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’.

Full Cir­cle

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.

Why Ob­serve

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.

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