Monday, April 4, 2011

Royal Enfield Model G and BSA Bantam trials

Dan on the Enfield trials iron
There's a place not far from home where you can post a tenner into an honesty box and play for as long as your heart desires with your trials bike. It's really just a field with a hump and a few trees in it. Probably not too challenging for the more experienced GasGas pilot but in places it is far beyond my abilities on my rigid framed Royal Enfield clunker.

A sunny day beckoned and Dan heroically rode his '51 BSA Bantam trials over whilst I put the unregistered Enfield into the back of the van and travelled the lazy way.

I bought the Enfield a few years back. An unexpected  ebay buy; I was travelling around Africa on another old Enfield and was sitting in an internet cafe in Burkina Faso killing time waiting for my visa to Mali to be processed. I saw a scruffy girder forked Enfield trials bike at what I thought was a steal. I threw in a bid I knew wouldn't win and when I looked again four days later I saw that I had bought another bike.

It was a good month before I was home and able to pick up. The attraction of the bike had been the rocking horse poo rare all alloy pre-war top end. The guy who had built it in the eighties lived in Redditch and had built it up with plenty of know how. There was no doubt it had been built with form over function displaying some agricultural cut and shut welding on the frame and a very uniquely angular exhaust system. But riding it proved that Terry the builder had known what he was doing. Indeed when he had campaigned it in competition it had been a very successful bike in the rigid / girder class.

Kicking the G2 trials into life
Shortly after buying I entered the trial at the VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes. I had a hoot and came second in class (there were only two of us)  despite not even finishing the trial. I found riding with the girders tricky to say the least, I suspected the geometry of the pivot points was wrong (though it obviously hadn't impeded the previous owner), so decided to fit a pair of tele forks from an Indian Enfield. The teles actually do improve looks substantially too and whilst I was making cosmetic improvements I fitted a more suitable petrol tank from a pre-war Model C and a nice upswept exhaust system.

The Enfield's inlet tract has been lengthened, a smaller concentric carb fitted and the exhaust port is significantly narrowed. The tune is obviously just right as the pulling power of the motor is a revelation. It will pick up uphill from a tick over and has characteristics that flatter even my poor off road abilities. The frame is shortened and raised and the geomoetry seems as good as it will get for a rigid off roader. The alloy barrel and head save a good few pounds but having to pick up the beast after dropping it still reminds that it is a fair old sized lump of metal.

1951 BSA Bantam trials
Swapping over to Dan's original trials Bantam is to experience motorcycling chalk and cheese. The bike is all correct factory spec with the exception of the lack of lights and lowered gearing. It's got a Rex Caunt cdi ignition so starting is easy and the immediate impression is of light weight and diminutive size. Standing at six foot three and having just stepped off the Enfield the Bantam feels toy-like. The riding position is set up for Dan's preferences and the bars are a little low for me but it's cheeky nature adds up to a fun ride. Whereas the Enfield will plod along the smaller engined two stroke needs to be pointed at an obstacle and given some revs and commitment.

The Bantam's decompressor needs to be used descending steep slopes and lets out an amusing whiny whiffling noise. The original forks are decidedly choppy but the handling is fine. For modern style vintage trials the Enfield is evidently the more capable bike but it's easy to see that the Bantam is the proto scurrying mammal to the Enfields diplodocus and a few years development on two strokes would see the tables dramatically turned.

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