What is Trials?
Trials or Observed Trials is the extreme level of motorcycle competition that requires precise balance and control while riding over a designated area of difficult terrain. Only one rider is "observed" at a time so it is not a race in the traditional sense. The range of skills and techniques used by the top riders is deceptively varied, subtle, complex and, at times, brutal. Just imagine trying to fling yourself and your cycle up and over a seven foot wall. How about leaping and balancing your way up a mountain stream loaded with rocks, ledges, boulders, logs, and waterfalls? Trials is truly a battle between the rider and the terrain. He who makes the fewest mistakes wins
The object of "Observed Trials" is to ride through a specified course without setting your foot down, crashing, riding out of
bounds. Each "section" has entry and exit gates and is marked on each side by colored tape: blue on the left & red on the right. Points are
given to a rider for using his feet - or any part of their body - for
support. The rider with the lowest score at the end of the event is the winner. Points are allocated as follows:
CLEAN: Zero points. The rider successfully negotiates the section without dabbing or having a failure.
ONE: The rider dabs once in a section. A rider may also be penalized one point for using any part of their body to regain balance - i.e. an elbow against a tree.
TWO: The rider dabs twice in a section.
THREE: The rider dabs three or more times. Three points is the maximum score given to a rider who completes the section without a
failure. There is no such thing as a four - a rider can dab as many times as they need to after a three, and still receive a three point score.
FIVE: The maximum penalty for failure to complete a section. Fives are given to riders for: crashing, riding out of bounds, dabbing with a stalled engine or displacing a split marker intended for their class.
*A rider may request a score of five if he chooses not to attempt a section. (If a rider misses a section, he receives 10 points in national
competition and 50 points under FIM rules).
The course involves a "loop" that consist of any number scored areas "sections" where the riders are scored (explaining the name "Observed"). The riders goal is to get through each section with their feet off the ground & of course to not crash in the unforgiving terrain. The winner is determined similar to golf, where the rider with the lowest score wins.
The combination of specially designed Trials Motorcycles & rider techniques make the impossible a reality. Trials riding requires perfection and precision in balance, throttle & brake control plus nerves of steel. Trials is simply spectacular with unique skills not found in any other sport on two wheels. The Europeans originated the sport of Observed Trials just after the turn of the century. Motorcyclist from Isle of Man started the sport when they began challenging themselves to scale the rocky cliff sides that covered a majority of the Island. As the sport evolved from the heavier bikes from the 30's to the 50's riders began to remove excess bike weight. The sport quickly expanded into Great Britain, Spain, Finland, Belgium, Germany, & Italy. The original Trials mainly consisted of rough steep trails with minimal sized obstacles which balanced the task of maneuvering the heavy bikes. Competitions expanded from regional competitions, to national, to World Championships.
The sport of Trials has consistently been a Western European dominated Sport but recently the Japanese have joined the ranks of the best in the world. In the United States Trials grew in popularity as names like Bultaco dominated the 70's. Riders like Lane Leavitt, Sammy Miller, Marland Whaley, & the World Champion Bernie Schreiber became pioneers in a evolving sport. Trials bikes are currently available through specialized European trials bike manufacturers & available at scattered U.S. dealers. The era of the late 70's gave the United States it's first and only World Champion with Bernie Schreiber. Since the early 80's American Trials experienced a rapid decline in awareness as the sport continued as a low key sport as Motocross took the stage in popularity. Since then the world wide popularity of Trials rapidly grew in the opposite direction as European & Asian (Japan) attention has grown to an all time high.
The evolution of Trials was greatly accelerated as manufacturers of Trials bikes developed some of the most radical design innovations of motorcycles. Titanium & Aluminum became a necessity as designers sought to reduce the weight & narrow the bike designs to make them as light & controllable as a bicycle. As the designs evolved so did the competition terrain. In the mid 80's into the 90's the image of a trail
riding sport shifted toward extremely radical competition as huge completely vertical walls & cliffs became the standard for competition. Trials riders found themselves in extremely tight corners requiring 180 flip turns to get the bike into position only to face a vertical wall of 6 or 7 feet. The cutting edge designs have rapidly evolved the sport in the last few years as Trials motorcycle have become as light as 150 pounds with neck breaking torque. Factories that continue to dominate the sport are Montesa (Spain), Beta (Italy), Sherco (Spain), Gas Gas (Spain) and Scorpa (France). Each new year introduces more compact & more powerful motorcycles averaging 2-4 pounds lighter every year. 2005 should see the introduction of four-stroke engines back into the competitive trials market.
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