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Classic Trials FAQ

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Image Copyright Alex Chng - Used with permissionClassic Trials Rider

So you want to ride Classic Trials?

We are concerned with that class of bikes defined as Classics within the M.A. GCR’s. Those built before December 1964 or Pre 65 as it is otherwise known. This class developed in England in the late seventies as a sort of protest against the Spanish Domination of the sport since Sammy Miller developed the Sherpa in late 1964 and consigned the best of British to the scrap heap almost overnight. The cut off date reflects these events.

Where do I buy a bike? Unfortunately there are not many ‘pukka’ Classic Trials bikes about. Most people have simply built their own Classic Trials bike, I did! When they do come up for sale they are relatively expensive because the owners have usually put a lot into these machines to either restore them or fettle them to a competitive standard but a competitive bike will always be good value for money.

What bike is best?

The most competitive machines are unfortunately also the most expensive to buy. Tiger Cubs being a prime example, any later Greeves Trials bike is also up there but these are a rarity, Francis Barnett and James also made some pretty good gear as well. The BSA Bantam or C15 can be turned into a winner with enough tweaking.

Hybrids can also provide a very good basis, for example Bantam frame and cycle parts with a Villiers engine is a popular dodge, these are quite commonly seen in Pre 65 events in England and one or two have popped up here in Oz as well.

Keep in mind many early trials bikes differed very little from their Roadster counterparts in their time so, a Roadster can be easily ‘Trialised’ up. The most important thing to remember is that others have gone through this so ask for advice. Learn from the mistakes of others, it’s cheaper!

In my opinion the best bike is one that you like even if no one else does. One with which you can make a connection. Perhaps your Dad owned one like it or your neighbour used to have one in the shed or you always liked the look of a particular bike in your youth. Or it was bloody cheap! Any justification is valid when it comes to Classics.

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The eligibility of machines is as described in the M.A. GCR’s so you will need to consult this as you build up your bike. Modifications to frames should be so as to attach sturdy folding footpegs and sensible bracing or bracketry etc. and not to modify it so it looks more like something made in 2004 and not 1964.

 Wheels should be 21 inch front and 18 inch rear, so as to be able to fit modern grippy trials tyres. The gearing should be modified for Trials and as a rough guide 1st gear should be about forty to one. Trials gear boxes are around for villiers motors and Trials gearsets were available for Bantams among others in their time.

Reducing the primary drive ratio is as relatively inexpensive way of reducing the overall ‘ratio’ in any engine and this is the way I went for my CZ.

One of the best ways to improve these old bikes is to fit electronic ignition. A bike that starts every time is really a bonus as you have enough to worry about riding the sections without fiddling with points although I rode with the standard ignition in my CZ for many years without that many problems so it depends on how much you want to spend I suppose.

A set of Alloy Guards adds that authentic ‘Classic’ look and topped off with a nice alloy or fibre glass trials tank completes the picture. Trials handle bars should be chosen based on the relationship of your reach when standing on the pegs in a relaxed, balanced stance so get the tape measure out and get it right before you part with the hard earned. Trials bars can be ordered in a variety of rises so you can get it right. Also ask around, you never know what you can scrounge.

Build or buy your bike and ride it before you start painting polishing and plating because you can bet your nuggets that something will need changing or modifying and ask others about eligibility of the components you’re going to use before you bolt them on.

Ceriani forks are eligible for example, but not the later, long travel ones. Use lighter components if you have a choice and look at lightening things as you’re building your winner but be mindful of your own safety as the rigors of trials riding can be hard on components so drill with care.

Your machine must be safe as defined in the GCR’s as well it must meet noise levels etc.

Is it Cheap?

Once you have your pride and joy going you need never update your bike again as it wont be less competitive next year or the year after because of the cut off date. How much you spend getting a bike is really up to you. I have seen good projects for as little as $500 but you could spend $15,000.00 if you wanted something particularly special but $2,500 to $5,000 is more likely a realistic price for a going concern. Remember there is little or no depreciation of a classic or twinshock trials bike.

Is it Fun?

In fact it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on or with your wife watching or both. Contact your local Trials Club and they will be able to put you in touch with a local Classic trials enthusiast and off you go. Do it, you know it makes sense.

Words by Geoff Lewis.