Where to ride?
The beauty of trials riding is that pretty much any place, whether in an urban or a natural setting, can become a playground where to spend countless hours experimenting with the bike. Which means you never have to go very far beyond your doorstep. As your skills develop, you can be more creative and try new riding lines that were too difficult to consider when you just started. You will be looking at things in a different way.
Urban versus Natural
If you live in a big town, you will more likely be riding over man-made obstacles and concrete structures such as walls, steps, kerbs, railings, stacks of pallets, with plenty of flat surfaces, straight lines, and square edges to get your grip on. Urban trials is great to get your marks on specific techniques. The shapes and adherence of such obstacles are quite predictable, which is good for absolute control and certainly easier to begin with, but then for the same reasons, urban riding tends to be a bit repetitive. As long as you don’t put other people at risk or commit any offences, you’ll often find some public to encourage you or express their astonishment. Beware, you would be missing out on the full dimension of bike trials if you were to ignore natural settings altogether.
Natural is unique
Learning all the cool tricks and techniques in a polished urban set is one thing. Much more challenging is to go out and use your riding skills in a natural zone. Not least because the terrain is never straight or flat which makes maintaining balance more difficult and limits run-up distance too. That’s why nailing a pure technique on a square bit of dry concrete is no guarantee of success on uneven boulders or wood logs, especially with hugely variable levels of grip (wood bark coming off, loose gravels, mud, wet roots, slanted rocks, just name it…).
Riding trials in a natural zone involves much more than the mechanical and repetitive use of known techniques. It pushes your riding to a new level of accuracy, for distance evaluation, pedal power, weight transfer, wheel positioning and braking control. Here comes the mental game, the concentration and the strategic thinking. With many paths to choose from, numerous angles from which to look at the obstacles combined with adverse terrain, natural trials reserves you the most exciting and rewarding side of the sport. You may find it too difficult at the beginning, but if you have the chance to live nearby some interesting natural landscapes you should definitely make the most of it.
At competitions, you will find supervised zones. These are sections marked by arrows and tape or ribbons, spreading over a series of obstacles or difficult terrain. Riders must follow the markers, ideally without ever setting a foot on the ground while an observer keeps a tab on penalty points.
Most bike trials competitions take place in natural settings, often completed with man-made sections. An artificial (man-made) section is called “indoor” even when it is set up outdoor, because it could be built under a roof (as it is the case for competitions held in stadiums or exhibition halls). Indoor sections usually feature a good mix of heavy construction materials such as concrete blocks or pipes, with wood logs, industrial pallets, heavy truck tyres, skips, car wrecks, or just anything solid and varied.
Setting up a zone
If you fall short of interesting places to ride nearby, setting up a modest indoor zone doesn’t require much space in a backyard or even in a warehouse. A dozen industrial pallets combined with some imagination will give you plenty of obstacles to try from, easily reconfigured to practise your current skills. With more material and space, the sky is the limit.
We welcome all contributions with pictures of your favourite riding zones, natural, urban or indoor. Use the comment box below to upload your pictures. Don’t forget to mention the name of the place, city, country.