Show­time Test

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS - Ar­ti­cle: Jean-Claude Com­meat and Yoomee

Fan­tic 200

In July 1979 the brand new 200 Fan­tic was pre­sented to the press. The ma­chine was unan­i­mously wel­comed for its many qual­i­ties. The Fan­tic fac­tory had made its first for­ays into the sport with the 125cc en­gine ma­chine which gave out in­cred­i­ble power for the dis­place­ment. Jamie Subria was the test rider who de­vel­oped the ma­chine and en­sured the dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics were per­fectly matched. Dur­ing the 1980 sea­son he was able to per­form mir­a­cles in the world cham­pi­onship de­spite the small dis­place­ment (ac­tu­ally 157cc) of the en­gine, end­ing the sea­son with a fine 10th place over­all. For those based in France there was a tele­vi­sion pro­gramme on Sun­day af­ter­noon hosted by Jac­ques Martin called ‘In­cred­i­ble but true’ where there was of­ten a demon­stra­tion by an acro­bat rid­ing one of these ma­chines. In the UK we had ‘Kick­start’. Three decades later we were able to con­vince the in­cred­i­ble Jean Pierre Goy to do us the hon­our of test­ing one of these ma­chines again. Our acro­bat ac­cepted the chal­lenge with­out hes­i­ta­tion to test this bike that most of the tri­als world is fa­mil­iar with, and to dis­cover the lim­its of the ma­chine.

This 200 was in the van­guard of a new style of tri­als ma­chine. It was fol­lowed by the Mon­tesa Cota 200 and the Honda TLR. This Fan­tic, de­spite its mod­est ca­pac­ity, was far from be­ing docile! It is more pow­er­ful than a Bul­taco Sherpa 250 as it de­vel­ops 14.5bhp; it showed the Ital­ians were ca­pa­ble of build­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle of small ca­pac­ity but in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance.

With its snappy en­gine the first 125 se­duced a num­ber of rid­ers when it was first re­leased. Fan­tic did not dis­ap­point with the re­lease of this clever tool. You only needed to twist the throt­tle a lit­tle and it seemed to race away, the revs climb­ing rapidly to­wards unimag­in­able heights. How­ever, once at its max­i­mum it lev­elled out rapidly and there was no more per­for­mance. You need to re­mem­ber, how­ever, that out­right power is not the only char­ac­ter­is­tic we need in sec­tions. We will look at this a lit­tle later.

Our tester rode the ma­chine of his youth with only slightly rose tinted spec­ta­cles and gave us his opin­ion. He still thought it a very se­duc­tive ma­chine, for its looks, the spe­cial red colour “just like a Fer­rari” which is a sig­na­ture of the mar­que.

The frame is a dou­ble loop and is the same as that used in the 125, pro­tected by a small plas­tic sump guard. On this ma­chine you will see two ex­tra pro­tec­tive “ears” that have been welded to the frame to pro­tect the en­gine cov­ers.

Be Aware

With­out them it is quite pos­si­ble to dam­age them on rocks; on the left side this re­sults in the case jam­ming against the fly­wheel mag­neto and stop­ping the en­gine from ro­tat­ing.

The swing­ing arm is also longer than the 125, which in­creases the wheel­base and makes it feel more sta­ble. The fuel tank con­tains 4.5 litres of fuel and is very re­sis­tant to dam­age, thanks to it be­ing pro­duced in polypropy­lene. The seat is also large and com­fort­able for those who sit dur­ing the ride be­tween sec­tions or use it as a trail bike. The wheel rims are alu­minium and come from the Akront fac­tory and are of high qual­ity. The sus­pen­sion on the lit­tle beauty was front forks from Marzocchi, com­bined with rear shocks from the same source.

Jean-Pierre was im­pa­tient to ride the ma­chine, which we very much un­der­stood. Our 50-year-old rider was cat­a­pulted back in time by 30 years. Take it from me, the look in his eyes was more akin to a child that had found the most amaz­ing present un­der the Christ­mas tree; let the games be­gin!

As with the 125, the en­gine of the 200 was sup­plied by Minarelli, it has a Nikasil treated bore to en­sure close tol­er­ances. A quick kick and the char­ac­ter­is­tic note of the Fan­tic en­gine is­sued forth. It needs a lit­tle time to come up to work­ing tem­per­a­ture and I could tell Jean-Pierre was start­ing to en­joy him­self. He was al­ready back in his role as fac­tory rider and am­bas­sador; it was like watch­ing the trans­for­ma­tion on a high-speed film: click­ing into first gear he was off to reac­quaint him­self and to re-find his au­to­matic re­ac­tions deep in the mem­ory banks.

Af­ter a short while he came back to give us his im­pres­sions. The seat­ing po­si­tion is a lit­tle cramped but ob­vi­ously in a trial you spend

Jean-Pierre Goy rode the ma­chine to its max­i­mum at the test

more time stand­ing than sit­ting. The con­trols are well placed and the clutch works per­fectly. Un­for­tu­nately you need to be in neu­tral to restart the bike, which is a pity. The gear­box is firm but is pre­cise nev­er­the­less.

Our tester in chief went to find a sec­tion to test the grip and the low-end power char­ac­ter­is­tics of the en­gine. With­out hav­ing good qual­i­ties in these crit­i­cal ar­eas it is dif­fi­cult to ride tri­als well as they are fun­da­men­tal even if, as in to­day, there is a top rider in con­trol.

Af­ter a night of heavy rain the ground is quite damp and the bru­tal power de­liv­ery makes it very dif­fi­cult to ride over our sec­tion; giv­ing the cor­rect amount of throt­tle to find grip and keep mov­ing is cer­tainly chal­leng­ing in these con­di­tions.

The en­gine char­ac­ter­is­tics are aimed at out­right power rather than a soft sup­ple power de­liv­ery as once again the Fan­tic races away with a vig­or­ous power out­put de­spite it hav­ing rea­son­able torque.

Shock­ing

Next we went down to the banks of the river, where we found some nice blocks of the lo­cal rock so that we could test the sus­pen­sion and brakes. The Marzocchi forks, with their 35mm Ø tubes and 175mm of travel, cope well with the drops. The rear sus­pen­sion units are also by Marzocchi and are sim­ple gas shocks; they are set up very soft and soon use up the 110mm of travel.

Jean-Pierre told us that when he was a fac­tory rider he changed the rear shocks very of­ten, he con­sid­ered them to be of very poor qual­ity. He used to take a case full of wornout units back to the im­porter in Mar­seille when he went to stock up on spares! Ar­naud, the owner of the ma­chine, is there to keep an eye on his ma­chine and hoped that it was not dam­aged dur­ing the test.

We all know what crazy stunts Jean-Pierre is ca­pa­ble of but to­day he is much wiser and treats it with re­spect. He was still not able to re­sist giv­ing us some ex­am­ples of his leg­endary prow­ess though – the brakes came in for a hard time! Com­par­ing brakes of the ‘80s with the discs of to­day is al­most im­pos­si­ble; they in com­par­i­son merely re­tard pro­gres­sion. Jean-Pierre could still eas­ily lift the rear wheel on de­scents and his com­ments on the brakes were suc­cinct, “they work well for a ma­chine of this pe­riod, even if the feel­ing be­fore lock­ing the wheel is miss­ing”.

Look­ing at the weigh­ing scales the pretty Ital­ian comes in at a fairly hefty 87kg dry weight. In terms of its ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity the Fan­tic is a ver­i­ta­ble bi­cy­cle; even if some­times the front wheel feels too light, it is a real plea­sure to ride.

When watch­ing a good rider on the ma­chine ev­ery­thing looks easy. Ar­naud was amazed! “I never thought that you could do such tricks with my ma­chine!” As we all know, tri­als is about 90% rider in­put. Even so this ma­chine is fun, light, ride­able, and ef­fi­cient and has a de­cent torque curve for such a small en­gine. The Ital­ians made a great tri­als ma­chine and the fin­ish and qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als used were a step up from the pre­vi­ous Span­ish of­fer­ings which, in the fol­low­ing years, were un­able to match the Fan­tic and the fac­to­ries went into a slow ter­mi­nal de­cline.

In the tri­als of the early ‘80s there were many 200 Fan­tics com­pet­ing, with all stan­dards of rid­ers. They were suc­cess­ful at all lev­els. This was the start of a new era and Fan­tic changed the face of tri­als and be­came the supreme force on the scene. In 1980 this small mir­a­cle could have been pur­chased for the equiv­a­lent of £4,700 in to­day’s money. There were around 2,000 ex­am­ples pro­duced.

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