A four-stroke sensation
A trials motorcycle with an electric start, a press of the button and we are away! Yes, it’s as simple as that, a four-stroke sensation. It’s the bugbear of most trials riders; you’re tired, you have just had a five-mark penalty for stopping, and you have to kick-start the machine back into life. It is not the case with the latest offering from Scorpa with its new 2019 model TY 125F, as it’s a case of just press the button — oh, and the machine also starts in gear with the clutch lever pulled in – simples! I had spoken to the official UK importer of Scorpa products Nigel Birkett about this new model, which comes very much as a trial or trail-based machine. As you will see when you read the article we have generated on the history of this French model, it’s been around with a good solid reputation for many years. You can decide for yourself if it’s a trial or trail machine, as it has been used over the years in both forms of off-road motorcycling.
Mention the name Nigel Birkett to any trials rider who has been around for a while, and they will know him. With knowledge of trials and the development of the machines that go back to the early ’70s he has been around for what seems like an eternity.
Off the back of building his own machines as a young apprentice he would go on to be involved with the likes of Kawasaki and Suzuki, in the RL 325cc, where he stands in the history books as the highest placed finisher on the Japanese machines in the world trials championship before moving to Montesa and Fantic with the 200 and 240 models. It would then be a move back to Japanese machinery with the Majesty Yamaha. Along with his good friend John Shirt Snr, they would then present the ground-breaking mono-shock Yamaha.
A new project
With the introductions over, it’s time for the man himself to speak, Nigel Birkett: “The focus over the last few years at Scorpa has been on the successful two-stroke model range, but I had made enquiries as to when a new production run of the four-stroke 125 model would begin.
“In September 2019, the new model Scorpa TY 125F would start to arrive, and my prayers answered. Once I had taken it out of the box, it looked so tempting that I had a ride around some Lake District country lanes on it, taking in the odd trials hazard, and what I found pleasantly surprised me. It still carried the same attributes of the older model but in a much more modern way. For it to be allowed into the country as a homologated model, it carries all the associated parts fitted to it such as the rear-view wing mirrors, etc. The engine very much replicates the older ones and is similar in so many ways in both quality and performance, but the rest of the machine is much more modern.
“My thoughts then turned to the trials side of the machine. It comes supplied with a change of gearbox sprocket from a fourteen tooth to a nine tooth, which in mechanical terms is quite a big difference. With this in mind, I decided to make it my new project”.
“It would make an excellent entry level trials machine, one to get ‘bums’ on seats and started in the sport, and the price is attractive enough at £4,200 retail I think you will agree!
“The majority of the components come from the two-stroke range anyway. The rear end is very similar, with the seat and mudguard unit and the rear silencer. The wheels are the same, but the rear has a tube-type tyre fitted. The R16V front forks are fitted, which have the steel sliders. At the rear, the aluminium swinging-arm comes once again from the two-stroke range and is attached to the frame via the linkage with the R16V single rear shock absorber.
“My first job was to turn my attention to the engine. It was trimmed and slimmed accordingly, with the kick-start lever, and gear change lever moved more in line and away from being caught on obstacles. The rear-view mirrors were removed and all the associated wiring, along with the front and rear lights. The exhaust front pipe had the ‘cat’ removed in a cut and re-weld job, which was another major weight-saving exercise. By the time I had finished I had knocked 2.5kg off the overall weight of 82kg, this brings it down to 79.5kg with a full tank of fuel onboard.
“The all-important electric start button was moved closer to the throttle to make life easier on the hand. The machine comes fitted with the Mitas tyres front and rear, but I swopped the rear for a Dunlop to aid with traction and because the walls are better suited to trials than the Mitas. With the front competition, number board mounted I was very happy with my handiwork, and it was time for the test under the nose of Trial Magazine.”
Four-stroke fun factor
“Trial Magazine editor, John Hulme, had asked me to personally test the Scorpa so that I could explain the fundamentals of the machine as I tested it. I had already ridden the machine in a few local trials, and so I was quite familiar with how it would perform.
“First and foremost, the fun factor from the machine has to bring some enjoyment into your riding time. It runs very well, and it puts me in mind of how over biked so many riders are; in real terms, they have too much power. You have enough power on hand with this machine and it ‘tracks’ very well, as I demonstrated in a very slippery Lake District river. The machine encourages you to develop your riding skills, but at a much more relaxed pace than a two-stroke counterpart.
“The suspension package works very well together, and the four-stroke power delivery is much softer, the exhaust note is pure music to most people’s ears. You can put the machine in first gear and on tick-over speed with no throttle, complete the simplest of tasks in a car park to learn about balance, a much-needed attribute in low-speed trials. Second gear is slightly higher but still very usable.
“The plus-point, as we have already stated, has to be the electric start for any rider of any ability; the kick-start lever is simply a mechanical backup. Swopping the gearing and the removal of the road-going equipment is easy enough to carry out by most people, but my thoughts are that once you have mastered the art of trials you can upgrade your Scorpa by way of spending money on it, something we can carry out in-house at Scorpa UK to each rider’s requirements”.
It has been ridden in a few local trials by Nigel, and many others who have ridden it reckon it’s good enough for clubmen nationals!
If it looks good it usually is good; welcome to the Scorpa TY 125F.
Nigel uses the good old-fashioned body lean as the Scorpa finds its way up the river.
Ready for action, the Scorpa TY 125F after Nigel Birkett has worked his magic on it.
If the machine has the Birkett Motosport sticker on it you can guess it goes very well!