2011 Ossa TR280i | First Ride
Ossa Trials Bike
It’s not often that a new motorcycle manufacturer arrives on the scene. While some might not consider Ossa to be a new company, as the marque had an initial run from 1924 to 1982, but this is an all-new Ossa motorcycles company, though still based in Spain.
In America in the 1960s and 1970s, Ossa was known for its outstanding off-road motorcycles, including the Mick Andrews Replica and Plonker trials bikes, Stiletto and Phantom motocrossers, and Pioneer enduro motorcycles. Initially, it is the trials legacy that the new Ossa company is tapping into.
In spite of its historical name, the 2011 Ossa TR280i observed trials bike (more recently called "mototrial") is anything but a throwback. Rather, it has design features that turn the off-road (and on-road) motorcycle world on its head. Most notable is the TR280i’s 272cc two-stroke motor, which features programmable, battery-free fuel injection (with premix!), front case reed induction, and a dramatically rearward facing cylinder.
The TR280i chassis is also notable, thanks to a 3.2-quart aluminum fuel tank that is at the front of the frame, where the radiator usually resides, though running from the steering head to the alloy skidplate. Ossa placed the fan-assisted radiator behind the fuel tank, which is another advantage made possible by the rearward cylinder and case-induction.
The airbox, a light part of the motorcycle, is high on the frame, between the radiator and fuel tank. Kickstarting the Ossa TR280i can be a challenge. Unlike the easy kickstarting fuel-injected Honda motor in the Montesa Cota 4RT, the TR280i requires that the kickstarter be positioned at the top of its arc in the compression stroke, and giving it a hard, fast kick.
Deviation from this method can be frustrating, though sticking to the program is usually met with success. Once fired up, the TR280i settles into a perfect idle and it ready to ride quickly. The 2011 Ossa TR280i we tested at our private observed trials proving grounds in Malibu had an aggressive fuel injection mapping – something pros would like. Given that, the TR280i still performed exceptionally smooth and tractable at low rpm.
Even for an intermediate rider, the motor was easy to handle with a firm hand on the throttle. Traction on the loose soil was closer to a four-stroke than a two-stroke, as long as the revs were kept under wraps. On our enduro loop, the mototrial motor showed its powerful side, as it revs freely and willingly, making it an extremely enjoyable bike on the loop.
The centralization of mass on the Ossa TR280i paid off in our practice sections. Weighing in at a claimed 148 pounds dry, the Ossa feels as light as it is. When picking through nasty terrain, it is not as evident as when climbing rocks or floating the front end through a turn. With little weight at its extremities, the Ossa is highly maneuverable, even by mototrial bike standards. Two particular rock obstacles impressed us immediately.
They are challenges that are not always accomplished. On the first try on each rock, the Ossa easily went up the steps without drama–an impressive feat on a machine that had less than an hour of testing on it. Working the clutch can be tiring, as the single-spring design requires a stronger pull than most mototrial bikes. As easy as this motor was to work with, we look forward to an opportunity to ride the bike with a softer engine mapping. This will make it easier to get truly aggressive, without the concern that the full force of the 272cc two-stroke motor will be unleashed unnecessarily.
Turning, however, is not the TR280i’s strong point, though not for the reason you may think. The bike does turn impressively, though not in the same league with the genre-leading Beta EVO mototrial motorcycles. The problem is with the steering lock. On turns where the locks are not hit on other brands, the TR280i hits that limitation hard. Perhaps Ossa intended the TR280i to be hopped in turns, but not every potential purchaser will be a rider meeting that skill level.
Action on the TR280i’s suspension, front and back, is very good. Rather than saving some weight and going with a direct-mount rear shock, Ossa opted for a traditional linkage system to go along with the top-notch Öhlins piggyback reservoir shock. It has a lively feel, allowing the rider to lift the back end as needed. The Marzocchi forks absorb hits flawlessly, and allow the rider to pick through the rocks with accuracy and confidence. The tubeless rear wheel is a new design with ball spoke ends at the wheel, allowing both a one-piece spoke and a no-band rim.
The brakes aren’t Brembos, but they work fine–soft initial bite up front for good control. Michelin’s premium Trial Competition Light X11 radials are superb.
The exhaust pipe, which exits to the rear of the cylinder, is a work of art as it snakes through the frame and to a handmade muffler. Almost every part of the Ossa TR280i is worth examination. The swingarm uses dual tubes on each side, and the connection of the aluminum steering head to the main chromoly frame tubes is impressive. Visually and from a design standpoint, the Ossa TR280i is unquestionably a revolutionary motorcycle. It piles innovation on top of innovation, yet the result is not gimmicky. For all its future-thinking, the Ossa TR280i still feels conventional to ride.
There are some advantages, especially at lower rpm, to the fuel injection system, and the bike’s weight is as hidden as it can be. Without a doubt, there’s an expert-slant to the bike’s performance, both chassis and motor.
The 2011 Ossa TR280i is not the game-changing mototrial bike that the first Bultaco two-stroke was in 1965 or the 1984 Yamaha TY250R, which brought single-shock rear suspension to trials, but it is a unique motorcycle that is both competitive and an unquestionable head-turner for motorcyclists everywhere.
2011 Ossa TR28i Specs:
- Engine Type…Two-stroke single cylinder with a case reed induction
- Displacement…272cc Cooling system…Liquid
- Bore x stroke…76×60 mm
- Fuel delivery…EFI Kokusan battery-less System
- Ignition…CDI Kokusan digital magnetic flywheel
- Transmission…Primary through gears, secondary by chain
- Clutch…Hydraulic control
- Engine lubrication…Premix
- Chassis Type…Chromoly steel tube with cast aluminum
- Front suspension…Marzocchi aluminum
- Rear suspension… TTX Ohlins with linkage
- Front brake…185 mm diameter disk with 4-piston caliper
- Rear brake…150 mm diameter disk with 2-piston caliper
- Front and rear wheels…28 one-piece spokes
- Front tire…2.75×21 Michelin Trial Competition Light X11 radial
- Rear tire…4.00×18 Michelin Trial Competition Light X11 tubeless radial
- Skidplate…AA7075 alloy
- Kickstart lever…cast aluminum
- Gear shifter and brake pedal…Cast aluminum with retractable toe
Weight and dimensions
- Wheelbase…52.3 inches
- Seat height…25.8 inches
- Tank capacity…3.2 quarts
- Claimed dry weight…147.7 pounds
- Made in Barcelona, Spain
Photography by Don Williams