Starting Trials

What is trials riding?

Trials Riding is the most popular participation motorcycle sport, and certainly the cheapest and easiest to take up. It’s fun to do, good exercise, and gets you outside in spectacular landscapes you wouldn’t normally have access to.

It’s a test of rider skill, not a speed event.  The best rider wins, not the fastest bike!

In a Trial riders attempt a series of natural obstacles such as streams beds, hills, mud, and rocks without putting their feet on the ground, falling over, or deviating from the specified route. Penalties points are lost for these “failures”. The rider with the fewest penalty points at the end of the event is the winner.

There are various routes and classes, which are designed to cater for riders of differing ages, and abilities, and, unlike many other sports, men and women compete on equal terms, so there really is something for everyone.

The trial course is arranged into a number of “Sections”. Each Section has a specified Route, which includes a number of natural hazards. Each rider tackles the Section separately, and their performance is marked by an Observer. Our Trials generally comprises a lap of ten Sections with riders completing four laps.

There is a wide variety of Trials motorcycles available from small wheeled electric bikes up to larger petrol powered machines. Unlike many other motorsports rider skill is far more important than the motorcycle, so an older machine can be just as competitive as a brand new model. This makes Trials a very cost effective way of getting into motorsport. There are even classes to cater for vintage motorcycles, so dusting off that old bike languishing at the back of the garage is an option.

What do I need to get started?

The minimum requirements to take part are a bike (of course), an open face helmet and, compulsory, protective clothing (sturdy leather boots and suitable gloves).

A specialist trials bike is required, and these are readily available either used or new. Youths are restricted to a maximum capacity of 125cc up to the age of 16. Adults can choose a larger capacity; 250cc is a common choice. Motorcycle power is not particularly important in Trials, and 125cc can be a good choice for the novice adult rider.

You must wear a correctly fitting motorcycle, open face, helmet, knee-length boots, and clothing that covers body and legs. It is recommended that you have your arms covered as well  (this is compulsory for youth riders). It’s also worth considering the purchase of a pair of trials gloves.

The right gear is essential to minimise the risk of injury.

The one other important consideration is transport. You will need to get the bike to the event!  Most riders use a bike trailer or a van. Alternatively, a bike rack, which fits over the towbar, with the bike mounted across the back of the car, can be useful, and easy to store.

To compete in a Trial you need to be a Club member and have a Trials Registration from the ACU (Autocycle Union). The ACU is the governing body for motorcycle sport in the UK. The Trials Registration allows you to compete in events and provides insurance when you enter an event.

You can join the Club, and apply for a Trials Registration on the ACU Member Portal

Club membership costs £10 p.a. and the Trials Registration costs £12 p.a.

You can find details of the upcoming Club’s events on the Club website and you can enter on-line.

Trials with a “White Route” are best suited to novice riders.

Talk to the club’s Trials Secretary for more information and guidance.

If you are considering the sport it is useful to come along to one of the Club’s trials to see what happens, and talk to some of the riders.

Is there a class for me?

Undoubtedly there will be. Most Trials have classes for youths, adults, and riders over 50 years of age. Most events also have classes for modern and older motorcycles.

Events will often have up to four different Routes ranging from the easiest (White) to the hardest (Red/Blue). Although this may sound complicated Routes are clearly marked and easy to follow.

If you need guidance on selecting a Class/Route talk to the Club Trials Secretary.

You can see details of the route and classes here.

Entering and riding in a trial

You can find upcoming trials by looking on the ACU website.

If you find an event you fancy click on it and read the Supplementary Regulations.  These provide the event details, including the routes and classes that are available.  Events are designated as:

  • Closed to Club – entry restricted to members of the organising Club;
  • Restricted – entry restricted in some way as set out in the Supplementary Regulations;
  • Open – entry is open to all riders/machines who meet the events requirements as detailed in the Supplementary Regulations;
  • National – events that are part of a national championship;

You should be able to enter on line or download an entry form direct from the ACU site.  If not, contact the organising club for entry details.

Details of the venue and the start time will be given in the Supplementary Regulations.

The arrangements for “signing on” and starting,  vary from club to club so arriving at a trial for the first time can be confusing.  Best to talk to one of the other riders, who will be able to explain the process and point you in the right direction.  Allow at least thirty minutes before the event start time.

On arrival at the first Section, park your bike and look out for the “Section Begin’ cards. Don’t park your bike anywhere near the entrance or exit to the Section, as you could obstruct other riders. Take a walk around the Section  to ride the Section bearing in mind that you must ride between the appropriately coloured markers. Watch how other riders are tackling the Section, but don’t obstruct other riders in their attempt.  If in doubt of the route, ask the Observer.  Remember, Observers are those very nice people who give their time, free of charge, to help you enjoy the sport.

Having decided which way to tackle the Section, go to the start and wait in turn. When the observer calls you forward, off you go, remembering scoring starts when your front axle goes through the “begins” gate and finishes when it goes through the “end” gate.

Marking is as follows:

  • 1 mark for putting a foot down once;
  • 2 marks for putting a foot down twice;
  • 3 for putting a foot down more than twice.  This means you can foot all the way through a Section and still only lose three;
  • 5 is lost if you stop and go backwards, fall of the bike, dislodge a marker flag, go the wrong way through the section or the wrong side of a flag.

We are all aiming for 0 marks lost, a “clean”.

Don’t hesitate to ask other riders for tips on how to ride a Section. You will find that trials riders are very helpful and extremely tolerant of beginners (we were all beginners once).

If you feel that any section is a bit too difficult for you, you can ask the Observer for a “five”, rather than attempt to ride it. If you do this you will only lose five marks, whereas if you just miss the Section out you will lose ten.

The route between Sections is marked by flags.  If in doubt follow the other riders.

Results are usually published on the Club website and the ACU website.

And finally!

Trials riding is a brilliant sport in which it is possible to ride throughout your active life and remain competitive within your class. Additionally, trials riding is the best way of understanding surface conditions, throttle control and safety, so it can be good training for road riding. Its also a fun way of keeping fit.