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 1⁄2 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!