Take a Bou, Toni!

By Adil Jal Darukhanawala


There have been a few instances of top-flight sportsmen in bikesport (and motorsport) who have won more than a hundred times at the highest level of their game. Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi are two that spring to mind as ton-up winners on two-wheels: now they have been joined by the diminutive Spaniard Toni Bou.

Scaling it softly with his song with apologies to Perry Como but that’s exactly what got Toni Bou to Grand Prix win number 100 at Gouveia in Portugal this year! Only Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi have more Grand Prix wins than this unknown Spaniard. [HRC]
Toni who? Yes that’s the dilemma afflicting trails riding - a super-specialised branch of global two-wheeled sport. It remains to be seen whether his name strikes a bell in the minds of motorcycle enthusiasts, but Toni is legend when it comes to the rarified art and the exacting science of trials riding (Dougie Lampkin being the accomplished master of this specialized art you might have just heard of, in the English-speaking world).  Last month Toni went on to do something in his form of bikesport that no one had ever scaled: a hundred Trials Grand Prix wins!

At Gouveia in Portugal, on his 200th Trials GP Championship start, he scored a win that saw him not just just attain a fantastic 50% wins-to-appearance ratio, but also surpassed the previous record holder Dougie Lampkin’s 99-win mark before he hung up his helmet. “It’s very important because the championship is really close,” said an elated Toni Bou post-win. “I am very happy to take this victory. I’ve always looked at the ninety-nine wins for Dougie and thought it would be impossible to beat, but finally I have. It’s very special.” And just so that he had to prove those hundred wins were not happenstance, Toni went out and won the next Trials GP – in Belgium - despite starting with a dislocated knee!

If you need to know how the sport is run, this image should tell indicate vividly how so much action can be compressed in  a tight space, preferably on a craggy hill! This is Belgium 2018 when Toni romped home to win no. 101. Look at his body balance, his shoulders parallel to the handlebars, the feet firmly on the pegs yet nicely angled to help shift weight effortlessly, while the large section rear tyre with deep set grooves grips mossy rocks to aid traction at the next squirt of the throttle. [HRC]
Trials riding is a tough art, and while it's slow speed stuff, try climbing over near-vertical obstacles without putting a foot out to steady oneself, or aim at landing on a surface just slightly bigger than a tyre contact patch.  Then you'll understand what balance, concentration, planning, throttle control and such stuff can do. Riding his Montesa-Honda Cota 4RT, Bou is also the reigning World TrialsGP Champion, and is shooting for World Championship title no. 12 this year.  He 'cleaned' (no points lost for putting a foot down) the first lap at Gouveia while everyone else accumulated a handful, and by the end of the second and final lap he won the Portuguese TrialsGP with a 12-point advantage over his nearest rival, Jeroni Fajardo riding a Gas Gas.

And the bikes used for this specialized branch of bikesport, are also, well, special! The ultra-short wheelbase is the first bit that strikes your eyes, as is the sunken seat in the frame, all designed to give the rider leeway to ride almost upright, standing on the pegs, with the front wheel at a near 60 to 75-degree angle from terra firma, with close to seven inches of suspension travel with firm damping and large-diameter wheels (21-inch up front and 18-inch at the rear) shod with deep-grooved rubber with nearly square shoulders!  Trials originated as a European art form, but it has a fanatical following among the Brits, the Japanese, the Italian and the French, and of course the Spanish who have mastered the art. Not just the riders but also the bikes and the specialist equipment suppliers for this form of bikesport are all Euro-centric.

The crowds who brave the 'back of beyond' to watch trials stars in action can hardly comprehend the drop, should anything go wrong, or the precision of the body balance, throttle control, and gearing required to scamper up harsh and pointy rock faces that are near-impossible to scale on foot! This is the perfectionist at play, and so very effortlessly. [HRC]
Trials competition is normally held on tight natural courses, which to mere mortals look virtually impossible to traverse on foot, but trials riders with their amazing agility coupled to their skills – both physical and mechanical - make us look on in disbelief. Of course given the way global sport has turned to television, there are trials events now held in small stadiums in urban areas  so fans can watch these virtuoso artists perform on unbelievable obstacles without, forget falling, even putting a foot down to steady themselves, or a wheel out of sync on the narrow courses.

A few words about the Spanish Montesa concern: in existence now since 1944, but they only built their first bike in 1967! A year later came their first major success in the form of the Cota 247, and from there Montesa has never looked back. After raking in wins in Spanish national events, the marque first hit the high notes in 1979, when the great Malcolm Rathmell took victory in the 1979 Scottish Six Days Trial, and just to emphasize this wasn’t a fluke, team-mate Yrjo Vesterinen swept the top spot at the same event a year later. Montesa gained its first world title in 1980, whenSwede Ulf Karlsson riding the Cota 349 won the 1980 World Trials Championship and Montesa took the constructor’s crown, a feat it repeated the next year as well.

Always scanning the track, picking out the vital details for take-off and landing, as all aces should do when they fly high. Toni Bou is a picture of intense concentration as he checks out the course, while his rivals are riding. [HRC]
It was tough going from then on for Montesa, as rival factories muscled past it, so Montesa joined hands with Honda in the mid-1990s: the engine was designed by the Japanese partner while the Spaniards perfected the chassis. This marked the start of an unbelievable run of victories and world titles. The first joint development between Honda and Montesa was the Cota 315 on which Marc Colomer won the 1996 World Trials Championship.  After the factory trials team signed up a young Dougie Lampkin, he proved unstoppable, winning the world title from 2000 to 2003 to add to his world titles taken with Beta in 1997, ’98 and ’99. Japanese ace Takahisa Fujinami took a world title for his country and Montesa in 2004 before the great challenge from Adam Raga on the rival Gas Gas machine saw Montesa go without any titles for the next two years.

State-of-the-art Montesa-Honda Cota 4RT is a triumph of minimalism to get the job done. Weighing just under 70 kilos it has a curvy form, especially in its mid-riff for better ergonomics while scaling vertical rock faces and also while hurtling down them. Notice the compact liquid-cooled single-cylinder Honda motor with a simple OHC top end, fed by its maker’s famed PGM-FI fuel injection system, nestled within the twin-spar chassis. [HRC]
However, the winning streak resumed with unbelievable vigour and frequency as Toni Bou started his amazing run with 11 outdoor World Trials Championship titles beginning 2007, and a further 12 Indoor Series World Trials Championships from there on!  Not even Dougie Lampkin managed this, and to take them on a hybrid Spanish-Japanese machine was pretty special. As he aims for world outdoor title number 12, it seems Toni Bou will emerge as the greatest world champion motorcycle rider that the world just doesn’t know much of!

Another shot of the winning trials tackle from the left hand side showing the large 21-inch aluminum front wheel shod with large button Michelin tires, while the rear is an 18-incher with French rubber again. Note the tiny disc brakes front and rear, and those dainty Showa telescopic front forks while the Pro-Link rear shock is superbly concealed and packaged. The coup de grace is the tiny headlight in its own natty surround high up, as if it would ever be used! [HRC]
Take a Bou, Toni for you certainly are, special!

This pic should give an idea how to scale mountains, at some speed without grappling equipment and yet come out clean as a whistle! Deep and unforgiving crevices and jagged edges are par for the course, but the exponents of this two-wheeled game are brave geniuses with unbelievable control and skill. For added perspective, refer the second and third images in this feature and you will see the exact terrain scenario depicted from another angle. [HRC]

What is Jawa Day?

By Adil Jal Darukhanawala

What is Jawa Day? Is it another crassly commercial holiday as espoused by wasteful societies like the US of A - like Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, etc, (however laudable the original thought behind them)?  No, surely it's the day we collectively marvel at two-stroke motorcycles designed and built in the former Czechoslovakia, and also in India, although they long having been consigned to history.

Yes they came in all shapes and sizes, bedecked and originals, used and abused, young and old, the camaraderie for a brand missing from the market for well nigh two decades was to be seen to be believed.[Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
For sure the answer is obvious, because Jawa Day 2018 was the 16th annual meet of Jawa enthusiasts the world over.  They didn’t need to all gather in one spot, but had many locations to delight in each others’ motorcycles, share the pains and pleasures of ownership, shoot the breeze of escapades astride them in the past, and also look forward to braving the future without any support on spares and knowledge...plus skill sets that are fast being depleted.

In any colour as long as it is in any colour, but for the better part of its existence Jawas in India only came in the crimson cream shade with a black following a little later. It was left to individual owners to repaint the bikes in the colour of their choice because the factory offerings were limited. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
There are well close to 45 biker communities exclusively for Jawa and Yezdi enthusiasts and owners in India, and practically all of them celebrated Jawa Day on July 8, 2018. Some cities have two to three Jawa – Yezdi Clubs (Yezdi being the Indian-built Jawa) who congregated separately and celebrated: Bengaluru and Pune come to mind straight off. I was told that Mysuru, the spiritual capital for Jawa and Yezdi owners, had no less than four Jawa-Yezdi groups celebrating these distinctive characterful two-strokes from the past! Nothing wrong I might hazard to say on the face of it. But collectively I think the movement could really get a move on - but hey this is India, don’t forget, so we will thrive in diversity if not in disarray!

Pill or pillion? Must be an enlightened biker having got helmets (however perfunctory) for his kids as they motored into the event venue. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
Jokes and wordplay aside, the enthusiasm on display was so smile-inducing and heartfelt that I think it augurs well for the impending relaunch of the Jawa brand back in India. However, one must certainly state that it is the owners of these classic Jawas and Yezdis who have kept the brand alive. The new entity should and must put in place a program to manufacture vital components for the more popular bikes that were made and sold in India, which would be ample reward for those who have kept faith in their bikes and the brand, and kept both alive.

There's such a craze for Jawas and Yezdi to this day that enthusiastic owners deck up their two-wheeled babies with so many period accessories even when one knows that using these could be injurious to the bikes' health! This exquisitely turned out 1964 Jawa in a superb shade of blue has not just a snow guard but also the engine covers to ape what the Czechs were used to in their long winters. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
I went to Bengaluru for the Jawa Day celebrations organised by the Bangalore Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Sport Association or BJYMC, to see for myself the passion for these bikes. About 3-4 years ago, I had been party to Jawa Day celebrations in Pune with the late, great Noshir Irani, former Managing Director of Ideal Jawa, then a spritely 86-years, being in attendance and having the childlike enthusiasm for both the bikes and their owners. Over 325 bikes had assembled there on Pune’s East Street but in 2015 the BJYMC had got 537 Jawas, Yezdis and CZs together, which also netted them a mention in the Limca Book of Records! So when this year close to 500 of these bikes rode into the grounds of the St Joseph’s Technical Institute in Bengaluru city, it is was par for the course!

One of the richest royals in India - the Maharaja of Mysore invited the Irani family and Jawa to set up the factory in his city of Mysore and also gave them free land in the 1950s. This year his grandson and the present day Maharaja - Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wodeyar turned up to be part of the Jawa Day celebrations in Mysuru. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
Forget these large numbers, even Delhi with 38 bikes and close to twice the number of enthusiasts turning up indicated how small, dedicated Jawa-Yezdi aficionados came up to wave the flag. Even terrible storms and flooding so regular in Mumbai during the monsoons didn’t dampen spirits in the country’s commercial capital and just as many turned out there as well! Chennai, Chandigarh, Goa, Mangalore, Hyderabad, saw Jawa and Yezdis come out and make music with their ring-a-ding-ding exhaust notes proving that music and motorcycles are the joys of life.

I make no apologies for inserting yet one more image of the Yezdi 350 twin. It is now a prized cult classic among the biker set in India. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
Yours truly astride an early 1950-51 Jawa 175 in a shockingly wrong colour for India. The man on my right i the legendary racer, rallying and race bike constructor Somendar Singh. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
Hauled out of someone's attic, these were modified Jawas used for a myriad of races all across southern India. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
Super combo of a 1961-62 Jawa 250 with a snow guard (for hot southern India?) and a delightful little PAV 40 trailer with all the right bits for hauling safely! [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
When in India do as the Red Indians do - with feathers! Probably misplaced zeal but if the bloke's happy doing it who are we to judge him? [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
A trio of Yezdi 350s. These were among the last of the Jawa-inspired bikes built at Mysore in India with their twin-cylinder two-stroke piston-ported engines. [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]
An original Jawa from the mid-1960s replete with bulb horn alongside its more modern Yezdi sibling which also sports a spare wheel thoughtful accessory but one which prevented spirited cornering! [Adil Jal Darukhanawala]