How to get started in trials riding
- Double Five
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So, you thought you might like to start in trials? If so, this article is for you.
You may have seen "Kick-Start" on the television years ago or modern trials on Eurosport. You may fancy the idea of improving your motorcycling skills or you may just simply want to have some fun.
Trials riding can be all of those things.
Trials riding has been going on in some shape or form since the advent of motorcycling.
Originally it was just a way of testing the endurance of man and machine over long distance courses. In these early days it was actively supported by most of the manufacturers as a means to demonstrate the reliability of their machines. As the bikes became more reliable the courses became more difficult.
Slowly but surely moving off road, trials that include road work are quite rare.
Most motorcycle sport in this country is governed by the ACU (Auto Cycle Union) on behalf of the RAC (Royal Automobile Club). The ACU makes the rules for each of the motorcycling disciplines of which trials is just one of many.
England and Wales is divided into twenty areas known as Centres, ours is the South Eastern Centre, which includes the counties of Surrey, East and West Sussex, Kent and South London. Each Centre is sub-divided into a number of Combines (or Groups) which in the main consist of around twelve clubs; ours is the North Kent Trials Combine. Both the Centres and the Combines have management committees, which deal with the general administration of the sport at local level.
The first step is to find a club to join that offers regular trials at the level you are seeking. Sadly, not all clubs cater for the really raw beginner.
You also need an ACU registration card that covers trials. You can find a link to the application form for this in our ‘Links’ section.
As we cater for all levels of ability you can use our online joining form. Complete the ACU form at the same time and send all that is required to our Trials Secretary. Don’t forget to include your SAE's.
Or if you are way outside the borders of our Centre go to the ACU website www.acu.org.uk to find a club local to you.
As part of the North Kent Trials Combine, the Double Five actively participates in the "Beginners & Wobblers" series where the clubs volunteer to host events throughout the year. These trials are specifically aimed at the newcomer and the club rider and comprise two or three routes. The easy yellow route is intended for a trail bike with lights, the novice red route is of a slightly greater difficulty and some clubs may also have a slightly harder blue route.
Another good reason for joining a club prior to riding is to get some first hand help in obtaining the right bike and equipment. On joining a club you will pay a yearly membership of around £12 to £20 per year and this might include some social activities and perhaps a magazine or newsletter.
It is an ACU requirement that clothing must cover legs and body and you must also wear a correctly fitting motorcycle helmet, knee-length boots, and it is recommended that you have your arms covered. It is also worth considering the purchase of a pair of trials gloves. The right gear is also essential to minimise the risk of injury. It is worth buying these items from a reputable trials shop or second-hand from a club member.
Having acquired these items you are ready to consider the purchase of your motorcycle.
Trials motorcycles are purpose built to be light and go anywhere. In order to achieve this, the gearing is low and therefore a big engine size is not always beautiful. A modern 250cc trials bike is ample for most adult riders and you are unlikely to need a bigger size.
Fortunately most are this size or less and usually two-stroke, although most manufacturers are now switching back to four-stroke. The choice of bike will depend mainly on the size of your wallet. You can pay as little as £400 for an early twin-shock or as much as £4,000 for the latest model, but all will carry you around. Whichever you choose it will be fun, though you should expect to get through a few levers etc. when you drop the bike!
Youths aged under 18 are restricted to certain engine sizes according to their ages and this is determined by the ACU - see TSR1 in the handbook. If you are buying a bike for a youth always check up on the size first.
The one other matter of prime importance to consider is transport. You will need to get the bike to the event!
Most riders use a bike trailer for which you'll need a towbar attachment for the car, a tail-board with number plate and lights and some very strong straps to hold the bike down securely. Some bikes arrive in the back of vans or even car boots. An alternative which is gaining in popularity for the solo rider is the bike rack which fits over the towbar and the bike is then mounted across the back of the car. Again, many of these are available second-hand. Be aware that when towing any trailer you have a restricted speed limit.
The trials events are run firstly at club level, and then combine level, then centre level and finally at national level, each level usually being harder than the previous. To begin with you enter a "Beginners & Wobblers" trial or a club trial and start off by riding the easiest route. At this level you are able to choose the route you want to be on and even change it during the event; after all it is the riding experience that you want.
At Combine events and at some clubs there is a scaling or grading scheme for riders of differing abilities. There are currently three different grades of rider and these are Novice, Intermediate and Expert. As a beginner you will also notice many classes that allow you to pre-enter trials according to your ability and type of bike. These though, need not concern you at this time, except to know that you are a Novice and you will ride the Novice route within each section.
The routes are usually marked by coloured cards so you must note beforehand the colour being used. Each trial is built up in a sequence of numbered routes to make up a lap. Each route is called a "Section" and each section will provide a variety of challenges. The points you lose at each section are totalled to give your final score. The lower your total, the better your ride was.
At some trials, like the "Beginners & Wobblers" and some club trials, you mark yourself. At Combine/Group, Centre and National events, "observers" are used at each section to do the marking.
When you enter a trial there are a few items you should be sure to take with you. The first two are your club card and ACU card, without these you may not be allowed to ride or even enter as it is a requirement that you show these to the Secretary of the Meeting when you sign on.
Take a can of fuel mixed with the right level of oil for your bike, a spare plug and plug spanner, two safety pins, a tyre pump, a low pressure gauge and a roll of tape. Also take a flask of your favourite beverage and a pack of sandwiches. It is also wise to take a change of clothing (in case it rains). Be sure that you have some cash, your helmet, boots, long sleeved top and gloves. These are really the minimum requirements for an enjoyable trials day.
The next step is to enter a suitable trial; this will normally be advertised in your club newsletter or "The Sporting Motorcyclist (TSM)".
Trials tend to be held in out of the way places. As you near the venue you will see various markers to guide you to the site. These are usually in the form of Castrol or Duckhams type of arrows. You may also see coloured cards or tape. If you see a red card this means you should turn right, a white card - straight on and a blue card - turn left. This same coloured card direction system is often used between sections at quite a few events.
On arrival at the venue, park sensibly and before doing anything else go and sign on. This will involve producing your club & ACU membership card and paying an entry fee for the trial (which tends to start at around £10 or so, depending on where it is held). The fee includes a rider levy, the cost of the ACU permit, insurance for the riders and liability cover for officials and the public.
When you sign on, you will usually receive a set of numbers. One you will display on the rear of yourself or the bike or your crash helmet and the other at the front of the bike. This is to assist the observers; it is also where your two safety-pins or roll of tape may come in handy.
Now you've done that you can go back to your bike to check it over. Petrol - enough but not too much, you don't want to carry more weight than necessary. Tyre pressures are usually a maximum of 7psi front and 5psi rear. However this is often less depending on your weight and the conditions, and may need to be as low as 5psi at the front and 2psi at the back. The next thing is to check that your clutch and brake levers with the correct ball ends are moveable on the bars. When you fall off, if the levers are not too tight, then instead of breaking, they will - with luck, slide round or down the bars and this tip could save you an early trip home. Your throttle must snap shut when released and your chainguard must be as per the rules listed at the end or this article.
There is one thing that you must NOT do. Don't start riding round the car park and surrounds, practising before the beginning of the trial. It is likely to incur the wrath of club officials and could cause you to be excluded from the event.
Land use now is at a premium and it is vital that every competitor respects the land that is being used by not riding about unnecessarily outside the marked routes. Any misconduct in this regard can and has lost clubs the use of land.
Your bike’s running, numbers on; now you need to find the starter and the starting point.
Before you are allowed to start, your bike and clothing must comply with the specification in the current ACU handbook or you will not be allowed to ride. Usually a Machine Examiner/scrutineer will check this at the start. Don't get upset if you are advised that something is not right as it is for the safety of you and others at the trial, it is also a requirement of the insurance that we comply with the handbook. Just return to your vehicle and rectify the problem and come back to the start. If you need help just ask as most riders and officials will be more than willing to help.
Depending on the size of your club, you may just ride off in any order to the first section. Most will start you off in numeric order with a short gap between riders, usually at one minute intervals. Don't start until called forward. Then off you go to the first section.
On arrival at the first section, park your bike and look out for the "Section Begin' cards. Don't park your bike anywhere near the entrance to this gateway, as you could obstruct other riders. Take a walk around the section (but don't obstruct other riders who may be attempting to ride the section) bearing in mind that you must ride between the appropriately coloured cards. If in doubt of the route, ask the observer, but only when he is NOT marking another rider. Observers are those very nice people who give their time, free of charge to help you enjoy the sport. You may always ask an observer but NEVER argue with one.
Having decided which way to tackle the section, go to the start and wait in turn. When the observer calls you forward, off you go, remembering scoring starts when your front axle goes through the "begins" gate and finishes when it goes through the "end" gate.
From then on it's fun, fun, fun and remember that you can only get better. Don't hesitate to ask other riders for tips that may make for success. In the main you will find that most trials riders are very helpful and extremely tolerant of raw beginners. They have all been there at one time and know how difficult your first rides can be. If you feel that any section is a bit too difficult for you, you can present yourself to the observer and ask for a five rather than ride it. If you do this you will only be given a "five", whereas if you don't present yourself you may be given a "ten".
You are probably finding that your scores are improving as you become more confident and gain experience of the course and its hidden surprises. It is polite to thank each observer for observing as you complete each section of the last lap. When you have finished, remember to find out if you need to sign off. All that's left is to load up the bike and wend your way home with lots of memories of the day. Hopefully, you will be eagerly looking out for your next trial.
Most clubs have regular meetings. The Double Five Kent Motor Club (the 'Double Five') usually meets on the first Monday of each month for a social get together in a local Pub or at The Assembly Rooms, Gates Green Road, Coney Hall, West Wickham, Kent (in the Social Room). You are more than welcome to attend, but phone one of us first to see where we will be!
The following notes are issued by the ACU for the guidance of Machine Examiners at trials. Does your bike comply?
Where the trial includes the use of public roads, then this will be stated in the Supplementary Regulations. If public roads are used, than it is the sole responsibility of the driver/rider to ensure that his machine is roadworthy and that he and his machine comply with all legal requirements. Organisers are not required to check machines for road legality. Organisers may of course wish to ensure that drivers are fully aware of the above by emphasis of the fact in the Regulations and any final instructions that may be issued.
Machine examination should consist of checking that all machines comply with the ACU Specification some are as follows: -
As per current ACU specifications (TSR11).
If wheels of cast or fabricated construction (other than conventional spoked wheels) are used then protection must be provided to the rear wheel by the fitting of "solid discs" to cover the open areas (TSR10).
All machines used by Youth competitors must be fitted with an operational cut-out button (TSR12).
Machines should display registration plates where appropriate (i.e. for events which involve the use of public roads).
As per manufacturer specification and in addition for youth riders chain guards are compulsory and will need to be fabricated on those bikes where the manufacturer does not specify one (TSR 13).
Handlebar levers must be in principle “ball-ended", with diameter of ball to be 16mm minimum. The ball may be flattened to a minimum thickness of 14mm, but all edges must be rounded. Ball ends must be permanently fixed and form an integral part of the lever (NSC App B-15).
Should be self closing (NSC App B-14).
Machines should be equipped with efficient braking systems operating on and concentrically with each wheel. The number of braked wheels and any other special requirements will be as per Standing Trials Regulations (NSC App B-11).
The end of footrests shall be rounded and must have at least an 8mm radius.
When presented for examination, the correct piston stroke must be marked in a clearly visible position on the crankcase in millimetres (NSC App B-17).
Machine Examiners should satisfy themselves that all other parts of the machine are in a condition, which at the start of the competition does not in their opinion render that machine dangerous. Whilst it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure the machine used in competition is mechanically and structurally in a safe condition, the Clerk of the Course may, on the advice of the Machine Examiner, exclude any vehicle which is deemed to be dangerous. The Clerk of the Course may also exclude any machine, at any time, that is deemed to be excessively noisy or dangerous and further penalties may also be imposed by the relevant National Sporting Committee.
Newcomers to the sport should also read our write-up on the North Kent Clubs Beginners & Wobblers Trials