One of the questions we hear regularly with new people coming in to the twin shock scene is “which bike is best for a beginner”?The problem is its a very subjective question. Do you answer it in terms of beginner rideability, scope for improvement or availability of parts and ease of maintenance? Plus the question tends to be directed towards people who rode them in the 80’s so gravitate toward their favourites of that era (eg I had a bad experience of Italjet so would never recommend one but I suspect for a beginner they are just as capable as say a Montesa 348).
As I moved across from restarting trials about 10 years ago (on a Beta Techno then Rev 3), I hankered back to the twin shocks I rode in the 80’s and after finding Aqueduct to be such a friendly club settled on making the move across.
I had no specific bike in mind having ridden Italjet (50), Yamaha (80), Montesa (123), Whitehawk (200), Beamish (325), Fantic (240) and Bultaco (250) during my schoolboy phase. It was very much budget driven and I found myself a “restored” Montesa 348 on EBay locally so went off and bough it.
The story of the Montesa 348:
Wheelbase / Weight: 51.5 in / 201 lbs
Seat Height / Ground Clearance: 31.7 in / 12.3 in
Displacement / Bore / Stroke: 305.8 cc / 78 mm / 64 mm
So lets start off by being clear, the Montesa is a really good all-round bike, I would happily have another one and that’s the problem, we started off on the wrong foot and that just never turned around. Let me explain in the context of this article as it is about both rideability and maintainability and whilst the Montesa was a great bike to ride, it was unreliable with parts hard to get hold of.
But lets cover how it performed first. It was actually a really good all rounder, happy in the running streams as well as the loose sticky banks, finding grip in most circumstances. From what I can remember, the rocky streams use to like a lot more weight back over the rear to really settle the front end but when you found that sweet spot it was pretty solid in these type of sections. It also tended to find grip well of the muddy stuff, mainly I think because the power delivery (when it was running) was very smooth and predictable. You can see why these were great outfit bikes, forgiving and plenty of grunt but delivered in a smooth curve.
I definitely can not remember it pushing out on turns and for some reason its “stature” did give a level of confidence when firing up steep banks and it was one bike, the dislodged wall at Nant Ucha Farm never seemed to phase me on.
But it was that wall that actually introduced me very early on, to what I felt was the Montesa’s Achilles Heel. It was on a practice day and I was firing the bike up the rocks that lead into the wall and just at the moment it lost all power. Being at 60 deg vertical from the flat plain on a rock set, needing a dab to stabilise the loss of power and having nothing to put my feet on, a nasty tumble materialised . I was lucky but it did shake me and the bike refused to start. 30 mins later it fired up and I knew I had a problem.
It transpired that the kickstart shaft has an external cam to prevent over rotation and this has a tendency to punch a hole in the engine case, just in front of the flywheel with the points and condensor behind it. As this is also just behind the front sprocket, once you have this hole and ride streams, the bike starts fine at the start but slowly as water gets in… well you can guess the rest!
In order to get the hole filled, the case needed welding and this is actually one bonus on the Montesa as it comes apart really easy and for a novice 2 stroke mechanic actually taught me loads of skills due to its internals having little nuances that needed research and patience but not over daunting.
Unfortunately over time I found sourcing parts really difficult and after having it stood up for 3 months whilst trying to find a set of piston rings I thought it best to sell her on.
Deciding to call it a day on the Montesa, a bit of nostalgia kicked in and I recall riding my brothers Beamish Suzuki (im pretty sure it was a 325 and not a 250) for a while and knowing the stick it use to get as being a bit of a lemon bike, I wondered as an adult, my view of it would be different.
Find one, try it, like it, buy it. Marks Beamish 325:
Wheelbase / Weight: 52 in / 196 lbs
Seat Height / Ground Clearance: 30.5 in / 13 in
Displacement / Bore / Stroke: 322 cc / 80 mm / 64 mm
Luckily Mark Samuel had been riding one and was considering selling it, so he kindly let me use it in a competition and actually I was quickly hooked on it. If you look at the numbers above it is almost identical to the Montesa and the 5lb weight loss and slightly lower seat height was not obvious. The Beamish was always talked of as being a heavy bike but this shows it to be no different from bikes at that time.
So how did it ride? As a general all rounder, once again it ticked all the boxes. The riding position was a lot more neutral, especially in the stream sections and on the tight turns it did not feel as long as the Montesa and definitely did not push put as a lot of criticism seem to be angled at it around this characteristic. You defiantly felt higher up on the Beamish whilst with the Montesa you felt you were in it as opposed to on it.
The 325 engine was just a beast, a very distinctive engine note, a very short pump on the kick start to fire it into action and a great 1st and 2nd set of ratios giving you flexibility in the section.
For me though, it was a bike I could never get to grip in the muddy stuff. I think I struggle with the power delivery which was much more linear and aggressive than the Montesa and after a while felt it was not the right bike for me and that I fancied a change. I had ridden my brothers as schoolboy and it was great to ride one again as an adult and put some of the myths to bed. I actually regret selling it now and would happily have another one…. maybe one day….
Anyway, at this stage, their was a movement towards the AC Mono scene and with the TY Mono being the bike of the time, chatting to Russ, I discovered they had a couple spare so a part ex of the Beamish for one of the clubs TY’s happened. I actually regret parting with the Beamish. I still think it is a very under rated bike and would make a great beginners mount. They look great, are a good price to pick up, bullet proof engines and easy to maintain.
But this article is not about AC Monos, its about comparing Twin Shocks and my final purchase in this area was a Bultaco Sherpa 175. Yep you read that right…. a 175.
Only 400 made? Everyone seems to say they have one in the back of their garage. I give you the 1979 Bultaco Sherpa 175:
Wheelbase / Weight: 51.75 in / 195 lbs
Seat Height / Ground Clearance: 33 in / 12 in
Displacement / Bore / Stroke: 174.7 cc / 60.9 mm / 60 mm
This purchase came about as my brother had bought it in bits and wondered if I wanted it. I was a bit sceptical at first with it being a 175, but as my favourite bike had been the 200 Whitehawk (158 lbs, Wheel base 50 in, Seat 29.5 in, clearance 13.75 in) I though why not and he only wanted what he paid for it (£425)…
Immediately after finishing putting it together (yep it was only partially built), it was obvious that although it was a similar weight etc to the Montesa and Beamish and a good 40 lbs heavier than the Whitehawk, it was a bike that I felt so comfortable on! And to be honest it was all in the lower power. It had the smoothness and predictably of the Montesa but without that final top end grunt. For most if the stuff we ride, it had enough in first and second gear was close enough in the box to be useful when needed. A number of people rode it and were surprised that it was only a 175 and as a general rule it performed sufficiently in all cases, rarely ran out of steam and from a geometry and handling viewpoint was by miles better than both the Montesa and Beamish. A number of people commented as well that its the bike that I ride best on and I think when you find a bike and click with it, that makes a huge difference.
One down side of the Bultaco is that it is set up with the rear brake on the left and the gear shift on the right. You can reverse them but I have left it original, From a reliability view point, once again it has been really good. The only major issue I have had was the main bearings failing during the Foel but apart from that it has been pretty reliable. It is a hard bike to start from cold, needing a lot of kicks to wake it up but once running it rarely misses a heart beat.
Now this is where the story spins off as the only criticism of the 175 was not a lack of power but a flat spot from a sustained tick-over run to cranking on, the sort of situation where you would be lining up for a bank then giving it a squeeze as you turned in. I really wanted to get this out of the bike and I tried electronic ignition and replacing the carb with a Mikuni and trying so many jetting combinations! I could not shift it so we went another route…. Jim Droughton had a few ideas based on Vesty’s Bultacos so we went to town taking all the bits that were good about the bike and leaving then as is but improving it where we could.
I cant finish the Bultaco bit without showing you a picture of how its ended up. I am planning on covering the reasons and changes under a different story…
So this article is about comparison, so overall how would I rate them?
Here is my experience on the classic trials scene.
My first ever trials event was after the IOM TT races in 2009. I borrowed a modern bike just to see how I got on and I did ok. Got slagged off by a few regulars saying I’m on a modern bike and I’m a experience rider because I race a superbike. Dont really see how that works as one is at 200mph and the other at 2mph haha.
I seen my backside with those comments so the £850 I won for 13th in the senior TT went straight into a classic [trials] bike but I like a challenge and found a 1949 rigid bantam that needed a lot of TLC.
So I got it going and learnt to ride it. Every event was different and I was learning and improving the bike until a few years later I had it at it’s best. Or maybe at my best. It was bored out to 185cc and forks upgraded but it still stopped you dead if you hit rocks with no rear suspension. I listened to the top lads about how to get over obstacles but with no rear absorbers it didnt relate to how you ride a rigid. The less I turned the throttle the more it gripped. But if I hit rocks, roots or a kicker on a banking it would just lift the whole bike and I’d lose grip.
I welded some support tubes to the frame to help me grip the bike with my heels. I’d altered all the ignition and jetting so it was all bottom end grunt and raised the base gasket as that helped with a bit more top end if I needed it and it helped lots.
But moving up to the eEpert class seen me getting a lot of punctures as I used to run 4psi in the rear. I even tried a worn out motox mousse but it made it to bouncy. So i drilled 25mm holes from left to right in the mousse. That helped on the rocky sections but it still sent sudden shocks up my knees and spin as I hit the rocks with no suspension. I even put rotating pivv-pegs off a bmw all-terrain bike. That allowed my feet to rock back and forth and helped with the sudden impact.
I’d even lowered the rear axle frame plates to raise the rear and put a stepper rack on the steering that worked great in tight turns. But I was still hurting more and more with my back. I had to choose either drop back a level to the green intermediate class or buy a bike with suspension.
I’d sold one of my classic superbike so had some money and I knew of a Springer bantam with almost the same spec as my rigid bantam. The deal was done and I did my first pre65 trials with springs. It was very interesting. The bike had a quick action throttle and no bottom end. It was like a light switch to ride. I’d approach a rock and were I used to gently open the throttle and the front lift with no give on the rigid back end, but the springer was flat, then it would kick in and compress the rear but by then I was into the rocks and on my backside.
I stiffened up the springs so hard that it felt rigid. I put a slow action throttle on it but put lean setting in the carb and I’d altered the ignition so it felt like the grunty rigid motor. As time went on I eased it off as I got used to the rear springs but it still wants as good as the rigid.
I put both bikes side by side and got measuring. The fork rack wasn’t step enough on the Springer and got worse when the back was fully compressed with the main cradle of the frame still being a standard bantam and not a fancy trick one you can buy off the shelf these days.
So I made a new slimline subframe that pushed the main frame forward and got me the rake I needed. I’d also tracked the exhaust pipe under the seat and split it into 2 pipes out the back of the silencer that gave it more grunt from 2 smaller pipes even though the overall diameter was bigger and longer in lenght.
I’ve had a few people snigger at that but it works for me and its my set up. I’ve seen so many just bolt parts on expecting to go better but they don’t. I remember chatting to the late Jim Pickering about what I’d done to my bantam engine. He took it away for a few weeks and on its return he said on paper that everything is off the scale for how he set bikes up but he said it works really well when u ride it so don’t touch it. Since I’ve been on the twin shock I have progressed better against the expert riders but then I sometimes find myself upside down.
It’s not that I’ve run out of power, I’ve just run out of talent haha.
I love riding my rigid but with classic trials upping the level every year I need to stay in the Springer to save my old bones as I’m turning into a rigid haha…..
In this time I have assisted Jayne to keep the small company going. However Jayne now wants to take more time out with her family this includes going to her new caravan . When its not in lockdown !!!
After some discussions myself and my wife Julia have decided that we will take on the Bantam parts and general trials service parts. So Jim Pickering Trials Parts is still going we are just taking on new stock and designing new parts like alloy kickstart.
In the future we intend to have a Facebook page and a website. Until this is all setup for any Bantam parts or BSA engine rebuild or general service parts please call my new number. 07828 455383.
Just to confirm we are still part of the Drayton company overall.
Following Septembers event which was attended and audited by the IOPD we have received the formal report. Whilst we are unable to run Octobers event due to the local county lockdowns, we look forward to resuming events as soon as we can.
Thanks to everyone who made the event and this outcome possible, it stands us in good stead for the next one.
What does a club, which has grown exponentially over a decade, gathered an incredible following and hosted some of the top twinshock events in the country do when Covid hits? Exactly what it should do. It stops competitions, respects the rules and then works silently in the background making sure when it is allowed to recommence, it does it in the best possible way… And what a cracking event it was!
I had to start this report that way, not as a political statement about following the rules but to really show the thanks and gratitude on behalf of the 60 riders who got the chance after 6 months of lock down to get back to the sport we love. With the IOPD attending, it is honest to say that nothing was forced or “for show”, just a bunch of enthusiasts respecting the rules and being grateful to the club team for getting us back riding.
Well enough of that, what of the day? Well Paul, Rob and Elwyn are here to tell you all about it.
Paul Beswick – Pre 65 Novice
The trial was my first with Aqueduct Classics and my first for 2 year’s since moving to Wales. It was a long drive from Aberystwyth, about 2 hour’s which I wasn’t used to having lived in Derbyshire near Matlock all my life and being spoilt for choice never having to drive more than 30 minutes max lol, but well worth the early start and I’ll definitely be back if you’ll have me.
Excellent organisation especially in these difficult times and it made the day so much more enjoyable having every section manned. The sections were nice and flowing, just as I like them, but I was so unfit not having ridden for so long I was glad we were in our “bubble” of six because not only did I have someone to talk to I could have a breather between attempts. I also found that it took me 2 laps to remember where I was going and to remember which flags to follow, totally my fault due to old age and being a bit dim , but the observer’s were so helpful and put me right.
My only bogy section was section 8 when I somehow managed to miss the fact that there was a ruddy great big rock. I might have missed it was there but sadly I didn’t miss it derrrrr. Oh I’ve stopped err might be something to do with this rock I’m wedged on Really haven’t enjoyed myself so much in year’s loads of laughs and 4 laps flew by in a blur .
Looking forward to the next time and hopefully I will be able to introduce myself to more of the team and other rider’s. As I said before “if Carlsberg did trials they would be Aqueduct Classics ones ”
Rob Sloggett – Twinshock (Clubman)
Its been a while….. but they say good things come to those who wait, and gosh it was worth the wait. We were lucky to have a training day a few weeks before and I had spent a few hours practicing figure of eights and this did help on a couple of sections (but more on that later). The main event for me of the day though was my rear silencer coming apart and making the newly restored prototype Bultaco sound lounder that is should have. It was my first competion out on Mk3 of its journey and it rides just lovely, shame the rider is not is sync with its capability now!
So what of the sections? As we had not ridden for a while and the revised Bultaco was new to me in competition I rode clubman. A nice steady uneventful start I thought? My “riding bubble” of Ian, Paul, James, Steve and Graham started on Section 1 which was basically an adaptation of the section we used on the training day. I had no excuses not to clean this! but still felt the front wheel pushing away on the 180 turn. A dab could have happened at any time here but I was lucky to carry a clean card on this section.
Turns on cambers have been one of my key weaknesses and a number of sections had these incorporated (at least three from what I can recall) and normally I feel the bike tipping in and would carry a dab. I’m please to say that the teachings of body position and my subsequent practice meant this time out I didn’t drop a single dap on these challenges.
So what of a specific section? Well Russ was on Sec 3 and this dropped down a bank, turned right to snake through some rocks and trees then the final stage was a very slight ride across a camber and climb a small bank to exit. First lap took two silly dabs where it should have been clean and showed that I still wasn’t settled on the bike but the last lap showed that really I should just put the bike on EBay and give up! A simple ride along the camber and up the bank turned into me getting slightly off line and then basically laying the bike down at the base of the banked turn. To this day I can not work out why or even why it didn’t take the dab to save whatever was going on…Oh I love this sport!
My second lap was also interesting as riding to Section 4, the engine note changed. It got louder. Now the Bultaco was being ridden without the clubfoot on for the first time in competition. It was always the aspirational design but the clubfoot had been added to tone it down a bit. I had been practicing with it off and the pick up was so much more peaky and suited how I like the bikes so after doing a Db test and confirming that with it off, it still fell below the ACU 100db at 2m measured 45 deg from the rear spindle (yep I checked the regs) I have kept the bike like that. What I did not realise is that the end cap was a press fit (not the 4 small bolts I thought which purely connect the end cap to the baffle pipe) and as it no longer had the club foot holding it in, you guessed, the pressure of the exhaust popped the end cap off. The baffles now rested part out on the swing arm. Sorry to anyone who thought it was a bit loud, it wont be like that again as its currently being stripped and rebuilt with pop rivets to hold it together.
Another great part of the day was actually riding in groups of 6 and with Graham also riding clubman it was good to have someone riding the same line and actually almost 1 for 1 on the scores. Unfortunately my silly 5 on the last lap pushed me out further but it was interesting to feel that competitive spirit as we completed each section even if it was purely in a fun way!
Elwyn Beedles – Twinshock (Clubman)
Well it finally arrived after months of Covid lockdown and restrictions the Accy team made the decision to organise a trial for our enjoyment. Always ahead of the game we entered via the website and payed via bank transfer. Very bold move when you are dealing with mainly old fossils who don’t know one end of a keyboard from the other !
Limited to a lucky band of 60 riders we were pre selected via email into teams of 6 and allocated a start section. Signing on was by individual pen after using the sanitising station then the girls presented us with coloured laminated numbers one for the bike and one for rear of helmet not the customary bibs for obvious reasons. We had been informed via email prior to the event our riding number !
Masks were mandatory around the paddock including the organising team. Fuel cans were loaded in the back of the pick up as we were not allowed back to the vans during the event. The Accy guys must have spent weeks making and laminating signs so no one could say they were not informed as to what was expected. I did hear a few moans but come on lads if we want to ride we have to adhere to well thought out guidelines.
After the briefing by Russ and Mark at 10.45am prompt we rode down to the quarry in our group and started at Pauls section 6. Took a little bit of finding initially but we soon got into things. My group had captain Mark along with Neil, Richard and Roly riding intermediate then Graham and myself on the clubman route. I was on the TLR and Graham was on a very trick Cub so it was great comparing notes and watching each other progress especially as he was pre 65 and I was twinshock.
Bit rushed so never really studied the green route to comment on but the yellow route was spot on twisting through the trees then a tricky rooted camber to section ends. We all waited at the end of the section to re assemble into our group then made our way to the next section following the well marked route. At that section we waited behind the yellow line for the section to clear then moved forward into the zone. This was the routine throughout the event with Roly ‘I don’t do hanging about’ Jones leading the way from section to section and Mark ‘can I give you some advice’ Newman taking overall control of the group.
Russ was overseeing section 4 (I think) with the lovely Suzanne. It was good to see Suzie after her recent problems. This was my bogey section when on lap 2 for some unknown reason (oh yes rider error) I found myself on my ear when the front washed out along a loose camber much to the amusement of the observers and a very unnecessary 5 on the card
The evergreen Elwyn Williams was looking after section one. We go back a long way and it was good to have a brief catch-up with him. I think I heard Elwyn shout to one of the lads he was 81 and only stopped riding last year so there is a long way to go for some of us to match that. Tricky turns and cambers were the order on his section but safe and rideable as were all the sections. The one downside of the Group of 6 rule was that I never got to see any experts strut their stuff on the section and come to that I hardly saw another rider all day we were so equally spaced out.
Overall the sections were very sensible given that we had not competed for a long time. Russ commented that from an observers point it was good just having 6 at a time at the section, easier to explain the route initially then a small break as one group left and the next group arrived.
The inspection by IOPD was welcome and they left more than happy with the way things were running. Geoffers and the team have taken on board a bit of feedback that I am sure will be attended to for the next event. It was very enjoyable in a group as we got to know each other a little as we rode around and with no queuing we travelled at a good pace. Importantly we all finished at the same time with no stragglers keeping the observers waiting at the end which normally happens.
Great event and now roll on 11th October
Before we move into the usual stats, we have to close by once again say a huge thankyou to the club team for all of the effort they put in over the preceding months to make this happen, the observers for still taking the time to support and the land owner as always.
Expert – Jim Hough (Ariel) 0; Ian Smart (Triumph (6); Darren Walker (11)
Intermediate – Jerry Hawker (Francis Barnett) 1; Simon Thornley (BSA) 3; Roly Jones (Dot)3
Clubman – Keith Gardner (BSA) 2; Steve Jones (Triumph) 6; Graham Miller (Triumph) 10
Novice – Paul Beswick (BSA) 14; Jack Curwell (BSA) 10; Kevin O’Toole (Triumph) 20
Expert – Jim Williams (Honda) 14; Steve Williams (Honda) 18; Kev Ellis (Yamaha) 30
Intermediate – David Matthews (Bultaco) 11
Clubman – Elwyn Beedles (Honda) 9; Graham Pennington (Ossa) 9; Owain Charles (Yamaha) 13
Novice – No riders
Air Cooled Mono
Expert – Peter Ruscoe (Honda) 6
Intermediate – Ian Emery (GasGas) 7 T; Paul Cartwright (GasGas) 7T; James Hornby (Beta)11
Clubman – No riders
Novice – No riders
Expert – Mark Diggle (Sherco) 15;
Intermediate – Steve Sherwin (TRS) 29
Clubman – Bobby Chadwick (Beta) 7; Ken Williams (Beta)10; Ade Robinson (GasGas) 15
Novice – Chris Matthews (Beta) 30; Tony Williams (Scorpa) 37; Alan Hotchkiss (Beta) 43