Ed­die Le­je­une- NR1

Classic Trial - - DISCOVERY | HONDA RTL 250 -

Any­one in the world of mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als will re­mem­ber the ex­otic Honda RTL sin­gle-shock tri­als ma­chines that ap­peared in late 1984. Steve Saunders was a works rider at the time for the Bri­tish based Arm­strong Com­pany, con­test­ing the world cham­pi­onship on its two-stroke Hiro pow­ered ma­chines. He had seen the pro­to­type fourstroke ma­chine at the end-of-sea­son World rounds in 1984 and man­aged to ‘blag’ a test ride. From that mo­ment on he knew it was the ma­chine he wanted, to chase his dream of be­com­ing the world tri­als cham­pion.

For Sale

We now move the clock for­ward to the early nineties, as Carlo Ramella him­self takes up the story of his ex­otic find: “You can never put your­self in the right place at the right time but that is ex­actly what hap­pened. I was trav­el­ling through Bel­gium on a busi­ness trip when by pure chance I called at a mo­tor­cy­cle deal­er­ship be­long­ing to a fa­mous Bel­gian mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als dealer named Del­wiche. Whilst in the shop there was a no­tice board of ad­ver­tise­ments for mo­tor­cy­cles and parts etc for sale and I was soon look­ing through it when I spot­ted an ad­vert for a Honda, pro­claim­ing it to be an ex-Le­je­une Honda RTL! All of a sud­den alarm bells be­gan to ring in my head – could this be the Eddy Le­je­une ma­chine that had dis­ap­peared? I im­me­di­ately con­tacted the ad­ver­tiser, who was the son of a heavy-goodsve­hi­cle driver whose fa­ther had just passed away. As he was not us­ing the ma­chine he had de­cided to sell it along with some parts and cloth­ing from the Le­je­une fam­ily such as a jacket, boots and some spare parts.

A Re­sult

The man ar­ranged to meet me at ten o’clock in the evening at a shop in a very small vil­lage. There I was stood, in the snow, with the clock tick­ing. As this man was re­turn­ing from a de­liv­ery I watched ten o’clock come and go. Now I was get­ting cold and won­der­ing was it all worth it when out of the blue he ap­peared. As we walked into his garage I must ad­mit I was very ex­cited. He turned the lights on and there stood the Honda RTL 250cc. My first sight­ing was of the fuel tank cover, which was white and blue and then the rear mud­guard, which was not orig­i­nal. Then the rear si­lencer, which was a pro­duc­tion one, and on closer in­spec­tion I no­ticed some de­tail on the front forks and yokes, the rear swing­ing arm, the monoshock spring and also the car­bu­ret­tor as­sem­bly and then fi­nally I noted the en­gine num­ber – NR1! It was the miss­ing ma­chine! The man ex­plained that the ma­chine was the one that Eddy had used whilst com­par­ing it with his pro­to­type RTL 360, and that his el­der brother Jean Marie had rid­den it.

It’s Mine!

We quickly agreed a price and the ma­chine was mine. I loaded the Honda into my Re­nault Espace and started the long jour­ney home feel­ing like a per­son who had just won the lottery. I never stopped to sleep at a ho­tel in case the ma­chine was stolen, such was my joy at pur­chas­ing such a rare ma­chine. Over the next few years I would start to re­turn the ma­chine to its orig­i­nal con­di­tion, and I was very for­tu­nate be­cause I man­aged to con­tact Eric Le­je­une who sup­plied the cor­rect ‘works’ si­lencer. What sep­a­rates this ma­chine from the other RTL Hon­das is the fact that it came from a small batch pro­duced in 1985, with some changes to the han­dling and the spec­i­fi­ca­tion de­tail.”

Love Af­fair

Justyn has a love for all mo­tor­cy­cles but in par­tic­u­lar a real love af­fair with four-strokes, and when Carlo sug­gested he should test the Honda for Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine it was a 100% ‘yes’ with a big broad smile! He ac­tu­ally owns and rides a pro­duc­tion Honda RTL 250cc as well as a mod­ern Mon­tesa Co­ta4RT; yes the fourstroke sound is mu­sic to his ears. “You mean I can ac­tu­ally test the Eddy Le­je­une ma­chine? – wow!” The lo­ca­tion for the test would be Puy, which is a very small moun­tain vil­lage hid­den in the Ital­ian Alps close to Bar­donec­chia, which is where the 2006 win­ter Olympics were held.

Justyn: “We ar­rived early on a Sun­day morn­ing to meet up with both Carlo and Pippo Bar­to­rilla. The talk was about the win­ning ways of Toni Bou and the new Ver­tigo project, but it soon changed to the Le­je­une RTL. As we were talk­ing the rain started to come down, and I did not hes­i­tate to throw my leg over the Honda hop­ing it would soon stop. De­spite the weather con­di­tions I still de­cided to wear my new Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine tee shirt I made spe­cially for this test – yes, I was ex­cited!

“One short sharp prod on the kick-start lever and the mo­tor brings mu­sic to my ears through the large-vol­ume rear alu­minium si­lencer. I take a quick ride up and down the river to get a feel for the ter­rain as the rain be­comes stronger, but I have the feel­ing that I am Eddy Le­je­une! The wa­ter is now chang­ing colour in the river as the level rises but the su­perb han­dling of the Honda be­comes very clear as I place the ma­chine be­tween the sub­merged rocks. The bal­ance is in­cred­i­ble which en­cour­ages me to try some mod­ern-style rid­ing.

“It feels prob­a­bly lighter than it is, and ma­noeu­vring the ma­chine around is rel­a­tively easy. Hold­ing the front brake on and hop­ping the rear wheel about is child’s play as you can also use the torque of the mo­tor to smoothly pull away. With my con­fi­dence high I move to some larger rocks and still feel very much in con­trol. The whole pack­age en­cour­ages you to try more am­bi­tious ob­sta­cles but I have to re­mem­ber it’s quite a rare ma­chine which I am sure the owner wants back in one piece. With a su­per smooth power de­liv­ery you al­ways feel in con­trol.

“My boots are now full of wa­ter and I am wet through, but the fun con­tin­ues as I ride in and out of the river. De­spite the fact that the brakes are the drum type they feel as pow­er­ful as disc brakes. What is no­tice­able is that you do not feel tired on the ma­chine as ev­ery­thing falls into place, making it easy to con­trol. Both Carlo and Pippo look across, as if to say that we should re­tire now; which we did to have some lunch. In front of a warm, open fire we ate some grilled meat and en­joyed a bot­tle of rare ‘Ruche’ wine, which maybe gave me the con­fi­dence to ask Carlo if he would sell the ma­chine. Be­fore I had fin­ished he ended my ques­tion with the words ‘Shut up’. Maybe I had drunk to much wine but if you never ask you will never find out – Carlo, thank you for a su­perb ex­pe­ri­ence!”

Even af­ter all th­ese years it still looks very spe­cial

No­tice the high rise of the han­dle­bars

The mo­tor is a four-stroke but it’s very compact

Lead­ing axle front forks aid sta­bil­ity

De­spite the fact the ma­chine has drum­type brakes they worked very well

The large-vol­ume rear si­lencer came from Eric Le­je­une

Once the fuel tank cover is re­moved it be­gins to look very much hand made

Maybe it’s the raw look that ap­peals to peo­ple

The car­bu­ret­tor sits be­hind the fuel tank

No­tice how close the air­box sits to the ex­haust sys­tem

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