The Italian motorcycle manufacturer Aprilia typically makes the news in World Superbike racing. After building smaller off-road machines in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the company has made cutting edge superbikes for just two decades, machines of ultimate speed and handling, braking too, of course. But like almost every other post-War manufacturer, in the 1980’s Aprilia supported Trials Competition with machines just as fine, though made to have ready torque, great balance and handling, even near zero miles per hour.
With great ground clearance, rear-set footpegs and a short wheelbase, trials bikes are designed with the rider in the standing position. The frame, forks, even brakes are all very lightweight components; at low speed stresses are minimal. Non-DOT tires are thin, use sticky compounds and run very low pressure in order to conform to the surface and grip. In the 80’s frames were chrome moly steel, now alloy castings and extrusions make up trials frames and some makers are using electric motors!
While most motorsports involve maximum speeds, trials is about balance and navigation at near zero speeds. One at a time, competitors navigate extreme obstacles in a marked off course, maybe on a rocky hillside, while attempting to avoid touching the ground with their feet or riding out of bounds. The obstacles may be natural or man made. The course, several hundred feet in length, is carefully contrived to test the skill of the rider. Each competitor is scored by an official observer. Each time a competitor touches the ground with a foot, a “dab,” the penalty is one point. Low point rider wins the event.
Iowa resident Jay Gaard has loaned numerous off-road motorcycles for display at the National Motorcycle Museum. While this Aprilia is largely original/unrestored, Jay has spent considerable time detailing it instead of doing a full-blown restoration, thereby preserving original factory paint and graphics. The next time you visit the Museum you can take in a few trials bikes in addition to enduro and motocross machines, some on loan by Jay Gaard.
- Engine: Air Cooled Single Cylinder
- Type: Rotary Valve Induction
- Bore & Stroke: 76mm x 61mm
- Compression Ratio: 8.5:1
- Ignition: Electronic
- Carburetor: Dell’Orto
- Displacement: 277cc’s
- Horsepower: 17HP
- Primary: Gear Driven
- Transmission: 6-Speed
- Starting: Kick Only
- Chassis: Chrome Moly, Double Down Tube
- Suspension: Betor Fork / Betor Shocks
- Brakes: Disk, Front and Rear
- Wheels/Tires: 2.75 x 21 / 4.00 x 18
- Wheelbase: 52 Inches
- Weight: 187 Pounds