Defending The Bultaco Honor
Background and History:|
I pretty much grew up in a motorcycle dealership in California. Over the years we sold Bultaco, AJS-Matchless, DKW-Sachs, Hodaka, Powell, Bonanza, Rupp, Steen, Cagiva, and Rickman (kits). Plus the Rockford Motors lines: Bridgestone, Chibi, Tora, Taka, MCB (Monark) and Zundapp.
Crazy Mitch that worked in the back raced flat-track on a Bultaco. Mitch talked my father into taking on the Bultaco line. We also tried to get Kawasaki, but they wanted a big chunk of money up front. The Brigdestone importer, Rockford Motors was amazing. They done everything to make sure we had bikes to sell, even years after Bridgestone stopped production. There was not much profit in selling motorcycles as you would be lucky to make $125 on a sale. Most of the money was made in the shop. We also added some lines of lawnmowers and chainsaws. There was good money in outdoor power equipment! |
The repair volume in our back shop more than doubled, so I started helping when I was only 12 years old. Poor Mitch was working 12 hours a day! Crazy Mitch was getting huge paychecks, but would blow it on women, weed, and bail bonds. I worked on thousands of bikes in our shop, including many Bultacos.
|My father took care of the store up front. It was not like today, where you ordered just enough bikes to fill holes in the inventory. My father would order like 20 motorcycles at a time to get a better deal. We knew if we sold 6 bikes a week, we would make $750 and could pay all the bills. Simple math! $750 was a lot in 1970!|
| I started racing Moto-cross when I was 13 on a very powerful, but poor handling Bridgestone 100 Racer. This 100cc bike was faster than a kitted Yamaha 250! This bike should have been illegal to own as it was a death machine! The next year, I raced a Bultaco 125 Sherpa-S and started winning races. Crazy Mitch could really tune my 125 Bultaco! Three years later, I was racing the 125, 250, and open expert classes. Over the next 10 years I raced at least 14 different bultaco motorcycles. I also competed in some flat-track, scrambles, and enduro events. I even tried observed trials, but those trials guys are crazy! Trials is a dangerous sport! I never did travel to race nationals, as I was too busy with the store and school.|
Clear Up Some Disinformation and Lies:
First some truths: Bultaco was the best dirt bike ever made. Reliability, Power, Light Weight, Handling, and Low Cost of Ownership. Bultaco had all of these back in the day.
These are some of the lies and false information told by famous motorcycle magazine editors. These same super funky editors that worship CZ, Maico, and Japanese motorcycles. All over the internet and in forums people are talking trash about Bultaco motorcycles. I am sure most of them don't have a clue what they are talking about.
Observed Trials - Multiple World Champions. Dominated The Sport!
Scottish Six Days Trial - Seven Times Overall Winner!
Brutal Scott Trial - 8X Winner. Bultaco Finish Times Are Faster Than New Bikes Today!
Flat-track and Short-track - Multiple World Champions. Dominated The Sport!
Grand Prix Road Racing - Multiple World Champions.
International Six Day Enduro ISDT - Multiple Gold Metal Winners. (40+)
Desert Racing - Winners and contenders.
Enduros - Winners and Contenders.
Motocross - Winners and Contenders. Dominated the 200cc Class!
No other brand had this kind of success in the 1970s! Not Honda. Not Yamaha. Not Husqvarna. No one!
Since no one is defending the Bultaco honor, I thought I would do it here.
Bultacos Are Fragile: The magazine editors always say this, but never tell you what breaks. Sure the fiberglass or aluminum fenders break when you crash, but what else? Yes; I have welded the rear fender loop back on on a few Pursangs. Here are the facts: The frames never break. The swingarms never bend, even with a blown-out shock! The footpeg mounts never bend or break. The engines are so well balanced that motor mounts never fail. Gearboxes are nearly bulletproof. If fact the gears and shifting forks are huge compared to Honda and Suzuki. Transmission is way overbuilt! The clutch loves abuse and last longer than most bikes. Kick-starter gears are extra beefy and never fail. The Bultaco primary chain last several years on a Pursang, and forever on an Alpina. Piston life is twice that of Japanese two strokes. I have never seen a broken connecting rod on a Bultaco. Spokes and hubs are some of the best. The Betor forks can handle the pounding of a Triumph 650 desert sled. What is fragile about a Bultaco? Most guys that rode Bultaco bikes replaced the fenders right away with Preston Petty plastic. Problem solved.
Bultacos Are Unreliable: There was only one weakness. The early Buls with the Femsa ignition could fail. This same Femsa ignition was OEM on Husvarna, CZ, Ossa, Montesa, Maico, and Sachs too. Those brands had the same problems with Femsa as Bultaco. The later Femsatronic and Motoplat ignitions were better. Everything else is good. Connecting rods never break. Factory Mahle pistons are better than aftermarket ones. The primary chain and clutch plates are good for two or three seasons of hard racing on the powerful Pursang, and last forever on a Bultaco trail bike. The top end last longer than most Japanese race bikes before needing rebuilt. Bultacos have won gold medals at the ISDT and have won hundreds of desert and enduro races.
Note: All Bultacos cames with a 60 day warranty. Even the race bikes!
Then there is a little something that really increased the quality of Buls sold in the USA. When Bultaco came out with new models, the dealers in Spain, France, and the UK would get them first. Our dealership would get the new fangled fancy bikes 3 or 4 months later, and this would really piss me off back then. I remember we did not get the 1974 360 Pursang until April of that year. Now looking back, I can see that the european dealers had to put up with the nagging bugs and fixes common with new models of anything. When we got our shipment of new fancy bikes, the bugs have already been worked out in production. Back in the 1970's, reliability was a strong selling point of Bultaco motorcycles. All Bultacos came with a 60 day warranty, even the race bikes! I know, as I was there selling them!
Bultaco Did Not Have Access To Quality Metals In Spain: This is another bullcarp Lie. Bultaco got their metals from France, Italy, Germany and the UK like most other bike makers in europe. After 1973, most Bultaco frames were made of 4130 Chrome-moly steel tubing. Frame breakage was very rare. Even the older Buls with mild steel frames never broke. The engine cases and side covers were made of thick cast aluminum alloy and could take a beating. The wheel hubs were duralumin aluminum alloy, and would never fail. The grade of all the bolts and aircraft lock-nuts were top notch. The Akront rims were some of the best in the world. What metals are these magazine editor jerks talking about? The meaty cylinder liners? The indestructible transmission gears? The Mahle forged piston? What metals? I know! The balls on the alloy hand levers would break off when crashing on gravel roads. "Should have bought a Kawasaki Bighorn with sturdy chromed steel levers" - says the editor.
The 125 Pursang Will Seize up Every Lap. Nothing Will Seize Faster Than An 250 Astro: Two more statements made by editor shipdips. People that race the Pursang 125 and Astro 250 almost never have engine seizing problems. These editors can't even make it one lap! Bultaco racers already know this: Mix your oil and gas at 32:1 and use a good oil like Bardahl VBA, Blendzall, or Golden Spectro. The average know-it-all will think that since these engines work so hard, you need to mix oil and gas at 20:1. Wrong! A ratio of 20:1 makes the gasoline thicker, thus it goes through the main jet slower. This causes a lean condition that will fry a thick sleeved engine. The one hour "take it easy" break-in period is important on these Buls too. Crazy Mitch, our shop mechanic raced an Astro. I was also close friends with four customers that raced Astros every weekend. They would run wide open on the longer half mile tracks. If setup properly, Astros don't seize! Most of the Astro guys I know ran Blendzall Racing Castor and never had an engine fry. I raced an 10,500 RPM 125 Pursang a full 10 race season before needing new piston and rings. This is 20 expert level hard-charging motos, plus practice and trail riding too! Never an engine seizure or DNF. You have to figure, the pursang engine was a detuned version of the world champion Bultaco TSS 125 road racer motor. You don't win 24 hour road races with engine problems!
Back in 1975, the YZ 125 top end was good for two or three races. The Elsinore 125 top end was good for four or five races, if the transmission didn't fail first. After a few races, the rotary valved KX125 crank seal sucked air like a hoover and would cook the top end. Why the magazine editors never say anything bad about these bikes?
The 360 El Bandido Is Only Good For Throwing Gravel In A Parking Lot: The truth is the Bandido will flat out scoot. The mid range pulls so dam hard....then it just keeps pulling and revving until fear sets in. The way the mid ratio 4 speed was spaced, you had to really hang on when shifting under full throttle! It was an arm stretcher! The only thing that kept the El Bandido from winning everything back then, was they did not make rear tires big enough!
The magazine editors complained about the weight. At 248 pounds dry, the El Bandido was about the same as a new 450F. The El Bandido was 70 pounds lighter that a Rickman Triumph 650. It also weighed 55 pounds less than a gutless Honda XL250 that the magazine editors just loved. They even stripped the XL250 down to 275lbs and tried to race motocross!
The El Bandido made for an awesome desert sled, as it handled so good at high speeds. Factory gearing was good for 85 MPH, and it was easy to pull 100 MPH with a sprocket swap. Once you hit 3rd gear, the weight was no longer an issue. You could ride the El Bandido faster blasting across the unknown than a 400 Husky! My father placed at the Barstow to Vegas race on one. He won overall at the Nevada Dash with the 360 El Bandido. He was also leading the Elsinore Grand Prix by a good 100 yards, until he got rolled up in a stock fence like a burrito (we still laugh about it, Father El Burrito). My father also competed in many hillclimbs on the Bandit. Someone should have made an 400cc kit for the El Bandito, as the robust bottom end and gears could handle the horsepower. Put this 400cc engine in a light Pursang or Rickman frame...I can only dream.
Replace the Sucky Amal Carburetor With A Mikuni: The truth is any carb works well when running wide open. It is the low RPM response that is a true test of a good carburetor. Look at the Sherpa-T trials bikes that Sammy Miller rode to all those world championships. The Spanish Amal was proven as the best carburetor in the world. The Amal on Bultacos did not have a choke, so you pushed a primer button to flood the engine so you could start it when cold. Since there was no choke, the bike would sputter and cough until it was warm. This might be the reason the magazine editors thought the Amal sucked. The Amal was much more easy to tune and jet than a Mikuni! In the late 1970s, Bultaco switched to Bing Carbs and they were a pain to tune, just like the Mikuni.
The 350 Pursang Is Too Underpowered To Win: This is bunk, as back in 1972 and 1973 the 250 Pursang was fast enough to win in the 500 class. The 350 was a 326cc version of the 250. Just like the 250, the 350 Bul loved to rev out on top. In a drag race, the 350 was just as fast as the 1974 360. The 360 was more of a tractor. That means this 350 Sang could compete with the Husqvarna 360, CZ 400, and Maico 400. Even Jim Pomeroy was competitive on the 350 racing against factory tuned bikes! The theroy behind the 326cc Bul was 250 riders normally run faster lap times than the 500 class racers. A big bore 250 could be just the ticket for winning. This concept still works today. At the "run what you brung" Two Stroke Nationals last year, there were a bunch of big bore 295cc YZ, RM, and CR bikes entered. A few years ago a 293cc Husky won, beating bikes like the KX500 and CR500 AF.
1974 Pursang Test in Magazine: With only 24 horespower, the 250 Pursang is six ponies down on the competition. This was a mostly street motorcycle magazine, so I do not blame them for being idiots. In the review, they stated the Bul would blubber in the middle and upper RPMs. I am positive the dealer did not prep the bike before the road test! From the factory, Pursangs shipped to California were jetted way too rich. I am sure this was done for "new bike break-in". After two tanks of gas, you could drop a few sizes on the main jet, and put the needle in the middle or lowest position. Once jetted correctly, the 250 is fast as about anything in the 250 class. In a drag race, the older 1973 Pursang would run neck-N-neck with the Honda Elsinore. The 1974 Pursang has more beans than the 73. I pulled many holeshots on the 74 250 against 30HP class speedsters like the Honda Elsinore and Montesa Cappra. I don't believe the Bul was down six horses on power. I don't think the 24 horespower statement was a lie. They just did not know what the heck they were doing. Video: Blue 250 getting easy holeshot
The Spanish Pirelli Tires Are Junk: Hey! The magazine editors got one half right! On the Bultaco dirt bikes, run a Metzeler knobby up front, as the front Spanish Pirelli really sucked. The rear Spanish Pirelli was pretty good. On a Pursang, the Metzeler front tire helped the front end stay planted, and was the difference between crashing and winning. Some early Buls came with Spanish Firestone knobbies, and they sucked worst than the Pirelli!
The Pursang rear shocks are toast after 30 minutes of racing. Another fake news story from magazine editor shipdips. The aftermarket Koni shocks performed better, but the OEM Telesco and Betor shocks were not bad. After a moto, I could put my hand on the shock body, and they were just warm. At the end of an 100 mile desert race, the shocks were working fine. I could get a whole season of racing out of the stock shocks. Blowouts were rare. For just a few dollars, you could rebuild them yourself. Something to do during the winter holidays.
The Bultaco Factory Has Dirt Floors: This could have been true in the early years. My father visited the factory in 1976. All the production areas had concrete floors. There was a huge metal barn warehouse that had oil treated dirt floors that was used to stage outbound shipments of finished motorcycles. He was amazed Bultaco made so many trials bikes! The Sherpa-T was at least 50% of the inventory!
1971 175cc Lobito. One of the best small bore trail bikes. The Lobito 175 will out run the older 250 Matadors. In fact the 175 Lobito was faster than most 250 enduro bikes! It would smoke a Savage or DT1. This Lobito was pretty much the Sherpa-S racer with a heavy flywheel, lights, and enduro gearing. The Lobito bikes with the high expansion chamber pipe were the 22 HP hot-rods. The versions with the trials style exhaust were much slower. The Lobito weighed about 210 pounds with all the street legal stuff. The later Lobito models were Alpina based and great for your woman.
1972 250 Pursang. No more box-tail. Even more explosive power. Out-runs most 360s! Hang on tight! Look at the race results in old issues of CycleNews from back in 1972. The Pursang owned the 250 class from coast to coast! The 1973 is pretty much the same bike.
1972 Matador SD. See Matador SD Image The mild mannered 1971 Matador with high expansion chamber, Pursang cylinder, and real handlebars! This is the bike Matador enduro guys were dreaming about! The Matador SD was the best serious enduro bikes of 1972 and 1973. The only enduro bike built better was the hard to find 290 pound MZ 250 made by the commie Germans. The Matador SD was made to win gold medals at the International Six Days! Just as rugged as the old Matador, but a heck of a lot faster!
1972 - 1975 Alpina. The 350 weighs only 216 pounds, and the 250 even less! Some of the best woods bikes in the world. The Alpina is still sought after for trail riding! You could thrash them, crash them, and drown them. The Alpina thrives on abuse! The 1976 and later Alpina bikes are more Sherpa-T than enduro bike. Some good knobbies and a high front fender makes the later model Alpina condenders again. The Alpina is one of the few two strokes that runs great on regular unleaded 87 octane fuel premix. Premium not needed!
Some Milestone Bultaco Motorcycles:
1965-1983 Sherpa-T trials bike. About a dozen world championships to follow. The Sherpa-T is the best selling, and most successful trials bike of all time! Champions Sammy Miller, Martin Lampkin, Yrjo Vesterinen, Malcolm Rathmell, and American hero Bernie Schreiber. My favorite was the 1974 (Model 125) in 326cc. It had the chromoly frame and snappy power. I could bunnyhop it into the back of a pickup truck.
(all from memory, so I might be off a year or two)
The Sherpa-T is not a whimpy bike. The 75 mile Scott Trial in the UK is the most brutal motorcycle competition event in the world. 70% never finish because of machine failure or broken bones. The Bultaco Sherpa-T has won it 8 times! See Scott Trial Video.
1966 TSS 125 AGUA and 1967 TSS 250 AGUA road racers. These could very well be the first production water cooled motorcycles. Years before the Suzuki 750 Water Buffalo and Yamaha YZ125. The expensive TSS bikes were mass produced and dealers could order them.
1968 & 1969 Model 68 250 Pursang. 5 Speed with explosive power. The 1968 and 1969 Buls are the best choice for pre-1970 vintage MX and scrambles. The old four strokes were too heavy to compete. The AJS, CZ, Greeves, and Husky bikes from back then were toads compared to the Pursang. These early Pursangs were so pretty! The nasty reputation starts....Old Pursang Getting It On!
1969 Matador 250. One of our customers had one with 25,000 miles on it. He used the Matador as a commuter bike. Still original piston and rings! Amazing! He credited the long life to Bardahl 2-cycle oil. He also purchased a lot of tires from us. My Honda CB 350 needed a valve job and timing chain at 25,000 miles! In 1976 the 350cc MK9 Matador was introduced in the USA. It was so sweet as it looked like a blue version of the 71 MK4 250. It had real handlebars and left side shifting. The 350 was happy at freeway speeds and would climb like a goat. The 350 was not as fast as the 360 Montadero, but more nimble.
1970 125 Sherpa-S. Fastest and best handling 125 MX of 1970. Nothing else even close! The ported and wizard tuned 125 Yamaha and Sachs powerd racers were still no match. I know, as I was there.
1970 Metralla 250 MK2. Made from 1966 to 1974. Bultaco claimed the Metralla was the first 250 road bike that could run 100 MPH. They must have ment to say 250 single. As the Suzuki X6 and Kawasaki A1 could run a hundred with a sprocket swap. Still this is a major feat for a single cylinder bike.
1971 El Montadero 360 Enduro. See El Montadero Picture The Monte was a 90 MPH trail bike and hill climbing fool. Rugged as nails too! With universal trials tires, the Montadero was a better freeway flyer than the Metralla street bike!
Video: Alpina On Trail Ride. You Can Feel The Grunt!
1973 Pursang Astro. The Astro models are the most successful flat-track bikes of all time. These vintage Astro motorcycles are still winning races today. If fact, the Astro frame geometry can not be improved upon. Pro racers are sticking powerful modern engines in old Bultaco frames for a winning combination. Short-track Heat Video: Old Astro Beating New 4t bikes.
1973 Bultaco 350 Pursang. The best sleeper of all time. You can't tell it apart from the 250, unless you get close enough the see 326 stamped on the jug in a tiny font. My buddies with new Honda 250 Elsinores could not figure out why my Bul would eat their lunch. The next weekend, I confessed it was a 350. To be serious though, I did pull many holeshots against the fastest 360 and 400cc bikes of 1973.
1974 - 1975 Pursang 250, 360 - Factory race bikes available to the public. Bultaco took Jim Pomeroy's factory ride and produced it for anyone to buy! 1974 250 Image. They weighed only 206 pounds and were very Fast! The 250s had stronger mid range power than early Pursangs. If fact the 250 feels just like the 1973 350 engine! Back in 1974 Kenny Zahrt won the Red Bud National on a stock Pursang, beating the 39 fastest factory 250s in the world! He got the holeshot in both motos! The 360 I owned had good low end power, but pulled very strong on top end too. The 1974 Buls are the top choice for AMHRA vintage! In 1975, I had a streak where I won 4 races in a row on the 74 360, then they bumped me up to expert. Going fast was so easy on this bike! The 1975 models are the same, but with more rear suspension travel and left side shifting. With the longer rear travel, the steering rake angle is changed some. See 75 360 beating some big Maicos
1974 Bultaco Chispa 50cc Trials. The only Bultaco that was crap. Bultaco made the Kit Campeon style seat and tank. The rest of the Chispa was made by Ducati using moped parts. Kids will be kids. If rode like a trials bike, there was no problems. If it was ridden hard the way kids ride dirt bikes, it would fall apart fast. We only ordered and sold one Chispa. It was so much trouble, we ended up buying it back from the customer. It is impossible to find a Chispa 50 that still runs in the USA. If you got one that runs, it is worth some serious cash.
We will talk about the 100cc Bultaco Tiron kids trials bike here too. It is a little bigger than the Yamaha TY80, and built like a tank. The Tiron may be the best made kids dirt bike ever. You think a Yamaha TTR125 is bulletproof? It is not as sturdy as the Tiron. See Video.
Even though it is made for trials, the Tiron was a heck of an enduro and trail bike. The Tiron is kinda rare, but can be found.
1974 125 Pursang. See Picture. I am so glad Bultaco did not sell very many of them! The 125 Pursang was so much faster than my Shepra-S. It was bigger too as it shared the frame geometry with the 250 and 360. It was faster than many 250s, but only weighed 192 pounds! With the longer wheelbase and good suspension, I could run wide open through woops and nasty straights. I could not do this on the little Sherpa! The 1974 Kawasaki and Honda may have been quicker off the line, but I would catch them before the first turn for the holeshot. On a track with a long uphill, it was game over for the Japanese bikes. On a sand track, it was like cheating! Both the Bultaco and Honda make the same peak 24 horsepower. However the 125 Pursang makes twice as much horsepower at 7,500 RPM as the Honda Elsinore! This means you are shifting less often and going faster. The Pursang gets more power to the ground than any 125 made back then. Ground-power wins every time! The high revving pulling power the Pursang has is addictive! This Sang just loved the high-line around the track with the throttle pegged. Go into a corner a gear high, fan the clutch, then shoot out like a missle! A true experts bike. I just knew that everything else in the 125 class was inferior. I was competitive on this bike through 1978. In 1978 I was never giving up any power to the newer bikes. Even the hot 78 Suzuki Reedsucker could not hang with the Pursang on an outdoor track. I won over 20 races on this bike and it is my favorite of all time. Video: Expert on stock 125 Pursang fights CZ! Magazine editors that say European 125s were not competitive back then are full of poop. The first 125 production run had the round cylinder barrel. In the middle of 1974, the 125 came with the square barrel. There is no difference in horsepower between the two. The 1974 and 1975 model years were the fastest 125 Pursangs ever made. In fact, they may be the fastest air cooled MX 125s ever made! The 1972 and 1973 125s were very fast too, but weighed 15 pounds more.
1975 - 1979 Frontera - The Frontera is a torque tuned Pursang with a bigger gas tank, lights, and enduro gearing. The Frontera is a very competitive enduro and cross country mount. There are people still racing Frontera Enduro bikes today! The last few years, Ignacio Chivers has done very well on his modified 1978 Frontera-Pursang hybrid in the 3,000 mile Dakar endurance rallys (what a gas tank!). See Chivers Dakar Video. The Frontera started a class of fast enduro bikes still going today (KTM EXC, Gas-Gas EC, Yamaha WR, etc.) 1977 Frontera Road Test
1976 and 1977 Pursang 250 & 370. The fastest and best handling Buls ever. A good rider can still beat the modern 450 thumpers on a fast outdoor MX track. I seen it happen at Argyll and Livermore. The 1976 250 pulls like an open bike, as it had so much power. The 76 250 was Bultaco's answer to the fast Montesa and Can-Am bikes! As for the 370, I was still winning races years later against the big 465 Yamahas and 440 Maicos. The 370 got a beefed up bottom end because it has five more horsepower than the 360. The 370 has a strong mid-range punch that the 360 was lacking. The 370 makes an honest 44HP. This is only three horses less than a Honda CR 480! The 1977 Pursang 370 was no doubt the best open class production bike made in the 1970s. In a drag race on pavement, the 370 would run even with an fast 1981 Husqvarna 430 I owned later. Bultaco 370 Picture
1976 & 1977 125 Pursang. I don't know why Bultaco did this, but the 76 and later 125s were slower. These Pursangs had more claimed horespower than the fast 1974-1975 models. They were slower only because they had more flywheel and took longer to build RPM. The only guess I have, is they wanted them to work on muddy tracks. Everybody knows all 125 MX bikes suck in the mud! You could gear down some to have less flywheel effect, but then you are shifting the close ratio 6 speed too often. On the upside, these Buls had slightly more suspension travel and handled great. Most of the flywheel balancing was internal on the crank. You can also put the 1975 model 144 Pursang complete engine in the 77 frame and have an awesome bike. It is a simple bolt-in swap. The later models did get a 6 speed and gear drive pimary. However shifting is not a good as the old 5 speed. I did miss some shifts when riding. It's not real bad. Reminds me of the Penton-Sachs transmission. The 76 and 77 125 pursangs were great for desert and scrambles racing. There were also some 1978 125s imported, but they are very rare. The 77 125 sure is pretty though!
In 1995, I bought an 1978 370 Pursang for $200 that was not running. It still had the sucky original Spanish Pirelli tires on it! I cleaned it up and installed a good Motoplat ignition, and it ran perfect. It had good low end grunt and was easy to ride. The engine feels the same as the Frontera motor. I put on some new Kenda tires as I had no plans to race it. My wife ended up with the 370, and just loved going on trail rides. She loved it a lot more than her Honda XR200. The 370 was the same weight and seat height as her XR too, so it was not a problem. I did have to start the 370 for her when it was cold. She got pretty good on it and could keep up with us guys on fast trail rides. We did not have to worry about her getting stuck on hillsides anymore either! 1978 250 Picture.
The 1979 Pursang 250 & 370 models were more torquey than fast, and handled like a Husqvarna. With the longer travel suspension, Bultaco completly changed the frame geometry. I had a Husky 390, and you would almost swear the 79 Pursang was the same bike on the track! With the good low end torque, you could almost ride observed trials with them! Outdoor motocross tracks back then were starting to look like indoor super-cross. The hard charging grunt these Pursangs had was perfect for super-cross. Racing on fast wide open tracks like Livermore, the 77 Buls were faster. 1979 was the first year Bultaco started using plastic gas tanks and side covers. Unlike fiberglass, the plastic would sun fade fast. Krylon does not stick very well on this plastic. These later models were great trail bikes! 1979 picture
1979 Alpina. You can load it into your pickup by yourself. Same for the Sherpa-T No ramp needed! These bikes are so small compared to modern dirt motorcycles.
Dominate The 200cc Class. If there is one racing class where Bultaco totally dominated, it was the 200cc class in the late 60s and 1970s. The Sherpa-S 175, Sherpa-S 200, and Pursang 200 were winning everything from coats to coast! Motocross, desert, dirt track, scrambles...it did not matter. The only bikes that were competition for the Buls were the Penton (KTM), Can-Am, and Puch. Everything else was modified enduro bikes. If you wanted easy trophies back then, you raced a Bultaco in the 200 class.
The 1980 - 1981 MK15 Pursang 125 250 420. I hear that Derbi had some technical input on the MK15 engine design. Derbi had a reputation of building 16,000 RPM race motors that were reliable! I read that only about 150 complete MK15 bikes were built at the factory and most were 125cc. The spanish locals got most of them. Later on dealers made some 250s and 420s from the parts. There was also a dozen or so pre-production MK15 bikes scattered around the world for racers and cycle shows. The first big bore prototype was a hard hitting, high revving 450cc. It was so powerful, the factory riders were afraid of it! The production model was reduced to 420cc and was a tractor. This looks like a bike that would have been a world beater. See 125 Picture. You know that Bultaco already had water cooling technology with the TSS road racers since 1968, so they would have been ready to keep pace with the Japanese water pumpers. 125 Water Cooled Prototype. Only if!
Modern Buls and Concept Bikes. New 450 - PursangMotors Matador 400 Picador 400 Sherco Bultaco Trials Derbi Bultaco Lobito Derbi Bultaco Astro
Matador Pursang Alpina Sherpa-T Lobito El Bandido Montadero Frontera
Bultaco Tidbits & Useful Information:
1. Bultacos don't overheat. We never had over-heating problems with Buls back then. I noticed that my bike was still running just as strong at the end of 30 minute motos. It did not matter if it was a 125 or 360 either. I never noticed any power loss, even when riding all day at the sand dunes! Riding my Alpina 350 in the rocks for hours at less than 5 MPH playing trials rider; I never noticed any overheating either. Is this water-cooling thing only a fad? Could overheating just be a Japanese bike problem?
2. The 1976 125 Pursang was the first Pursang to use primary gears instead of a primary chain. The funny thing, is the 125 is one bike where the primary chain last forever! My theroy is the gear is lighter than the chain, thus reducing rotating mass. The 76 was also the first bike to get a six speed transmission.
3. How to add 5HP to your Matador? The stock carb and air-box flowed very good. The stock porting was capable of another 1,200 RPM easy. Get rid of the restrictive Sherpa-T style exhaust system! We sold the Bassini and Hooker Headers afternarket expansion chambers in our shop. You may be able to find them used online. Even the Pursang or frontera 250 low exhaust works much better than stock! Even better is to buy the 72 or later Matador SD exhaust.
4. Parts Interchangeability. No other motorcycle line shares so many parts between models, except for Harley Davidson. This makes Bultaco the most simple and economical motorcycles to restore. Engine parts, wheels, suspension, almost all interchange. Almost all engines can fit other frames too. Put a 360 Pursang engine in a 250 Alpina frame, so you can show up your buddies on their XR 250s? No problem, as it is a bolt in swap! Turn a 125 Lobito into a monster sleeper with a 250 engine? So easy!
Use caution when buying a restored used bike, as it could be a frakenbike! The Sherpa-T and Alpina made up over 50% of the sales in the USA, plus the detuned engines last almost forever. There are a lot of them out there! When Buying a Pursang or Frontera, make sure it has the right engine, or at least the correct cases. You don't want a wide ratio 5 speed with Sherpa-T crank in the nice restored $5,000 Pursang you just bought off Craigslist! Make sure the first 2 or 3 serial numbers on the engine case match the frame. Click here for a list of model numbers.
5. Best two stroke oil for your bike? The Lucas Semi-Synthetic is better than anything we had in the 1970s or 1980s. Lucas at 32:1 or 40:1 premix flows the same as the Golden Spectro premix, so you won't need to mess with jetting. Priced cheap at most auto parts stores. Lucas is much better than the Bel-Ray MC-1 oil that we worshiped in the 1980s! Lucas 2-Cycle Oil on Amazon.
6. Engine Dynos have gained horsepower over the years. This might be done for hype to sell more bikes. One of the old magazines had a road test where my 1976 250 Pursang produced 33HP on the Dyno, and that was impressive back then. In one of the latest issues of MXA, the Honda CRF 250 four stroke has over 38 horepower on the Dyno. My little brother races in the expert class on his Honda CRF 250. The last two trips to the sand dunes, he could not climb all the hills I could on the 250 Pursang. In a drag race through the gears, I pull two bike lengths! What is wrong with the dyno numbers? His CRF is not a lemon, because he does win some races. If the dyno readings were true, the CRF 250 would be just as powerful as the 360 Pursang!
7. Want to replace your handlebars, but all the new ones are too low and narrow? Look at ATV handlebars. I found the bars for a Honda TRX 400 were about identical to my Alpina handlebars.
8. Darn Good Shocks. I have used the inexpensive Progressive 12 and 13 Series shocks on several Buls the last few years. I will tell you this; the Progressive shocks are as good as anything we had back in the 70s. Just as good as Boge, Girling or Koni! These are worlds better than the Telesco shocks. Lately I have seen the new Spanish Betor shocks direct from Spain on eBay. Speed & Sport has much better prices on Betor shocks.
9. Useless fact, but Interesting: In 1975, Bultaco sold more two wheel dirt bikes in the USA than Honda and Kawasaki combined in 2010. This just shows how big the market was back in the 1970s.
10. Add 4 HP to Your Alpina 250 or 350. Easy! Just go up in Carburetor size. If your bike came with a 27mm Amal, bump up to the easy to find 32mm (Amal model 932). The Alpina uses the same small carb as the Sherpa-T. For enduro work, you may need more ponies. The bigger Carburetor gives you an extra 1000 RPM on top, plus 4 more horsepower. You will feel most of the power difference in the mid range. There is a huge improvement riding in sand! You will loose some low end power, but your Alpina will still be a tractor. You can find the 32mm Amal used for chump change. I am sure the Bing or Mikuni will also work. Some of the new Mikuni carbs are very cheap priced on ebay. Remember the jetting! For the Alpina, I am sure you will need a smaller main jet.
11. First Disc Brake: Bultaco was the first company to sell an off road production motorcycle in the USA with a disc brake. Eight years before Honda, Kawasaki, or Suzuki. See the Astro model.
12. What happened after the Bultaco factory closed? We don't have all the facts. This is the hearsay from suppliers in Spain that were selling us parts at the time. The Bultaco factory closed and opened several times from 1980 through 1984. Each time they opened, it was to build Sherpa-T trials bikes for the high demand European market. Bultaco was dealing with many european dealers direct, so it was fast cash and good margins. Suzuki wanted invest cash and partner with Bultaco, but Paco said no deal. The rumors of Montesa or Ossa absorbing Bultaco is bunk, as both were very small. Montesa was awarded ownership of the Bultaco name by the government, but never did anything with it. Montesa sold the name back to the Bulto family for little money. The local Spanish dealers had a feeding frenzy over all the frames and parts that were still in the factory. Derbi ended up with most of the tooling (is that a red Pursang MK16?). Bultaco had a close technical relationship with Derbi (see MK15 engines), and there was rumors of a merger. I guess the merger never happened. Sherco ended up with the top engineers. Derbi and Sherco both have used the Bultaco brand name. Sherco for the trials bikes, and Derbi for everything else. Hugh's Bultaco in New York got trademark rights to the Bultaco name and logo in the USA. In 1983 Ignacio Bulto was one of the founders the Merlin Motorcycle company, that was later sold to GasGas. Gas-Gas that was started by some Bultaco dealers in Spain ended up with the winning spirit of the company. If Bultaco was still in business today, I think the bikes would be a lot like Gas-Gas.
13. Little fixes and Helpful Advice.
A. The cables are not so good. The throttle cable fails first, then the clutch cable. Replace with good aftermarket cables.
B. The Joresa brand chain is the worst in the world. I would be adjusting the slack between motos! Back in the day, we would replace the Joresa chain with Diamond brand. Now days Tsubaki Pro-Gold or RK HD-Racing is even better. Some bikes were factory fitted with Regina brand chain at random. Regina was premium stuff, and it like winning the lottery if it came on your bike.
C. Replace the spanish Pirelli front knobby right away with a Metzeler Unicross or Pirelli MT16. It could save your teeth! You can now ride fast.
D. Don't use synthetic oil for the clutch or gearbox! Synthetic oil has additives that will eat at the seals, plus the clutch will start slipping! Just some cheap 75w90 crude oil in the gearbox. For the clutch, Type-F (Ford) ATF works better than motor oil. Your clutch plates will last longer! If you have Honda seals in your forks, you can use Type-F ATF for them too. ATF mixed 50/50 with diesel oil is the ultimate rust remover! Great for cleaning out older steel gas tanks. I love ATF!
E. Replace the leaky Betor fork seals with ones for an Honda SL350. Either use 2 seals in each leg, or use the old seals for a shim.
F. Is your gas filter plugging up on you often? This means there is ethanol in the gasoline eating away at the inside of the fiberglass tank. Line your tank with Caswell Tank Sealer, or quit using gas with ethanol. You must use Caswell, as Kreem and POR-15 will not do the job on fiberglass fuel tanks. I learned this the hard way! The Caswell sealer will repair any leaks too. The third option is to buy an aftermarket plastic or aluminum gas tank. A cheap idea is an used Honda MR/MT 175 or 250 steel gas tank. The mounting is pretty universal (drill one hole) and takes little padding to fit snug on the top tube. This steel gas tank looks cool when dished with out with a hammer to look like an old Penton tank. I have seen the MR and MT gas tanks on eBay for under $75. Hodaka tanks can also be made to work. I have also seen an Astro with the Honda CR125 fuel tank fitted.
G. Put a rubberband or cut piece of innertube on the wingnut adjuster on the rear break rod. I had two race DNFs before I learned this lesson. Even better is to replace the wingnut with an aircraft lock nut.
H. The Bultaco Ghost: Is your Bul hard to start when cold, but starts fine when warm? Do your buddies push you around the pits trying to bump start? Good spark, good compression, and cleaned carb but still a bugger to start? There are two things to check out. The cylinder base gasket and dry side crankshaft seal. Minor air leaks with either may not cause your bike to run bad or be hard to start when warm. If fact they might not leak at all when the engine is warm. However when cold, the leaks will suck in too much air. This is the opposite effect of choking a cold engine so you can start it! Replace the cylinder base gasket and ignition side crank seal, and hopefully all will be fine. One time I got lucky. I torqued down all the head bolts to max and it fixed the problem.
I. Cheap seat foam fix. You can a buy two blue 1/2 inch thick Ozark Trial Camping Pads for about $8 each at Wal-Mart. Cut to aproximate shape, and use the first one as a template. Now cut out a whole bunch. Then just keep gluing them on top of each other with PVC pipe cement. Glue good around the edges, then a few dabs everywhere else. When dry, you can trim to exact shape when you have the desired thickness. This makes for a nice firm saddle that is good as OEM. Order you a nice new seat cover to finish the job. I have done this on 2 bikes so far all with positive results. You can also use this camping pad foam to repair a sunk-in or rotted area. This video will give you a good idea what to do. A electric kitchen knife makes the job easy. This foam is also good to put between your frame and gas tank.
J. You can not own a Bultaco without having a Femsa-Motoplat flywheel puller. There are pullers for 27mm or 33mm threads. Don't hold me to it, but if I remember right the 27mm fits most of the Motoplat, and the 33mm most of the Femsa. Measure before you order. Prices for them are about half the cost on Amazon.
K. Hillbilly Jetting. Are you going from sea level to over 4,000 feet in elevation to ride or race? Normally with this drastic change, you would drop one size on the main jet and fiddle with the needle height settings. With hillbilly jetting, you just run richer premix to gain the same effect. If you normally run a gas oil premix of 40:1 ratio, increase to 36:1. For over 6,000 feet elevation, increase to 32:1. Easy!
L. On 1975 and 1976 Buls with left side shifting, you can really improve shifting by switching to a steel shift lever. It makes the throw feel shorter and more positive. 1977 and later Bultacos had steel shift levers. You can still find them. There are also aftermarket steel shift levers available. Popular on trials parts websites.
M. Mikuni carburetor swap. If you are going to replace the stock carb with a Mikuni, make sure to get the next 2 larger main jets for it. Most new Mikuni carbs come from the factory jetted for a four stroke.
N. Need a light weight muffler to replace the heavy chrome pickle? The cheap solution is the lightweight muffler for a chinese pit bike. They look like $150 mufflers, and you can make them fit. They are so cheap!