BSA• DU­CATI

Classic Trial - - FRONT PAGE - Words: John Hulme and Phil Dis­ney Pic­tures: Josh Turner

My very first mo­tor­cy­cle was a BSA Ban­tam, con­verted into tri­als trim by my fa­ther Ron in the mid-six­ties. Long be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of the Yamaha TY80 tri­als model many fa­mous names cut their off-road teeth on one of the su­perb BSA ma­chines man­u­fac­tured at the fac­tory based at Small Heath in the Mid­lands. The small, com­pact, sin­gle cylin­der two-stroke ma­chine was used and abused un­til I was old enough to move onto a Dales­man, which is a story for an­other day. My pas­sion for any­thing Ital­ian started with Alfa Romeo cars, mainly be­cause of the en­gi­neer­ing de­vel­op­ments they car­ried as they were so tech­ni­cally ad­vanced. Men­tion the name Du­cati and it’s the same, but not for any rea­son other than the fact they have a feel good fac­tor in the name, and the ex­haust note is some­thing else! It’s quite amus­ing when you are abroad pass­ing through air­ports be­cause I can guar­an­tee, if you have any­thing with the Du­cati badge on it will raise a smile from the girls and a com­ment ‘You have a Du­cati’ and sadly I have to say ‘sorry, only the tee-shirt’.

The op­por­tu­nity to test both the BSA and the Du­cati came about when an email popped up on my com­puter ask­ing if I was in­ter­ested in this “Du­cati Spe­cial I have built” which came from Ian Pe­berdy. Some images were at­tached which re­ally caught my eye. It was one of them mo­ments when you know you just have to test the ma­chine. I con­tacted Ian, who was a very in­ter­est­ing guy to talk tri­als to, and we ar­ranged for him to bring the Du­cati to the Hawk’s Nest tri­als venue in Der­byshire. He also men­tioned he rode a BSA Ban­tam and I sug­gested he put that in the van as well.

A phone call to one of the magazine test riders Phil Dis­ney was made with the an­swer: “A Du­cati tri­als ma­chine to test — just tell me where and when” as I sensed the en­thu­si­asm to ride this Ital­ian ma­chine in his voice. So that’s how we ended up with th­ese two iconic mo­tor­cy­cle brands to ride. Be­fore we move to throw­ing our legs over the ma­chines we will just give you some de­tails of how both ma­chines came to be.

BSA Ban­tam

The BSA Ban­tam pur­chase came about when a friend of Ian’s asked him if he knew where there were any White­hawk Yama­has for sale. Ian knew of a 175cc White­hawk, and his friend men­tioned he was hav­ing a change from a clas­sic twin-shock to a more mod­ern one and that to fund the White­hawk he would be sell­ing his BSA Ban­tam, which was a Jim Pick­er­ing Dray­ton model. As is usual in the mo­tor­cy­cling world a deal was done and Ian was now the owner of the ‘Ban­tam’. The ma­chine was very tidy and fea­tured other Jim Pick­er­ing parts in­clud­ing the fuel tank and the front fork yokes, but Ian de­cided to put his own mark on it. The Ren­thal stan­dard 5/8th Ø han­dle­bars were re­placed with 4 ½” rise Ren­thal ‘Fat­bars’ fit­ted with Ren­thal grips. The con­trol lever as­sem­blies for both the front brake and clutch were Do­minio, at­tached to qual­ity Ven­hill con­trol ca­bles. The ma­chine came fit­ted with Ger­man MZ front forks, which worked very well, but as th­ese did not meet the ma­chine spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the Pre-65 Scot­tish a new pair of REH ones was supplied by Ar­mac, which adds to the su­perb han­dling of the ma­chine. At the rear it came fit­ted with Be­tor alu­minium bod­ied forks which gave 340mm of travel. To suit Ian’s rid­ing style and ‘speed up’ the rear sus­pen­sion ac­tion th­ese were changed to Ozo branded ones, once again in alu­minium, but which in­creased the travel to 360mm.

Hav­ing sorted out the con­trols and sus­pen­sion it was time to put some changes into the en­gine which is based around a D14 model. Its ca­pac­ity is 185cc, achieved by way of a Suzuki pis­ton con­ver­sion in a stan­dard Ban­tam cylin­der bar­rel with a BSA B175 cen­tre-spark plug cylin­der head. A PVL ig­ni­tion sys­tem looks af­ter the electrics which work fine. The car­bu­re­tion on any twostroke is very crit­i­cal to ob­tain max­i­mum per­for­mance and an Amal 26mm Ø Premier MK1 car­bu­ret­tor is fit­ted.

In Ian’s ex­pe­ri­ence Ban­tams pre­fer to be a lit­tle rich off the bot­tom end so this is how it’s set up, which he also prefers. The air fil­ter is still Jim Pick­er­ing’s orig­i­nal one from when the ma­chine was built. At the mo­ment it is still run­ning a stan­dard clutch bas­ket, but with a mix­ture of heavy duty fi­bre plates and stan­dard metal plates and springs. It does have a spe­cial ‘al­loy’ pres­sure plate to im­prove drag and feel. The light feel and ac­tion is achieved by us­ing a length­ened clutch arm. This ma­chine has a low first and se­cond gear fit­ted but they are test­ing a dif­fer­ent third gear at present. The front and rear brakes, in­clud­ing back plates, are taken care of by ones from Alan Whit­ton, with Mo­rad tubed rims laced to the wheel hubs. The all-im­por­tant brake shoe lin­ings are a wooden-type ma­te­rial ma­chined to match the drums to give a more mod­ern pro­gres­sive feel. The ma­chine does look very mod­ern and com­pet­i­tive, as we will find out.

Du­cati Tri­als

The Du­cati idea for a tri­als con­ver­sion to be car­ried out came from a close friend of Ian’s who has car­ried a pas­sion for the Ital­ian ma­chines since his child­hood. A mix­ture of Du­cati parts from a Monza road model of 1963/1964 ori­gin ar­rived at Ian’s work­shop, in­clud­ing a frame, some wheel hubs and other var­i­ous com­po­nents, and a pair of crankcases which meant Ian could start work on mod­i­fy­ing the frame. Af­ter a care­ful ex­am­i­na­tion of the frame and the tak­ing of a few mea­sure­ments it was clear that the orig­i­nal frame would be far from what is needed for to­day’s haz­ards. The first job was to re­move ex­cess brack­ets in­clud­ing the cen­tre/side stand mounts, and then mea­sure and set up ready to strengthen and im­prove the ex­ist­ing steer­ing head an­gle, wheel base length and footrest po­si­tion etc. The main frame was left, but the en­tire lower frame rails were re­moved ready to fab­ri­cate brack­ets to al­low the fit­ting around the sump for an alu­minium sump guard. It’s a slightly odd shape but with a nice flat sur­face to slide off things. The en­gine was slightly repo­si­tioned to ac­com­mo­date a tri­als tyre and for im­proved chain clear­ance. The rear sub­frame was orig­i­nally made for a dual seat, with pil­lion footrests, but this was all re­moved and made nar­rower, with fit­tings to house the air-fil­ter and ig­ni­tion sys­tem. The orig­i­nal road­model swing­ing arm was too short and heavy, but not want­ing to go down the road of fit­ting one from an­other man­u­fac­turer it was im­por­tant to try and keep this as much Du­cati ori­en­tated as pos­si­ble.

Af­ter search­ing var­i­ous Du­cati mod­els a mo­tocross one was found that would work with some more fab­ri­ca­tion to both the swing­ing arm and frame. A new swing­ing arm pin was fab­ri­cated with bushes and this was an­other prob­lem area solved. A new lo­ca­tion point was added for the rear brake plate as Du­cati Grimeca wheel hubs were be­ing used, and lower shock ab­sorber mount­ing points were added. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful year of us­ing REH front forks and Ozo rear shock ab­sorbers Ian de­cided to fol­low the same path for the Du­cati. Work­ing closely with Gerry Min­shall, af­ter he had done all the chas­sis work a pair of bil­let yokes were made with a one-off steer­ing stem to house the REH front forks. Many more man hours would be used, as brack­ets for the fuel tank, which is the same as the Dray­ton Ban­tam one, ig­ni­tion and rear mud­guard and other parts were man­u­fac­tured and fit­ted. For the wheels, as ex­plained be­fore, Du­cati Grimeca hubs were used which needed a good clean and over­haul be­fore the off-set for the wheel rims, spoke an­gles and lengths could be worked out. New brake shoes were lo­cated and sent away for some new mod­ern lin­ings to be fit­ted and turned to match the drums. Th­ese parts were then all stripped down ready to pow­der coat be­fore be­ing built back up. A nice pair of orig­i­nal Du­cati brake arms was sourced to fin­ish off the wheels. Next the en­gine was re­turned from a well-known Du­cati en­gine spe­cial­ist who, it ap­peared, had done more work on it than Ian had on the frame. Qual­ity parts in­clud­ing an Omega pis­ton and an Ar­row con-rod were in­cluded. There are so many spe­cial­ists tools re­quired for one of th­ese en­gines it was re­ally the best op­tion. There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent en­gine cam op­tions, which is some­thing that they plan to test as time goes on. A new mod­ern Dell’orto car­bu­ret­tor was fit­ted as this is what they had from new. Ian than had to fab­ri­cate a man­i­fold for the car­bu­ret­tor that was both neat and func­tional. This was fol­lowed by a new front pipe, which was made along with the si­lencer and all fit­ted to the chas­sis.

Time-con­sum­ing jobs in­cluded man­u­fac­tur­ing front and rear wheel spin­dles, rear wheel sprocket spac­ers, and a pat­tern was made to form the sump plate, side pan­els and seat base which were then all cut out and bent by hand. The ma­chine was stripped down and pre­pared for pow­der coat­ing. He de­cided that as it was an Ital­ian ma­chine the Du­cati Monza 160cc had to be red! The fi­nal build was com­pleted by mak­ing all the ca­bles, and fit­ting high-end qual­ity com­po­nents to com­ple­ment the build of this four-stroke spe­cial.

How Good

John Hulme on the BSA: “I would never have be­lieved just how good you could make a BSA Ban­tam. The front and rear sus­pen­sion work very well and over­all weight bias is very neu­tral. At first I was rid­ing every­thing in first gear and I was revving the en­gine far too hard. In se­cond gear you can pick your path us­ing the power which is al­ways on hand when needed. You soon be­come very con­fi­dent and it rides like a very mod­ern ma­chine, such is the su­perb sus­pen­sion, and the clutch also worked very much with a mod­ern feel. Even on tight rock haz­ards you could pick your line and, most im­por­tantly, hold it. Just bear in mind that it’s the best part of nearly 50 years since I have had to use a left­hand rear brake and this was the big­gest prob­lem area for my­self as it takes quite a few hairy mo­ments and a lit­tle time to get used to this, but its per­for­mance is far su­pe­rior to the Du­cati.”

And the Du­cati: “It is big and it feels big. Ian has done a su­perb job of con­vert­ing this Du­cati from a road model into the tri­als one but it’s still quite a large beast. The gear change and rear brake are on the right side and I can hon­estly say how happy I was that I could find the rear brake as for a 160cc ma­chine it cer­tainly has am­ple power. The best way to ride this was to let the sin­gle cylin­der four-stroke en­gine pull hard on low throt­tle open­ings and feel for the grip. With Josh Turner tak­ing the pic­tures he shouted me over to show me the huge grin on my face whilst rid­ing the Du­cati. On the BSA I was try­ing my hard­est all the time whereas on the Du­cati the sheer plea­sure from rid­ing this Ital­ian ma­chine far ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions, and as I have stated be­fore the ex­haust note is music to your ears.”

Phil Dis­ney on the BSA: “It’s very good and easy to ride with a pos­i­tive neu­tral feel to the han­dling. I felt very com­fort­able on the ma­chine straight from the off. It starts eas­ily, which is al­ways a plus point for any Pre-65, and the clutch works very well in­deed. Throt­tle con­trol is the key to suc­cess in the haz­ards and whereas John was revving the ma­chine hard I was far happier us­ing less throt­tle. The rear brake is­sues John had are an age thing, trust me! I had no com­plaints at all and the front and rear brakes work very well. Sus­pen­sion wise it’s se­cond to none and I soon be­came very con­fi­dent on it. Hawk’s Nest is never an easy venue to test a ma­chine but there wasn’t much I put in

front of the BSA it could not con­quer. I am a four-stroke man at heart but for the Pre-65 scene I would cer­tainly con­sider one of the BSA Ban­tams purely on its ease of rid­ing and the fact that it’s eas­ier to main­tain a twostroke than a four-stroke for use ev­ery week­end. It’s quite in­ter­est­ing to note that Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen has moved from four-stroke to two-stroke power so there must be some­thing in it.”

And the Du­cati: “It looks su­perb and no doubt Ian has put many hours into con­vert­ing this Du­cati for tri­als use. I do agree with John that it is quite a large, phys­i­cal ma­chine but once on board and rid­ing it does feel very com­pact. The only thing that sticks out is the kick-start, which Ian pointed out to mind your leg on! It han­dles re­ally well, such is the set-up of the front and rear sus­pen­sion, and the build qual­ity of the com­po­nents is re­flected when rid­ing. De­vel­op­ment is on­go­ing but the per­for­mance, as it was when tested, is very good. The en­gine pro­vides a very smooth sen­sa­tion thought the han­dle­bars and it works bet­ter by let­ting the en­gine ‘pull’. In my opin­ion this ma­chine would be at its best on more open haz­ards than the ones at our test venue. You have to be aware that it’s not over gen­er­ous with ground clear­ance but the un­der­side of the sump guard is flat, al­low­ing a smooth pas­sage over rocks. The BSA is the win­ner ev­ery time, apart from looks, but I am sure there is much more to come from the Du­cati as Ian de­vel­ops it.”

Chalk and Cheese

I sup­pose it’s a case of ‘Chalk and Cheese’ as th­ese ma­chines are so dif­fer­ent. It’s like red or white wine, two- or four-stroke; it re­ally is an in­di­vid­ual’s choice as to what they like the best. Both of th­ese ma­chines per­form very well and, yes, both can win in the right hands.

The BSA is very com­pet­i­tive and a proven win­ner in Ian’s ca­pa­ble hands. The Du­cati is an on­go­ing pro­ject which we are sure af­ter many hours of test­ing will be­come a win­ner. The BSA is very func­tional and made for a job, as is the Du­cati al­though it’s quite a big ma­chine com­pared to the light­weight Ban­tam. The Du­cati is dom­i­nated by the tall four-stroke en­gine and the ex­haust note is pure music. Only time will tell which will prove the most pop­u­lar to Ian, but both Phil Dis­ney and my­self raise a glass of good Ital­ian red wine to con­firm it has to be the Du­cati as the win­ner ev­ery time on its sheer el­e­gance and dom­i­nat­ing ap­pear­ance.

John: “It’s a credit to Ian on just how well the Du­cati han­dles for quite a big ma­chine”.

Phil: “I soon be­came very con­fi­dent on the BSA with its very mod­ern feel”.

John: “Han­dling on the BSA was very light and nim­ble”.

Just imag­ine if BSA in the late six­ties had con­tin­ued with the Ban­tam model just what it would have achieved. Why they never put the Mick Bow­ers model into pro­duc­tion is a ques­tion many will ask. In 2017 the BSA suc­cess story con­tin­ues in com­pe­ti­tion with this Dray­ton model.

As you can see the BSA Ban­tam looks very mod­ern and ready for ac­tion.

Phil: “I am in my el­e­ment find­ing grip on a four-stroke”.

The Du­cati tri­als model very much car­ries an Ital­ian theme in the con­ver­sion from road to tri­als ma­chine.

It looks very work­man­like, with on­go­ing de­vel­op­ments be­ing car­ried out by Ian to make it a com­pet­i­tive, win­ning tri­als ma­chine.

John: “I pre­ferred revving the en­gine and then rolling the power off to find the grip”.

Phil: “The per­for­mance from the 185cc en­gine was very good”.

The en­gine, which is based around a D14/4 model. Its ca­pac­ity is 185cc, achieved by way of a Suzuki pis­ton con­ver­sion in a stan­dard Ban­tam cylin­der bar­rel with a BSA B175 cen­tre spark plug cylin­der head.

A new air-fil­ter is be­ing de­vel­oped as we speak to help with the per­for­mance from the 185cc en­gine.

John: “Music to my ears”. Phil: “The over­all ge­om­e­try of the frame was more suited to the open type of haz­ard”.

Nice touches have been added by Ian like this badge on the set.

Du­cati – made in Italy and proud.

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