April Fools Trial, Deer Flats

April first, not nec­es­sar­i­ly the best day for a Tri­als event, but here I am, in the truck at 6:40 am, head­ed for our near­by rid­ing area in Wash­ing­ton state. It’s cold this morn­ing, and driz­zling just a bit as I make my way out of town.

50 min­utes lat­er, I pull into our rid­ing area; hmmm, no one here. Well, now that would be an April Fools day tri­als, huh? “no event. April fools!”. A quick phone call to my love­ly wife, a quick search on the ‘net, and the answer: “you should read the fly­ers, dear”! The event is anoth­er 6 miles up the road. So I dri­ve up, get set-up and go out to warm up… in the *snow*! Yikes. It’s been a long time since I’ve rid­den a tri­als in weath­er this cold. I warm up, but I’m stiff and out of sync with the bike. Might not be a good day. 

9am, rid­ers meet­ing. I’m observ­ing this morn­ing, for the Novice and Inter­me­di­ate class­es. Sec­tion 10 is my assigned post, so off I go. I find the sec­tion easy enough, dump my pack, and do some explor­ing, find­ing a cou­ple of after­noon sec­tions near­by. They don’t look too scary, but filled with pret­ty tight turns. I need a chal­lenge, so I go find a decent rock, about 20″ high, about 23 of the way up a 50ft hill, with a 12″ log about 20 feet far­ther up, looks like a good test, so I give it a go, get warmed up a bit. Over the rock no prob­lem, but then there’s exact­ly 0 trac­tion between it and the log. After about 6 tries, I find a line just to the left of my orig­i­nal attempt that has a bit of trac­tion, and with the help of 2nd gear, rather than first, I final­ly clear the log, with a dab. as I’m head­ing back down to my sec­tion, I’m think­ing “boy, that stunk!”. Then I watch one of our local experts take a shot at the same rock, it took him 3 tries to get over the log, so now I feel better!

Usu­al stuff observ­ing the Novice and Inter­me­di­ates, give a lit­tle advice here and there, always try to help them out, with­out slip­ping into ‘nag’ mode. High­light of the morn­ing is when a guy rides through, says he is just mess­ing around, but he rode pret­ty well, and as we’re watch­ing his bud­dy ride through, I’m think­ing “this guy looks famil­iar”. His bud­dy rides up and away they go. About 5 min­utes lat­er, it dawns on me, “that guy looked a lot like Kevin Schwantz; he was at a local deal­er yes­ter­day, I’ll bet that was him!” A chat with the tri­als mar­shall a few min­utes lat­er con­firms that that was, in fact, Kevin Schwantz. Very cool.

After lunch, we head out on the loop for our shot at our sec­tions. First sec­tion, first obsta­cle: a 30 inch rock face, where a year ago, my fin­ger slipped off the clutch and the bike pound­ed me into the tree right to the left of sec­tion-in. Oh well, here we go. I make it up the face with just a dab at the top, and then on through the sec­tion. Wow, real­ly tight cor­ners, with lots of ups and downs thrown in. The entire course is like that. There’s noth­ing real­ly dra­mat­ic or scary here, but it’s tough rid­ing, nev­er time or space to get set-up for the next obsta­cle. Since I’m out of prac­tice, it’s real­ly hard work. I ride most sec­tions with 3’s, a cou­ple of 5’s where I stall the bike, or in a cou­ple of cas­es, find a boat­load of trac­tion where I wasn’t ready for it and cat­a­pult myself and the bike out of bounds, in one case in sec­tion 3, right into a stump. instant halt to for­ward motion! ow, that’s gonna hurt tomor­row! (com­ment from future self: yep, it does.)

So I mud­dle through, put togeth­er a cou­ple of decent rides, a few ‘real’ 3’s (only dab­bing 3 times, not pad­dling), a cou­ple of 2’s, and final­ly a 1 on sec­tion 9 the last attempt! back to the truck, change into dry clothes (this is always where I regret not hav­ing brought our 12×5 box trail­er: the con­tor­tion­ist act that is ‘chang­ing clothes in a com­pact pick-up pas­sen­ger seat’), and head over to the scoring
trail­er to tal­ly up the card. I have no illu­sions that I’m in con­tention, but I fig­ure it was a tough course, some­one might have had a worse day than me. alas, I was about to be proven quite wrong, slapped in the face by the uni­verse, in fact. In total­ing up the card, I find that I only have 1 score for sec­tion 2. I quick­ly ride back out into the woods to find the observ­er, and get the oth­er scores punched (they’d be 5’s at this point, but bet­ter than penal­ty scores). No observ­er, no sec­tion, all the tape has been tak­en down.
I found the loca­tion, and at the moment I gazed on the nasty slick log that was the entrance, I real­ized that I had in fact spaced out the loop, and skipped sec­tion 2 on both loops 2 and 3. Aw Shit! Back to the scor­ing trail­er, tal­ly up the card, add the penal­ty (10 points per missed sec­tion, 20 points), and we get a grand total of 113! ow! not even close to being in contention!

So I dri­ve home, tired, sore, and a bit dis­gust­ed at myself. I’m not too upset at rid­ing poor­ly, I know I’m out of prac­tice. But to make a men­tal mis­take like that, it irks me. It’s also pret­ty rare, I can’t every remem­ber actu­al­ly get­ting all the way to the end and dis­cov­er­ing that I missed a sec­tion like that. Oh well, live and learn.

For the next event, I’m buy­ing a new rear tire, and I here­by resolve to prac­tice more. Keep your feet up and the rub­ber side down!

See ya on the loop trail!


About the Author

Jim Harriger