I’ve been looking at some of the posts in the forums today – searching for inspiration for this week’s column – and have found a thread that seems to be repeated time and time again.
It’s rider grading!
Back when I was a youngster, a looooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggg time ago, grading was defined very clearly. This is how it went. As I recall (and please correct me if I’ve got it wrong) there were only two grades, I’m talking about the mid 'sixties, Novice and Expert. All riders were Novices from the time they started until they won a Best Novice award in an Open to Centre trial. Win one of those and you automatically became an Expert.
Did the system work? Well, not sure really, but it didn’t matter too much because back then everybody rode exactly the same section, no matter what their ability. As I remember, I won my best Novice in a West Ham trial which was probably the seventh or eighth trial that I rode. So I was upgraded to Expert, not that it mattered very much because my Tiger Cub, which was my first bike, expired in the very next trial.
For all sorts of reasons, me being a bit down-hearted about trials, Dad not being bike mechanically minded, and no cash to get it repaired and/or buy something better, I packed up trials for a while.
It was the only time in my life from the age of 16, that I didn’t ride, but after some 18 months out of the saddle, the enthusiasm was back, a new bike was bought (a 250 Royal Enfield Crusader trials – totally inappropriate, but that’s another story), and off I went, back trialing. And I haven’t stopped since.
However, I can’t recall how I was graded. I rather think that I was Expert which made me no threat at all to the established aces in the South Midland and Southern Centres.
It wasn’t long before I moved from my South Midland home down to Devon and from there on, as they say, it is history.
Getting back to grading, it is a real conundrum at the moment. There is no national way of grading a rider’s ability, therefore when a rider moves from area to another, even if only for a trial, he has no way of knowing which class/route to enter, particularly as the severity of trials varies so much from one part of the country to another and from one club to another.
For some, it doesn’t matter, Experts, i.e those who always ride the hard course, are generally able to tackle whatever is offered. But down the ability scale it is frequently very difficult to choose between routes. A hard route from one club may well be suitable for rider A, whilst the same route from another club is too difficult for our fictional rider.
It would be great if a national grading system was to come into force, but that would mean a national route severity system, and as we well know from experience, that is something virtually impossible to achieve.
So I suppose, with trials having progressed to the point we are currently at, we will leave grading to the rider’s personal choice, which could well be the best answer all round.