2012 Ossa TR280i Lewisport Special | Review

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Ossa Motorcycle MotoTrial Test

Now into its second year of production, the Ossa TR280i has received a few updates that has made the motorcycle much more attractive to the average observed trials bike rider. At the same time, the exceedingly high-level of innovation that the TR280i represents is unabated.

The most obvious unusual feature on the Ossa TR280i is the motor. The reed induction two-stroke has the cylinder slanted seriously rearward to move the mass of the bike closer toward the center. This means the Kokusan EFI is mounted at the front of the motor, and the exhaust header exits out the rear of the cylinder. Even more atypical, the radiator sits between the throttle body and the cylinder.

The frame is no less creative. A hybrid of chromoly steel tubing and cast aluminum junctions, the minimalist frame helps the TR280i get its claimed dry weight down to 148 lbs. There’s no rear subframe, as the muffler takes on that job. Air intake is where the fuel tank normally rests. Hold onto your hats for this one – that thick front box-like section of the frame running from the steering head to the crankcase is the 3.2-quart fuel tank, which holds premix.

First class suspension components include 40mm aluminum Marzocchi forks and a linkage-equipped Öhlins TTX shock. High-end Michelin Trial Competition Light X11 radials (tubeless in the rear) help absorb impact and are run at ultra-low pressure.

All the novel thinking in the world doesn’t mean much if the final product doesn’t achieve its performance goals. In the case of the 2012 Ossa TR280i, it is an outstanding trials bike.

Earlier we talked about the updates from the 2011 edition. Two stand out as soon as you get started. The first TR280i was surprisingly difficult to start, especially for a fuel-injected bike. There was so much compression that kicking it through often proved a challenge, especially in the difficult situations you can find yourself in when riding a trials bike.

The 2012 kicks through easily and is reliably first-kick, a huge improvement. The second is the hydraulic clutch’s pull, which is considerably lighter this year, as well as offering improved feel. These two improvements make a huge difference, as they are a significant part of the riding experience.

The sign of a great bike is the ability to jump right on it and tackle the obstacles you normally ride on with confidence and success. The 2012 Ossa TR280i allows a rider, whether he comes from a two- or four-stroke trials bike, to do just that.

Down low, the motor chugs along with the conviction of a four-stroke, finding traction anywhere it is available. Sure, the Michelin Light X11 tires help, but you still have to have a motor that can chug. It’s here that the advantage of fuel injection shows itself most strongly. Two-stroke riders will not be disappointed in the TR280i’s ability to rev quickly and tackle large obstacles, when conditions demand. Some four-stroke adherents may disagree, but this may be the best motor in trials.

Turning has been improved for 2012, with the TR280i offering a wider steering lock compared to last year. This wasn’t important to experts who hop to turn, but it’s vital for lower-level riders who rely on turning the front wheel to change direction. It still doesn’t have the turning ability of a Beta-the gold standard in the sport-but the Ossa is now competitive in the tightest sections.

Going up rocks, the TR280i will let you tackle them as you would on a two- or four-stroke. Be aggressive if you like, or chug your way up. Additionally, for those motivated to delve into the EFI, different maps can be loaded into the system for personalized throttle response. The newest standard map feels quite good and should satisfy a large number of riders. On the bigger steps and on splatters, the ground clearance is good and the skidplate glides nicely over rocks when it hits.

When on the ground, the Marzocchi and Öhlins suspension combination works great. Bumps are absorbed and traction is maintained. There is no unexpected sag or wallowing. However, the Öhlins TTX rear shock seems to suffer from excessive high-speed compression damping when jumping off rocks. When you land rear tire first, it’s a hard, harsh hit. There is no separate adjustment for high-speed compression damping, so you may have to send it out for revalving for a fix. It’s not something that shows up all the time in sections, but when it does, the landing is not confidence inspiring.

This isn’t a problem when riding the 2012 Ossa TR280i down off of rocks, of course. The Marzocchi’s are outstanding in these situations, though the rake of the Ossa is very tight. Initial drop-offs, especially into wheel catching gaps was pucker-inducing. Once you adjust to the steep fork angle, the fear factor evaporates, and you appreciate the dexterity that the geometry offers.

The ultra light weight of the bike and compact chassis with mass centralization means the bike is extremely agile. Floaters are effortless and the bike does not fatigue the rider. Placing the front wheel where you want it is easy, and the rest of the bike goes where you intend. No surprises happen, as long as you have a steady hand on the throttle-twist it hard and the fuel-injected two-stroke is ready to rumble, big time.

Brakes are pretty much standard issue on the Ossa TR280i. The feel is superb and they can be locked up when necessary. You can’t ask for more, and you wouldn’t want less.

Although many of the modifications to the Ossa by Lewisport USA in Copperopolis, California are aesthetic or for reliability, the replacement of the stock bars with S3 bars does improve the ergonomics for the average rider. They have a flatter bend, so most riders will find the S3 bars to be more comfortable than stock. The stock Ossa footpegs are fine, but the Raptor titanium pegs are a nice little upgrade.

We were impressed with the original TR280i. It wasn’t perfect, but it was incredibly close for a first try. Now, with the improvements to the starting, clutch and turning, an already excellent bike further establishes itself as a major player in performance, if not yet sales, in an fanatics’ market.

2012 Ossa TR280i Specs:


  • Capacity: 272cc
  • Type: Two-stroke single cylinder with a reed intake directly into the crankcase
  • Cooling system: Liquid
  • Bore x Stroke: 76mm x 60mm
  • Fuel Supply: EFI Kokusan battery-less System
  • Ignition: CDI Kokusan digital magnetic flywheel
  • Clutch: Hydraulic
  • Gearbox: 6-speed
  • Transmission: Primary through gears, secondary by chain
  • Engine lubrication: Premix
  • Gear and clutch lubrication: 300cc of Gear Extreme 75W oil


  • Type: Chromoly steel tube profile with pipe and bottom made of cast aluminum
  • Front suspension: Conventional Marzocchi 40mm aluminum
  • Rear suspension: Linkage with Öhlins TTX shock
  • Front brake: 185mm diameter disc with four-piston caliper
  • Rear brake: 150mm diameter disc with two-piston caliper
  • Front tire: Michelin Trial Competition Light X11 radial 2.75″ x 21″ tire
  • Rear tire: Michelin Trial Competition Light X11 radial tubeless 4.00″ x 18″
  • Kick-start: Cast aluminum
  • Gear and brake pedal: Cast aluminum with retractable toe
  • Weight and Dimensions
  • Wheelbase: 1,328 mm (52.28 in.)
  • Seat height: 655 mm (25.79 in.)
  • Tank capacity: 3 liters (0.8 gal)
  • Dry weight: 67 kg (148 lbs.)

Lewisport USA mods

  • Clutch and brake hose: Venhill
  • Throttle cable: Venhill
  • Handlebars and bar-ends: S3
 Handlebar pad: Jitsie
Master cylinder caps: S3
Footpegs: Raptor titanium
  • Chain adjustment cams: S3
  • Chain tensioner guide: S3
  • Rear sprocket: S3
  • Number plate: Lewisport USA
  • Fork Guards: Lewisport USA carbon fiber
  • Chain: Lewisport USA
  • Radiator hoses: Lewisport USA silicone
  • Graphics: Ossa Factory sticker kit
  • Riding Style

Helmet: Airoh Factory Ossa Limited Edition
  • Jersey, gloves, and pants: Mots Racing
  • Boots: Hebo Tech

Photos by Don Williams