The Spring Trial, Gold Bar, WA. 2 March 2008

Anoth­er sea­son has begun. We should have got­ten start­ed in Feb­ru­ary, but too much snow kept us from hold­ing our tra­di­tion­al “Ice Tri­al”. A tad iron­ic, that.

Be that as it may, rough­ly 35 of us showed up at Gold Bar, under cloudy skies and with mid-40s tem­per­a­tures. Got unload­ed, geared up and went off for a bit of explo­ration and warm-up. I hadn’t been on the bike out­side my own yard since my last prac­tice ses­sion in mid-Novem­ber, so I was a bit rusty and my tim­ing and judge­ment was off. But I got warmed up, and deter­mined that the dirt had a fair bit of trac­tion, but that the logs and rocks we’re real­ly slick after an entire win­ter of sog­gy, cold weath­er. I did find myself hit­ting obsta­cles with either too much or too lit­tle speed and throt­tle, just rusty, I guess.

Rid­ers meet­ing comes and goes, and I’m off to check sec­tion #4 in the morn­ing. A cute lit­tle sec­tion, deceiv­ing in it’s sim­plic­ty. There were basi­cal­ly 2 rocks to go over, one at the entrance and one at the exit, with some turns and gen­tle climbs and descents between the two. Decep­tive, because the final right hand turn was quite sharp, and down in a dip, with a rock on the inside of the entrance that kicked the rear tire out­wards just an you start­ed climb­ing out. Took me a few tries to fig­ure it out, and it took many points from the Inter­me­di­ate class rid­ers through­out the morn­ing. If mem­o­ry serves, Jesse Howard had it com­plete­ly fig­ured out and had the smoothest rides there all day.

Had sev­er­al spec­ta­tors stop by and ask about Observed Tri­als, and about the bikes, etc. One them were a cou­ple of gen­tle­men who intro­duced them­selves as Dale and Dean. They asked a bunch of ques­tions about bikes, and Dale indi­cat­ed that Dean had been involved in Tri­als in the past and was think­ing about get­ting back into the sport. He was ask­ing about Sher­cos, so i told him he could take my ’04 2.9 for a spin. As soon as he rode away, it was obvi­ous that he’d rid­den fair­ly seri­ous­ly at some time, I could just tell from the way he bal­anced bike and his stance. Lat­er I found out that their last name is Dor­cas; Dean Dor­cas was the NATC High School nation­al Cham­pi­on in 1984. In my book , that qual­i­fies as ‘rode seri­ous­ly!’ Wel­come back, guys, hope to see you at more events!

The morn­ing fin­ished with­out inci­dent and I went back to the pits to get ready for the after­noon ride. Check the gas, tire pres­sures, fill the hydra­tion sys­tem, and then decide whether or not to wear the jack­et; on. off. on. off. on for now, but i’m tak­in’ it off just before i start. A lit­tle before 1pm, they turn us loose, and it’s across the pow­er lines to find Sec­tion 1. Not too bad, a nice re-intro­duc­tion to how this is sup­posed to be done, after a win­ter of couch surf­ing and fire­place tend­ing. I get through with a 1 (should have been a clean), and head on out. The loop is fair­ly open, and the sec­tions are nice­ly spread out, which is nice, it keeps large lines from devel­op­ing at any 1 sec­tion. Sec­tion2 is a hill­climb with sev­er­al changes in sur­face, anoth­er 1, and i’m feel­ing pret­ty good. That is about to change. Sec­tion 3 is on a rock face we call 3-step. It’s some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of 80 – 100 feet long, very steep, and has sev­er­al steps and sur­face changes in it. The advanced line here today is a Z-shaped path up the right side of the first pitch, across the face, and up a slot in the left side of it. This is after enter­ing 12 way up, and drop­ping the last 20 feet, and mak­ing a U-turn in a field of soft­ball-sized round rocks. The trick to a sec­tion like this is know­ing how much trac­tion you have at every point, and how to bal­ance the traction/power/momentum equa­tion. I nev­er did get it right. First attempt was too slow, got messed up on the crossover, and knocked a mark­er down the face, sec­ond time had too much momen­tum, and the third time I missed the line and failed to make it back up the first pitch. I know the sec­tion is rid­able, but it was very intim­i­dat­ing and my speed/traction judge­ment was rusty. Oh well. The rest of the loop was about what you’d expect, a mix­ture of not-killer sec­tions, and a cou­ple of real ‘preg­nant dogs’. Sec­tions 6 and 7 bear spe­cial notice. As you may know, West­ern Wash­ing­ton, espe­cial­ly as you near the Cas­cade Moun­tains, tends to be a bit sog­gy. Rocks that sit around in this cli­mate for years and years acquire a del­i­cate coat­ing of slime, the trac­tive prop­er­ties of which approx­i­mate pol­ished mar­ble with motor oil on top. Sec­tions 6 and 7 were laid out through field of the­se rocks, includ­ing sharp turns and a cou­ple of steps and climbs. For the Expert-class rid­ers, the­se were con­tin­u­ous sec­tions, iId guess total length of about 150ft actu­al. Advanced-class rid­ers got a 15ft ‘free zone’ between the two. Per­ceived length while attempt­ing to nav­i­gate this rock pile on a tri­als bike was about 2 miles! At any moment the back wheel was like­ly to step out, and a loss of momen­tum at a cru­cial moment meant a bunch of lift­ing and push­ing to get things mov­ing again. The best I did here all day was a 3 and a 2 (and that 2 felt like a clean!).
Any­way, the­se two sec­tions were great chal­lenges to punc­tu­ate a larg­er set of doable, yet still tech­ni­cal­ly chal­leng­ing sec­tions.

A cou­ple of triv­ial, yet inter­est­ing obser­va­tions from sec­tions 9 and 10: Sec­tion 9 was a clas­sic log sec­tion, a few tight turns, and 4 – 5 log cross­ings, depend­ing on class. The final log in the sec­tion has been there for so long that both sides are start­ing to erode, and in pro­file it’s now more rec­tan­gu­lar then round, about 26″ tall, and 12″ across the top. This log real­ly brought home to me how rusty my judge­ment was. On the first loop, I hit that pup­py with about 30% too much speed, sailed over, and near­ly missed the right turn to the exit gate. The sec­ond time, I pussy-foot­ed it, and wound up tak­ing 3 points, basi­cal­ly car­ry­ing the bike over the log. It wasn’t until the last loop that I actu­al­ly hit it cor­rect­ly and got out smooth­ly. More prac­tice I could use.

Sec­tion 10 was also inter­est­ing, for anoth­er rea­son entire­ly. Upon walk­ing the sec­tion, it was fair­ly obvi­ous what the mar­shall intend­ed. The trick was that the sec­tion wasn’t marked with con­tin­u­ous rib­bon, which meant that some cre­ative line pick­ing made the run up to the hill climb sub­stan­tial­ly longer and straighter than what seemed to the the ‘intent’. Not a huge deal, but there was some dis­cus­sion with the observer about how far out­side the ‘intend­ed’ line was legal, and ‘cheater’ lines. This has been a long-stand­ing dis­cus­sion in the Tri­als com­mu­ni­ty, but in my opin­ion, the tri­als mar­shall gets to make the deci­sion: either mark with spot (non-con­tin­u­ous) rib­bons and accept the fact that tri­als rid­ers are clev­er crit­ters, and will find the eaiest line, or use con­tin­u­ous rib­bon where they want to enforce a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge.

all in all, a great way to kick-off the 2008 sea­son. Look­ing for­ward to many more great events! Keep those feat on the pegs!