Trials bikes are already unique, so a limited-edition trials bike is really special, and this 2015 Montesa Cota 4RT Race Replica is that in all ways—performance, looks, and availability. It comes from the factory… Let’s stop there. This bike is the product of two companies, Honda and Montesa. Montesa builds the 260cc four-stroke motor from parts shipped in from Japan to a Honda facility in Spain. Montesa also builds the aluminum frames in-house and uses its trials expertise to outfit the machines with all the right components. The Race Replicas then get Repsol Honda World Trials Team graphics and go to dealership floors (that’s not even the whole story, but more on that later). Beyond the interesting production details, the bottom line is that this is a trails bike that can compete at the top level yet also comfortably initiate new riders to the discipline.
Two-stroke motors usually dominate trials, but the Montesa/Honda Unicam, four-valve, fuel-injected engine offers some advantages. The motor package gives incredibly smooth power delivery and puts out plenty of it up through the revs; and it never gets that buzzy or “poppy” cadence that a two-stroke can have at crawl speeds. The strength of the power gives talented trials riders all they need to precisely perform all the rock leaps on a course, yet the friendly nature of the motor makes the bike a willing learning machine for riders just dabbing a toe into the sport for the first time. If the smooth delivery has a downside compared to the class’ two-strokes, it’s that the Cota 4RT is less willing to loft the front tire. The horsepower is there; it just takes a more deliberate clutch hand to swing the front wheel skyward.
This motor was the first to bring fuel injection to dirt in a production bike, and that was way back in 2005 (back then the bike was a 250cc); the FI gives the thumper the crisp throttle response trials riders want. To minimize the engine-braking—a trait many trials riders do not want—the Cota design also features a crankcase decompression system. This is a bypass in the crankcase that minimizes compression braking, something that sounds exotic, but the Honda CRF-Rs have a similar bypass. The vent/valve does what it is supposed to do. There is little lurch-back or reluctance to roll when the throttle is chopped. The FI is programmable with a Honda tuning kit and a laptop. It’s the same idea as the tuning kit for the CRF-Rs, but you’ll need the specific Cota 4RT kit to tune this trials bike.
The Montesa’s transmission has its first three gears spaced so closely together that they are almost indistinguishable (relative to a “normal” bike’s gears) then there’s a big gap to fourth and fifth, which are for scooting quickly along through transfer sections. The clutch is a little grabby, or at least has a sharp and absolute engagement that pros will appreciate, but it’s something novices will have to focus extra attention toward before they master perfect power delivery. The lever is also harder to pull in than a two-stroke trials bike’s clutch but still has a much easier pull than a standard bike’s clutch. A trials bike’s steering locks are so generous that anything faster than a jog is a risky venture, but the bike cruises along just fine and the four-stroke thump is totally pleasant compared to the eager “ping ping” of a premixer. Like any trails bike, you don’t need a lot of room to have a lot of fun, and the Montesa’s quiet exhaust note goes a long way toward making stealth training sessions possible.
The Montesa’s handling is affected as much by the power as the suspension. The slower rev of the thumper motor makes the bike feel a little heavier and the front less willing to pop up. On the Montesa, it takes a little more clutch, and little more fork preload, and a little better timing; and then the sensation is of lift and forward drive, whereas a two-stroke has more of a sense of pivoting at the rear axle. For experienced riders the predictable delivery and traction only require a tweak to their technique, but the balance-challenged will initially be driving straight into obstacles that they might have otherwise cleared with the front wheel on a two-stroke trails machine.
The Showa fork and shock (both with external preload, compression, and rebound adjustment) do a great job of staying high in the stroke. This is obviously great when covering things such as a rocky riverbed but also helps during slow, precision turning at full lock, where the bike is happy to stay upright and there is no excess suspension movement working against the rider’s balance. As for other details, the brakes are incredibly strong, with the front especially impressive not just for its strength but also its control; if you want a bike to learn nose wheelies with, this is your ticket. Unlike the clutch that is pro-oriented, the brakes are great for everyone with their modulation and strength.
The bike is strikingly good-looking, but if its price tag stretches the budget, there’s a non-race replica option available for 2015 that wasn’t available last year—the Cota 4RT 260—that knocks $1,700 off the price. But the loss is not just skin deep; in addition to the graphics, the standard 260 does not have the Race Replica’s Showa suspension, D.I.D rims, Michelin tires, S3 aluminum pegs, race-replica headlight, and carbon-fiber items (fork guards, front fender brace, clutch cover, and exhaust covers). One thing the base model does come with that the Race Replica does not is an attachable seat, adding new ways to use these bikes.
With performance that works great for riders of all abilities and experience levels and a striking team replica look, this bike should leap off dealership floors, but there’s the final piece of this bike’s uniqueness: how to get one. This model is a special-order-only machine, and by the time you read this you will either have one in your name or be dialing dealerships looking for a rare one that hasn’t been claimed yet. Honda/Montesa have created an ordering system where Honda dealers must first get a customer inquiry for the bike through the website powersports.honda.com. During the ordering time window, customers need to go to the Honda website, go through the “request a quote” process, and pick a dealer. After that, the dealer will be able to order the bike within that time window; unfortunately, that time window for 2016 orders has not yet been announced as this test goes to press. There are no Montesa dealers in the US, but every Honda dealership is also a Montesa/Honda dealer.
Riding trials is great fun (especially if you have limited space) as well as an excellent way to build skills for all riding. Whether you’re looking to grab some slow-sport titles or wanting that second bike that does something special, you will be happy with what Honda and Montesa have cooked up for you, especially if you have a taste for four-stroke performance.
Ht: 5’10” Wt: 155 lb. Intermediate Trials Rider
I’m at the point in my off-road career where I go back and forth between being a two-stroke guy and a four-stroke guy. But when it comes to trials, I’m pretty sure I’m a thumper lover! The absolutely silky-smooth torque of the Montesa makes it such an easy bike to climb, crawl, zap, splatter, and bounce around on. I’ll take the added weight as the trade-off for the oh-so-usable power. Whereas a two-stroke trials bike might sometimes seem as though it’s making more noise than power, there are no such inefficiencies with the Montesa. It grabs traction and stays hooked up with minimal effort on behalf of the rider. Not to mention that the thing looks awesome, thanks to the factory replica graphics scheme. To paraphrase the great Ferris Bueller, this bike is just so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
|2015 Montesa Cota 4RT Race Replica||Specs|
|“Seat” height:||25.5 in.|
|Ground clearance:||12.2 in.|
|Footpeg height:||13.8 in.|
|Fuel capacity:||0.5 gal.|
|Weight (tank full):||172 lb.|
Check out powersports.honda.com and watch there for an announcement of the period when Honda dealers can take 2016 model orders.