To Stop or Not?
It’s the question that is debated every week, at every trial across the planet: stop or non-stop. In the pub or on the machine in the trial it’s the same old story — when is a stop a stop? As the editor of both Trial Magazine and Classic Trial Magazine I have seen a wide scope of trials in the last eleven years doing the job — one, I might add, I am very passionate about. I am asked for my opinion on many occasions, was it a stop or not? Before we go any further with this article I would just like to point out that the hardy band of officials and observers who are all unpaid at every level of the sport do a fantastic job — fact!
Having ridden in trials since 1974, I have seen many changes in our sport as it has evolved over the years. I have ridden at every level to the best of my ability, from the very top in the World Trials Championship as it was then known down to the levels of the Wednesday night club event. Being perfectly honest I have enjoyed 99% of the events I have ridden in. I have made many good friends over the years on many continents, and the relationships have mostly endured the test of time.
The Early Days
I was fortunate to be raised in the latter days of the ‘Boom’ time for the once mighty manufacturing facility of Great British motorcycles before the cannons of the Spanish Armada fired the final blow at the industry, which fell apart and sank at the first hurdle with Sammy Miller and his well-documented move to Bultaco in 1965. Miller is no fool, and he knew where his destiny lay as his talents as an engineer and development rider was dismissed in the UK and, as they say, the rest is history.
In his day the rules were simple. If you cease forward motion, it’s a five, all day long. Very much along the lines of how it should be implemented all these years on in 2018!
With this rule, the sport ‘trundled’ along until my friend from America, Bernie Schreiber, pulled the ‘pivot’ turn on the Bultaco in the late seventies! With this new face of trials it moved forward pretty quickly; ask anyone now if they can remember their first pivot turn — I can remember mine.
Next came the ‘Bunny Hop’ and of course we all remember the televised Kickstart series. It was ace, prime-time TV with motorcycle trials hogging the limelight, but the rules had changed. If I am honest, I cannot remember the exact year that the stop-allowed rule came into force. I am guessing it would be the early eighties? I can remember the first time I went backwards in a section feet-up and then set off again to record a clean ride; it was on my green Moto Gori in a Manchester 17 MCC trial on Hawks Nest in 1982. At first, the stop-allowed was exciting until it became boring as riders were motionless for minutes on end. Observers became confused as to what they should award riders.
Time Gentlemen Please
Machine development changed and when the mono-shock era started with the single shock Yamaha TY in 1983, the nature of the hazards would change with it. What the new generation of machines could do quickly finished the twinshock era in the mid-eighties as your average rider would soon improve beyond their wildest dreams. They could balance, roll backwards, skip sideways, and all in their own time as the development of the machinery available encouraged them to attempt the hazards.
Pretty soon everyone become bored watching a rider remain stationary for minutes on end; the answer was easy, put a time limit on them! This introduction of a time limit in the hazards was implemented at the world and national adult championships. Soon passing through the hazards became a ‘race’ and not an observation event as we all knew it. It was a case of ‘Time Gentlemen, Please’.
The first ripple of change came at the 1997 Scottish Six Days Trial. With the club not receiving the entries, it needed to sustain such a commitment to running the prestigious event in 1996 the club made a bold, brave move, with the backing of the Hamilton Yamaha Team boss Peter Stewart who had suggested a return to the ‘No-Stop’ ruling. It was supported by the new Clerk of the Course Willie Dalling. It was an instant hit as the entries increased by 30 to 222 starters for the 1997 event. The event continues to prosper, with the entries massively oversubscribed every year.
Although you can’t compare the events, the British Trials Championship had also seen a reduction in numbers, and with the support of the UK machine importers, the championship moved back to no-stop in 2012. This trend was followed by the FIM and the World Trials Championship in 2013. Initially, rider entries increased, but during the last few years at the British Championship numbers have once again started to decline at the top level.
At the very cutting edge of the sport in the re-titled FIM Trial World Championship, they have remained firm believers in the no-stop rule. There is no easy fix on this, but once again it’s down to the unpaid observer to stand out in all kinds of weather to be the judge.
Observing can be terrific fun. It can involve all the family as a way of everyone enjoying a day out at an event. Mum and dad can observe while the other family members compete, which is how I got my introduction to the sport. It can include clubs who, in groups on many occasions, officiate and observe at world rounds.
At the SSDT it’s quite common to find a club officiating and observing an entire group of hazards. Many riders when they come to the end of their riding career choose to observe to remain involved.
Motorcycle trials is a sport full of enthusiasts, and it’s these people who I approached over a period of three months to ask them the question as to which rules do they like to see in use. I asked riders, spectators and general enthusiasts, and below you will see the results.
Before we close, please remember when you do not agree with an observer’s decision it is their sport as much as it is yours.
Your Opinion Counts
Over a three-month period at various events, I asked a broad audience of people at different competitions, just over 100 in total, their thoughts on the debate, Stop or No-Stop or Not sure. The results are quite impressive! Stop: 57 No-Stop: 41 Not Sure: 11. Maybe it’s time for the various governing bodies to carry out their own surveys.
Sammy Miller and his well-documented move to Bultaco in 1965 changed the face of trials forever.
15 With the support of the UK machine importers the championship moved back to no-stop in 2012 with James Dabill (Beta) winning the title.
America Bernie Schreiber pulls the ‘pivot’ turn on the Bultaco in the late seventies.
The first ripple of a change in the rules came at the 1997 Scottish Six Days Trial where Steve Colley (Gas Gas) is seen in full ‘No-Stop’ mode.
It’s that man Schreiber again, this time on the Italjet doing a ‘Bunny Hop’ at the televised Kickstart series. It was ace, prime time TV with motorcycle trials hogging the limelight, but the rules had changed.
As Jack Peace (JST Gas Gas UK) fights to continue with forward motion the debate remains, did he stop or not?
The trend set by the ACU was followed by the FIM and the World Trials Championship in 2013 moved to No-Stop; the winner remained the same, Toni Bou (Repsol Honda-ESP).
The rider may be under the spotlight of many cameras, in this case it’s Toni Bou, but it’s the observer’s descision which is final.
A new young breed of riders including Aniol Gelabert (Scorpa-ESP) show just how to ride on the back wheel – which makes it even harder for the observers to make their decision!
Observing can be very good fun. At the SSDT it’s quite common to find a club officiating and observing an entire group of hazards. Observers are there to work with the riders.