aggressive engine and moderate climbing enthusiasm. Which is not a problem for amateurs who are not capable of jumping. Because the Easy delights them with the largest steering angle in the field.

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