Ti, the sym­bol of the ma­te­rial Ti­ta­nium, is el­e­ment 22 on the Pe­ri­odic Ta­ble of the el­e­ments. Ti­ta­nium is syn­ony­mous with ex­clu­siv­ity, high per­for­mance and high-tech ap­pli­ca­tions. Ti­ta­nium is used for light­ness, high me­chan­i­cal and cor­ro­sion re­sis­tance an


When Ver­tigo pre­sented at the Mo­to­s­a­lone di Mi­lano Italy in 2014 its high­end model was equipped with a ti­ta­nium chas­sis. Most of those present were sur­prised by the ex­clu­siv­ity and bold­ness of the brand. How­ever, with­out tak­ing any merit away from Ver­tigo, in the ‘70s there were cer­tain achieve­ments that had the ul­ti­mate ef­fect of greatly re­duc­ing the weight of mo­tor­cy­cles, which is a key fac­tor that has al­ways been in this spe­cialty com­po­nent. In the mid-1970s the ob­ses­sion with light­ness was fol­lowed with the achieve­ments of Wal­ter Luft and Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen with their KTM, Puch and Bul­taco ma­chines. Less well known is the ti­ta­nium chas­sis com­mis­sioned by French cham­pion Charles Coutard, to a spe­cial­ist from the north of France who al­lowed him to re­duce the weight by two ki­los ... but cost­ing a whop­ping 10,000 Francs at the time! The weight rank­ing back in 1974 was as fol­lows: Wal­ter Luft was rid­ing a 78kg Puch, his com­pa­triot Franz Trum­mer fol­lowed with his 75kg Trum­mer-PuchOssa, Mick An­drews had man­aged to lower the weight of his Yamaha to 72kg and it was ru­moured that the new pro­to­type Suzuki of Nigel Bir­kett weighed only 68kg.


For us read­ers and mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als en­thu­si­asts Giulio Mauri’s archive con­tin­ues to pro­vide un­prece­dented and in­ter­est­ing ma­te­rial. Luft, Ves­ter­i­nen, Coutard ... all of them were world­class riders, and their ob­ses­sion with weight can be eas­ily un­der­stood, but more sur­pris­ing is the ob­ses­sion of Pi­etro Ku­ciukian, the fa­mous Mi­lanese den­tist who would lead the SWM name into tri­als from the be­gin­ning to the re­wards of French­man Gilles Bur­gat and his world ti­tle in 1981. Go back more than 40 years to 1975 and we will meet Ku­ciukian, who has tri­als as his main hobby and rides his 250cc Mick An­drews Replica Ossa when his busy schedule al­lows it. The MAR is a good ma­chine and he de­cides to fol­low in the foot­steps of the tri­als legend Sammy Miller with his ob­ses­sion to re­duce the weight as much as pos­si­ble. Af­ter hear­ing about the ben­e­fits of ti­ta­nium he de­cides to build a mo­tor­cy­cle mak­ing the most of this ma­te­rial el­e­ment. All this may seem easy but in 1975 it was quite an or­deal. Ku­ciukian de­cides to con­tact Alessan­dro Man­fredi from the com­pany CO.ME.PRE in Mi­lano who spe­cialised in the man­u­fac­ture of ti­ta­nium parts for off-shore projects, bi­cy­cles for pro­fes­sional cy­clists, etc. For struc­tural cal­cu­la­tions Ku­ciukian re­lies on the en­gi­neer and the pro­fes­sor of Po­litec­nico di Mi­lano Gior­gio Valen­tini. The first prob­lem they en­counter is that there is no com­mer­cial tub­ing with the re­quired mea­sure­ments and it will have to be man­u­fac­tured from the shields of the pre­cious metal com­ing from Rus­sia. The frame will be fab­ri­cated us­ing 3mm tub­ing. The pro­fes­sion­al­ism of Man­fredi and the de­sire of Ku­ciukian soon had it pro­duced and in a short time the chas­sis was ready to house the rest of the com­po­nents.


The assem­bly of the mo­tor­cy­cle was put in the care of a good friend of Ku­ciukian, Sem­benini of Riva di Garda who was the fa­ther of the tri­als rid­ing broth­ers from Italy who would later be­come very well known in the sport.

The first ver­sion does not have many pieces in ti­ta­nium but it is look­ing for the light­ness in each of the com­po­nents. A trans­par­ent glass-fi­bre fuel tank is made that al­lows you to see the fuel level and flex­i­ble plas­tic mud­guards from Great Bri­tain are fit­ted, and ev­ery com­po­nent that can be light­ened by the drilling of holes comes un­der scru­tiny. The en­gine ca­pac­ity is 250cc. The first pro­to­type weighs 78kg but Ku­ciukian quickly con­tacts Mick An­drews in early 1975 for ad­vice and in­tro­duces some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the ge­om­e­try. The ma­chine is very light but also frag­ile. He in­tro­duces some re­in­force­ment brack­ets to the frame and an­gles the rear shock ab­sorbers fol­low­ing Mick’s ad­vice. There are also some more pieces in ti­ta­nium such as the swing­ing-arm and rear sub-frame area with double re­in­force­ment to sup­port the shock ab­sorbers. The front mud­guard mount­ing bracket is also ti­ta­nium. Var­i­ous en­gine com­po­nents also come in for the ti­ta­nium treat­ment such as the clutch ac­tu­at­ing arm, the ex­haust man­i­fold and si­lencer. The weight re­duc­tion con­tin­ues with the wheel spin­dles front and rear and the han­dle­bars all man­u­fac­tured in this pre­cious and ex­pen­sive ma­te­rial from Rus­sia. The ob­ses­sion con­tin­ues as the front fork bot­toms visit the lathe to be turned down, a spe­cial pro­tec­tive sump shield is pro­duced, the chain ad­just­ing cams, the list is end­less… Ku­ciukian con­tacts An­drews again in July 1975 and be­gins to gen­er­ate the third pro­to­type that will be the de­fin­i­tive ver­sion of this Ossa.


It was now time to look at im­prov­ing the per­for­mance of the en­gine. The com­pres­sion is in­creased, the cylin­der trans­fer ports are mod­i­fied and changes are made to the in­ter­nal gear ra­tios. Fol­low­ing the ad­vice of another fa­mous Ossa rider, Swe­den’s Thor Evert­son, the length of the in­duc­tion and ex­haust man­i­folds is in­creased and con­se­quently the car­bu­re­tion is ad­justed to suit. The rear shock ab­sorbers are an­gled more and the springs are changed. This lat­est ver­sion of the ma­chine now weighs 20kg less than the stan­dard model!

Sev­eral lead­ing Ital­ian riders in­clud­ing Gio­vanni Tosco, Ful­vio Adamoli and Al­bino Teobaldi tested the light­weight Ossa and were very im­pressed. Tosco rode the ma­chine in the fi­nal round of the 1975 Ital­ian cham­pi­onship and took a very easy vic­tory. The sea­son fin­ished on a high for Ku­ciukian but his rest­less mind did not. His work on the Ossa had all but reached its limit and he de­cided to start on another, more am­bi­tious project. He con­sid­ered the Bul­taco to be the ‘Bench­mark’ for a tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle, and made the de­ci­sion to pur­chase one and con­vert it to his own ti­ta­nium ver­sion. In this case the project was much broader as he wanted to make the in­ter­nal com­po­nents of the en­gine in­clud­ing the crank­shaft and gear as­sem­blies in his pre­cious ti­ta­nium. On this sec­ond project Piero be­gan with a col­lab­o­ra­tion with his friend Dario Seregni, who was also a rider who with the pas­sage e of the years would be­come a re­puted tech­ni­cian with sev­eral world-wide ti­tles to his credit. The en­gi­neer Gior­gio Valen­tini, who also worked in the pres­ti­gious Po­litec­nico di Mi­lano Univer­sity, col­lab­o­rated with the in­ter­nal de­sign of the en­gine hav­ing to over­come nu­mer­ous prob­lems with the gears that showed a ten­dency to break. Seregni on the other hand turned his hand to the cy­cle parts, con­cen­trat­ing his ef­forts in many ar­eas of the ma­chine. Dario col­lab­o­rated in the de­vel­op­ment of the ex­haust sys­tem, which was also in ti­ta­nium ex­cept for the si­lencer which was alu­minium. He also pro­duced the kick-start and gear lever, footrests and han­dle­bars.


Test­ing of the pro­to­type went well af­ter solv­ing the ear­lier prob­lems as men­tioned. He re­peated the ex­pe­ri­ences with the Ossa of hav­ing the top Ital­ian riders test the new Bul­taco. Ku­ciukian con­tin­ued to use it in tri­als un­til he started to look at a new chal­lenge with a fourstroke. As Ku­ciukian and Seregni be­gan to out­line the new ad­ven­ture the SWM tri­als project came along and in­ter­rupted it as they both joined the brand to work on their pro­posed tri­als project at the end of 1977. To end this story it does not hurt to pick up the opin­ion of the pro­tag­o­nists. Dario Seregni re­calls: “Surely there were clear ar­eas for im­prove­ment, such as a better study of the length of the ex­haust, but we did as much as we could with the tools we had at our dis­posal”. Ku­ciukian for his part com­mented: “I got what we were look­ing for, which was a light­weight tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle at the time and we de­voted many hours to it, but I think it’s better to for­get the econ­omy side of it”. Pi­etro looks at me smil­ing in the bright din­ing room of his house in Mi­lan, he takes a closer look at his in­sep­a­ra­ble cig­a­rette and does not tell me ... but he thinks: It was another time!


Born in Arco di Trento Italy in1940, of Ar­me­nian ori­gin. A sur­gi­cal doc­tor from the uni­ver­si­ties of Padova and Mi­lano, he mixed his pro­fes­sion with his ded­i­ca­tion to the sport of mo­tor­cy­cle tri­als. He was one of the first prac­ti­tion­ers in Italy in the early 70s be­fore his ‘sec­ond pro­fes­sion’ of tri­als took over. He was a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to the mo­tor­cy­cling mag­a­zines with his thoughts on tri­als. As sports man­ager of the Corse SWM Trial Team he took just four years to give the brand its first world ti­tle with French­man Gilles Bur­gat in 1981. The SWM cri­sis when the fac­tory was in se­vere eco­nomic prob­lems even led him to cre­ate Team KK — Ku­ciukian — in 1984 to try to give con­ti­nu­ity to the ca­reer of his pupils Ital­ian Danilo Galeazzi and Amer­i­can Bernie Schreiber, of whom he be­came his ‘Euro­pean fa­ther’. His other claim to fame was when he won the Ital­ian Side­car Cham­pi­onship in 1981 with his very spe­cial SWM. He is also the author of the book Trial and Mo­toalpin­ismo from1982. His pas­sion for the tri­als world was ex­tin­guished af­ter the im­pos­si­bil­ity of find­ing any fac­to­ries with an in­ter­est in giv­ing con­ti­nu­ity to his KK Team. Ku­ciukian, a high-level in­tel­lec­tual, is cur­rently Ar­me­nia’s hon­orary con­sul in Italy and has de­voted many of his ef­forts over the last decades to the Ar­me­nian cause, pub­lish­ing mul­ti­ple ar­ti­cles and books on this sub­ject.


Born in Mi­lan in 1942, he was a pro­fes­sional ty­pog­ra­pher with an im­mense pas­sion for tri­als and gifted with his spe­cial in­ter­est in the me­chan­ics of the tri­als mo­tor­cy­cle. He was a mem­ber of the Ther­mo­mathic Trial Team along with the ill-fated Giulio Mauri and Gior­gio Sper­anza, and the Tech­ni­cal Man­ager of the Reparto Corse Trial at SWM (1977-1984), Garelli (1985-1987) and Fan­tic (1988-1992). He was a key fig­ure in the world ti­tle suc­cesses of Gilles Bur­gat (SWM-FRA) and Thierry Michaud (Fan­tic-ITA). He con­tin­ues to com­pete with his Morini 4T in the Ital­ian Cham­pi­onship of Trial d’Epoca.

VALENTÍ FONTSERÈ: “A big thanks to Pi­etro Ku­ciukian and Dario Seregni for the ded­i­cated time and ma­te­rial for the ar­ti­cle. Also many thanks to An­na­maria, Pi­etro’s wife, for the ex­cel­lent meals served and the hos­pi­tal­ity given!”

A young Piero Sem­benino, who later be­came a top Ital­ian tri­als rider, ‘copies’ his fa­ther’s pose. ‘Pappa’ Sem­benini, the well-known boss from the Sem­benini shop in Riva del Garda Italy and fa­ther of Gino and Piero, shows the light­ness of the ti­ta­nium...

Ku­ciukian in ac­tion with the up­dated pro­to­type, us­ing the fi­bre­glass fuel tank. Trial di Maroc­che in May 1975. Another ac­tion shot of Ku­ciukian and the early Ossa pro­to­type. Trial di Campi in April 1975.

Ku­ciukian in ac­tion with the Ossa pro­to­type, still with the alu­minium fuel tank. The orig­i­nal Dream Ma­chine: The Ossa KK Ti­ta­nium with the trans­par­ent fi­bre­glass fuel tank.

The re­stored Bul­taco Sherpa to­day at the Sem­benini Mu­seum in Riva del Garda, Italy. Dario Seregni in 1976 with the Bul­taco Sherpa pro­to­type in Mi­lano, Italy. More ti­ta­nium for the ex­haust front pipe. Many com­po­nents were pro­duced from raw ti­ta­nium....

Pi­etro Ku­ciukian with his ‘pupil’ Bernie Schreiber at the 1982 world round in Great Bri­tain. Dario Seregni and Pi­etro Ku­ciukian with all ‘their’ SWM Team at the Ven­toux Trial Clas­sic 2011. From left: Dario Seregni, Thierry Michaud, Bernie Schreiber,...

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