No, I’m not talking of taking your favorite picture to get a surround so that you can hang it on your “I love
Me wall” I’m talking motorcycle frames and their development on the trials scene. This article is in
response to a reader’s request for history on aftermarket frames as I remember them. In days of Yore
the frame was a basic road bike with a few bits knocked off like the center stand and the rear footrests
and then our trialing ancestors learnt a thing or two and a proper trials frame was developed into what
the manufacturers gave us in the twinshock era of the 70’s. Some were pretty good designs and
produced very rideable bikes for the majority of us while others were just a little off and needed some
tweaking to improve things further. For my money some of the best stock stuff came from Bultaco with
the 1972 250 Sherpa and the early 1971 Montesa Mk ll. Another that stands out as a perfect Clubman’s
bike of the period was the Mkll MAR Ossa 250.
Perhaps one of the best “Stock” bikes ever produced the 1972 Bultaco
A perfect “Clubman’s” trials machine the 250 Ossa MAR
Other major improvements were of course spring loaded footrests, but as we know now, usually
mounted too high up and bit too far forward. The chain tensioner instead of the guide, higher lift
handlebars and all the various aftermarket top yokes, risers and off sets.
Frames themselves were fairly standard affairs aiming for around 52-53 inch wheelbase, a strong
re-inforced headstock and top tube leading to some sort of split tubing to carry the seat and provide
mounting points for the rear shocks and swinging arm assembly. Throw on some extra lugs and all the
other ancillary bits and its about done. Up front the downtube was often a continuous loop under the
engine or it may fan out into a duplex affair. Now although all of these frames provided sufficient rigidity
anything pipe wise going under the engine also decreased the ground clearance and clearly most
aftermarket frame builders saw this as an area where a few inches could be gained or a means of
lowering the center of gravity.
Robin Rhind Tutt, of WASP
My first “meeting” with the aftermarket frames was the Wasp which my great friend Geoff Chandler rode
for a few years before joining the Bultaco works team. At that time I was at Boscombe Down and Arthur
Headland, himself a good trials man, was a welder in station workshops and built me a couple of
wonderful trailers for my bikes. Arthur was also a welder for Robin Rhind Tutt who built the Wasp line.
My 70’s trailer welded by Arthur Headland of WASP
The next “frame” that I became familiar with was the Sammy Miller Hi-Boy which I couldn’t resist and
bought the beauty in 1973 with the rather clanky 325 Bultaco motor. I couldn’t get on with the beast as it’s
handling was not good with too much weight constantly on the front wheel …….. and as we now know all
down to the footrest position, too high, and too far forward! A beautiful frame nonetheless with the
removal of the undertubes and mesh bash plate and the single flat alloy plate in its place and all
finished in nickel or chrome.
If you buy one of these do check to see if the footrest position is good
for you ?
The 73 325 Bultaco in the Hi-Boy. Better called the “BullHarley”…. lovely to
look at and a f****** Pig to ride!
About 1975 a lot of frame builders were busy making frames for all sorts of machines to improve
several models. These included Fraser for Hondas, Gollner for Kawasaki and Ossa, and the Majestys
of John Shirt and the man Mick Andrews. Whitehawk was also around with the Yamaha marque but I
personally think the “Godden” Majesty frame was the best of the period and is still available today if you
can afford one!
The latest “Godden” Majesty frame
At about the same time the awful RL Suzuki got revamped with the Beamish frame and this bike went
very well in the Southern Centers of UK and was a winner in the hands of Graham Fowler and others
but never faired well in Scotland over the rocks where it seemed to be difficult to keep in contact with
anything! Very pretty bike but a bit “tin and tinsel” and perhaps too light in its day.
Beamish frames up the Wazoo
All “tin and tinsel” the 77 Beamish 250 Suzuki
As time moved on Seeley made some excellent frames and parts for the Honda TLR series but of
course that was the end of the twinshock era as we know it. The onset of monoshocks and the hopping
and bopping gave rise to the increased interest in old British Iron and Pre 65 machines for the older
riders who didn’t wish to try the new techniques or take on the severity of some of the new sections that
monoshocks could handle.
Sammy Miller produced all manner of parts for British bikes and the wider swinging arm for the Triumph
Cub. Faber produced the “Otter” frame for both Triumph and BSA with oil in the downtube and these are
still available along with all Duncan MacDonalds ARMAC designed frames and parts for the Cub.
The “Otter” frame for any of the BSA C15, B40 motors
The “Otter” frame for the Cub……. which AHRMA doesn’t like
The “Armac” frame front end for the Cub
The back end of the “Armac” frame
Messers Andrews/Whitton and others rebuilt the James frame and these are currently extremely
popular on the Pre 65 circuit and it never ceases to amaze me that so many of these machines are
around today when we NEVER saw them during their years as a manufacturer, but there again they
didn’t have Norton Roadholder forks on them either.
The very popular James …. funny we NEVER saw these in the 60’s & 70’s ?
Yet another MA James
Of course you can still buy a frame for your old Brit bike and Dick Mann still produces his version of the
Pre 65 frame, remanned in Nevada and welded up to spec in Colorado. Faber and Armac are still in
business along with the Godden Majesty and some of the Mick Andrews frames can still be found.
Others can be re-manned at a price and Mark Kemp had a couple of Majestys made by the same
people who make Valentino Rossi’s race frames for Moto GP, these, like a lot of other parts for vintage
iron, are made in Unobtanium with a price to match!!!
Another Majesty frame from Valentino Rossi’s frame makers
Mark Kemp’s beautiful Majesty with Mono front forks
However, if you have a mind to you can always build your own………… and hope you get it right! My first
experiment was trying to build something “rather different” using a DMW frame from 1970 which was
originally for a Villiers 37A engine. Suitable ex Yam downtubes were welded on and a TY 250A engine,
and an all Ossa front end were added. The results were better than hoped for and the machine
“Ossamaha” has now changed hands and was revamped with a Suzuki front end by Mike Buchholz who
went on to win this year’s Ahrma Modern Classic Expert Championship.
The “DMW” frame adapted to take the TY Engine
Engine in, bashplate on, the top tube IS the fuel tank
A gorgeous “Special” …… the “OSSAMAHA”
….and it handles superbly!
More recently I took on the challenge of the Mighty Royal Enfield trying to condense the beast from 55.5
inches wheelbase and 5.5 ground clearance into something that would actually ride a modern section.
Using Beta modern day steering angles the frame was reconfigured by chopping it in two, adding a
downtube to the rear of the gearbox and chopping the swinging arm to move it inside the gearbox and
primary chaincase. It works, and with any luck it may distinquish itself in the Premier Heavyweight Class
Cut the frame in two!
New downtube, swinging arm mount on the gearbox inside everything
Chromed rear frame and angled Betor gas shocks
Turns well with a ton of ground clearance
I also have a few more plans for the “No Excuse Cub” which might get done over the winter.
Full articles on how it was done are on the blog under;
“Reshaping a Bullet”
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