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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ENDURO MOTORCYCLE

4 min read

During the first seasons, when the Six Days were being tested, the ISDTs were raced with 350cc, 500cc, 750cc, and 1000cc motorbikes. Brands like Indian, Scott, Triumph, and Condo were dominant internationally. In Italy, Garelli, Benelli, Bianchi, Frera or Gilera were the leading manufacturers.

Over the next twenty years, the great names of motorcycling like Harley Davidson, Royal Enfield, BSA, Norton, Puch or DKW entered the scene, but Enduro tests also became accessible to bikes with smaller motors (125cc, 175cc, 250cc). The Spanish Montesa bikes started competing and being sold.

These bikes had sleek lines perfect for the modern age, two- and four-stroke engines, as well as brakes and forks with a simplified design. The Jawa, Maico, and CZ bikes of the 1940s had all these characteristics.

Towards the end of the 1950s especially, the world of Enduro is revitalised. In 1958, the manufacturer Bultaco participates in competitions for the first time, and, in 1964, Steve McQueen takes part in an ISDT on a Triumph TR6 SC. It’s a new era for Enduro and the discipline is increasingly popular. The number of manufacturers present at the events increases constantly (amongst others: Simson, Zundapp, Moto Guzzi). BMW launches its “two-cylinder boxer” with both 600cc and 750cc capacities that Herbert Schek rides to victory.

The 1970s are years of experimentation. Wankel’s air-cooled, six-speed rotary motor disappoints for a while. Rokon makes its debut in 1973 with the RT-340 TCR Automatic Enduro, powered by a motor used in snowmobile racing. Sachs’ 335cc with its pull starter and automatic transmission doesn’t get very far. In the Italian tests Swm and Gilera are victorious.

The advent of different rear shock absorbers inaugurates a new period of constant research and technological advances throughout the 1980s. This includes BMW’s R 80 GS or Yamaha’s YEIS system, a pre-chamber that improves the engine’s response which is also used by other manufacturers later on. Additionally, MZ plays a major role during this evolutionary phase because of its advances in ignition technologies and innovative exhaust valves in the development of two-stroke engines.

During the 1990s modified motocross bikes are widely used in Enduro competitions. Single-cylinder motorcycles are still the most common. They are derived from the motorbikes used for the Dakar, for example the Super Ténéré which remains an absolute icon until the middle of the decade.

Enduro bikes are able to prevail on the most difficult tracks and, in certain cases, they are also excellent on tarmac. In recent years, they have been particularly appreciated precisely because of this great adaptability, especially if this is combined with high power and torque at low revs. It is not surprising that many of the commercially most successful brands, even if they are not Enduro bikes, are created because of insights from the world of Enduro. These initial insights are later applied and adapted for an even greater, albeit not strictly off-road, community.

One must remember that all of this started because of the discipline’s pioneers.
They were ready to test themselves and their bikes. Those bikes which became a reference point also for other market sectors over the years. Today, these motorcycles are driven by the best riders and thousands of amateurs: they are the best that the industry has to offer whomever wants to tackle a FIM EnduroGP World Championship trial or simply wants to ride off-road because they can’t live without it.

They are motorbikes that make you dream of adventures and at the same time never lose their aesthetic value. The fans appreciate them and the riders choose them for endurance and speed tests. In the end, this is the secret of these competitions: they are a testing ground for new technological developments, they truly show the way, and they are indicators for the evolution of taste. They continue offering more and more possibilities. Without ever stopping to dream.

Bron: EnduroGP.org

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