Unlike most other forms of motorcycle sport, Trial is not racing. It is simply you and your bike pitted against the terrain. Trial is a sport of balance, skill and concentration. One at a time, competitors will ride over an obstacle course of boulders, streams, hill climbs, logs, drop offs, and nearly anything else they can find.
Trial is the world's most popular participatory motorcycle sport. In Australia about one thousand riders compete, - in Europe hundreds of thousands compete regularly. Trial riders compete in ALL weather conditions!!!
There are classes for everyone. From Juniors of 16 years of age - down to barely walking, through to Veterans from 40 to 70+. There are classes to cover all rider ability levels, with Expert, A, B, C, and Clubman/Novice levels. There are also classes for Masters (35+). Other classes include Sidecar, Post-Classic (twin shock) and Classic. Whilst it is spectacular and sometimes appears dangerous at the top level, it is a very safe sport. Speed and other competitors are not factors likely to cause incidents, so the sport remains very safe. Very few injuries are sustained due to the low speeds and "one at a time" use of sections by competitors. Riders in the top classes attempt seemingly impossible obstacles, and in the process perform some of the most amazing skilled and trick riding - including air turns, bunny hops and bouncing the front and rear wheels during turns. Trial is the only motorcycling sport that you can compete in at "Masters Games" level !!!
Trials (specific) bikes are specially made high-tech machines. Very light (~70kg), low seat height and lots of power. They are usually single cylinder, liquid cooled engines, around 250cc capacity. They have lots of ground clearance and suspension travel. Hydraulic disc brakes - front and rear. Tyres are super soft compound, and run tyre pressures of about 4-6 psi. They are very similar to the bikes ridden by world champion riders such as Toni Bou. Modern trials bikes are mostly manufactured in Europe by makes such as Gas Gas, Beta, Scorpa, Montesa and Sherco. Honda and Yamaha also manufacture modern trials bikes. Although new models cost around AU$8000 to $11,000, you don't need a new bike to start riding and enjoying yourself. Second-hand models with monoshock rear suspension and front disc brake can be bought for around $1,400 - $2,500.
A section is typically a taped out area of natural terrain, incorporating obstacles such as rocks, creeks, mud, tree stumps, etc. Different colour markers within the section determine the passage through the section ("line") a particular graded rider must take. For example an A grade rider will ride between red markers, B grade follow yellow markers and C grade follow blue markers. Clubman riders do not need to follow any markers, and can choose any line through the section. The higher the grade, the more difficult the line.
In the example at right, the A-grade (red) rider must ride between the > yellow marker
A rider "earns" one point each time he/she puts a foot down (a "dab"). After three points in any one section the rider may continue to dab or stop without incurring any more points. If the rider falls off or stalls the bike with their feet on the ground or if the bike moves backwards they are given five points (a "five"). At the end of each lap the section scores are totaled to give a lap score, and when the rider completes the designated number of laps a total score is tallied. The rider with the lowest score is the winner.A typical course consists of 8 - 15 sections spread over an area of varied terrain, with riders completing 4 or 5 laps.
In the clubman class, you can compete on nearly any "off road" bike - (trials tyres which have a soft compound, and provide great grip are a good start !!!). Price, style, make & model are up to you. You will however, find that a specialist trials bike is needed once a rider progresses from the clubman class.
Depending on the affiliation (either AMA or MA) of the club you choose, there may be different sets of costs to compete in an event.
Other costs (Motorcycling Australia, MA affiliation):
- you need to be a member of an affiliated motorcycle club (~$50/year)
- entry fee to each trial (~$50-75)
- you'll need a "one event" competition licence (~$75), or
- a MA "Restricted National Competition" Licence ($145 Junior or $242/year Senior), or
- a MA National Competition Licence ($329/year).
So, with some basic riding gear - helmet, boots, gloves - you could be riding for less than $2000!
Other costs (Australian Motorcyclist Association, AMA affiliation)
- you need to be a member of an affiliated motorcycle club (~$50-$160/year)
- entry fee to each trial (~$15-35)
- you'll need an AMA membership (~$50/year)
The sport of Trial is by far the safest and cheapest form of motor sport. At the same time we doubt you will believe the places a bike can go. So if you're looking for excitement, take a look at a trial. You won't believe what you see!
Also worth reading:
The History of Trials by Eric Murray.
The History of Trials in the Canberra Region - an article put together by the Trials Club of Canberra.