Category Archives: event reports

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!


Independance Trial, July 8, 2007, Deer Flats

Due to the usu­al com­bi­na­tion of work, chores, oth­er motor­cy­cles, etc. I hadn’t been on my tri­als bike until the evening before this event. To make the grim even grim­mer, I sprained my back on wednes­day, bal­let danc­ing with a weed­whack­er. So the evening before, I go out into the pas­ture for 30 min­utes, work up a good sweat, and man­age to semi-remem­ber what this whole tri­als thing is about. kin­da. not too con­fi­dence inspir­ing.

So when sun­day morn­ing rolls around, we (my love­ly wife accom­pa­nied me to this event) mosey on out to the site. A new area, about a mile far­ther than Deer Flats, on the same crum­my road. 5 miles of hard, rocky, pot­holed dirt road. about 10 – 12 mph is all my old truck wants to do, at any faster pace, it wants to pitch it’s occu­pants through the roof. Hmmm, maybe there IS a draw­back to the $29.95 shock absorbers. Arriv­ing at the site, we scope it out, and find a place to park, most­ly off the road. Not much park­ing room here, so every­one is pret­ty much parked on the road shoul­der, and strung out over about 14 mile of road. I pro­ceed to sign-up, where I sign up for AM Sports­man. That means I’ll ride the easy sec­tions, but my score won’t count for tro­phies or points. This way, I get to have some fun, get some of my chops back, and not run the risk of aggra­vat­ing my back too bad­ly. It looks like it will be a great day, weath­er-wise, too: 75 or so, clear skies.

After sign­ing up, I gear up and head out into the woods to warm up, and take a look at the loop. I find a bunch of both morn­ing and after­noon sec­tions, looks inter­est­ing. I bop around a bit, and then try to find an obsta­cle that chal­lenges me a bit; i find two par­al­lel logs, 8 inch­es apart, and behind them a slip­pery pair of rocks. Looks good. after 3 or 4 attempts, I’ve got it pret­ty well, and I feel like I’m rid­ing OK. So i mean­der up the trail to find the rest of the morn­ing loop trail. I’m on the trail back­wards for a while, and then lose it a bit, but I can see some rib­bons in the dis­tance, so i head that direc­tion. There I find sec­tion 3, and there is an observ­er and rid­ers there! Holy cow, I’ve lost track of time, missed the rider’s meet­ing, and now the start! Ask the observ­er where 1 is, and head out. I find the first sec­tion, force myself to relax a bit, and walk the sec­tion.

By the end of the first loop, I’m only behind the next-to-last rid­er by about 5 min­utes, so no prob­lem on time. I relax and my rid­ing starts to get bet­ter. It’s a short loop, only about a mile, and there are only 8 sec­tions (nor­mal­ly, a loop con­tains 10 sec­tions). About 12 way through my 3rd loop, I think to ask an observ­er “How many loops?” “Four” is the reply. Ah, now I have anoth­er loop to ride. No prob­lem, I ride rea­son­ably well, but not great. I fin­ish, total the score (38 and 9 cleans), hand it in, even though no one is going to write it down any­where, and hunt down the Mar­shall. My love­ly bride and I have a par­ty to attend, and if I am not need­ed to observe in the after­noon, we’ll skate. So I ask, mak­ing it clear that if I’m need­ed, I’ll observe (it’s con­sid­ered real­ly bad form to ride and then not offer to observe, as the event is con­tin­gent on hav­ing observers). He allows as how he has enough, so I can split. We do, and make our way home.

A cou­ple of days lat­er, I check the scores, just to get an idea of where I would have placed: looks like in inter­me­di­ate, I would have won by a sin­gle point. So that’s not bad, for no prac­tice. Now I look for­ward to the next event. Our next event is at a loca­tion out­side ellens­burg that we cal Fun­ny Rocks. It’s a bit of a dri­ve from here, so I’m debat­ing whether to go or not. More news as I decide.

Thanks for read­ing.

BigFoot Trial, Sept 9, Deer Flats, WA

After spend­ing most of the sum­mer rid­ing my street bikes and Dual-Sport machine, I got back to the Tri­als thing on Sat­ur­day, Sept. 9th. We had fan­tas­tic weath­er, around 75 degrees and clear skies, which prob­a­bly con­tributed to the good turnout. I think there were 25 – 35 rid­ers, includ­ing at least a cou­ple of folks who came out to help or cheer for fam­i­ly mem­bers! We had sev­er­al rid­ers from Cana­da, as well as a few folks from the Port­land, OR area.

Logis­ti­cal­ly, the day went smooth­ly, noth­ing unusu­al on the dri­ve up, just the stan­dard crap­py road to deer flats. Signed up, and went out for a bit of warm-up. Found the loop and glanced at a few sec­tions. It is fair­ly obvi­ous that turn­ing is going to be a key skill today! Even the Novice/Intermediate sec­tions were tight! A bit or warm up, feel­ing decent, still a lit­tle trep­i­da­tion about large rocks, espe­cial­ly going down, but bet­ter. Head back, get my gear for the morn­ing, and head out to my sec­tion for obser­va­tion.

I was on Sec­tion 7, a pret­ty straight-for­ward turn-log-turn-log… sec­tion until the end, where there’s a right uphill turn with tree roots, fol­lowed by a left down­hill, also with roots. An obsta­cle that real­ly rewards aware­ness of both wheel tracks, and the abil­i­ty to man­age weight and load­ing. With a quick, well-timed unload of the rear wheel, not too dif­fi­cult, but it’s a del­i­cate trick. I see a low score of 1, but a ton of 3’s and a num­ber of 5’s. The 5’s are from either stalling, or los­ing the front in the next to last turn and hav­ing it go out of bounds. Pret­ty soon, we’re done, and it’s lunch-break time. A quick snack, and get ready to ride.

We get our score cards and head out. Sec­tion 1 is a pump-fake: up/down/up/down, no logs, no rocks, just tight turns. I get through with a 1, and i’m feel­ing pret­ty good. At sec­tion 2, real­i­ty hits. Real­ly, real­ly tight turns, and two nasty rock steps, the first of which has an off-angle approach, and the sec­ond is a point­ed rock: there’s *a* good line, and it’s 1 inch wide. Gulp. I get through it with a decent 3; i.e. not real­ly floun­der­ing, using my dabs well, and hav­ing decent trac­tion. OK, not too bad. That set the tone for the day: lot’s of decent threes, a few floun­ders, and at least 3 real­ly dumb 5’s. The first came in Sec­tion 10, which was a long hill­climb with a cou­ple of gen­tle turns in it. Not too bad, unless you miss your line, and make the turn across the hill too ear­ly.

By the end of the third loop, I’d final­ly fig­ured out the hill-climb, but I was com­plete­ly worn out. Both fore­arms and hands were cramp­ing up, and my leg was begin­ning to real­ly hurt where i’d used it it keep the left foot­peg from get­ting scratched on the big rock in sec­tion 7. Back to the pits, tal­ly up the score, hmmm 90 and 0 cleans. 90 i’m OK with, but I was dis­ap­point­ed that i didn’t man­age a sin­gle clean ride all day. My dis­ap­point­ment was to get deep­er…

Back to the truck, get changed and loaded up, then back to scor­ing to check the results. Ouch! beat­en out of 3rd place by 1 point! Arrrgh! So many places dur­ing the day, I could’ve shaved a point off. Hell, I could’ve shaved 6 or 8 off just in sec­tion 10. Over­all, it was a close com­pe­ti­tion in the Advanced class, all 4 of us seper­at­ed by just 12 points.

So in the end, it was a very chal­leng­ing tri­als, very tech­ni­cal, but fun and left every­one with the sense that they’d accom­plished some­thing by the end of the day. I’m get­ting back to form slow­ly, and my con­fi­dence is return­ing. We shall see how the next 2 events go.

Thanks for read­ing!

Keep your feet on the pegs!


Event Report: Halloween One, Walker Valley, 7 October 2007

Whew! arrive at the park­ing area about 8:30am sun­day, got out of the truck, Holy Stiff Breeze, Bat­man! We’re at about 1900 ft. alti­tude, and up on an exposed hill­top where they’re run­ning a grav­el pit, and the wind is blow­ing pret­ty good. Get over to sign up, Sean (one of the Mar­shalls) allows as how we’re prob­a­bly going to do a Group Check event, where rid­ers go out in groups, and check each oth­er. It allows all class­es to run at once, which makes for a much short­er day, and giv­en the way the weath­er looked to be movin’ in, the right call.

That said, I’m not a big fan group check tri­als, for pure­ly self­ish rea­sons: i his­tor­i­caly haven’t rid­den well in group check sit­u­a­tions! I have a ten­den­cy to get into my own head too much, and psych myself out, espe­cial­ly after a cou­ple of bad sec­tions. When doing cross check events, I can take advan­tage of the clock, and give myself breaks, snacks, and re-group time where I need it. In a group check sit­u­a­tion, I always feel like there’s some­thing else i need to be pay­ing atten­tion to, and my rid­ing suf­fers, espe­cial­ly on the first loop, when things are often quite slow.

Any­way, enough whing­ing! We get our cards and punch­es, and away we go. Down the hill, up the road, into the woods, and there’s #1. A tricky ups­lope with an angled log in it, then a sharp turn, cross-hill over to a descent over a slick slab rock, about 8 feet long. Not too tough, but I don’t have con­fi­dence in the trac­tion yet, and get out of shape after the log, and pad­dle through. Oh well, not too bad, I think, and we go on. much of the first loop is like that, includ­ing a cou­ple of real­ly dumb 5’s, stalled the engine, hit a tree with the shift lever, that kind of stuff.

But as the day went on, I felt like I was rid­ing bet­ter and bet­ter, and it all came togeth­er pret­ty well on the last loop, I put togeth­er a loop of 17 points, low­est of any­one in my class, and had 2 cleans. Alas, it wasn’t enough, and I wound up with 78 points and 3 cleans, which was a sol­id lock of 4th place advanced. again. At least I feel like my con­fi­dence is return­ing, espe­cial­ly on the last lap sun­day, and my con­di­tion­ing work is pay­ing off, it wasn’t until the end of the third loop, after sec­tion 10, that i real­ly start­ed hav­ing fore­arm pump and cramp­ing prob­lems.

So, in short, it wasn’t the ride I’d hoped for, but I am still improv­ing. If I could make the time and moti­va­tion to prac­tice more, I’m sure it would advance my cause a bit faster.

Next event: Hal­loween Two, by Jon Payne, at Gold Bar, WA. See ya there, and keep those feet up!


Event Report: Halloween II, Gold Bar, WA, 28 October 2007

A won­der­ful day greet­ed a fair­ly large turnout of rid­ers for our last event of the year. Not too cold and we had nice sun­shine all day. A bit of warm­ing up and pok­ing around, inter­est­ing sec­tions, looks pret­ty tech­ni­cal, with lots of turns with obsta­cles in them. Lit­tle did I know.

Got signed up, and con­fered with the oth­er Advanced rid­ers; we are doing group check, so we had a quick dis­cus­sion of whether to split the 5 of us up to make things go faster or not. the dis­cus­sion was incon­clu­sive, the 5 of us pret­ty much rode togeth­er the entire day.

out to sec­tion 1, start look­ing around. whoa, nel­lie: imag­ine rid­ing up the right front wheel of a mini-coop­er, turn­ing left, and then rid­ing down off of it at the left rear wheel. that’s kin­da what the first rock obsta­cle looked like. Many folks had trou­ble there, some went over the bars com­ing down, some didn’t make it up, and some if us just had a case of the hee­bie-jee­bies once we got up on to and were look­ing down into that drop-n-turn as you come off. nev­er did get through there with bet­ter than a 1 all day. On to the next sec­tion, which real­ly summed up the tri­als. It had a chal­leng­ing-loook­ing rock step at the entrance, and then looked like a tight trail ride through some rocks and up the hill­side. The entrance was the easy part, it was the slimy rocks in the turns, no good place to put the back wheel, and the decep­tiv­ly slick leaves that made it real­ly tough. All 11 sec­tions were like that, in one way or anoth­er. It took us over 2 hours to ride the first loop. Over­all, I felt like I was doing OK, but being a lit­tle bit too timid. This was not helped by going sky­div­ing off the rock in sec­tion 3; made it up, but was too far right, and when I need­ed that dab, my right foot found only air. wheeeeeee, smack! right on the rocks with my right arm and shoul­der. But no last­ing dam­age, just a nice bruise on the elbow. By the third loop, I’d gained some con­fi­dence in the bike and knew a bit more about where the trac­tion was, and had a few good rides. There was gen­er­al agree­ment, though, that this was a tough event. Many of the cor­ners seemed impos­si­ble, at least for Advanced rid­ers.

Fin­ished, back to truck to lick the wounds a bit. Then got around to tal­ly­ing the score. Wowsa, that­sa lot­ta points! 105, with 2 cleans. But this time the 1-point score dif­fer­ence went in my favor! 3rd place! Hey, I made the podi­um!

As a final event of the year, it was a good end­ing. I think i’m get­ting some of my con­fi­dence back, I have a win­ter plan of a few things to take care of on the bike (front brakes need some atten­tion, and i’m going to see if i can get the clutch to have a lit­tle soft­er engage­ment point), and I’m going to be ready to go in 2008!

see y’all on the loop trail! keep those feet up!


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!


The Fool’s Trial, Gold Bar, WA April 6, 2008

To start, I want to say thanks to all of the folks who worked their butts off to put this event on. It was orig­i­nal­ly planned for Deer Flats, about 5 miles up the road and, more crit­i­cal­ly, abouit 1500 feet high­er in ele­va­tion. We’re hav­ing a late, kin­da crazy spring here in west­ern Wash­ing­ton, and we had snow in the low­lands last week, and pret­ty much got snowed out of Deer Flats. But folks ral­lied around, and put on a great event.

Sun­day morn­ing dawns with typ­i­cal­ly spring weath­er for around here, maybe a bit chilly. 45 degrees and driz­zling off and on. A quick bite, gath­er my lunch, cof­fee, etc.,
and i’m out the door. I’m dri­ving the Rover today with the box trail­er behind it, because when the weath­er is nasy, there’s noth­ing nicer than going into the trail­er at lunch break, fir­ing up the Kero­sun heater, and get­ting tru­ly thawed out. After an unevent­ful dri­ve to Gold Bar, I pull off the pave­ment at Reit­er Pit, and head for our rid­ing area; holy pot­holes, bat­man, this road is real­ly going to hell! Lat­er I’ll see a com­peti­tor pull in dri­ving a BMW 5-series sedan; I won­der how he got it up the road with­out rip­ping out one of it’s key organs?

Find a spot to park, untie the bike, but it’s driz­zling, so I leave it in trail­er, no sense get­ting soaked before I need to! Get my gear on, go say “Hi” to the famil­iar faces, and stretch out a bit. Go out and warm up, prac­tice a few easy things and head back to the pits. Sign up, and have a bit of a dis­cus­sion about group check vs. cross check. I grudg­ing­ly admit that the weath­er makes group check­ing a bit more attrac­tive today, but reg­u­lar read­ers know that I always ride worse dur­ing group check, so I’m not a huge fan. After some dis­cus­sion, it is decid­ed that we will cross check. So i get my assigned duties, and head out to my sec­tion. Sec­tion 6, I find it eas­i­ly enough, and dis­cov­er, in what would become a theme for the day, that it is long, I can just bare­ly see the start gate from the end! A lit­tle bit of walk­ing around reveals a good spot to observe from, which allows get­ting to the end gate to mark the rid­ers card in only a few steps. Ah, my first rid­er, here comes Ted, almost always our first novice/intermediate rid­er, he just flys! He puts in a good ride, and motors on. Through the morn­ing, I had a few fives (stalled motors most­ly), one of which was an actu­al dis­mount from the machine. Front tire went this-a-way, rid­er went that-a-way. No injuries, so it’s all good. All in all, though every­one rode well, and most improved their scores as the morn­ing pro­gressed. It was great to see the new faces, as well, wel­come every­one, hope to see you at anoth­er event soon.

Back to the pits, grab lunch, in this case beef stew and some french bread. Hav­ing a ther­mos that will keep stew or soup warm is real­ly nice on these sog­gy 42 degree spring days. Change into some dry gear, gas the bike, and get ready to go. Oh, wait, tire pres­sures. Check them again, decide I’m hap­py with 4lbs in the front and 3lbs in the rear. That’s a bit low­er than usu­al, but I fig­ured trac­tion was going be a bit scarce, and it seems like the Dun­lop tire likes to run a bit low­er pres­sure than the Miche­lin I used to use. We get our score cards and the rid­ers meet­ing, and one of the Mar­shalls vague­ly waves a hand and says ‘loop is yel­low rib­bon, and starts over there’. Find the sec­tion, and start fig­ur­ing things out. This ones on a hill, pre­dom­i­nate­ly down­hill, with some turns and climbs in it, and it ends with a series of tight turns
left 90, right 180, then right 90, over a set of tree roots and logs. I get a bit out of shape ear­ly, due to over-enthu­si­as­tic use of the front brake, and end up with a 3. Not bad, but I can do bet­ter. Back out on the loop and away we go. The next three are log and turn sec­tions, I like the logs, but the turns are real­ly tight. In #3, I take a planned dab ear­ly in the sec­tion and it works out pret­ty well. The small logs where the bark is gone are real­ly slick though. Very del­i­cate get­ting over them at any kind of angle. Work­ing though the rest of the loop, most­ly rock-jum­ble type sec­tions. Things are real­ly slick today, and for me, at least, it’s way too easy to pick up more speed than I can smooth­ly scrub off. I have been slow­ly com­ing to the real­iza­tion that my bike may be too quick for my rid­ing style, and maybe I need to do a bit more to slow down the ini­tial hit off idle. I’ve changed to a slow­er throt­tle grip, but I’m think­ing a gear­ing change or a small change in the igni­tion tim­ing might be just the thing. We’ll see.

Fin­ish­ing out the first loop, sec­tions 8 and 9 are rock jum­bles, and real­ly tight turns; I strug­gle through both with 3’s. Then to sec­tion 10. This one deserves spe­cial men­tion, most­ly due to the fact that it had two chal­leng­ing climbs, and two downhill/dropoff obsta­cles that looked like they would gen­er­ate fend­er-puck­er­ing fear. The entrance was tricky, over a rock then a log at 45-degrees, then some wind­ing around over some logs, and up an S-shaped climb up the hill, and the last 6 – 8 feet are com­plete­ly loose mud. I nev­er got past this point, all day. 3 attempts, 3 fives. On the last one, I asked, humor­ous­ly, the check­er if I could yell a cuss-word? “I didn’t hear noth­in”, sez he! When I was done vent­ing my frus­tra­tion, he asks “Is that going to be in the blog?”. Yes, Ted, it’s in the blog: F*CK! That said, I did notice from the post­ed scores that sev­er­al folks got through it much bet­ter, and there were sev­er­al cleans there on the day. A hearty ‘Nice job’ to those guys, that one was tough!

Any­way the next two loops went rea­son­ably well, get­ting close to clean­ing a cou­ple of sec­tions, improv­ing my score in a few oth­ers, and com­plete­ly floun­der­ing though a few. Just as I went out for the third loop, it start­ed rain­ing. By the time I got to #2 the third time, the logs had got­ten real­ly slick, expe­cial­ly the big one right at the entrance, and my dreams of a clean there were washed away! I fin­ished the tri­al with a decent loop, except for sec­tion 10, and head­ed back to the pits. Adding up the scores, I had to stop and do real math at one point, as I count­ed 17 ‘3’s on my score card! At that point in the day 3 times 17 was more than my wee brain could han­dle! That’s a ton of threes, with the upside that some of those coiuld have degen­er­at­ed into ‘5’s, and the down­side that some of them should have been ‘1’s or ‘2’s, but isn’t that how it always goes? Totalled up to 76 with 2 cleans, which I felt OK about, but didn’t real­ly think it would put me in con­tention.
A bit lat­er, as they are hand­ing out the awards, I dis­cov­er that 76 and 2 was good enough for 2nd place in advanced on that Sun­day in April. wooT!

All in all, a fun day, and I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to the Colum­bia Cup. It will be in Gold­en­dale, WA, May 3rd and 4th. Love to see you there!

Keep those feet up!


Halloween II, Gold Bar, WA October 26, 2008

Well, it’s been a long time since my last blog entry. Too much excit­ment on both the job and the fam­i­ly front has left lit­tle time and ener­gy for think­ing about tri­als. Nonethe­less, I did try my hand at the Deer Flats event in July. I hadn’t been on a tri­als bike for about 2 months, and as expect­ed, I was real­ly rusty. I got through the event with a few decent rides, but nev­er real­ly got in the groove and nev­er real­ly got con­fi­dence in my rid­ing. When it was over, the scores showed how rusty I was, last of the assem­bled Advanced rid­ers.

Time march­es on, I was out of the coun­try for the Sep­tem­ber Tri­al, recov­er­ing from the creep­ing crud for Hal­loween I, which brings us to Hal­loween II, at Gold Bar. I had decid­ed before head­ing out that since I hadn’t rid­den in many weeks, and effec­tive­ly only once since June, that I would ride Sr. inter­me­di­ate instead of Advanced.

Arrive at Gold Bar about 8am, find a park­ing spot and get unloaded. First impres­sion is of strange weath­er; it was below freez­ing when I left my house out­side of duvall, but there was a warm breeze blow­ing at Gold Bar. Over­all, a fan­tas­tic day weath­er­wise: sun­shine, a bit of wind, and about 58 degrees. it doesn’t get any bet­ter than that on Octo­ber in the Pacif­ic NW.

Went out and warmed up, includ­ing try­ing out a few rocks that have giv­en me trou­ble in the past. not too bad, but obvi­ous­ly out of prac­tice. I take a look at a few Advanced/Expert sec­tions and con­firm my ear­li­er deci­sion to ride Sr. Inter­me­di­ate; With no prac­tice or rid­ing time for the last 4 months, those sec­tions didn’t look like a good idea.

Back to the pits, get ready, and away we go. Sec­tion 1 at many tri­als is kind of a gimme, an easy sec­tion to get you warmed up and build up your con­fi­dence, before of course, smash­ing said con­fi­dence like a chi­na bowl on a tile floor. Being a tri­als mar­shall requires just a touch of sadis­tic ten­dan­cies. Not today how­ev­er; a fun lit­tle sec­tion, but it has a dia­bol­i­cal uphill right turn in it, with a lit­tle exposed rock just where the back wheel will be when you need to lift the front wheel to float the end of the turn. Nev­er did fig­ure that one out; took a point there every time. Had a pret­ty bad first loop, includ­ing a 5 when I slipped on a slick rock in sec­tion 9, try­ing a dif­fer­ent approach to the slick tree root step. It’s not just the mechan­i­cal rid­ing skills that atro­phy from no prac­tice, it’s also the men­tal parts of the game; line pick­ing and see­ing the cre­ative approach­es to obsta­cles.

Any­way suc­ces­sive loops got bet­ter as I got back in the groove, even post­ing a loop score of 2 on the thrid loop. That’s what the good rid­ers were post­ing from the begin­ning. My even­tu­al score of 24 was good for 5th or 6th, not a shin­ing per­for­mance for some­one who took home a sec­ond place Advanced back in april! oh well. It was a great event, with good sec­tions and good orga­ni­za­tion; as always: Thanks to Jon and fam­i­ly! you guys rock!

So all this brings us to the end of the sea­son, and look­ing for­ward, past the hol­i­days, to next sea­son. The way I see it, I have three options as to how to approach next year. I could get off my ass, clean up my trail sys­tem on my prop­er­ty, build some prac­tice ses­sions, get out there and prac­tice, and set my sights on being com­pet­i­tive in Advanced next year. I could con­tin­ue with my “ride when it’s con­ve­nient” plan and ride Sr. Inter­me­di­ate next year. Or i could take a year off from com­pe­ti­tion, and attend all the events as pho­tog­ra­ph­er and scribe, try to gen­er­ate even more press and some excite­ment around Observed Tri­als in the Pacif­ic North­west.

Right now, not sure which way to go. It seems as though work and fam­i­ly life are going to set­tle down a bit, so the ‘get com­pet­i­tive’ approach might be pos­si­ble. I’m not going to make my deci­sion until after thanks­giv­ing, we’ll see.

See you on the trail, Keep those feet on the pegs!


April Fools’ Trial, Gold Bar, WA April 5, 2009

The day began with dis­ori­en­ta­tion: April in west­ern wash­ing­ton, clear skies, pre­dict­ed high of 70 degrees. WTF? oh well, guess we just deal with it as best as we can. For a long time north­west­ern­er, this was seri­ous cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance ter­ri­to­ry. 🙂

the day before, i’d done some prep on the bike (clean air fil­ter, check tires and flu­ids, etc.) and then tak­en it for a quick ride around the place. This was of course the time that i mis-judged a log cross­ing and snapped the front fend­er off, right at the brace. a quick ses­sion with some scrap plas­tic and a few pop-riv­ets set things right. I had every inten­tion of order­ing a new fend­er, but the fix worked so well that i might not.

any­way, on to the event. nor­mal morn­ing rou­tine, faith­ful read­ers (both of you!) will know it by heart now: dri­ve up, find a park­ing place, unload, pre­flight the bike, warm up, then off to sign-up. signed up, and when the mar­shall asked me if i could observe, i said “sure”. saw him write my name down for sec­tion 1, but didn’t real­ly think about it too much. of for some more warm up. found most of the morn­ing sec­tions, then went look­ing for the after­noon sec­tions. found 2 and 3, but no oth­ers. 2 and three were both steep hill­climbs, with the exits nor eas­i­ly reached with­out rid­ing the course (a ‘no-no’). so i walked through 3 and on up the trail. found 4, and fig­ured out that the rest of the sec­tions were laid out along a trail on the side of the moun­tain that would give a moun­tain goat sec­ond thoughts. ‘rugged enough to make a rab­bit crash’ is one phrase i’ve heard. walked back to the bike, and found sec­tion 1; hmm, that looks like a cake­walk. well, sec­tions (the ones i saw, at least) aren’t going to be the tough part of this tri­als, but the loop is going to take a toll. back to the pits to get ready to observe. morn­ing rid­ers meet­ing com­mences, they are call­ing off observers, but my name is not uttered. rrru­uh? i let the com­mo­tion ebb a bit, then go talk to the mar­shalls; ah here’s the con­fu­sion: when i singed up, he wrote me down to observe in the after­noon, for­get­ting or not real­iz­ing that i was rid­ing in the Advanced class, in the after­noon. well, looks like they aren’t short of observers, so i’m off the hook. so i head out for a bit of seri­ous prac­tice.

i resolve to focus on things i’m uncom­fort­able with: steep drops, turns over jumbly rocks. I man­age to re-teach by body a few things about stay­ing loose in the bike, and lean­ing the bike over; don’t try to keep it ver­ti­cal all the time, it real­ly does turn bet­ter when it’s leaned over!
after about 45 min­utes, back to the pits for a snack and water. while i’m relax­ing, a friend wan­ders up and is exam­in­ing the back tire of my bike, from the look on his face, i’m guess­ing he’s about to point out a giant hole in the tire, or a torn-off knob or some­thing. but no, he points out that i’ve a bazz­il­lion feet of rusty wire wrapped around the rear sproket, hub, and brake disk! exple­tive. i quick­ly bor­row a stand and a BA cres­cent-wrench, whip the rear tire off and start in with the wire cut­ters. a few min­utes of cut­ting and pulling, and it’s all gone, and no dam­age done. we spec­u­lat­ed that it was the wire belt­ing from a tire that some ass­hat prob­a­bly burnt in a ‘camp­fire’ in the area.

a bit more prac­tice, some on the big under­cut log (which result­ed in one of slow­est ‘over-the-bars’ i’ve ever had) and i feel like i’m ready. around noon, we get the sig­nal for the rid­ers to meet up at the scor­ing trail­er. get our instruc­tions (yel­low rib­bon marks the loop, it starts over yon­der and ends over that­away, ya got 3 hours, now git!), and away we go. off to sec­tion 1, looks like a cake­walk, sure enough start off with a clean. nice. on to 2. sec­tions 2 and three and laid out par­al­lel to each oth­er, up a steep hill­side. 2 is a mixed-media climb, dirt, a big rock step, and the rocky dirt on to the exit. 3 is about twice as long, starts in the water, makes a sig­nif­i­cant right turn 12 way up, and has a piece of old log chok­er cable about an inch in diam­e­ter across the line, about 8 inch­es off the ground. the cable has some give, so it’s real­ly not much of an obsta­cle, but it makes ya think. back to 2, watch a clean and 3, decide on 2nd gear, and go for it. good trac­tion, i do a lit­tle ‘trac­tion bounce’ just after the rock bit, and get out clean. down the hill and attack #3. 2nd gear, con­cen­trate on get­ting through the turn clean, and then get­ting a bit of momen­tum built up before the cable and the steep steps after it. a lit­tle foot­peg lever­age just after the cable, and i made it out clean! you can see a pho­to here. (notice the wire cable just under the bike’s front wheel.) yee haw, start­ed off with 3 cleans! but now we get to the meat of the trail. it’s vis­cious­ly steep, both uphill and down­hill, and requires near­ly as much effort to ride as a sec­tion. #4 has a sharp left fol­lowed by a steep climb, 5 has a nasty root-filled uphill left that caught near­ly every­body for at least 1, etc. etc. 8 and 9 were a bit note­wor­thy in that they were a con­tin­u­ous sec­tion; 8 has a dev­il­ish lit­tle turn with a per­fect­ly placed din­ing-table sized rock right at the apex at foot­peg height, forc­ing you into exact­ly the wrong place for the exit. very tricky!

fin­ished the first loop in about and hour and 15 min­utes, the entire loop couldn’t have been a half mile long. but it was work. I’ve been rid­ing events over the past year and tried to keep track of what my heart-rate was doing at var­i­ous times and what my calo­rie burn was. One of the things that i’ve learned is that if i’m sit­ting at the entrance to a sec­tion, and my heart-rate is over 145, i should take a lit­tle rest break until it comes down to about 130 or 135. I ride much bet­ter, giv­en the extra 2 min­utes it takes for the rate to come down. so on the sec­ond and third loops, i paid atten­tion to this; the loops was so short and so chal­leng­ing that unless i gave myself forced breaks, i’d just wear myself out. by doing this, i man­aged to get through the event with­out once arriv­ing at the end of a sec­tion and not being able to get my hands unclenched from the grips!

fin­ished out with 39 points, which turned out to be good enough to ace Cur­tis Mann out of 3rd by 1 point. Michael Jor­dan schooled all of us though, with 24 points, topped off with a 4-point loop 3!. Nice ride, Michael. Kyle Lar­son also put in a good ride to take sec­ond.

Next event is May 3rd, at Deer Flats, above Gold Bar. Great place to ride, nasty place to get to. about 5 miles of rough, rocky road.
If you’d like to find out what observed tri­als are all about, let me know, i’ll get you detailed direc­tions and you could come up and spec­tate.

keep those feet up!

Welcome to a new year! blackdog is back!

As you may have noticed, keep­ing up with this blog didn’t top my hit parade last year. it wasn’t a very good year for tri­als, either, so it didn’t mat­ter much. 🙂
I got ill dur­ing the colum­bia cup, then I injured my elbow while prac­tic­ing last june, and it took many months for it to heal, so I didn’t ride very much through the sum­mer. so that’s ’09 in a nut­shell, on to 2010!

THe year start­ed out with our first event, the “Plas­tered Pur­ple Pen­guin” on jan­u­ary 3rd. A new loca­tion for most of us, a pri­vate area in Marysville. We had excel­lent weath­er for jan­u­ary (45 degrees and not rain­ing) and Tom had a unique event planned with a group check observed tri­als in the morn­ing, and a Scot Tri­al in the after­noon (a race where you points both for the dabs in the sec­tions and for how far you are behind the tar­get time).

This area has a 3.5 mile scram­bles track laid out, and that’s pret­ty much what we used for the loop, with the sec­tions in the woods next to the track at var­i­ous places. Real­ly easy to wear your­self out try­ing to go quick­ly on the scram­bles track; that’s not what a tri­als bike is real­ly good at!

A good selec­tion of sec­tions, with not a lot of splits between advanced and expert, but fun. Once again I proved con­clu­sive­ly that I can­not ride com­peta­tive­ly at the advanced lev­el by just hop­ping on the bike the morn­ing of the event, and call­ing the 30 min­utes warmup ‘prac­tice’. I had fun, but made a num­ber of stu­pid mis­takes, and fin­ished in last place. I also had some issues with the bike being hard to start and kick­ing back while start­ing, so i guess it’s time to catch up with all that deferred main­te­nance. 🙂 (this will be a sub­ject for a future post)

after lunch, 5 or six folks (all but one on larg­er enduro machines) tried their hand at the Scot Tri­als. It cer­tain­ly looked like fun, maybe next year I’ll talk some fool into loan­ing me a WR or some­thing and try my hand. 🙂

All in all, though, a fun way to start out the year

Next Event: Walk­er Val­ley, Feb 7. See you there. Direc­tions are avail­able on the Puget Sound Tri­alers web site.

keep those feet up!