After many years on 2 stroke power I never considered riding a 4 stroke. My dream bike all those years ago was an RTL 250 in Rothmans colors and theirs no doubt about it, a Repsol Montesa Honda 4rt is the modern day equivalent. So when we arrived at the test day to be greeted by a massive line up of both 4rt Racing and Repsol models, I made sure I stood close to a Repsol ready for the start of the test day.
The bike fired into life like clockwork, as it did all day and instantly the sound (or bark) of the engine put a few grins on the faces of the test riders. Their was a wide range of abilities at the test day, from capable riders, right through to a guy who'd never been off road. The day was arranged alongside the Mick Extance Off Road school under the guidance of Stu Day which meant everybody's skill level was catered for. Everyone managed to get a good 2 hours (yes 2 full hours) trying the bikes out and a number of staff (including Chris Pidcock himself) were on hand to make sure everybody got the assistance/information they needed.
Considering I had an S3 Championship round the next day, I should of been taking it steady and conserving my energy. However, I've never had so much fun on a bike and didn't want to waste a minute. Hence, my gloveless hands came away sore and blistered (will toughen me up for the SSDT in May). If you've not tried a 4rt I'd suggest you do, rather than forming an opinion based upon that of others give yourself a good go on one and remember that your learning to adapt to a new technique. Once you crack how to ride one, its a rewarding and often easier experience. One thing is guarenteed though, the noise will keep you riding much longer than you originally intended.
The bike I rode (Repsol 4rt) wasn't set up for me as it was a test day bike. However, even with out any personal adjustments the bike was comfortable and gave a sense of real quality. The bike is wider than my current GG but it feels right and just added to the stable feeling. The other thing that felt obvious (well it did to me) was that the mass of the bike felt very low down which obviously aides balance.
We started the test by having a guided tour of the land from Stu and the initial play area was an area of hard standing with various logs, see-saws, concrete blocks and a limbo bar which Stu kept lowering every-time someone went through without dislodging the beam. A log acting as a balance beam allowed us to see quite how stable the 4rt was across it. Straight away it became clear that the Montesa suspension is absolutely sublime. It seems to have no compromises and simply does what you require. It amazed me time and time again as the bike stuck like a leach to various rocks and obstacles and not once did it bounce around and loose grip.
From here we moved on to a mini MX track and a got a little chance to unleash the power of the 4rt. On a muddy track the engine never felt under stress. Once again the suspension soaked it all up, even the tabletop :-)
From here we followed Stu up towards the first real section we had planned. On the far side of a lake Stu had set out a stream section. For those a little more ambitious their was a turn out the stream up a steep bank and up a cambered climb covered in muddy roots. Its exactly the sort of section I dread as I'm usually far to clinical and want to be inch perfect before firing a bike up such as climb. I have great admiration for those 1970-80's riders that stick their tounges out and cling on at ridiculous angles as the bike climbs up. I grew up with a biketrials background, and wanted to ride like Tarres, If needed I ride like that but never feel happy or overly confident. Modern bikes probably aren't built with that in mind either. I got the shock of my life when it all seemed so easy as I shot up in 3rd gear. Once again the stability of the bike helped it track just right whilst the power just fired the bike up. I'd love to take claim for using my skills but I'm pretty sure it was the bike.
We moved on to some rocks and after a £5 bet with my friend Marcus (who thought I'd bottle it or fail) I tried a carrying the front wheel over a rock and tapping it on the the next step. The torque of the engine meant it was easy to control and Marcus now owes me £15 for my 3 attempts. Riding it on rocks felt good and was the area I was most interested in testing. I've often felt out of control in the SSDT (those who've seen me would no doubt agree, especially if they've had to pick me up). I've often wondered if the 4rt would prove more controllable across such sections and it did. Where as I often just have to rush rock piles on a 2 stroke I felt more able to ride. In part I'm sure this is also due to the suspension yet again. I've often described my Scottish riding as 'pinball' as my back wheel skips and bounces around, so I really appreciated the back end.
The final section of the day was a SSDT style section up a long long stream which ended with some pretty steep bits. The bike didn't seem to pull away or strain your arms but felt very strong with power instantly on tap. By this time our 2 hours were up and begrudgingly we headed back down to hand the bikes back. Given the chance I'd of kept it for the next day. Would of been handy with all those graded hill climbs at the Colmore.
To conclude, an excellent test day. Well organized with ample opportunity to get a real feel for the bike. It seems those that have a 4rt wouldn't trade them for anything and are full of praise. Those that haven't tried a 4rt should really give one a go and form their own opinion. Give Pidcock Motorcycles a ring http://www.pidcock.com/montesa/pages/montesa/home.htmweeblylink_new_window
Or if you fancy experiencing the Mick Extance Off Road School with Stu contact them via http://mickextanceoffroad.com/weeblylink_new_window