Observed trials has been something of a hidden sport in the United States since a boom in the mid-1970s when you could buy four brands of Japanese trials bikes, three Spanish brands, and a number of boutique British brands. Honda has continuously made trials bikes since 1973, but the 2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition marks Honda’s trials return to America after an absence of nearly 40 years.
One needs only look to YouTube to understand why. Videos of Respol Montesa Honda’s 16-time world trials champion Toni Bou. There, his videos have been viewed over a million times, and Bou is seen riding with the likes of MotoGP stars (and Repsol teammates, as well as fellow Spaniards) Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa. After decades of struggling in obscurity, the profile of observed trials is rising and America gets the 2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition.To be sure, the 2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition is not the same bike Bou rides. Instead, it’s a practical motorcycle that will suit a novice as well as it does an upper-class rider. Most importantly, you can get a Cota 4RT at your local Honda dealer, another way that trials will become more visible to Americans. You might be surprised by the Montesa name, but don’t be — Honda has owned the Spanish marque for over 30 years.Originally introduced in 2005, the Cota 4RT enjoyed small refinements over the years, with 2014 marking the most significant changes since its introduction. Originally using a fuel-injected 249cc SOHC four-valve motor, the 4RT has been pumped up to 259cc for 2014. The EFI system has two maps installed, and the ICU is programmable with optional equipment.A decompression system has been added for 2015 that reduces the significant engine braking from the 10.5:1 compression ratio motor, giving the bike a bit more of a lively feeling.Kickstarting the Cota 4RT is a simple process, but one that is different from most kickstart bikes. Rather than kicking it, you will find more success by pushing the lever through the starting stroke. Because the 4RT has no battery, the motion of kicking produces the juice needed to operate the ignition and fuel injection systems. There’s no choke, and usually one prod is all that’s needed, though you must be in neutral to reduce drag.The 259cc motor has a pleasant rumbling sound that is unlike its two-stroke competitors (only Beta makes a comparable four-stroke trials bikes). The power, of course, develops quite differently from two-stroke trials bike. Having a power stroke half as often allows the Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition to find traction where two-strokes struggle. Just roll on the throttle and the 4RT takes you were you want to go with a steady pull. Everything happens more slowly on the 4RT than on the two-strokes, but that’s not a problem for most riders. If anything, that’s an advantage in a sport that rewards precision over almost everything else. Additionally, there’s much less clutch-work required on the 4RT, which can reduce fatigue during a long and challenging competition, or when practicing or riding freestyle.The most marked disadvantages the Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition has compared to its two-stroke competitors is more weight, slower throttle response, and less top-end power. Mitigating the additional weight is the fact that the Cota 4RT is the most reliable trials bike made, as it is built to Honda’s demanding durability standards.For many people, a trials bike is a great cross-training tool. The 4RT teaches throttle control, body positioning, and balance in a way that allows you to closely focus on and monitor your progress. Plus, observed trials a relatively safe form of off-roading and competition, as most of the riding is done at speeds below 10 mph.Riding the 4RT is fairly easy for riders who can corral their desire to twist the throttle hard. Throttle jockeys will find the bike jerky and the handling deteriorates quickly. Work the motor off idle with gentle throttle input and even a new rider will be fine. The EFI is programmed to resist stalling, and you really have to be ham-fisted to kill the 4RT’s motor accidently.With a long development period, Honda has the Cota 4RT down pat. The Showa suspension is world class, and the handling precise without being demanding. The Michelin Trial Competition X11 tires are industry standard (though not Michelin’s high-end superlight rear trials tire) with a grippy two-ply tubeless tire in the rear. Nothing nose wheelies as easy as a trials bike, and the Cota 4RT allows you to practice that skill at low-speed in the dirt. Skilled riders can carry traditional wheelies indefinitely. Turning is a strong point on the 4RT, as you can push it to full lock and do circles until you are dizzy. The clutch engages predictably, and the four-stroke motor makes this sort of drill a breeze. Steps, large and small, can be accomplished on the Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition with varying degrees of effort. Compared to a two-stroke, the thumper requires a bit of preplanning, but the fuel injection gives it great response and predictability. Learning the art of suspension preload is eased on the 4RT, thanks to the way it slows down the action.Maintenance is basic, with one flaw. A few bolts remove the rear fender to access the airbox. From there, it’s a few more bolts. Smart owners swap out fasteners so they all have the same head. Snail cams take care of the chain adjustment. There are two oil supplies — one for the motor, and the other for the five-speed transmission and clutch. The oil isn’t hard to change, but you have to pull off the crankcase cover to change the oil filter — inexcusable.Made in Spain, the 2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol has an impeccable build quality. The carbon fiber bits are beautiful, and the orange rims speak of world championships.Fully unlike any other dirt bike you’re likely to encounter, the 2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition brings observed trials to the mainstream. It’s not an inexpensive cross-training bike, but it does allow you to enter a local competitive trials event at whatever level your skill allows. And, as an added bonus, you can buy it from your Honda dealer. Photography by Andrew OldarRiding Style Helmet: Wulfsport Airflo Plus Trials Pants and Jersey: Fly Racing Evolution 2.0 Spike Raceware Gloves: Fly Racing 907 Cold Weather Knee brace: Alpinestars Fluid Tech Carbon Socks: Axo MX Boots: Sidi Trial Zero2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition Specifications ENGINE Engine: 259cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder four-stroke Bore and stroke: 78.0mm x 54.2mm Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) with 28mm throttle body Ignition: Electronically controlled digital transistorized Compression ratio: 10.5:1 Valve train: Unicam, four valve Transmission: Close-ratio five-speed CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES Front suspension: 39mm Showa cartridge-type fully adjustable forks w/ 6.9 inches of travel Rear Suspension: Pro-Link with fully adjustable Showa shock with 6.7 inches of travel Front brake: 185mm hydraulic disc with 4-piston caliper and sintered metal pads Rear brake: 150mm hydraulic disc with 2-piston caliper and sintered metal pads Front tire: 2.75-21 Michelin tube-type Rear tire: 4.00-18 Michelin tubeless DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 52.0 inches Rake: 23.0° Trail: 2.48 inches Ground clearance: 13.2 inches Seat height: 25.6 inches Fuel capacity: 2 quarts Curb weight: 165 pounds with fuel 2014 Montesa Honda Cota 4RT Repsol Edition MSRP: $8999
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!