Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Trials First, Trials Last

A lot of people think competitive motorcycle sports are fraught with danger -- X-games, Supercross, World Superbike -- where thrill seeking speed junkies surgically remove their survival instincts and drink danger straight from the bottle. Guess what? Not all motorcycle competitions involve grinding down your foot-pegs while rocketing from apex to apex.

Observed Trials is a non-speed event performed on specialized motorcycles. It’s one of the most unique motorsports in history. Think of it as Tai Chi, on two wheels. It’s all about balance, precision, and control.

A trials rider must navigate a series of sections – tight turns, slippery slopes, boulders, logs – pretty much a bunch of obstacles the rest of us would try to avoid. Observers watch, and keep score, as each rider attempts a section. The observer is looking to see if a rider touches his foot down. A dab costs a point. Breaking the tape or riding outside the section costs five points. The rider with the lowest score wins – kind of like golf.

Modern trials has been drifting towards the extreme sport side of things, but Vintage trials, such as the AHRMA event we covered at Gray's Farm in Washington, are relaxed and friendly. I didn’t say easy; some of the trials sections were enormously challenging.

Girl Wonder spoke with the gentlemen who organized this trials event, Derek Belvoir, a life-long trials rider who still competes in the premier heavyweight expert class. He’s been at it for nearly six decades, and his passion for the sport is evident in this webisode. John DeSoto, the legendary motocross champion know as the "Flyin' Hawaiian" also appears in this video.