Feature reproduced from Classic Bike magazine February 2003 with permission. (C) Copyright Classic Bike magazine
Built when Spanish trials bikes ruled the world
STORY: HICK DUCKWORTH PHOTOGRAPHY: JOHN COLLEY
From the days before trials irons became extreme trick-riding mounts, this Montesa Cota 349 was built during the Spanish factory’s final year output before acquisition by Honda in 1980.
Montesa joined the two-stroke trials revolution in 1968 with its original 250cc Cota, the name roughly meaning ‘high peak’.
Bigger engines followed and from 1974-1977 the Cota 348 series was developed by six-times British trials champion Malcolm Rathmell.
The 349 followed in 1979 and was ridden by Rathmell to win that year’s Scottish and Scott trials, and by Ulf Karlson to gain the 1980 trials world championship. Two US trials championships were won on Montesa by Marland Whaley in 1979 and 1980.
[An absolute delight to ride off-road because of its light weight and ease of handling, the Montesa Cota has matured into a stylish trials classic]
This immaculate 1979 Cota 349 restored by Nigel Thompson won the Best Trials award at the 2002 Classic Off Road Show. While clearly a specialist tool, our feature model is nowhere near as freakish as current trials mounts, having a seat height that permits reasonably comfortable road riding. It also has the bonus of optional lighting equipment. With suitable gearing the 349 can cruise on tarmac at 50mph and reach nearly 90mph.
[Under the one-piece glass fibre cover you find an alloy tank on UK models]
[Fork leg mounted Montesa speedo allows you to remain Street legal between sections. Front guard’s embossed M is a nice touch. Shocks have tight wound coils at top for less unsprung weight]
[Cylinder head decompressor allows easier starting]
In unit with a six—speed gearbox, the engine is a torquey air cooled single cylinder two-stroke with outer casings in light magnesium alloy. Its exact capacity is 349.6cc (83.4 x 64mm) and carburation is by a Spanish-made 27mm Amal Concentric MkII while the coil and points ignition is powered by a Motoplat flywheel generator.
Bang up to date for 1979, the chassis uses the engine as a stressed member, carrying it in an open-bottomed tubular frame with twin downtuhes. The stout alloy bash plate under the crankcase is, howcvet; part of thc frame structure. Bracing is provided by detachable tubes joining the cylinder head to the pivot points for the box-section swinging arm. The leading—axle Betor front fork is air—assisted, while Telesco rear shock absorbers feature Hydro-Bag damping, with expandable gas chambers above the springs.
Montesa’s glass fibre tank was illegal for the UK market, so the Cota has a 5 litre (1.1 gal) alloy tank beneath the lift-up seat/tank cover moulding.
Functional features abound, such as slimline alloy foot pedals, a side—pull throttle to prevent a snagging cable, and a resilient rear lamp and number plate mount in rubber. Also, the drive chain features tubular guards protect upper and lower runs. Nigel found his 349 two years ago as a rough runner for £650 and lavished about £1000 on restoration. The engine was overhauled with a new cylinder liner and standard piston. Frame, exhaust and other parts were sandblasted before painting, and yellowing plastic mudguards were revived in white with a Halfords aerosol plastics primer. Wheels were rebuilt at Sammy Miller’s where a split in the front alloy rim was detected and welded. Modern MT43 Pirellis are fitted. Renthal alloy bars are non-standard hut believed to he of the period, and Nigel fitted a cylinder decompressor mainly to ease kick starting, which he finds awkward on his Iberian beauty.
[Magnesium sidecases and crinkle fin alloy barrel and head are hallmark Montesa]
ENGINE Engine Type piston port two-stroke Cooling air Configuration single Bore & Stroke 83.4 x 64mm Capacity 349.6cc Compression 8.5:1 Lubrication petroil mixture CARBU RATION Manufacturer Amal Type & Size Concentric MkIl 26mm TRANSMISSION Primary Drive gears Clutch wet multiplate Gearbox six-speed Final Drive chain ELECTRICS Motoplat AC generator, points, & coil ignition CYCLE PARTS Frame tubular steel, open bottomed Suspension: front: telescopic fork Rear; swinging arm, twin hydrobag shocks Brakes front: and rear: 4 1/2" (110m) sls drum Wheels & Tyres front 2.75x21" Perelli MT43. Rear; 4.00x18" Perelli MT43 DIMENSIONS Dry weight 2051b (93kg) Wheelbase 52in (1295mm Fuel Capacity 1.1 UK gal (5 litres) PERFORMANCE Top Speed 87mph (on road gearing) Horsepower 15bhp @5500rpm VALUE 2003 £500-£l600
[Nigel Thompson: trials fan since teens]
Nigel Thompson, 42, has been a trials man since purchasing a 125cc Wassell Sachs when he was 16. "It was insured for the road for one day before my mother found out," he laughs. "She frogmarched me round to the broker’s office for a refund, and from then on I was a strictly off-road motorcyclist. "It’s only since I got a 349 that I have been a road rider. I commuted to work on the Cota 349 last summer. It is probably one of the latest trials bikes you can realistically ride on tarmac." When the 349 was current, Nigel was an art student of limited means and had to make do with a Yamaha TYI 75. Twenty years later, as the proprietor of a fabric design and manufacturing company, he finally got this Cota and subsequently two more 349s. "As a designer, I always admired this model’s styling. Everything follows a square theme, from the silencer and the flat-sided fork sliders to the square-section brake and gear pedals. "Also, I was amazed at how much nicer it feels to ride than my current trials bike, a Montesa 31 SR. The 349 is really torquey, I hardly need the clutch. "I’ve been restoring an Aston Martin car for years, but I think I’ll sell it. Bikes are much more fun."