Suspension was the area of engineering interest for the MX world in the Seventies. Three inches of movement wasn’t enough… more was needed.
For years and years the knowledgeable in our world procrastinated about rear suspension on dirt bikes… “Preposterous,” they said, “how could a rider feel what was happening with the rear end bouncing around?” Then the scrambles world discovered with a bit of thought into spring rates and damping a rider could go much faster with rear suspension than without – trials riders would have to wait a year or two longer for the benefits of rear springing.
Once the idea of suspension on scramblers took off, the industry standard was the venerable Girling unit. It sufficed for many years and would have carried on were it not for the pesky motocross scene and foreign factory interest in such sport. Motocross tracks in Europe tended to be longer and faster than UK scrambles circuits and more power was needed. Producing power has never really been a problem and history has many examples of bikes with fabulous power but which were virtually unrideable.
Once the Japanese factories decided MX was the way forward things began to develop quickly and the European manufacturers had little option but develop too. The pages of the press seemed to highlight a new development each week and our picture of Gennady Moiseev’s 250 works KTM at the Dutch GP in June 1974 details that week’s experiment. According to the caption, Moiseev’s suspension – a springless unit with suspension and damping being handled by a gas and oil mix – had suffered problems the previous week and KTM’S engineers had come up with a solution involving extra plumbing to link the two units. Though Sylvain Geboers emerged the winner of that particular GP, the suspension developments must have worked as Moiseev emerged as the 1974 World 250 MX champion ahead of CZ’S Jaroslav Falta.
That suspension on the rear would reach epic lengths would soon be obvious but in 1974 there was still a ‘let’s see if this works’ approach as the GP circus sped around Europe with little time for factory visits and one can imagine the engineers hard at work overnight in the back of their truck.