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November/December 2016 -

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November/December 2016

Surfing the web, I couldn’t find something regarding to Ducati 125 Cross, rather some forum reported that it was a hoax and that Ducati had never dealt with neither off-road competitions nor two-stroke bikes.
Recalling my memory, I can confirm that Ducati set up some off-road bikes and that there was a two-stroke 125 Enduro, which was promoted by specialized magazines, had only little success. I saw an off-road 200 Ducati in one of the first historical commemorations happened on the racetrack in Cuneo, although I was aware of the two-stroke 125’s existence. In fact it took part of the off-road 125 Italian Championship.
Going over old magazine with a fine tooth comb, I find out that in the end of 1977 Italo Forni, a racer from Bologna, was charged with dirt bike’s development, thanks to his experience and victories on a Husqvarna in the previous year.
We have had the opportunity to meet the current off-road 125 Ducati’s owner, a collector coming from Piemonte, who made it available for our photo shoot. This dirt bike, coming from race department, was purchased by an old Ducati’s dealer, who had directly picked it up in its office, with a Six Days 125, with its documents related. It was born “old”, even though it was a new model, because it had a bigger base’s engine, some inner project mistakes that added to the extreme weight didn’t let it be quickly competitive.
EFIM and some designers’ Ducati didn’t agree with the creation of this dirt bike but they tried to make it able to race, entrust it to Forni, who gained a great experience in off-road field.
Italo Forni made his best to set up a new dirt bike, even though little resources and money that restricted experiments and tests, and so also the development of a dirt bike based on a little competitive Regolarity model, thanks also to the growing mechanics and racers’ Ducati friendship. He entrusted to Da.Spa. for the frame creation, looking for different solutions and rubber dingly grades, obtained satisfying shape and dimensions that showed it able to de driven, above all in slopes.
There were many replacements: advanced pivot magnesium Marzocchi’s front fork, gas Corte&Cosso‘s rear suspension, Magura’s control gear, Akront’s wheel rims, Grimeca’s hubs, still mounted on Enduro’s model.
Also the chain guards were melt on the ground, even if extremely bulky. The cylinder mounted on a Mahle piston and the Dellorto carb took place of a Bing’s one, but the power was already lower in order to the competition.
Ducati 125 was growing, even if some difficulties and some engine parts’ breaks, and Forni could race only a few rounds and achieved only the first five positions. He could start well and continued to be in the first positions but then run always into some unexpected setbacks
In the middle of 1978, the second year forecast by the project, Ducati achieved a great competition and endurance level, even if not at the same of the rival‘s one. Unfortunately Italo Forni had a car crash and broke his leg and his dirt bike, without any possibility to be developed by its first creator, it has been given to some inexpert racers, who weren’t able to achieve the awaited outcomes.
Finally the EIM gave up the project. What remains is the regret of this failure. Maybe nowadays we would have a successful Ducati, even if in the off-road field.

It was born to be used in a competitive level. It mounted the same engine of off-road bikes. Its main features were power, flexibility and manageability.
The Spanish Ossa office made sure the pacification in the first ‘70s models. They worried about its ecological aspect. It was characterized by different innovations: a new anchor bolt between the head of the cylinder and the frame, gas dampers, new wheel axles and conic hubs.
The bloated tank and the big saddle seemed to be really heavy. The exhaust pipe system, due to the built-in silencer was very useful, but it was easily bump, even if under the engine you could find a massive support. The frame was arranged to be used with an extra fiberglass protection. The beginning engine project last loyal to the Ossa’s tradition: side carters and no too much developed wings.
The handlebars wasn’t so high and the handles got hard, becoming speedy more slippery. The levers were the typical Spanish ones, functional and agile. The speed of gas control let it use better the flexible engine. The steel line could prevent to rear controls not be passed through gears and carter.
On this model was mounted a 250 AS Phantom engine to make it more malleable. Thanks to this engine, the dirt bike had more power and energy, but its cold clutch didn’t work so well.
For the Desert model it was used a regular gearshift with the same space between its gears. It missed the carter chain to avoid some unknown materials could get stuck it.
The first impression made by this Ossa was due to its branded agility. On the first jump, you were scared by being overturned, whereas it landed in a “flat” way, that’s to say on both wheel at the same time. This feature made it suitable to be used on the mud. Betor forks were the best, only too hard on tourist off-roads. You needed the possibility to tilt them. The brakes were powered. The waterproofing could be developed.
The Desert was suitable to be used by tourist off-road racers and its great aptitude to be driven will be admired by anyone.
Even with a 75cc handicap against the popular TY250, Yamaha’s lightweight TY175 was undeniably the right bike at the right time.
When it hit the marketplace in 1975, after almost two seasons of success with the TY250, the mid sized TY175 gave Yamaha a second string to its bow.
With trials bike sales curving skywards, it was to be the model that gave Yamaha an unassailable advantage over all opposition - Japanese or European alike.
Far lighter than any 250, less fussy than any Spanish trials model and competitively priced at under $900 in Australia (US$965), the TY175 was non-intimidating and user-friendly. Bonuses beyond the price tag were the good manners and durability that a generation of riders spawned on DT1s and DT2s automatically associated with a Yamaha badge. Adding weight to
Yamaha’s multi model assault on the trials market was their link with European Trials Champion, Britain’s Mick Andrews.
One of the most versatile riders of the 1970s, Andrews had already added his name to the Ossas he previously campaigned, in the form of the 250cc Ossa MAR or Mick Andrews Replica. On board with Yamaha, the big Englishman soon became a focal point for new Yamaha promotions which included trials schools and endless PR activities.
Yamaha, it seemed, not only coveted the lion’s share of the trials market, they wanted to be seen as the market leader in every possible way.
On the surface, the TY175’s carbon copy TY250 looks were misleading. This was no mere downsized TY250 but a bike designed from the ground up to accommodate a mid capacity 171cc engine which would also be the basis for the next generation, six speed YZ125C motocross motor.
One inch (25mm) shorter overall than the TY250 and with a weight saving in the order of 11kg (25lbs), virtually no major parts were interchangeable with those of the larger TY.
Not even the look-alike steel fuel tank was a TY250 item but was shaped for this single model only and held just on four litres, or a shade over one US gallon. Only the front and rear wheels and their respective plastic mudguards were common to both TYs.
But why did Yamaha bother with a smaller engined TY when the TY250 was already a runaway success? Even without considering the commercial benefits, a lighter and more manageable TY had enormous appeal and potential in the lucrative trials market of the mid ‘70s.
A lighter, smaller bike with its weight closer approximating that of its rider makes for an easier riding package. Rather than allowing the motorcycle’s mass to dictate many manoeuvres, a lighter bike is easier to manhandle, allowing the rider’s body english input to be smoother and far more measured.
In every sense, the TY175 was intended to be ultra easy to ride, with its weight saving over the TY250 and its six speed gearbox more than compensating for any reduction in power.
As a lure to attract new blood to trials, the TY175 was almost irresistible....
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