Life from an outsider's perspective…

Observed trials bike riding originated in Spain.

The aim of trials riding is to jump over obstacles (either natural or artificial) with only the bikes’ tyres touching the ground. Think of it like those dog trials you sometimes see on television, except with humans on bikes! Points are deducted if any part of your body or the bike touch the ground. Some competitions allow the underside of the bike and pedals to touch the ground. During observed trials, each rider attempts the set course with . The duration of each event is usually around 180 seconds; points are also deducted for going over that time limit. The winner is the rider who has the least number of accumulated points at the end of the competition.

Bicycle trials riding originated in Spain in the 1980s. The modified class of trials riding uses a special-purpose single-speed bicycle, built with small 20″ wheels and extremely low gearing, no saddle, no seatpost, and little else. The frame itself is built with a long wheelbase while the wheels utilise a high number of spokes and fat tyres. Trust me, these guys make it look easy – it takes HOURS of practise to reach this level of skill and ability:

Being one of the least common bicycles disciplines, trials riders have more of a challenge to gain social status among others. In many cases, a rider can find himself on his/her own for a 10 mile radius and although the sport is increasing in popularity, it is still difficult for some riders to find riding companions. Although many larger cities will have local groups that meet frequently to practice and have fun, many rides must be organised in advance, so that riders can travel from the surrounding areas. Riders will travel hundreds of miles to meet new people and ride new locations. Rides are often organised through internet forums.

Public views and reactions to street trials riding are mixed, much like any extreme sport. Some members of the public find large groups of trials riders gathering in one area, potentially threatening – close to a gang mentality. There is also the problem of potential damage, which is considered anti-social. Although in most cases, there is only tyre contact – rock/bash rings and sump/bash plates can chip walls when a move goes wrong. Many still consider this to be much more appropriate than waxing surfaces, or damaging walls by intention (i.e. grinding with BMX pegs).

Equally, a large portion find trials to be fascinating and marvel at how such basic moves such as track stands, or merely rolling backwards can be carried out – let alone heart stopping, high risk moves. Often against the will of onlooking audiences, police and community officers are clamping down on extreme sports in public areas. If they see trials riders (or BMX riders, skaters, etc.) they will usually ask them to move on. If the offenders persist, usually at the personal discretion of the officer, yellow cards and in extreme cases ASBOs can be issued. Riders also run the risk of being fined for cycling on pavements, and in theory, criminal damage.

Here are some Observed trials rules:

  • Over the prescribed time limit – 5 points
  • Performing the section with no dabs (clean section) – 0 points
  • 1 dab – 1 point
  • 2 dabs – 2 points
  • 3 dabs – 3 points
  • 4 dabs – 3 points
  • 2 dabs at same time (foot & foot, foot & hand, foot & shoulder, knee & hand, hand & hand, etc.) – 5 points
  • Note: Touching allowed, leaning is not.
  • Leaning the handlebar on the ground, tree, wall etc. – 1 point
  • Touching the hand to any object. (other than oneself, or bike) – 5 points
  • Two dabs on the same side of the bicycle – 5 points
  • Sliding one foot on the ground (pivoting the foot, without moving is allowed.) – 3 points
  • Any help from toe or heel – 1 point
  • Getting outside the limits of the section with either tire (treading on or pushing the ribbon with the tire is allowed / axle is out) – 5 points
  • The section can not be modified by any rider – 10 points
  • One foot on the pedal and the other foot going over the longitudinal line of the bicycle frame – 0 points
  • One foot on the ground and other foot crossing the longitudinal line of the bicycle – 5 points
  • The checker is only due to listen to the rider for any objections or complaint, if anyone but the rider concerned should voice complaint…the penalization must be set by the event director – 10 points
  • Any discussion with the checker using foul language or unprofessional conduct. The penalty must be set through the event director – O/50 points
  • Losing the penalization card – disqualification
  • Breaking a ribbon, knocking down a course marker – 5 points
  • Dabbing outside the section – 1 point
  • Gate foul – 5 points
  • Pre riding the section – 100 points

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