Where have The Four Strokes Gone?

Here we are, just a few days before Christmas and finally all the pieces have locked together like a good jigsaw, the ace riders we all enjoy watching have made their decisions, secured their deals and have changed bikes. The changes are significant and unless I’ve missed something, everybody of note is now on two stroke, so is it the end of the four stroke revolution that arrived only four years ago when Montesa’s 4RT appeared on the scene?

But more of that in a minute.

Without going through the list of rider/bike changes, which I’m sure you will have read or heard about, the fact that everybody of real note is on two-stroke will make for a dead level playing field. No matter whether your favourite ace is riding a Sherco, Scorpa, Gas Gas or Beta, all have a dead equal chance of making the grade; there is no favourite machine on which to win, as all four are as competitive as one another.

As you will no doubt know, the British Championship rounds now have three classes, Championship, Expert A and Expert B, but whether this is the format from a few years back (Championship, Masters, Expert) revamped under another name, only time will tell. The fact of the matter is that the ACU have decided that there is a need for three classes and 2009 will provide the proof if needed.

It certainly promises to be an interesting year and I for one, hope to get to more rounds than I managed this year. And of course that’s a problem, in fact it’s a problem for all riders.

If you are a real all round bike enthusiast, it makes it very difficult to see all that you would like. As a rider, Sundays are my day to blow away the cobwebs, take a brief break from the stress and strains of everyday business, and the best way is to ride a trial. Do that every weekend and you get to see nothing else, so at times decisions have to be made. Do you go to a trial that is perhaps not one of the best, or do you go to another event ?

Two years ago, having been trialing every Sunday for most of my life, I decided to spread my wings a bit. This year I’ve managed three road races meetings, (Skerries, Donington, Croft), an enduro, (Wales World Round), a sidecar GP (France) as well as a significant number of trials in which I have been an organiser or official or journalist. And still I haven’t seen or done enough!

I guess 2009 will be a similar year, but ultimately, most of my Sundays will be spent competing, for it’s the element of competition that drives me, certainly not practicing or leisure riding.

Getting back to the four stroke scene, I’ve tried to analyse what has happened. When the Montesa 4RT arrived in November 2004 it didn’t take very long for folks to dip their hands into their pockets and fork out for one of these fine machines. By heck, I did it myself and thoroughly enjoyed all my three years aboard a 4RT. Even though I’ve been back on two stroke for ten months, I miss my 4RT – it brought a smile to my face and it was a real joy to ride. Not only was it dead reliable with fantastic build quality, it had character that no other bike seems to enjoy – and that’s not being critical of two strokes.

Many other riders did the same and only 18 months ago at any trial there were loads of Monts around. The Beta Rev 4 came onto the scene as did the Scorpa four stroke and the Sherco four stroke, but now, go to any trial and thumpers are nowhere near as plentiful as they once were.

So what’s the reason? For me personally, the two stroke is an easier bike to ride at my time of life, yet even now, many times I wish I was on a 4RT, but equally I wish Montesa had continued with a two stroke trials bike, a view that is expressed to me time and time again. However, times change, fashions change and being perfectly honest, not many riders results improved when they went the four stroke route. That’s a definite fact of life coupled with the deteriorating pound/Euro exchange rate which is making the four stroke significantly more expensive.

But you can’t turn the clock back, we all make our personal decisions and like the aces who are now all two stroke mounted again, so are the bulk of the club lads.