THIS weekend there was a National Trials competition right here in Vermont, Highgate, to be specific. If you don't know what Trials is, you should look it up, 'cause it's over my head to explain the whole thing. Actually it's not. In fact it's pretty simple really, just people riding their motorcycles over/through a pre-determined route called a section, on natural (or sometimes not) terrain, in a timed and observed setting. (Back in the day it used to be called "Observed Trials)
Anyway, the time allowed through is always the same, apparently, 90 seconds. The observation is simply judges/clerks/observers/watchers keeping an eye on you and assessing penalties if you break the rules. There are lots of rules, including taking too much time, putting your foot on the ground or other thing touching the ground, knocking gates down, crashing, rolling backwards, going out of bounds. It's almost like golf, there's rules for just about anything you can dream up, 'cause just about anything can happen.
I've seen a few demonstrations before, including indoor trials, and I've seen tons of video including the very popular urban trials riding by some incredibly skilled French dude, but this was my first outdoor event. It was pretty much a mind blowing deal, and I hate to overuse that expression.
There are lots of classes of riders including Clubman, High School, Womens, a bunch of age groups, and then Expert and Pro. Riders have to complete each section, but where they actually ride in that section is determined by their skill level/class. There are "gates" that help determine the route, and the higher the skill rating, the tougher the gate/route through the section. Some of the stuff just looked improbable, if not impossible to actually ride a bike through.
This is a High School class rider getting ready to enter the #3 section. There were 12 sections over the whole course, and the riders do 3 complete loops through the course in the day's competition. In a two day event, they change the gates and sometimes use different sections on different days.
Fred and I watched this section from one of the high spots. The riders can walk the section to plan their lines. Lots of discussion and concentration going on here, as Fred leans on a tree and offers advice on the best way to get down from there.
The Pro line here. The rider gets to this ledge, stops the bike, hops it 90 degrees right and sets up another jump up to the top of the wall. Then they ride down the front, do a stoppie and rev the engine in gear to clear the tire of mud, then hop over to face the wall and "splash" up it. The technique to do this takes years to learn. In almost all cases, all of the drive happens before the bike hits the wall or other obstacle, so you hear the engine rev to the moon, the bike explodes into motion, then it's either at the top of the wall or not, with the rider on it or not...
This is a rider competing in the Twin Shock (Vintage) class, on a sweet looking Italian SWM.