Ossa Explorer – Annoyingly close to perfection…

dirty bike

Well the honeymoon is over. The Ossa has been pressed into service and now needs to earn its keep. If you’ve just stumbled across this blog whilst surfing for info about Explorers allow me to fill you in. I run a small motorcycle trail riding business and I bought the Ossa to use  for leading customer ride outs. It will also be used as a long distance trials bike and is entered in the Land’s End trial in a few weeks. In short, the bike isn’t a plaything for me, I depend on it to earn a living and it has to double up as a competitive long distance trials bike.

It’s been a busy week and I’ve taken three groups of customers out in the past five days clocking up about 20 hours riding time on the Explorer and covering approx 300 miles, mainly off road. Collectively, that’s about the equivalent of  the Land’s End trial and I feel I’m now in a position to make an objective critique of the bike.

Here’s the good bits;

The engine and chassis build quality are extremely good . The low weight, ability to climb over stuff and overall pleasure of ownership make it a great bike to own . It’s also got an acceptable tank range for a bike of this nature.

And now for the not so good bits;

The quality of some of the peripheral components is not good. One of the indicators packed in very quickly and I found myself scratching my head as I tried to clean the rear units, which just wouldn’t come clean. It then dawned on me the dirt was on the inside! They’d filled up with mud. As had the tool space under the seat. Whilst I’m compiling the list of Stuff I Don’t Like I should add that the paint on the frame has already succumbed to boot rub near the foot rest and the bare metal is showing through and some of the electrical connections look rather flimsy and exposed. Having been involved in manufacturing for many years I find this type of thing quite disappointing because its actually cheap and simple to resolve.

 

I’d made a nice tuna butty for my lunch and it got ruined under there. The test tube has nothing to do with my part-time hobby as a sperm donor. It’s for  accurately measuring out the 100-1 fuel/ oil ratio.

underseat

To compound the muddy sandwich issue the next thing which happened was the seat lock rattled off [without me noticing] and, whilst standing on the pegs riding briskly along a forest trail, the seat bounced off over a bump  and nearly decapitated a customer following closely behind. In all fairness the seat is very light and therefore probably wouldn’t have actually decapitated him. Still, it was quite embarrassing and I could tell what the guy following me was probably thinking ” Look at that tosser with his Ossa, doen’t look so flash now does he?” Or perhaps he was wondering if I was going to finish that tuna butty, and if not, could he have some?

The missing seat lock, now languishing somewhere in a Welsh Forest. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I sincerely hope that’s mud on the seat.

Lock

What these admittedly minor problems indicate is a lack of attention to quality on some of the details. The Explorer ain’t cheap and Ossa need to work harder to bring the peripherals up to the outstanding quality of the core bike.  Take the disc lock for instance. For some reason Ossa have fitted the the Explorer with a disc lock on the rear brake.  It’s a horribly cheap affair  which doesn’t work -and who’d use one anyway? It’s as disaster waiting to happen. It’s fixed onto a substantial cast bracket which is integral to the rear wheel assembly and collectively it adds a fair chunk to the unsprung weight at the rear.  The bike weighs 74kg for Christ’s sake, and a feeble disc lock won’t deter the average tea leaf from simply picking the bike up at the bike and dragging it off.This kind of stuff has no place on a competition bike and the same goes for  the ignition key, which I just know I’m going to lose at some stage. I’m betting the disc lock is there simply  to comply with some European law about mandatory  security on new machines. Pah! I spit in the general direction of the Brussels bureaucrats.

There are other minor quality issues such as a leaking tank cap [often mentioned on dirt bike forums] and cheap switch gear. All of which should have been sorted on a 2014 model with has now been in production for a couple of years.

That lump of alloy and pig-iron dangling below the rear disc is a lock. On a trials bike. Go figure.

right side

So aside from these niggles was the Ossa a sound purchase? For me yes, but I suspect of you’re looking for a mess-around play bike for doing a bit of green laning you might be disappointed. I know I’ve banged on about this previously but the gearing is plain daft. Even though I’m not a quick rider I’m still getting up into sixth gear on the more open trails and the gap between fifth and sixth on the road can be very wearing. There is an upside though- on tight nadgery trails and along deep rutted tracks the ultra-close trials ratios in the lower gears means there is always a correct gear for a given situation.  That said,I just can’t help wishing Ossa had gone the way Gas Gas went with the Pampera and put in a wide ratio ‘box specifically for the job.

One last observation about the bike is I find it impossible to start unless I stand on a box! Try as I might, I simply cannot start the bike from a conventional standing position. I could kick all day and it won’t go. Stand on a box and it always starts second or third kick. Believe it or not this doesn’t create a problem when out on the road or trail as I can always find a convenient high kerb or bit of grass banking to stand on. I think my customers view it as a quaintly eccentric ritual. Before you make the comment, no I’m not freakishly short or infirm and for your information I can kickstart all five of the hire fleet Pamperas first time, every time. I just can’t start the sodding Ossa. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the bike because as I say, it fires up readily enough. I guess the ergonomics of the engine sat high in the frame raising the kickstart just doesn’t suit my little legs . Come to think of it I always need to cut about 4″ off the bottom  of a pair of Levis.

In summary I feel as soon as I’ve found a 12t sprocket for the gearbox [in conjunction with the 36t rear] I’ll have the Explorer in a position where it will do everything I ask. And, even though bits are rattling off it, it spoiled my lunch and I can’t start it without outside assistance I really , really like the bike

I’m going to cut off the disc lock later today and make up a Dzus fastener arrangement to replace the seat lock. It’s gonna be a great bike, trust me. I just wasn’t expecting to have to finish it off myself!

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