Why Trials Can Be A Drag!

A controversial headline don’t you think? Well, here’s why it’s necessary to be poking my head above the parapet.

I went to the Trials des Nations in the Isle of Man last weekend, arriving early on Friday morning for the Womens World Championship Trial, followed on Saturday by the Women’s TdN then on Sunday by the men’s event.

On Friday and Saturday I thoroughly enjoyed watching a select entry of girls ride trials over sections that bore some resemblance to hazards that most capable riders could attempt, thereby providing good action and an understanding of how good/bad each rider’s attempt was.

Then on Sunday it was the turn of the men, and I enjoyed watching that too, but then I’m an enthusiast. However, I question whether non-enthusiasts would have enjoyed watching the men as they may have enjoyed watching the women.

Spectating at the women’s trials we watched varied attempts at sensible sections which demonstrated how some girls could hop and perform quality trick riding, whilst other girls had to use more conventional styles.

But then on Sunday we watched at sections where the average mortal has absolutely no hope of ever getting through. As we watched those that could do it – and they were by no means in the majority, we saw rider after rider tackle the sections in exactly the same manner. Through the begins card, stop, move the wheels to be on line, ride to the next step, stop, get lined up, hop onto the top of the rock, stop, move wheels for the next bit and so on. Every rider did exactly the same, the same line, the same technique, frequently the same result. Ok, I enjoy it, but let me ask you this question.

You are at Surrender in the Scott trial, you watch 150 riders ride the section, and you’ll see 150 different versions of how to get up it, both successfully and unsuccessfully. You’ll probably see Dougie Lampkin, never drop below 15mph; he’ll flick the front wheel onto one rock, the back wheel onto another, but all the time he’ll be flying on and upwards and when he has disappeared over the horizon, the fans will be buzzing with the action they’ve just seen.

Take those same fans to a cliff face in a World Championship Trial and they’ll watch Doug stop at the first step, balance, wave his leg in the air, shoot up to the next ledge, balance, wave his leg in the air, move his rear wheel “half a tyre left”, shoot up to the next ledge, lift his front wheel from one rock to another rock, wave his leg in the air etc, etc, etc. It will take him one and a half minutes to ride the section, whilst on Surrender he will have been and gone in 25 seconds.

I’m not degrading Doug, far from it, he’s a star, and performing in the manner which will bring him the greatest success, but it’s the whole scene that has lost direction - at least it has for the casual enthusiast. Lampkin can ride – and win – using either technique, so too can Raga Bou, Fujinami and the rest. However the sport tests them, the same riders will win, so why on earth are we going up what must eventually be a dead end, because there will come a point where they CAN’T do it. It almost happened in the Isle of Man. A clean first lap by the Spanish boys over sections that looked to be verging on the impossible, didn’t significantly test them but just a few places back the scores were horrendous. You may even wonder if that was a reason why the spectator attendance at Douglas was low, equally you may say it was because of the trial’s location.

It’s why the Scottish is such a popular event for both riders and spectators. Everywhere you see quality and skilfull riding, that you can at least relate to. But not at world level. Sure the skill is there, but can you honestly say you relate to it? I think not.

Which is why I came up with the headline. The whole TdN weekend was great, and I loved it, but I’m looking forward to the Scott even more because the nature of the trial brings out riding skills that I can actually relate to.

Whilst I’m on about the Isle of Man, I’m pleased to say that the package I used to attend the event was superb value for money, and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Holiday offer was excellent. I’ll tell you now exactly what offer I took up. I travelled out on Friday morning’s 2.15am sailing, taking my trail bike with me on the ferry, staying for two nights in the Chesterhouse Hotel for bed and breakfast with a single room supplement, returning on the 7.45 pm sailing Sunday night. It cost me £145 which I think was an excellent offer.

So often the Steam Packet Company, is called the Steam Racket Company, and there’s no doubt that in the high season, they must have been in the Light Brigade, because they certainly know how to charge, but I’m not complaining about this trip which suited me and my pocket just fine.