Noob to Trials. Which should I look for in a first bike?

Discussion in 'Trials' started by More CowBell, Dec 11, 2011.

  1. More CowBell

    More CowBell gotahave moreCowbell

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    208
    Location:
    Sun City Ca.
    I want to buy a used trials bike and I’m just not sure what to look for. I started riding dirt bikes on a Honda 50 when I was 5 years old. I’m now 46. I ride street, dirt & dual sport, and I was even into Fast50s racing for a few years (some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike). My question is this: what kind of trials bike do I look for? From some of the research I have done, I think I want a year 2000 to 2005 and to spend around $1800 to $3000. I’m not too sure what size engine to look for. Should I look for 2- stroke or 4-stroke? It looks like 4-strokes cost more money. Is it worth it to go with a 4-stroke as a first trials bike? Let me know what you think.
    #1
  2. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2005
    Oddometer:
    11,251
    Location:
    Tampa
    They are all really similar so it doesn't much matter. That said, 2 strokes are by far the most common and most popular. A few folks like four strokes better, but the large majority of people I've met like 2 strokes best.

    Engine size doesn't much matter I think, most adults use something 250-300cc.

    As a general rule of thumb in for 2000-2005 bikes, the Montesa Cota is oft regarded as the most durable and perhaps most nicely built. Its power is fairly soft (a good thing generally) and its a touch heavy (not a great thing, but also not really a disadvantage at least until you are good enough to hop all over I'd guess). I have one, I like it a lot. The montesa also has exceptionally good suspension.

    The Sherco of that era is a bit lighter and more snappy feeling. It is well made, but has a more workman like appearance. It may also be a touch more difficult to keep it nice with a ton of hours. For example, I seem to remember that the footpeg mounts are part of the frame rather than replaceable. Very few will get enough hours for this to matter though. Probably the best in terms of outright performance/$$.

    The betas seem nicely made except perhaps for what appears to be slightly less sophisticated shocks. I've heard tale of various year-specific issues here and there, but overall pretty robust. They feel sorta like the montesa, planted and slower-revving.

    Early Gasgas models I'm told were on the heavyish side but quite durable, later ones (pros I think they are called) are lighter and reputed to be less robust. From a purely appearance standpoint they often look a bit more beat than others. Overall feel of the pros is a lot like the feel of the sherco, light and snappy. Just anecdotal older gasgas bikes seem to have more issues than others, but this could be entirely happenstance.

    Note, this is all from a total n00b's perspective, the advanced riders here may see things differently.

    Overall the bottom line is it really doesn't matter what you pick, they are all about 100000x times more capable than most riders will ever be, they are all reasonably well made and all get the job done just fine. It is probably wise to put as much emphasis on local support for the make as anything else, then just pick the cleanest, best-kept example you can find.

    Of the four strokes the Beta appears to be the best to me, but I've not spent more than a few minutes on them.
    #2
  3. isplat2

    isplat2 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    Oddometer:
    303
    Location:
    Soo Ont.
    Thankyou..I can also use this info.

    I posted a question in the "Montesa Long Range Tank" thread.

    Basically...can you get a long range tank/seat combo for any of these "modern frame' style of bikes?

    98% of my use of a trials bike would be just messing around in the woods at my camp.
    The option to sit down while travelling the camp roads would be an asset.

    I'm not trying to hi-jack your thread....I just need similar info.
    #3
  4. BikePilot

    BikePilot Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2005
    Oddometer:
    11,251
    Location:
    Tampa
    For messing around in the woods why not get a woods bike like a KDX200? If you really want trials-ish with a seat how about a Gasgas Pampera 280? Trials bikes, imo, make pretty poor trail bikes. Even simple things like shifting gears quickly is hard to do on a trials bike (the shifter is way far forward so as to be totally out of the way in a section and you typically don't shift in a section, if you do, you've usually got all the time in the world to take your foot off the peg, shift and get with the program).

    Note, some folks do really like trail riding on trials bikes so ymmv.
    #4
  5. dhubbard422

    dhubbard422 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Central Texas Hill Country
    I recommend buying a bike that has been well cared for and as new as you can afford. Trials bikes tend to fall into two camps, babied and nearly perfect or used and abused. I'd avoid one that looks trashed - but, if you're a good mechanic, like working on your bikes and the price is really, really low, you might find an ok deal... Newbies also tend to fall and scrape 'em up a bit, so I wouldn't worry about getting a real pretty one, unless of course, that's important to you.

    For your price range, I recommend a 2-stroke. A 4-stroke in good condition, will (most likely) cost you more than your stated budget. They are also a bit heavier than their 2-stroke brethren, but they work really well in slippery conditions, i.e. mud.

    All of the bikes from 2000 - 2005 have their good points. In good condition, all are capable mounts.

    The Montesa 315 is a good bike. It's well made. As mentioned earlier, the suspension is good. However, it is a bit heavy and it also carries a bit of a premium $. The Beta Rev 3 is also well made and very reliable. No other brand turns as well as a Beta. Disclaimer: I have ridden Beta since '04... The Sherco is good, I rode Sherco from '00 - 03 (and I enjoyed it), but, I'd avoid the '06 model as it turns like a truck. The Gas Gas Pro is trick and very light. The Pro model was introduced in '02 and it had some teething issues for the first few years. If you decide that you want a Pro, I'd definitely recommend looking for a later year model. The earlier Gas Gas TXT is reliable, but, it's definitely older technology. I rode a TXT prior to riding Sherco.

    Again, all brands have their strengths. Get something that you like - something that inspires you to ride. A good dealer that is near you, one that stocks some parts in the model you end up with, is a plus.

    Happy bike hunting!
    #5
  6. dhubbard422

    dhubbard422 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Central Texas Hill Country
    I've only seen long range tank and seat combos for the Montesa and Beta. However, number plate gas tanks are available for any bike to help extend your range. Scorpa also sold a "long range" model.

    FWIW, I love trail riding on a trials bike!
    #6
  7. Pro_Marinero

    Pro_Marinero Carbon Sasquatch

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    2,091
    Location:
    Ellensburg, WA
    FYI On GG pros - 02 and 03 had a steeper angled steering stem. Quick turns for advanced riders but twitchy for novices. Fixed in 04 to satisfy broader market Engines can be changed by a rider but not frames.

    Do some searching in here. All of these questions have been well covered. You'll find a lot of your info is already available including various brand opinions and carrying fuel.
    #7
  8. Rapid Dog

    Rapid Dog bikes, booze, broads...

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2003
    Oddometer:
    9,753
    Location:
    Strangel Living West of Hell, SoCal
    I've been wanting a trials bike for ages just for fitness and pleasure. I'm not ready to spend a load on the latest high-tech stuff.
    I'm looking at a 1995 GasGas250 that appears to be well cared for, and about what I'd like to spend.
    $1600 for this sweetie.

    [​IMG]

    There's also this 2001 Sherco 2.9 for $1700.

    [​IMG]

    Any opinions?
    #8
  9. dptropepe

    dptropepe Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Mesa, Az.
    The Sherco is the better deal.
    #9
  10. Happy Seal

    Happy Seal Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,538
    Location:
    CT.
    I was told to pull the LS cover ( 3 bolts ) off the Sherco to check for radial play oon the crank. Common problem for the Shercos. Or just listen for the clunk. Other than that nice bikes! good luck!
    #10
  11. neilking

    neilking Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    435
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    A bad main bearig may not exibit any abnormal play. This was the case with an '01 that I bought. Cost about $200 in parts to repair. I think the Sherco is the better deal even if you have to replace the main bearings.
    #11
  12. dhubbard422

    dhubbard422 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2008
    Oddometer:
    74
    Location:
    Central Texas Hill Country
    I have owned both of these specific year models and the Sherco is a more capable bike.

    However, the JT25 looks very clean. This often equates to a little used and/or well maintained example. It's hard to tell from the Sherco pic, but, if it is as clean and well maintained as the Gas Gas, I would expect it to be worth up to a few hundred dollars more than the Gas Gas. Typically, I would also expect a '95 JT25 to carry a slightly lower price tag than the asking price, but, with bikes of this age, the value depends primarily on condition and there are exceptions.

    FWIW, I had more mechanical issues with the '01 Sherco than I did with the Gas Gas JT25. Not enough to stop me from buying an '02 Sherco, but, still a surprise. I had a failure with the water pump, which was an easily fixed, but common issue and I had a kick starter gear failure with either the '00 or '01 Sherco... (sorry, but I can't remember which year that failed on...) All-in-all the '00, '01, '02 & '03 Sherco's I owned were very reliable, but the '95 JT25 seemed almost bullet proof.
    #12
  13. Bent_boot42

    Bent_boot42 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2011
    Oddometer:
    50
    Location:
    Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
    Go team Sherco! :clap

    I also had to do the water pump on mine ('04) but it is super easy and only cost $30 with the gasket etc.
    #13
  14. Shercoman

    Shercoman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2008
    Oddometer:
    457
    Location:
    Pine,Colorado
    FWIW
    The second owner of the '02 sherco I bought new is still riding it very regularly and the engine has never been apart.
    I know how much I rode it (and partially siezed it once going down the road) and it's still going strong.
    Each brand probably has it's "Monday built" bikes.
    #14
  15. pecos

    pecos BAM!!

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2006
    Oddometer:
    536
    Location:
    Big D, TX
    Is there a specific year range that one should stay in? Or is buying a trials bike really about getting the latest model for what your budget is?
    #15
  16. Sting32

    Sting32 Trials Evangelist

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,493
    Location:
    Minneapolis, Ks

    Pecos,

    Really hard to say, because of a big question mark for us to fill in, from YOUR side.

    Are you going to try to compete? Do you have money? is this just a "think Ill do it" sort of to say I got one? see what I mean?

    Lemme try to quickly tell you a story which might enlighten why I axed all that...

    in 1972, I think it was, My family discovered trials, and well my pop loves anything where being clever or practice makes you better than just spending money on going faster parts etc, like MX was. But for at least a year, might been 2, dad rode novice in RMTA, on a brand new then, suzuki 250 enduro, that big hulking SOB, that had been sort of adapted for local races and hare scrambles, and he modded a little to make more trials friendly. Ok, so you know he was "INTO" it, it was something he decided we'd do ya know, not baja one week hare scrambles and what not, then trials... Trials.

    But it was when Wiltz Waggoner and another big name rider at the time, happend to watch him ride a section, while my mother was near them, and Wiltz looked at the other guy and said, I think that man rides that thing pretty good, but would make a better rider, if he would get a real trials bike..." (or something very close to that) That week a bultaco sherpa-t appeared in crate form in the garage...

    So you see, I'm relating a couple things. you can buy any bike and compete on it, but compared to the tanacity of my dad, I dont believe you would show up at a tank battle, with a Mashette? Month after month without feeling like what a waste of time, I'm getting my @ss handed to me all the time. 2, But if your just going to "discover" the trials behind your house, and explore, then hell, any bike will be good for that, older the better for having fuel capasity.

    New bikes are not this drastic, but the benefits of modern designs, just dont take but, well lets just say a year for a new rider, to appreciate.
    Maybe over simplified, but 90% of us normal people bowl with the house balls, or shoot pool with house sticks. I have my own cue, but without time and energy & practice, I dont shoot any better with it or the house sticks. But there was a time, I could...

    What I have most of my friends that I get started do, is get almost any bike that is from 2000 or up, get started get some basics learned, then every so often they will ride my newer bike. like I say, after about a year of lots of practice, not once a month riding... they can feel the difference then they usually go find a newer bike.

    Best thing I like, most of them buddies probably lost less than a few hundred dollars at most when the sold the bike, some bought so well a priced one, they actually broke even, eventhough it was a couple years down the road. (PS: Not including maintenance & parts they bought over this period, but saying the main price when they gave it up, you know...).

    It does help to have friends with same bike and models too, for sharing or learning how-to's on maint and repair, and spare parts.
    #16
  17. larryk

    larryk Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    44
    Location:
    Dallas, Georgia
    More cowbell - I'd find a club event in your area and talk to some folks there. Good chance they will let you try their bike and it's also a good place to find a used bike.

    my opinion - 2 stroke - at least 250cc
    If you spend $3,000 you can get a pretty nice bike.
    #17
  18. More CowBell

    More CowBell gotahave moreCowbell

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    208
    Location:
    Sun City Ca.
    Thanks guys. This is all kinds of good info. Still looking and thinking, I dont like to jump into anythink too fast. Plus Chirstmas has got the money tied up rite now.
    #18
  19. More CowBell

    More CowBell gotahave moreCowbell

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    208
    Location:
    Sun City Ca.
    I got a 98 Montesa Cota 315R. It hasant been running for a few years. I got it for $1000. Today I pulled the carb off (man that was easy) to clean it, but it seemed fine. I cleaned the filter and pulled the plug. I sprayed a little WD40 in the plug hole and ran the kick starter a few time, feels fine. Tomorrow morning Ill get some premix and a new plug. Wish me luck.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. Sting32

    Sting32 Trials Evangelist

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,493
    Location:
    Minneapolis, Ks
    That should make you a pretty nice bike to begin your trials career on.
    #20