The Black Sheep

Classic Trial - - SPECIAL GREEVES/TRIUMPH - Words: Justyn Norek Jnr, Don Morley and John Mof­fat Pic­tures: Justyn Norek Snr

My in­de­ci­sion of whether I want to ride mod­ern or clas­sic tri­als, on ei­ther two- or four-stroke ma­chines, has left my fa­ther call­ing me on many oc­ca­sions a mixed-up kid — in a nice, sort of fa­ther-to-son way, as we share the same pas­sion for motorcycle tri­als. If I am 100% hon­est, I truly have an af­fec­tion for four-strokes, but it’s a love-hate re­la­tion­ship, as I con­sider them a lit­tle heavy be it a mod­ern or clas­sic model. The four-stroke Montesa Cota 4RT is so nice to ride, as is a big Ariel 500cc, but jump onto any of the mod­ern two-strokes and you can win on a stan­dard pro­duc­tion model.

In the Pre-65 class, the two-strokes are al­ways lighter and eas­ier to ride. A two-stroke al­ways feels very light, nim­ble and alive! It’s the same with events as I com­pete in many mod­ern in­ter­na­tional tri­als, but once again, in truth, noth­ing com­pares to the so­cial side of a good-old clas­sic com­pe­ti­tion. Maybe I needed a mix of the two, a sort of a ‘Black Sheep’ of a motorcycle maybe, some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. I was look­ing to pur­chase a com­pet­i­tive clas­sic Bri­tish tri­als ma­chine and ad­ver­tised the fact on the in­ter­net. Soon my email in­box was ‘ping­ing’ away with an as­sort­ment of pic­tures and ma­chines for sale, with many of them very at­trac­tive and, most im­por­tantly, com­pet­i­tive. I then spot­ted an ad­vert for some­thing which caught my eye — I can hon­estly tell you that my heart skipped a beat, a true four-stroke mo­ment. It was a four-stroke Tri­umph Twin en­gine housed in a Greeves two-stroke alu­minium frame. Was this the Black Sheep I was look­ing for?

What on earth was this Tri­umph/Greeves/ Tri­umph 350cc? I asked my­self; I kept go­ing over this vi­sion in my mind. I have seen pic­tures of them in the past in Clas­sic

Trial Mag­a­zine at the Pre-65 ‘Scot­tish’ and of­ten won­dered what they were like. Was it a real ma­chine? “For sale” the words “a Greeves/Tri­umph 350cc” I could not re­move the vi­sion from my mind; yes I was very ex­cited, to say the least. A pow­er­ful 350cc Tri­umph Twin en­gine, housed in a ro­bust partly alu­minium frame, bring­ing two iconic Bri­tish motorcycle man­u­fac­tur­ing names to­gether for one won­der­ful motorcycle…re­ally!

Is it still for Sale?

Hon­estly, my heart was pound­ing as I made the phone call, press­ing the num­bers on the phone key pad with a mat­ter of ur­gency like never be­fore. The phone rang for what seemed like for­ever un­til a very calm con­trolled voice an­swered: “Hello”. I splut­tered out the words: “Do you still have the Tri­umph/ Greeves for sale?” The an­swer was yes, and I gave out a huge sigh of re­lief. My head and hands were sweat­ing in an ex­pe­ri­ence I have never ex­pe­ri­enced in my young life be­fore. I had been sent many other emails with pic­tures and de­scrip­tions of ma­chines for sale with a choice of Ariel HT5, BSA B40, AJS 500 and a re­ally nice James. But, when the email ar­rived show­ing the Greeves/Tri­umph, all the oth­ers were hit with the delete but­ton. I was in love with this ma­chine like never be­fore!

I made an­other phone call to ar­range to see the ma­chine and to have a test ride on it, and the very kind man who was sell­ing it said he would save it for me. It was around 100 miles away, and I ar­ranged the next day for my fa­ther and me to go and see the ma­chine. I hardly slept that night as I had been look­ing on the in­ter­net and old mag­a­zines and pa­pers for in­for­ma­tion on such a unique motorcycle. The dream of own­ing this ma­chine dom­i­nated my brain as I drifted in and out of sleep.

The jour­ney time soon passed, with the con­ver­sa­tion cen­tred on both the two-stroke Greeves and four-stroke Tri­umph, two to­tally di­verse ma­chines. We ar­rived at our des­ti­na­tion to be met by a fel­low tri­als rider in his six­ties, a real gen­tle­man with a huge heart for mo­tor­cy­cles and in par­tic­u­lar tri­als. His main pas­sion in tri­als mo­tor­cy­cles was Bultaco mod­els as he spoke with great knowl­edge on the Span­ish ma­chines. Over a cup of cof­fee, we dis­cov­ered that the ma­chine we wanted to pur­chase is from the es­tate of the late great Ital­ian tri­als rider and en­thu­si­ast Gi­ulio Mauri. I am sure many of you

Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine read­ers will be fa­mil­iar with the pho­to­graphs from Gi­ulio’s col­lec­tion pro­vided by Valenti Fontsere, who is the good friend of the edi­tor, John Hulme. Gi­ulio was a tri­als rider, jour­nal­ist and pho­tog­ra­pher and he was also, along with Valenti, the au­thor of the ex­cel­lent and most com­plete book about Ital­ian tri­als mo­tor­cy­cles as well as the beau­ti­ful small book about the his­tory of Fan­tic tri­als ma­chines. Now, I re­ally wanted to own this mag­nif­i­cent motorcycle!

Ear to Ear

As with any pur­chase of a tri­als motorcycle, you al­ways need to have a test ride to make sure it all works as it should do and also see if you like it; es­pe­cially when it’s an old Pre-65 ma­chine. I have viewed pic­tures of ma­chines and spo­ken to their own­ers over the phone as a po­ten­tial pur­chaser in the past, and then been badly let down when I ar­rived to view the one they had for sale.

My first im­pres­sion of this ma­chine in the flesh was one of a very ‘beefy’ ma­chine, and the owner had de­scribed it per­fectly. Yes, I was very ner­vous as I turned the fuel tap on and gave the kick-start lever a few hefty kicks! With one strong ac­tion on the kick-start lever, the en­gine burst into life al­most like a lion when it roars, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up like never be­fore. The ex­haust note was pure heaven, and my fa­ther com­mented that I had a grin on my face from ear to ear. In my mind, we had al­ready pur­chased the ma­chine! I warmed the four-stroke en­gine up for a few min­utes and started to ride it slowly around, and the sen­sa­tion was out of this world; full of con­fi­dence I started to pull a few cel­e­bra­tory wheel­ies. My fa­ther’s grin was big­ger than mine!

Now it was time to ne­go­ti­ate the price, and with the seller sens­ing my en­thu­si­asm we agreed to his ask­ing price, and in re­turn, he would let me pay in in­stal­ments — he wanted the ma­chine go­ing to a good home, which I ap­pre­ci­ated; a true motorcycle en­thu­si­ast. We shook hands, and the ‘Black Sheep’ was mine and head­ing home with us.

This is a dream come true for my fa­ther and me, and we are so happy with the ma­chine. I am now en­joy­ing rid­ing the ma­chine in Ital­ian Pre-65 tri­als. But the aim is to ride it in the 2018 Pre-65 Scot­tish. I am sure if I do get a ride that Gi­ulio Mauri will be look­ing down on me with a grin far big­ger than mine!

What is It?

John Hulme: “With the pass­ing of Gi­ulio Mauri, we could not find any ref­er­ence as to what the ma­chine is; all we know is it’s a Greeves tri­als model with a Tri­umph en­gine ‘shoe-horned’ into the chas­sis, an all Bri­tish Hy­brid.

“I spoke with Valenti Fontsere, who could not help as he ex­plained that Gi­ulio had owned many ma­chines over the years. My next port of call was John Mof­fat who re­vealed some in­for­ma­tion but also sug­gested I call Don Morley. For those of you who do not know Don Morley, he has pub­lished some very ex­cel­lent fact-based motorcycle tri­als books. The ones to find any ref­er­ence to the Greeves/ Tri­umph mix­ture are ti­tled: Clas­sic Bri­tish Tri­als Bikes, pub­lished in 1984, and Clas­sic Bri­tish Two

Stroke Tri­als Bikes pub­lished in 1987. Both books can be found on eBay, but be­ware they are very col­lectable and fetch very strong money, such is their value to the tri­als en­thu­si­ast.

“A call to Don Morley, whose knowl­edge on this par­tic­u­lar sub­ject is sec­ond to none, backed up some of the ear­lier thoughts from John Mof­fat as Don

ex­plained, “The frame is from a Greeves TFS circa around 1964, and those front forks are Metal Pro­file’s prod­uct. The front wheel hub could be a Rick­man or maybe an REH, I am not 100% sure, and I sus­pect the rear wheel hub could be Ja­panese or more likely to be an early Montesa one. On first im­pres­sions from the pic­tures, I was pretty sure the en­gine is a fairly late 500cc Unit Tri­umph 5TA, but Justyn says it’s a 350cc so it could be a 350cc 5TA as there is no out­ward phys­i­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween the two. The only in­ter­nal dif­fer­ence was the hole up the mid­dle. Back­ing up my 500cc the­ory is the larger car­bu­ret­tor, maybe this was fit­ted to the 350cc en­gine to in­crease its per­for­mance? Be­yond that, the alu­minium fuel tank is from a BSA C15T. So, all in all, a rather nice mon­grel of a ma­chine and one Justyn is ob­vi­ously and quite rightly so very proud to own.””

Per­fectly Sta­ble

The test area was around the re­gion of the Old Trial ‘Prima Luna’ in Italy and one that of­fers a good va­ri­ety of chal­leng­ing rocky haz­ards con­sist­ing of big rocks, deep wa­ter streams with slip­pery and muddy climbs that would al­low me to test the lim­its of both the ma­chine and my­self fully.

The ma­chine al­ways needs some gen­tle warm­ing up, which I car­ried out be­fore drop­ping into the slip­pery stream beds. What sur­prises me every time I ride this ma­chine is how well its han­dling is in rough ter­rain. It seems per­fectly sta­ble over rocks and slip­pery loose stones, con­trol­ling it with goodold ‘English’ body lean, an at­tribute to my rid­ing that I have learned from my fa­ther and a tech­nique he learned from the mas­ter of Pre-65 rid­ing, Sammy Miller on his Ariel, which can be seen in old pho­to­graphs.

It’s a sheer plea­sure to ride which must be due to the per­fect com­bi­na­tion of the ro­bust and com­pact part-cast alu­minium Greeves frame and the won­der­ful Tri­umph 350cc four-stroke twin cylin­der en­gine, which al­ways de­liv­ers the smooth power in any sit­u­a­tion. This power makes pulling wheel­ies

and lift­ing the front wheel over ob­sta­cles so easy to carry out and in a very con­trolled way.

The en­gine’s torque is so nice that find­ing trac­tion is just sec­ond na­ture. I now un­der­stand why the 500cc ver­sion of this Tri­umph en­gine was so pop­u­lar when used in the mo­tocross ma­chines made so fa­mous by both Eric Cheney and the Rick­man broth­ers. Is it the per­fect Pre-65 tri­als ma­chine? Noth­ing is per­fect, and the weight of 112kg makes it hard work to ride against the mod­ern light­weight two-strokes. The en­gine width is also an­other prob­lem, and you have to be aware of this when rid­ing it in the rivers and on the rocks and ride over them as op­posed to through them. The ground clear­ance is 290mm. Very tight corners also take some nav­i­gat­ing with the wheel­base of 1330mm, but with some se­vere clutch abuse, this is pos­si­ble. The clutch ac­tion is quite heavy, and the brakes could be bet­ter as the power is so strong. There is room to im­prove the sus­pen­sion, which is an area I in­tend to spend some time and money on.

It’s a fan­tas­tic ma­chine, and my next project is to try and find who built the ma­chine. If any one sees this re­port and can pro­vide any in­for­ma­tion, please email: eng­land@trial­mag.com and speak with John.

For some un­known rea­son, I am pretty sure that this ma­chine will have been built in the birth place of these two leg­endary man­u­fac­tur­ers, Greeves and Tri­umph Great Bri­tain!

I love this ‘Black Sheep’ of a ma­chine, and when you look at the num­bers it comes from a Pre-65 era, and I was born in 1990! I of­ten won­der why the once great and proud Bri­tish motorcycle in­dus­try never pro­duced these ma­chines, but I sup­pose you can dis­cuss this for ever and a day. Maybe one day I will build my own Greeves/Tri­umph hy­brid.

In the mean­time I sa­lute both Bert Greeves and Ed­ward Turner. Thank you!

The doc­u­ments con­firm what the owner ex­plained and that the ma­chine was from the late great Ital­ian tri­als rider and en­thu­si­ast Gi­ulio Mauri’s es­tate. The reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ment from the Ital­ian fed­er­a­tion.

Yes there is quite a lot go­ing on un­der the fuel tank. Mod­ern footrests are es­sen­tial on the Pre-65 ma­chines for both com­fort and rider con­trol. I sus­pect the rear wheel hub could be Ja­panese, or more likely to be from an early Montesa Cota. Around the rear wheel area is a mix­ture of small engi­neer­ing jobs. Metal Pro­file front forks hold a Rick­man or maybe a REH front wheel hub.

This ‘I mean busi­ness look’ sums up the ma­chine’s per­for­mance even when it’s stood still. Valenti Fontsere on the right with his good friend Gi­ulio Mauri in 2010 at the launch of the su­perb book they pub­lished ti­tled: Trial Made in Italy 1975-1985 Stand­ing this mighty ma­chine on-end takes some con­trolled ag­gres­sion.

Gi­ulio Mauri at the 2007 Scott trial in Great Bri­tain. The ‘Stand­ing Proud’ im­pres­sion.

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