Boost your skills
Why having a go at trials can help your road riding
You never stop learning, so the saying goes. But surely if you’ve been riding a few years, your richest learning experiences are behind you? Well, not necessarily.
OK, for most people Day One is going to be up there. For me it was wheeling a red Yamaha RS100 out of CJ Bowers in Bury St Edmunds, learning to change gear in the cattle market over the road, and accelerating over and over again to a mind-bending 72mph. That was 1979. Since then I’ve made a complete pig of myself with race schools, track days, a few Nürburgring courses, advanced road training, and various try-out days for enduro, speedway, short track and trials. That’s on top of a couple of decades full-time on magazines, including speed testing, tyre testing, photo sessions and hauling bikes in and out of vans; plus a decade or so spannering, doing the odd race, and watching other people.
It all goes in, and it all helps. But the day during which I absorbed more new stuff than any other came, I reckon, after I’d been riding for 35 years. It was a trials experience at Leek in Staffordshire with Stu Day.
Stu is a very fine trials rider but his genius is to break it down into a stepby-step process for beginners. And trials is so strange and unfamiliar to a road bod that every single one of these steps is mesmerising.
He’ll show you something like a U-turn on a wet grassy slope, or riding along a concrete pipe, and you immediately say under your breath: “I’ll never be able to do that.”
Five minutes later you’re doing it. And it happens over and over again, all day. I just grinned my face off. I say this not because I think you should give Stu a call (though you probably should). But because learning is a state of mind, which gets easier as you get older. The logic goes like this: 1. The older you get the more you realise how little you really know. 2. Therefore, the more open you are to finding out new things. For me (thus far) it was Stu’s course. For you it could be short track, a track day, whatever. It really doesn’t matter, because there’s more to learn about riding bikes than you can fit into a lifetime. Just enjoy soaking some of it up.
‘Five minutes later you’re doing it. I just grinned my face off’