Motorcycles aren't all about going fast - sometimes they go up vertical walls instead. Whit blags a go on Dougie Lampkin's trials bike and wishes he was somewhere else
Our test area consists of a very steep wooded hillside full of huge and dangerous-looking boulders. Trouble is, to get to it you have to ride up a narrow gulley full of rock steps then along a path with an un-fenced 25-foot drop inches from your wheels. The six other publications invited to take part are pure off-road magazines, but I can't even get the bike out of the car park without help.
The list of test riders invited for a go on Takahisha Fujinami's and Dougie Lampkin's factory Montesa-Hondas reads like an entry sheet from a World Trials Championship event: David Cobos, fifth in the world in 2002; Josep Manzano, 2001 World Junior Champion and a former European champ; Jordi Tarres, seven times a world champion... The list goes on. The only thing they could've put next to my name was, 'J. Whitham - had a Bultaco once'. The phrase 'out of my fucking depth' doesn't even come close.
I needn't have worried. Like a pack of scrap-yard guard dogs the Montesa staff smell my fear and, in an effort to save their priceless factory work of art from coming back looking like a council estate field bike, assign the catering/hospitality unit driver (himself a national trials rider) the job of making sure I don't attempt anything too taxing - and I, suspect, throwing himself under the bike if it looks like falling over. So all I do is tootle round for half-an-hour, looking for obstacles small enough to ride over safely.
For someone with no more than an interest in trials (that'll be me) being invited to ride Dougie's Montesa-Honda is like your average slow group track day rider blagging a spin on Rossi's MotoGP bike. Too good an opportunity to miss I thought, but this was rapidly turning into my most embarrassing episode of the year (so far...). I was beginning to realise a mistake had been made - like me agreeing to do the test.
The best part though is watching the proper riders doing their gravity-defying stuff, especially Fujinami and Dougie. It's like watching one of those sleight-of-hand magicians - it doesn't matter how many times you watch them do a trick, you still can't see how they did it!
If any top trials rider was to go to a circuit to test a race bike they would easily be able to get round. The only difference between them and a top racer would be far slower lap times. In trials, on the other hand, for a novice to attempt any of the sections the pros can clear would be tantamount to suicide. You can either do it or you can't. There's no in-between.
The Montesa-Honda Cota 4RT is a 270-ish cc (the factory won't confirm it's true capacity), fuel-injected four-stroke. And make no mistake, this is a proper factory bike. You'll get some idea of how important this project is to Honda when you consider the only other two-wheel motor sport they're involved in that receives full factory backing is the company's MotoGP effort. Honda hopes the technology pioneered in developing a four-stroke bike capable of winning in the two-stroke dominated trials world will have spin-off benefits in many other applications.
Posted: 15/01/2008 at 09:34
I was literally just typing that...
Posted: 24/09/2009 at 18:36
He's a busy boy of late.
Keep it up James
Posted: 21/09/2010 at 15:04
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