Basic comp rules
Typically, at competitions, you will have between 5 and 10 sections marked with coloured ribbons and arrows corresponding to different age categories. In any given section, pilots must follow the colour of the category they belong to.
Participants must ride all the sections in 2 to 3 circuit laps. Competition rules slightly differ depending on whether the event is organized by the American Trials Series (NATS, www.nats.com), the BikeTrial International Union (BIU, www.eurobiketrial.com) or the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI, www.uci.ch).
Just to summarize the essential, under UCI rules, mods and stock run in two different categories, further split in age groups as detailed below.
- 9 and 10 years old: Poussins ride a white course on 20” (mods only)
- 11 and 12 years old: Benjamins (20” & 26” categories) ride a blue course
- 13-14 years old: Minimes (20” & 26” categories) ride a green course
- 15 and 16 years old: Cadets (20” & 26” categories) ride a black course
- 16-18 years old: Juniors (20” & 26” categories) ride a red course
- 19 years old and up: Elite (20” & 26” categories) ride a yellow course
- Women 15 years and over: (20” & 26” categories) ride in a pink course
Each section must be cleared in less than 2:30 minutes (extra time incurs 1 penalty point per 15 seconds elapsed). Your penalty points are logged on a punch card that you carry with you and give to the observer before entering a zone. During your run, the observer gives you the countdown on time and indicates the number of penalty points with one hand in the air (starting with a closed fist for zero penalty points)
The maximum number of penalty points you can receive in a given section is 5, after that you must exit the section and go to the next. Upon completion of the first lap of sections (sometimes in any order), the riders bring back their card to the organizers and get a new one for each new round. Each time you put a foot on the ground, if you rest the pedals or the bash plate on an obstacle, or if you happen to push against an obstacle with your shoulders or your elbows to re-establish your balance, you’ll be penalized 1 point.
Of course, you must remain within the marked sections. Your position is defined by where the wheel axles stand. Cross the wrong colour gate, ride over the tape (even accidentally) and it will be 5 penalty points. Holding the bike other than by the handlebars, or placing both feet simultaneously on the ground or on an obstacle also gives you 5. You will also get the maximum penalty if you fall off the bike, or if you have both feet on the same side of the frame while standing with one foot on the ground (because then you are off the bike). Keep your hands on the handlebars, you’ll get a five if you touch anything else. In fact, you’ll have to work very hard to avoid penalties. The pilot who accumulates the least penalty points in the shortest riding time wins.
UCI versus BIU riding styles
The biggest difference between UCI or BIU riding styles is that BIU rules allow bash guard and pedal support, so you can rest a pedal on an obstacle without being penalized. That often means a different riding strategy altogether. Laps are limited to two minutes, and no extra time is given (5 penalty points beyond 2mn). Riders are also allowed to receive positioning advice from a minder (this would be sanctioned by a 10 point penalty under UCI rules where riders compete without any assistance). The age-group categories differ in colours and classification among experienced riders is bit more obscure.
Competition adds another layer of strategic thinking, risk taking, and pressure to the ride, but there is often a great atmosphere, and it is an excellent opportunity to meet fellow trials riders passionate about the sport. So find out where the nearest trials club is, and enjoy a day out!