Retro: El Burro sand n sno bike

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“Carefully designed and engineered to carry you almost anywhere — to explore mysterious woods with a good dog running beside you, to conquer the vastness of a the hot desert and red sand, to be king of the mountains and fields, to gallop over high sand dunes, to leave your big tracks in the snows of wintertime.” The El Burro Sand n Sno bike incorporated no suspension, instead relying on gigantic 12-inch-wide, low pressure tires to cushion impacts and create a wide footprint over soft terrain. Manufactured for only a couple years in the early ‘70s, the El Burro was meant to be an ultra-simplified, ultra-rugged distillation of dirt bike fundamentals that you could fold up and put in your trunk.

Two main versions were created by Worth Industrial Processing Company in Lexington, Michigan — a 5bhp with a torque converter automatic transmission an an 8bhp with a centrifugal clutch. Both were powered by simple four-stroke, pull cord start Briggs & Stratton engines and the 8bhp model could reach a top speed of 24mph. The handlebars folded back over the take, creating a small, rectangular package that measured just 65 inches long, 32 inches wide and 30 inches tall. The 5bhp model weighed only 140lbs. The official brochure claimed El Burro was easy to transport, “in your station wagon or camper.”

The USP of El Burro is easy to discern; the huge tires inflated to just 1.2-2psi would allow it to easily traverse soft or tricky terrain at very low speeds. Sand and deep snow were a cinch, owners report that riding through up to a foot of soft snow was no problem. That extremely low PSI and complete lack of suspension should have made landing jumps like the one seen above a little tricky, we’d imagine riding one was a little like operating a powered moon bounce hopping ball.

In 1970 Mini Bike Guide magazine gave the 5bhp, torque converter El Burro a “horrible” rating, prompting the release of the 8bhp, but the bike never appears to have caught on, possibly because of its inconveniently large size when compared to other mini bikes, which would have made it difficult to transport and store.

Sources: OldMiniBikes.com, 6x6World, MiniDoodle, GroovyCycles, Deus Ex Machina

  • seanslides

    Though the burro never caught on, yamaha stole quite a bit of it’s dna when the decided to build their own ill-handling pig of a dirt bike, the big wheel.

    http://i410.photobucket.com/albums/pp189/Springer428/1986BigWheel.jpg

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Oh man, I’ve never seen one of those before, but now I know that I must have one.

      • seanslides

        Don’t do it man. It looks incredibly fun, but that makes it even more disappointing. That said, these bikes are actually responsible for a few neat innovations. For example, they have a jack-shaft in the swingarm and use two chains to clear that ridiculous rear tire. Without the lowly big wheel, guys in florida would’ve had to think a lot harder before building busa’s with a 330 out back.

        Yamaha still produces this bike, but with a few updates, and slightly less ridiculous tires.

        http://www.tanshanomi.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/YamTW200.jpg

        http://yamaha.tw.free.fr/img/pix/TW200_00060402.jpg

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Ah right, I know the TW.

    • Turf

      I’m strangely compelled to own one

    • gregorbean

      Honda joined that game too with the Fat Cat:

      http://www.vf750fd.com/blurbs/brochures/honda/FatCat.jpg

  • http://twowheelsplus.blogspot.com/ andehans

    Wow. Would love to try one on snow.

  • CG

    My wife’s uncle had orchards and after a series of Honda 50′s and 90′s went to the Fat Cat, and absolutely loved it. For one thing, it had an electric start, and if you are changing sprinklers in an orchard you stop and start constantly. I used to run it around when we went to visit, mud, sand, etc., never slowed it down. Neat little guy frankly.

  • Terry

    I remember eyeballing something similar in Monkey Wards when I was a little kid – a great big minibike. They’re still cool looking.

  • Sean

    Reminds me a bit of a Rokon, only more portable.

  • Cajun58

    Yamaha’s BW (not TW) 200 or 350 are really fun to ride and comfortable for a full size adult and might be easier to find then El Burro.

  • http://bloodfalcons.blogspot.com motoguru

    My dad showed up with one of these things for my brother and I back in the early 90′s. Thing was sketchy as hell but tons of fun. Hit a water hole at top speed, and hold on tight, cuz she wanted to float!

  • Greg

    The Rokon 2×2 is way cooler.

    And still for sale!