What is it?
Observed trials is a technical, non-speed focused form of motorcycling. The name ‘observed trials’ arose from the practice of having an official ‘observe’ the riders as they ride through short courses called sections. Observed sections, marked out by coloured arrows, require the rider to travel over obstacles and around tight turns while keeping their feet on the footrests. Points are lost by putting down a foot, riding out of the section or stalling the engine. The sections are separated by non-observed areas and in most events form a circuit that is ridden several times. Many people believe that trials is the hardest form of motorcycling, requiring good balance, fast reactions, the ability to control the throttle in conjunction with the brakes and the clutch and lots of courage, especially in the higher grades.
Why would you get involved?
Why would you not? You won’t find a cheaper form of motorsport, it’s safe with very few injuries, there’s a great family atmosphere and it can be as hard or as easy as you like. The skills from trials will help you in any other form of motorcycle riding and it’s suitable for almost all ages, from your 5 year old kid through to your 70 year old Grandfather.
Sounds good, where can I see some bikes?
Check the calendar and attend an event. While you’re there, feel free have a look at the bikes and talk to the riders. There’s “come and try” days so you can get an idea of what they’re like to ride. They’re unique and very different to any other bike you’ve ridden. Try and ride a couple different makes, they each have different characteristics.
Choose your weapon!
So you’ve decided you want to start riding. Unless you’re a Junior Clubman rider, you’ll need a trials bike; other motorcycles aren’t allowed. The dealers in the club will be more than happy to sell you one; sometimes they’ll pop up on Gumtree, the Trials Australia forum or on the club’s Facebook page. Decide on a budget and keep an eye out. A lot of bikes sell by word of mouth, so it’s worth talking to riders to see if they’ve heard of any for sale.
Choose your protection!
The only protective gear that you’re required to wear while you’re on a bike is a helmet and a strong pair of boots. Motorcross helmets can be worn, but open face trials specific helmets are often lighter and provide better visibility. It’s a good idea to wear trials boots (trials boots have no instep to make it easier to move your foot on the footrests) and gloves, as well as strong pants. Some ride with no elbow and knee protection, some wear that and more, it’s up to you, whatever you feel comfortable with.
Get on it and practice!
It’s rare that someone can just get on a trials bike and set the world on fire. You’ll need practice. It doesn’t matter what part of the state you’re from, there’s probably a rider not far from you who gets out for a play whenever they can. Ask around at events, post to the club’s Facebook page or email one of the contacts on this site and you’ll get pointed in the right direction.
Practice some more!
If it’s a quiet night and you have time to spare, get on YouTube and look for videos about trials techniques. There’s lots to choose from, but this is a good place to start: Learn to ride trials.
Ready for a competition!
It’s time. You’ve practiced, you’re confident, you want to ride. You can only ride if you have a lanyard kill switch on your bike, so if you don’t have one, talk to a rider about where to get one from. You’ll need to pay a day membership or a yearly membership, plus a fee to ride on the day. You can find the forms to fill in here. There’s grades to choose from, though you’ll not be allowed to ride higher than C grade in your first event. Classes range from Clubman (easiest, small obstacles) through to A+/Expert (hardest, huge obstacles) with other classes in between. Each grade has its own colour:
Junior Clubman (mini bikes): White
C grade: Blue
C Plus: Blue with white with + symbol
B grade: Yellow
A Grade: Red
If your child wants to ride, they’ll probably go in Junior Clubman. This is a basic class with easy sections with the aim of getting them involved, learning some skills and having fun. Riders in this class can ride petrol powered mini trials bikes, small electric trials bikes, or mini bikes. Sub junior riders follow the white markers in sections.
During your event, talk to the other riders, maybe ask for advice, maybe watch someone in your grade ride the section first. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a section, you don’t have to, just go to the observer and they’ll punch your score card (refer to the scoring system here). The whole idea is to have fun and there are no medals for bravery.
Events usually start at 10am, but try and get there around 9am to give you time to sign up, pay and get your bike scrutineered.
End of the day!
You’ve finished your first event, your bike still runs; you’re a bit stiff but not injured, what now? Hopefully you’ve had fun, the only thing left to do is go home, wash the bike and organise a practice the following weekend.