Riding Your First Trial

Never managed to get to Kinlochleven last week for the opening British Championship round which was a shame, but these things happen. I did plan to ride up on my road bike as nobody else was planning to go from my area, but what with work on Saturday morning, and the forecast being pretty poor, I wimped out and stayed at home and rode a local trial.

Arthur Macdonald and his team did a grand job last year, but I see from this year’s scores that the trial was significantly harder. From those that I’ve spoken to, it seems as if the ground was much wetter this time, therefore the rocks were more slippery and the sections were on the long side so time became a problem. But was it too hard? – not for me to say, especially as my own club managed to put on a trial that was tougher than expected on Good Friday. It’s darned difficult to get it right, absolutely spot on all the time. However, it was great to see Michael Brown notch up his victory, and with another round this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see the results when they come out on Sunday night. With Scotland just two weeks away, that result must be a real boost from Browny.

Riders that I mix with tend to be fairly generous in the events I attend; if the trial is on the easy or hard side, they accept it for what it is and that’s the way it should be. I’ll even accept that I manage to always put my view across, but inevitably, that view is often clouded by the result I’ve had on the day. Have a good ride and it will have been a great trial; have a bad day and the enthusiasm is muted, no matter what the trial is actually like. Most riders seem to be like that!

Back in the old days – and I mean the 'fifties, therefore fifty odd years ago, it was common practice to ride your bike to the trial, take off the lights, ride the trial, then ride home again, carrying all that you needed for the day with you. I couldn’t tell you when I last saw somebody do that – at least I couldn’t have before last Sunday when a rider did exactly that to go to the Westmorland Club’s trial at Lindal.

I had only been at the venue for five minutes, when I was asked to go and speak with this fellow who had turned up for his very first trial (why ask me to deal with him?) However, I was happy to help, and sure enough he had ridden an old, Rotax engined yellow and grey Scorpa from his home just south of Lancaster to the Westmorland Club’s own land, and whilst that’s not too far, perhaps 25 miles, plenty far enough on a trials bike. His wife had followed in the car and he was taking off the number plate and sorting out his tyre pressures when we spoke.

To cut a long story short, he had fancied having a go at trials having done a bit of road riding and trail riding, and had gone for a fairly cheap, but reasonable old trials bike. Sorting out a trailer/tow ball or rack was too much effort and expense just to try out trialing, so riding to the venue was the obvious option. Good for him was my first thought and as he had virtually no knowledge of what to expect and the process involved, I gave him the best info I could at short notice.

Completing his first lap took some time, and I think it was a bit of an eye opener that it all happened so fast. Regular riders know exactly how to pace themselves, no matter what type of trial they are doing, but our friend soon realised that at the rate he was going, he would be hard pushed to get two laps in when everybody else had done four. But I gave him some encouragement, and even though he had to double up on the last lap to get his quota of sections ridden, he completed the 40 subs and notched up his first finish at his first trial. Then it was number plate back on, pump up the tyres and set off home.

Which brings me to the point (at last), it can be really difficult sometimes to get into a sport. Even if you have some ability, and this guy could at least ride his bike without much danger to himself or others, the sheer difficulty of getting everything sorted for the first trial must put off many potential riders. And as a sport, we don’t really have that side of things sorted at all. I know there are some organisations that offer trials bike try-outs, but they are few and far between, so there could well be an opening for an enterprising person to come up with such a scheme in areas where they don’t currently exist.