Week 78 - A Bunch of Broadsides

I see that the ACU has recently sent a memo to all centre secretaries, the press and to Trials Central which says that abuse of observers by riders has been noted recently and must cease and that any further examples must be severely dealt with by the clerk of the course.

Strange, but I reckon I ride as many trials as most folks and more than many others, yet I can’t recall such abuse being directed at observers by any of the riders with whom I mix. Observers being objectionable to the riders, yes occasionally, but that’s another story altogether!

So just who is being abusive to whom? Is it adult riders arguing with adult observers, or adult riders arguing with young observers? Or is it youth riders arguing with adult observers, or is it parents of youth riders arguing with observers? We need to be told!

I did hear of a case a few weeks ago of a parent being objectionable to an observer – and that’s totally unacceptable – but it’s also been happening for donkey’s years. I can well recall fierce debate in the TMX office more than 20 years ago of situations where fathers considered that their off-spring had been harshly marked, so what’s new? I’m not making any sort of case for it being right, but it does happen. Ask any parent who watches a youth football match and the names they call the referee.

The trouble with modern trialling as I see it, is that the rules vary for each discipline. Ride in Yorkshire (last week at Reeth) and a momentary stop is regarded as a five, especially so with some fierce observers. Ride in Cumbria this weekend (the Grant) and with stop allowed, you can get away with blue murder as long as you get out of the section.

There’s no secret about which system I prefer, equally one system tends to lead to grievances (though not taken out on the observer) whilst the other leaves everybody happy. The problem as I see it is that the design of today’s machines, and the style of sections frequently used make progressing without suffering a momentary stop nigh on impossible, especially for the lesser lights for whom no-stop makes life that much harder.

It’s all down to what clerks of the course provide. Last week’s Reeth, despite being very hard for the less able riders, was actually one of the fairest I’ve ever ridden. The organisers took notice of what’s needed, and certainly on the clubman route, there were no tight turns nor sections where stopping to get through them was necessary. And generally the observers were just a bit more lenient than they can be, with the result that those for whom the trial can be a bit of a struggle, went home happy in the knowledge they had not been over-penalised because of their lower ability.

That was in complete contrast to last year’s Manx Two Day, particularly the first day, which for many riders on the clubman course was impossible. You simply couldn’t do the sections without stopping. It’s all right for the experts who have decided to opt for an easier life on the clubman route, guys that can manouevre their bikes to line up for a section, but many riders still can’t do that. Fact of life.

I’m even aware that I’m having a bit of a moan, which is wrong as anybody who spends time and money marking out a trial has every right to do it the way they see fit. If the likes of me don’t like it, then I should be offering to help or staying at home. Equally, there are loads of riders who turn out week in and week out, at the bigger trials, supporting those who put in significant effort to keep the big events going, and whilst they are only making up the numbers, consideration must be given to their abilities. I’m not saying that consideration is not being given, I’m saying it must continue.

I had this discussion with one of the Grant Trial organisers on Sunday. It’s a cracking trial with a decent entry, but loads of riders who could, indeed would have ridden, simply didn’t do so because it has a bit of a reputation. The argument is that if you have a hard course and a green course and a clubman course, why make the clubman course tough?

No doubt I’m going to get slated about this, but I’ve got broad shoulders so say what you like, but at least there are still the likes of me out there doing it, and finishing the events despite some tough times.

Which brings me to one final grouch (might as well get them all out in one column), just why did 34 riders either not start or fail to finish the Reeth Three Day – a trial that is heavily oversubscribed? Sure, there will have been some irrepairable breakdowns and injuries and genuine reasons for not finishing – but 34 of them! I’m not convinced.

Those that helped me with my problem on Friday also know it was a real struggle for me to get finished, but retirement was not an option – though it was considered!