Monday, January 5, 2009

Trials Riding

(Yep - that's "trials riding," and not "riding trials.")

There is a sport in the world of motorcycling called "observed trials."

Unlike most motorcycle sporting events, the object is not to be the first one to cross the finish line. Rather, it's an obstacle course, ridden on very lightweight and maneuverable offroad machines, and the object is to make it through all the obstacles without touching a foot (or any other part of the body!) on the ground, or anything attached to the ground. A judge "observes" how you handle each obstacle, and deducts points if your carcass contacts Terra Firma.

It is quite popular in some European countries. I first became familiar with it as a youth, when I used to hang out at Herb Uhl's motorcycle shop, out on State Street. Long before I was old enough to have a driver's license, I was attracted to motorcycles. (And coincidentally, one of the longest bicycle rides I went on as a kid was one day when my buddy and I rode our bikes out State Street to the motorcycle shops. Carl's Cycles is still there... that was WAY on the edge of town back then. Mom would NOT have approved... so I didn't ask her.) Herb and his sons were trials riders of renown, and ran the shop on the side, where they sold Bultacos... Husqvarnas... Sachs... CZ's... and a new brand of motorcycle - Suzuki.

More about motorcycle trials riding HERE, if you're interested.

(There is also a mountain-bike equivalent of trials riding; it's truly amazing to watch a master of the sport, who can wheelie all day long on either the front or back wheel, jump 4 or 5 feet UP from a standing start, etc. Those guys keep me feeling very humble.)

I like to think of winter bike riding as a non-competitive form of "trials" riding. And to enjoy it, you need to have a whole different mentality. Seize the challenge. See how far you can go without a "feet down" event, but bearing in mind that "feet down" is way better than "torso down" hahaha. All the while, you are exercising your bicycle handling and balance skills - think how much more skilled you'll be, once the coast is clear!

They encourage drivers to plan on double their commute time on the snowy days. That's a good general rule for the bike commute, too. But it's not a defeat to take longer... it's a huge VICTORY to push on through! (Maybe it's more like the Iditarod than motorcycle trials. For each day you successfully bike commute, reward yourself with a Milk Bone! hahaha)


Michael Carpenter said...

Hey Bike Boy,
Using you as my inspiration I rode my bike to work today! (1/5, Boise.) Yeah, it doubled my commute time. In 4 miles I had 2-3 foot down moments, 1 torso down moment and walked my bike across the 4 worst intersections.

But, I made it! Of course, now I'm considered certifiably crazy by my co-workers. (Someone also told me I'm taking the whole new years resolution thing way too seriously.)

And, if the roads don't improve a bit by 5, I may bum a ride home.

Anonymous said...

Road conditions this morning were right at the edge of my comfort zone. The main roads on my route were in fair shape but the secondary roads were quite challenging. Hopefully my bike handling skills are improving.

I just checked some traffic cameras and conditions appear to be better now than this morning (at least I'm seeing a lot more bare pavement).

Bikeboy said...

On Monday morning, I experienced some glorious "powder riding" (think "powder skiing"), but not continuously. I squished about in packed snow, walked a couple stretches, and crossed paths with a guy who sounded like he was from Down Under, and reassured me that I "was taking my life in my hands."

At the end of the day I cheated and left the bike at the office... rode the bus. Tomorrow morning looks dicey, but I'll anticipate riding home in the afternoon.

Clancy said...

Monday was okay because of the fresh snow. Today was good and bad. The secondary road was nice and smooth packed. The main roads with bike lanes were horrible. The worst is the brown sugar snow that crumbles under your tires.

The trials motorbikes are definitely cool.

Anonymous said...

My morning commute today was as Clancy describes, and also totally awesome. I left myself lots of time, enjoyed the feeling of coming to mental peace with the slipping and sliding of my wheels,* and stopped on the railroad trestle over the river to contemplate the geese floating peacefully in the river as the snow fell. Marvelous!

* This sensation, of learning to let the slipping happen and trust yourself & your machine, is very enlightening. I wish I could share it with automobile addicts!