Con­ver­sion 54

Honda TLR 250

Classic Trial - - NEWS - Words: John Hulme, Phil Dis­ney and Nigel Land Pic­tures: John Hulme, Nigel Land and Eric Kitchen

When the call came into the of­fice from oc­ca­sional Clas­sic Trial Mag­a­zine test rider Phil Dis­ney that he was think­ing of start­ing to ride in clas­sic tri­als, we knew he would want some­thing com­pet­i­tive from the word go. In more re­cent times Phil had been con­verted to the four-stroke Mon­tesa Cota 4RT and pur­chased some very ex­otic ex­am­ples. He just loved the smooth but pow­er­ful Honda four-stroke en­gine and de­cided that when the time was right to start rid­ing in clas­sic tri­als, it would be the Ja­panese fourstroke ma­chine he would look for, a Euro­pean model Honda 250 TLR. After some ask­ing around, he was put in touch with Nigel Land, who has quickly gained a good rep­u­ta­tion for mak­ing the con­ver­sion from a good ma­chine to an even bet­ter one with the four-stroke Hon­das.

Here Nigel ex­plains a lit­tle about his back­ground and his pas­sion for the Honda TLR tri­als mod­els in his own words.

A Honda tri­als story: Nigel Land

The tri­als ‘bug’ started in the early 70s; I have been rid­ing in tri­als since 1974, my first tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle was a Honda TL125 which, as we all say, I should have kept. I was never more than an av­er­age club­man rider and the high­light of my early days was win­ning the 1977 Stal­warts Tro­phy Trial with the Spen Val­ley Club. The Stal­warts trial still takes place, the day after the Spen Val­ley An­nual Din­ner Dance, so the trick is to keep top­ping up your mates’ drinks, and you stick to the le­mon­ade — how many times have you heard that story! Even all those years ago, I was ob­sessed with keep­ing the ma­chine in good me­chan­i­cal or­der and look­ing good.

When I saw an ad­vert in Mo­tor­cy­cle News that Sammy Miller had de­vel­oped the ‘Hi-Boy’ frame kit, I per­suaded my mother and brother to fund the pur­chase. I can still re­mem­ber the but­ter­flies in my stom­ach when the par­cel ar­rived con­tain­ing the lovely chrome-plated frame, and then the hours spent in my fa­ther’s green­house — which was much warmer than the garage — re­mov­ing the parts from the old heavy TL frame, clean­ing and pol­ish­ing ev­ery­thing and then fit­ting them to the Hi-Boy frame kit. Since then, I have dipped in and out of tri­als. I also had a four-stroke CCM 350 — I wish I had it. That was stolen in 1991. The smell of Cas­trol R al­ways re­minds me, with much fond­ness, of the BSA en­gines.

It was in 1992 when an ac­ci­dent com­pet­ing in a sidecar trial brought an end to my rid­ing, break­ing my pelvis and re­sult­ing in a per­ma­nent right foot in­jury. It was then in 2004, when on hire with my JCB do­ing ground works for the Bumpy Tri­als Academy, near Leeds, that I went back to rid­ing. My good friend Ju­lian Ford, who is sadly no longer with us, was work­ing at Bumpy as off-road man­ager and to­gether we im­proved all aspects of the nine-acre tri­als park with ex­pert ad­vice from Dan Thorpe, who is still work­ing at Bumpy.

Ev­ery year, at the Mo­tor­cy­cle Live NEC Show, and in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ACU, Bumpy run the Try Tri­als ex­pe­ri­ence, which is a free 15-minute ses­sion on a tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle for any­one who has never stood up on the footrests. I as­sist with the event, and it never fails to amaze me how road rid­ers with 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence go to pieces when they stand up!

Look­ing for a suit­able twin-shock ma­chine for my re­turn to rid­ing, I at­tended the Telford Clas­sic Of­froad show in 2005, known as Wrighty’s show back then.

Sammy Miller Prod­ucts

I had seen that Sammy Miller Prod­ucts were selling an up-to-date Hi-Boy frame kit copied from the old fab­ri­cat­ing jigs that would once again bring an old Honda TL 125 model back to life, and I made the jour­ney to the stand at the show to check it out and take a closer look. While look­ing round the show though I came across the Whit­lock frame kit for Honda TLR, and I was in love with a Honda con­ver­sion once again! The de­posit was paid for the Whit­lock frame kit, and I trav­elled home with a huge smile, just need­ing to find a good donor Honda TL 125 and off we would go. One was found, and I built the Whit­lock TLR Honda dur­ing the win­ter, and it looked su­perb. It also had su­perb steer­ing and han­dling and was re­ally nice to ride and very for­giv­ing. Since then, I have built twelve Honda

tri­als mod­els to dif­fer­ent spec­i­fi­ca­tions, al­ways us­ing the Honda four-stroke as the donor ma­chine; a cou­ple of RTLs and the rest have been TLRs.

Over the last four years, I have been for­tu­nate enough to have been able to com­plete a ma­chine in time for the Telford Of­froad show each Fe­bru­ary and present it to the cus­tomer on my stand; the same is planned for 2019 with a Roth­mans TLR 250; very sim­i­lar to Phil Dis­ney’s ma­chine.

Dear Nigel

The con­ver­sa­tion started some­thing along the lines of ‘Dear Nigel’ in Jan­uary 2018 when Phil con­tacted me about a TLR con­ver­sion. Glen Sc­ho­ley had rid­den one of my ma­chines at the Costa Brava Clas­sic Trial in Spain a few months ear­lier which at­tracted Phil’s in­ter­est and, after call­ing Glen to ask about the ma­chine, he con­tacted me. I had just fin­ished a 250 to top spec­i­fi­ca­tion for an­other cus­tomer, Paul Jack­son, so when Phil came to my work­shop, there was some­thing to look at.

After a cou­ple of hours’ dis­cus­sion, and sev­eral mugs of tea, it was de­cided to go with a Roth­mans colour scheme, in­clud­ing a spe­cial re­quest of white hubs and black spokes. I was a lit­tle scep­ti­cal about this com­bi­na­tion, but I must ad­mit when it was done it does look good, prov­ing that the cus­tomer is al­ways right. Purists will know that the Roth­mans colours were only used on the RTL mod­els, but it is very pop­u­lar on the twin-shocks al­though, ad­mit­tedly, not en­tirely cor­rect.

I ex­plained from the be­gin­ning, as I do with all my cus­tomers, that the build would take some four to six months, de­pend­ing on my busi­ness work­load. As I have been self-em­ployed from leav­ing col­lege do­ing ground works and JCB hire, the Honda build­ing is a pas­sion and hobby which has to fit around my ‘proper job’. For­tu­nately, all my cus­tomers have be­come good friends, and all have agreed to this ar­range­ment on the lead time for the com­ple­tion of the project!

On the Honda at the High­land Clas­sic Two Day in Scot­land.

This Honda four-stroke en­gine was the first choice for Phil Dis­ney on his en­try into clas­sic and twin-shock tri­als.

Purists will know that the Roth­mans colours were only used on the RTL mod­els.

Ex­cel­lent han­dling in­spires con­fi­dent rid­ing as seen here — check out the tongue!

From Ja­pan, this HRC based 249cc four-stroke OHC en­gine of­fers high torque with a large fly­wheel mass and main­te­nance-free ca­pac­i­tor dis­charge ig­ni­tion (CDI).

Leg­endary four-stroke tri­als power of­fers ex­cep­tional grip­ping qual­i­ties in the right hands.

The S3 af­ter­mar­ket ti­ta­nium front pipe gives the en­gine the ‘Fac­to­ry­sup­plied’ look. As with any prod­uct from S3 in Spain the fit is per­fect.

As with all Ja­panese en­gines the gear change is very pos­i­tive; the TLR uses this alu­minium gear lever.

Sus­pen­sion feed­back to the rider is ex­cel­lent.

The alu­minium rear swing­ing arm am­pli­fies the ‘Fac­tory’ look once again. The footrests are from Apico, giv­ing a good pos­i­tive feel to the rider.

Ren­thal 7/8th han­dle­bars are still con­sid­ered to be the best.

If you’re look­ing for ex­cep­tional front-fork per­for­mance look no fur­ther than the ones fit­ted to the RTL Honda mod­els. This was once again at the re­quest of Mr Dis­ney for the Honda TLR 250 build.

At­ten­tion to de­tail is sec­ond to none.

To keep the over­all weight down ti­ta­nium fas­ten­ers are used through­out. Keep­ing the cus­tomer happy is para­mount and the spe­cial re­quest of white hubs and black spokes was car­ried out; they cer­tainly give the de­sired ef­fect.

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