It’s no secret that we here at The Adrenalist are suckers for bike trials, both of the motorbike and mountain bike varieties (our August coverage of Best Trials Bike Riders speaks to our fascination). For us, watching pro trials riders is akin to watching Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa: the riders’ body control and precision is a staggering work of unsurpassed art seldom perpetrated by the human form.
Because trials riding is such a niche sport and those who practice it possess such skill, it may seem daunting, if not wholly impossible, to imagine yourself ever being able to partake in this awe-inspiring activity. To that, we say, even Danny MacAskill once got on a trials bike for the first time. If trials is something that you love and want to try, have faith in yourself, be prepared to work very hard and give what we are about to tell you a good thorough read. We bet you’ll soon see that almost anything is achievable with the right mindset and game plan.
Here is your trials cycling starter guide.
Trials riding began in Spain as a motorcycle-centric sport. Operators of modified motorbikes — lacking seats and equipped with special suspensions — competed to see who could complete obstacle courses in the fastest time, without touching their body to the ground or any physical part of the course. The ideal rider was, and is, he who is one with his bike, existing in a physical vacuum. Mountain bike trials riding was born from motorcycle trials around 1980 when moto-trials champ Eddie Kesler began organizing bicycle events in an effort to get younger kids (ordinarily not allowed or ready to ride motorcycles) involved in the sport. Since then, the popularity of trials’ non-motored sect has exploded and bicycle trials are practiced around the world by many adult pros.
Take one look at the videos we’ve posted above and you’ll see that trials riding is not just like riding a bike. Because of trials bike construction and the nature of the sport’s competitions (always reliant upon doing all manner of stunts without ever touching your feet to the ground), successful riders must possess an incredible amount of endurance and muscle strength in order to excel. But before any rider can become successful, he must learn the basics. If you’ve had a bit of trials training before or are a fan of self-taught methodology, sites like Trahzen.com offer an extensive catalog of bicycle trials maneuvers from the basic to the more advanced. If you’re like most of us and can’t gather all the skills you need by reading a website, it might be worth springing for some lessons. Organizations like The Trials Training Center motorcycle resort provide rentals and lessons for all those interested in delving into moto-trials. The Training Center services all ages and skill levels znd will also be able to point you in the direction of less-publicized bicycle trials training options.
Bikes and Equipment
Now that you’ve taken some lessons, tested out a couple different kinds of rented bikes and it’s becoming very clear that your interest in the sport may be more than a passing phase, what’s your next step? Buying a bike, of course. As with anything, practice makes perfect (or pretty darn good at least) and your practice regiment will either be too limited or entirely too expensive if you’re forced to keep renting a bike. If you know bicycle trials riding is something you’ll be doing more than once or twice or month, it’s worth visiting a site like InspiredBicycles.com to browse their selection of new and used 20″ Mod bikes (for beginning riders) and 26″ Stock rides (for intermediate and advanced riders). If you’re more taken with the world of high-speed moto-trials, check out Dirt-Bikes.FindTheBest.com or go back to The Trials Training Center for a comprehensive and affordable collection and some informed buying advice. Whatever you do, be prepared to spend some decent coinage on a quality bike. Visit TrialsNuts.com‘s FAQ section for more intel on purchasing bikes and equipment. Helmet aside, none of your current motorcycle, road or mountain biking gear will really suffice for trials.
Finally, it’s time to consider entering into a competition or two because, hey, nothing says “I know what I’m doing” like a new addition to the old trophy case. For moto-trials, visit the North American Trials Council or the Inland Northwest Trials Association to access a list of upcoming amateur events. For bicycle trials competitions, visit the North American Trials Series page and apply for organization membership priced at a very affordable $25 per year.