I’ve missed a few years but thought it was about time I scrounged a bike to punish myself and counteract the excesses of the festive period.

An enduro at Weavers tends to be a hard and fast affair (speed is clearly a relative thing) and when one is out of practice the pain will last for several days even without hitting the ground or other obstacles. And so it came to pass that the time between Boxing Day and New Years Eve saw me limping around in a somewhat pathetic manner.
Several weeks prior to my foolhardy decision to enter the Boxing Day event my good friend Mark phoned from the Fenlands. He has taken to trials riding with enthusiasm. After many years of enduro riding and a dabble with road racing back in the mists of time, he has bought a trials bike. It is a tiny-weeny thing that weighs nought but ounces. It has no seat coz you must stand to have ultimate control and balance. The name of the game is to get through marked out sections around a course without putting ones feet down or stopping. Transgressions are rewarded with penalty points and in this instance points do not mean prizes! Some of you of a certain age will remember Kickstart on TV.
Anyhow, Marks enthusiasm for his new found fun and excitement has spilled over. He invited me to join him on a “Dabbers” trial. Other clubs call them “Wooblers”, I think you get the idea, clearly an event for novices and given that he lives in the flattest and, some uncharitable people might say, most boring piece of the UK, I thought it would be a safe bet that the day would not be too troubling.

Furthermore, the organisers were putting on a barbecue for their New Year Trial. I had never entered a trial before but have played on a few trials bikes so count me in!

I did make the mistake of saying that it would be interesting to have a go at a trial and write about a minority sport. My ears were suitably chewed off as Mark pointed out that there are more trials events every weekend than motocross end enduro put together. So that’s me told then.
The night before the trial saw a few inches of snow fall in The Fens which pretty much froze over night, consequently the journey in the van from Wisbech to Thetford was a cautious one but, with a covering of white stuff, the scenery had improved significantly. In fact by the time we got close to the venue we were in a veritable winter wonderland. It was just boootiful!

life-such-a-trial5Due to the slippery conditions the club decided that there would be one route per section. Usually there will be several: ‘Easy’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Stupid’ – depending on how confident and talented you might feel. It can also depend what type of bike you are on. There was a fantastic variety at our event from the ultra light, nimble modern bikes like Marks Gas Gas to 1950’s British Irons, 500 single Royal Enfields, 500 twin Triumphs, AJS and James. Also represented were Fantics, Bultacos, Montesas and Ossas; it is great to see these bikes being used as they were intended. No one here is precious about their bikes.

Trials, it would appear, is a very friendly affair with an atmosphere of relaxation about it.

People arrive and get their bikes and themselves together with less gusto than at other sports I have witnessed. There is plenty of chatting going on.
Life-such-a-trial1So how does it all work?
There are a number of sections laid out over a course, the number will vary depending on the event and the size of the land available. Each rider will go round the course attempting to ride each section without hesitation, deviation or repetition. Oh no, I mean without putting a foot down (dabbing), stopping, stalling or going outside the marked section. The sections are observed by an observer who is someone that gives up their Sunday to watch a load of strange people balancing, or not, their way over a small piece of terrain. Every digression is added up and when the rider has completed the section their card is marked with the appropriate score. Upon completing the course the card is handed in, a fresh one supplied and off the rider goes to try to do a bit better. There is no speed element. Accuracy is the goal.
We had 15 sections with 3 laps to do. When you are ready get along to the first section. Park up and have a good look at it, even walk it if you want to. Then get in the queue and wait your turn, watching to see how the others do it. When it is your go, have a go and do your best not to transgress. Stop at the end, get your card punched and on to the next section and so on. Of course, as we were sharing Marks bike we had to go through the queuing process twice per section which slowed our progress considerably but we were not too worried as fun and learning was the order of the day.
You might think that having your fellow competitors watch your every move would make one very self-conscious but it doesn’t happen that way.

Although riders are watching, you are aware that they are only interested in the best way to ride the section and when a mistake is made no one is cheering.

life-such-a-trial6The snow and frozen ground ensured that the easiest sections were a challenge, at least for me, with the dabs occurring with a little more frequency than I hoped. Still I wasn’t doing too badly, that is until Mark told me I was actually doing OK. At the next section I watched the rider before me struggle. Oh dear, thought I, better try this one in 1st rather than 2nd. Big mistake. I slipped and stumbled to the end. That threw me for several more sections but got my act together again towards the end of the course.
I felt a little more confident on the 2nd lap and though I continued to slip and dab I was learning how by being a little more assertive I could carry on without cocking it up completely. That simple rule, but sometimes difficult to obey, of always looking ahead, rather than at ground under the front wheel applies.
Sadly we didn’t have enough time to do the 3rd lap but we had an enjoyable time chatting with the other competitors, admiring their bikes, particularly the BSA Bantam-engined machine that was beautifully built by the man who rode it.
life-such-a-trial7One of the most impressive things about the day was that the sections were hard enough for me on one of the most modern bikes, but how those riders on heavyweight British bikes managed so well, put me to shame and was quite inspiring. Ross Bunkall was good enough to let me have a go of his wonderful Enfield and although it is well balanced and works very well you know this is a BIG bike to take round a trials course.
The next important part of the day was the barbeque that was held on the farm where the trial was held. Over a burger the provisional results were announced. To my utter amazement, over 45 sections Andrew Arden on his twin shock Yamaha TY 250 scored 0. Clean over the whole thing! He was presented with a well-earned bottle of whiskey. Now, to my thinking a reasonable handicap system would have been to give him the whiskey at the start of the day thus giving some of us a chance!
What a great day and a friendly group of people. We probably only rode for 2-3 miles and used a thimble full of fuel but it is certainly a case of quality riding over quantity.
There are loads of trials each weekend all over the country. Go and see one. You will be impressed, very impressed. Or better still, get a bike, have a go and enjoy.
Thanks to my mate Mark who let me abuse his little trials bike, also to all the people the Dabbers Trials Club.

With thanks to Dave Newman
Check out the Club’s website below: