Starting Note: Definition of a trials bike: A specialized, lightweight motorcycle used in slow speed, observed (i.e. somebody is watching for your mistakes) off-road competitions, requiring great machine control, balance and judgement. It is most popular in the UK (nearly always wet and windy) and Spain (nearly always sunny and warm).
Ever wondered how many vintage (pre-1990) trials bikes there are in working condition on the planet? I did have a ‘wondering moment’ about two months ago, and I came to the conclusion that it’s a lot. This leads to another series of questions; How many vintage trials bikes are actually used, when and how often? Hmmm…..easy answers; not many and not very often I reckon. I believe that globally, only 38.6% are actually used out of all of the vintage trials bikes that could be used. This is obviously a very wild guess just to prove my point, because it means that as a moto-trial community, we’re not being very ‘sustainability minded’.
When I start talking about trials-bike-sustainability, I’m completely ignoring, and maybe wrongly, any greenhouse gasses that these bikes pump out when being used. It is more about using a great product that has already used a lot of energy to make in the first place. So, what would make us use our vintage, specialist trials bikes even more? They’re obviously too low geared to go on long road rides and the range is not great due to small fuel tanks, and the seats! The seats are not made for sitting on, and the engine vibrations that work their way to ones trouser contents isn’t ‘sustainably healthy’ either, so good luck if you can sustain (every pun intended) more than 45 minutes sitting down.
The trials bike (and it’s rider) is happiest off road, but there are increasingly less places to play off-road, particularly in the UK. Spain has more trails, but the greenies are closing in over there too, and reducing the amount of riding trails. So, how do we spend more time on our amazing vintage trials bikes?
I have quite a cunning plan. It’s not a paradigm shift in trials or moto riding, but it is an idea which is honest and true. Take our trials bikes’ sister bike, the enduro, which can be ridden fast and hard, but the ‘Gortex-wrapped dog walkers’ don’t like them on the trails, which I do understand because they make a hell of a mess of the ground. I have therefore, invented a new 21st Century marketing term, and it’s called Tri-Duro. It’s a term for a moto that is a cross between trials and enduro bike. Good huh? It is a less specialised form of bike and riding.
I’m clearly not the first to ever think about this. Montesa currently have the 4RIDE in their model range, which is a modern version of what I’m getting at. Back in the late 70s though, and just before the business crashed, Bultaco did a version of the Sherpa S that had a dual seat, a toolbox box which gave it some rear-end-symetry with the exhaust on the other side, and pillion footrests. It was obviously more trials specific than the Bultaco Alpina, which was a similar trials-trail bike, and it had a much better name than a similar Spanish trail bike, the badly named, Ossa Plonker. Anyway, these three additional parts added to the Bultaco Sherpa meant that the bike could be used to go and get the bread in the morning, or commute to work, picking up a colleague on the way, and then allowing you to nip out at lunch for some rural or urban trials riding. Brilliant!
So, my Tri-Duro term relates to my Bultaco Sherpa S getting the extra parts treatment, and fortunately, somewhere in the Barcelona area, is a man (see below) called Frank, or more formally, Francesc Marquez, who sells just the parts I need to complete my vintage Tri-Duro. It makes it a much more flexible bike and crucially, I’ll use it more, which is exactly what I’m getting at.
Let’s take a look at the parts specifically, and starting with the seat. It’s more comfortable than the single seat and fits the shape of the bike really well. I can move around on it to stretch my legs on road runs and is as good off-road as the single seat. It also allows two people to sit on it so makes my Bultaco a sharing bike for the first time ever. I don’t get too much vibration through it at 50mph (or 80kmh) either. This leads me to the new rear passenger footrests or alternatively ‘wheelie bars’. Trials bikes wheelie easily anyway, but standing on these rear footrests makes it more fun. Finally, the new toolbox. It’s waterproof and holds a few key tools, a KitKat, a cloth and a bottle of 2T oil for that fill up on a longer ride. The quality of all 3 parts is really great. For the cost of a few parts, I’ve got a soulful bike that can do more than before. Ha!
We do need to use these old bikes more. Virtually all of the parts for these Spanish bikes are available, so maintenance is easy and cheap-ish. It is sustainability themed as well because the energy has already been used to create my bike in the first place. I can now ride comfortably to our local town on the road, or instead, wind my way through the trees off-road as in the picture below. The engine sound is quiet-ish and those tyres doesn’t cut up the ground like a faster enduro bike, largely because it is a slow sport, and I get to hone my bike and body-balance control skills. In addition, that seat makes it very ‘flat track’ as well. Now there’s an idea…….
I know the term Tri-Duro doesn’t slide off the tongue as easy as a spoonful of raspberry ripple ice-cream, but it’s a start. I clearly haven’t thought the marketing bit through with the name, but as a concept, it’s a stronger idea than half of the non-sustainable-crap being put on most crowd-funding sites. Half-way through a bottle of wine one evening, I tried to merge the words Bultaco and Tri-Duro into one great marketing term. Unfortunately, any alcohol fuelled creativity that there was in me, didn’t realise a result. However, I did come up with Try-Duro instead, which is almost an invitation to ‘try’ it, rather than just polish it in the shed.
If you’re not feeling guilty about getting that vintage trials bike out there and using it, then you jolly well should be. I didn’t write this just for a laugh. It was written as a calling to folk to get those vintage bikes out there. Now!
FYI – The parts I’ve added came from a new Bultaco parts source for me, in Barcelona, and from an eBay shop called Vintage Spanish Bikes https://www.ebay.com/str/vintagespanishbikes The shop belongs to Frank as I mentioned earlier, and who has an amazing stock of quality parts for all Spanish bikes, as well as a high level of customer service. He ships worldwide as well.
All photos by the Author