In Bal­ance

Is it time to di­vide tri­als rid­ing into two dis­tinct sports?

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents -

The hoary sub­ject of what con­sti­tutes proper tri­als rid­ing forces the ed­i­tor to nail his colours to the mast.

I’ve pretty much kept out of this whole ‘stop’ ‘no-stop’ de­bate where tri­als rid­ing has been con­cerned, but have been goaded into plac­ing my opin­ion on record… it is my opin­ion rather than that of CDB. To re­cap, the whole tri­als thing didn’t start out as a sport, but as a method for man­u­fac­tur­ers in the hot-bed of in­ge­nu­ity, de­vel­op­ment and in­ven­tion which was the late Vic­to­rian pe­riod, to demon­strate their ma­chines worked. They did this by ar­rang­ing their test rid­ers – in those days prob­a­bly the same lads who built the things as well – to go to some no­to­ri­ous hill on a nor­mal road and as­cend, cleanly, to the top with­out stop­ping, foot­ing or us­ing light pedal as­sis­tance.

It will be ob­vi­ous to state in those days all that was re­quired was for a mo­tor­cy­cle to carry its rider to and from work with­out any prob­lems. The dates these ‘tri­als’ were con­ducted would be men­tioned to the fledg­ling press by a man­u­fac­turer – you can just hear the tone of the let­ter can’t you... No doubt the test rid­ers would have been up and down the hill for a week be­fore­hand, to en­sure the prim­i­tive mo­tor bi­cy­cles would ac­tu­ally go up it so no em­bar­rass­ing fail­ures would be seen.

These tri­als be­came a pop­u­lar spec­ta­tor at­trac­tion and soon own­ers wanted to try their skills too and a sport was born.

From this, we de­ter­mine why our sport is called ‘tri­als’ and a tri­als sec­tion is re­ferred to as a ‘hill’ and the suc­cess­ful at­tempt is a ‘clean.’ Things pretty much rolled along in the same way for a few years, okay there were tweaks as bikes de­vel­oped and cour­ses be­came much stiffer.

First, a mid-way penalty was in­tro­duced, then a ‘star’ penalty came along, then fi­nally the scor­ing be­came the now fa­mil­iar 5,3,2,1,0. Things be­gan to change when the younger Euro­pean rid­ers joined the mo­torised sport from cy­cling. These new­com­ers were used to be­ing able to bal­ance their cy­cles and flick turn so achiev­ing a higher climb up a hill be­fore stop­ping and car­ried on in the same vein with a mo­tor­cy­cle. Sud­denly stop­ping, bal­anc­ing, rolling back­wards, hop­ping, flick­ing and the like were part of the tri­als scene and sec­tions be­came much more tech­ni­cal.

It is good to watch, great entertainment in an arena trial, but is it tri­als rid­ing? No, it’s not, which is why there is a call for a split in the sport, and not just from me.

One of the ma­jor prob­lems is the ma­jor­ity of rid­ers can’t do this fancy stuff and a trial marked out with such sec­tions is counter-pro­duc­tive to gain­ing en­tries or even re­tain­ing rid­ers in the sport. In a chat with a for­mer world tri­als cham­pion from York­shire some years ago, he said quite forthrightly “what par­ent is go­ing to al­low their young ‘un to have a go at tri­als when they see a six grand bike be­ing flung around and trashed and maybe the rider in­jured?”

There was some recog­ni­tion of this a few years ago when the ‘no-stop’ rule was rein­tro­duced and it was hoped a re­turn to san­ity would hap­pen. In part it has and there are some ex­cel­lent tri­als which at­tract full en­tries with tra­di­tional, dif­fi­cult but not im­pos­si­ble sec­tions.

How­ever, such tri­als have to be laid out with no-stop in mind or they won’t work as it is un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect a rider, or bike for that mat­ter, to cope non-stop with sec­tions in­clud­ing such tight turns which can only be done by stop­ping and hop­ping. It may sound sour grapes is in ac­tion here and I’m call­ing for easier sec­tions, I’m not. I’m say­ing, along with many oth­ers, true non-stop sec­tions were never easy, even when sticky tyres came in, but they were pos­si­ble and that is the point. By watch­ing the ex­perts clean such a sec­tion, the novice could see how it was done and even­tu­ally do it them­selves.

It is im­pos­si­ble to turn the clock back fully and pick a point where de­vel­op­ment should stop, but an event which en­cour­ages rid­ers to im­prove, doesn’t smash a bike up if it all goes wrong, surely has to be good for the sport and the in­dus­try.

Be­fore any­one jumps up and says ‘what about bring­ing rid­ers into world tri­als?’ If there are no rid­ers then they can’t ad­vance from club to world sta­tus, but if there are lots of rid­ers en­joy­ing them­selves on a week­end in club sport then the pool of those who want to go fur­ther can only be big­ger and if lots of peo­ple want to ride tri­als then the man­u­fac­tur­ers can sell bikes to sup­port this too.

…I’m say­ing, along with many oth­ers, true non- stop sec­tions were never easy, even when sticky tyres came in, but they were pos­si­ble and that is the point… Tim Britton

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