First ride: Montesa 4Ride review

Always wanted a trials bike you can ride further than over a boulder? Montesa hopes your answer is yes

MANY motorcyclists will never get around to having a go on a trials bike, which seems a shame when they look like so much fun. But they’re single-purpose competition machines that don’t even offer the concession of a seat - so why would you try one if you’re not competing?  

Maybe because of this, the new 4Ride, which ‘reinvents the off-road concept’ according to maker Montesa, Honda’s Spanish trials bike subsidiary. It’s an ‘adventure trial’ machine that owes its name to the fact it’s ‘for riding’. See what they’ve done?

Basically, it’s a trials bike that’s been made a bit more like a motorbike, not least by the provision of somewhere to sit.

It’ not exactly a ‘reinvention’ because Montesa has done something similar before, with the Evasion of 1991, an ‘excursion’ machine based on a trials model of the time.

Instead the 4Ride revives the idea. It’s based on the firm’s Cota 4RT260 trials bike. It uses the same aluminium frame and 259cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine as the 4RT, which makes 17lbft at 5,500rpm. The aluminium swing-arm is also straight from the 4RT.

Gears one-to-four have been made taller while fifth, the highest, remains the same. The adjustable suspension is taller at both ends and the fork offers more travel. The aluminium tank has grown from 1.9 to 4.4 litres, so you can now ride over some tree trunks and back. 

Because there’s still a trials frame under the seat, there’s also a sizeable space under there, which has been turned into a luggage compartment big enough for some sandwiches and a bottle of water.

Which you’ll be needing after a couple of hours on the 4Ride. It’s not for gentle trail riding – although it could do that. It’s for dicking around on. For going slowly and trying things you might not on another machine, for tackling tracks you might otherwise deem to narrow, rutted, steep, winding or boulder-strewn. Or all five. 

The seat it’s been given isn’t low exactly, at 885mm, but because the machine’s so narrow it’s still really easy for a five-foot-niner like me to get both feet comfortably on the ground. That in itself makes it less confidence-eroding than a big enduro bike. I hear even really skilled off-road riders complaining about the height of those.

So if you feel the need, getting your feet on the ground is easy, crucially without complete loss of momentum. Standing up or sitting down, the 4Ride is so controllable, trickling over obstacles in a low gear, the soft trials tyre finding grip in unlikely places and the engine offering the torque to fire it up any sudden incline. Occasionally with you still on it.

It won’t endow ordinary riders with trials skills but it will allow them to take on more technically challenging obstacles and terrain than they perhaps knew they could – it did me. And those with some actual trials skills will be able to hop from boulder to boulder on the back wheel.

Which could get slightly tedious if you’re trying go for a trail ride with them, stopping every time they see some rocks or logs just so they can show you how much better they are than you (in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes, the launch ride in Spain was like this; I think I cracked a rib trying to copy some of what I saw).

This is the possible problem for the 4ride: who is it for? Is it something anyone actually needs? Is that why it’s a ‘new concept’?

It only weighs 85kg fuelled according to Montesa. That’s incredibly light to you and me but it’s still 12kg more than the 4RT it’s based on.

Serious trials riders may be inclined to dismiss the 4Ride in favour of an actual trials bike, which is even better for showing off to mortals. Ordinary riders may be alienated by some of the features the 4Ride shares with its trials twin.

The gear selector is so far from the peg that you have to take your foot off one to operate the other. The ergonomic relationship between the right peg and brake pedal requires the same.

The side-stand is on the right, because it's attached to the swing-arm and the chain is in the way on the other side.

The gears may be taller than they are on the 4RT but they are still short by any standard outside trials. A trail or enduro bike, even a small one like KTM’s Freeride 350, will leave you in its dust as you make your third up-shift to keep up.

You may be able to ride it on the road to your off-road location of choice. That’s certainly the only road riding you’d want to do on it. Pulling away requires the quick-fire upshifts of a geared moped. By 60mph, you’re at the top of fifth.

The Acerbis mirrors fold backward for off-roading and might as well stay that way for all the visibility they provide the other way round.

And of course there’s no equipment: no ignition, key or lock of any kind (the Montesa people had to lock all the bikes together with one enormous chain when we stopped for lunch). The clocks – a digital speedo, odometer and trip meter - come to life with the other electrics when you kick-start the bike, which is very easy to do. It’s got a longer kick-start lever than the 4RT's and most of the time the engine fires on first kick, not just for you but for opportunist unemployed youfs with troubled backgrounds and meagre prospects.  

But I’m being unfair with all this practical stuff. It’s not about that, is it? It’s about having a laugh in the woods, on a machine that’s almost a trials bike, with the light-footedness that implies, but also being able to ride somewhere without constantly standing up.

At £6,249, I wouldn’t like to say whether Honda/Montesa will shift the 80 4Rides currently destined for the UK. I’d like to think they will. It is easier to control over tricky terrain even than KTM’s £6,499 Freeride 350, if not as good at keeping up. I’ve no doubt 80 novice-to-experienced off-roaders will have a fantastic time on the 4Ride if they can justify the price.

I’d like another go, for one. How long does it take for a cracked rib to heal?


Model tested: Honda Montesa 4Ride

Price: £6,249

Engine: 258.9cc four-stroke single, four valves, SOHC

Torque: 17lbft @ 5,500rpm

Weight, fuelled: 85kg

Frame: Diamond, aluminium twin-spar

Suspension: 39mm TECH telescopic fork with preload and rebound adjustment and 190mm stroke; R16V shock with preload and rebound adjustment and 170mm stroke.

Brakes: Front 185×3.5mm wavey disc with monobloc four-piston caliper; rear 183×3.5mm wavey disc with two-piston caliper.

Tyres: Dunlop trials tyres, front 80/100-21, rear 120/100-18

Seat height: 885mm

Fuel capacity: 4.4 litres

Colours: Red

  • Sign up for Visordown's weekly newsletter, Bugsplat, to get the best motorcycle news, road tests and features plus exclusive competitions and offers direct to your inbox. Register as a Visordown member here and tick the box for Bugsplat in your newsletter settings here.