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.

random leftovers

A few left­over thoughts from this past week­end’s tri­als event in west­ern Wash­ing­ton:

The just-con­clud­ed win­ter did an real num­ber on the rid­ing area we call Deer Flats. There were a ton of trees blown down or knocked over, to the point of con­strict­ing the road in a few places. For those that might not know, we had a pret­ty severe win­ter (for west­ern WA) this year. Sev­er­al snow storms, a few bouts of real­ly heavy rain and the sub­se­quent flood­ing, and in mid-Decem­ber, a severe wind­storm that left hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton with­out pow­er, phone, or TV ser­vice. Per­son­al­ly, we we’re with­out pow­er for 8 days, and with­out TV, phone, and inter­net ser­vice for over 3 weeks. The effects of this tem­per tantrum by Moth­er Nature were plain­ly obvi­ous at Deer Flats.

In addi­tion, the dev­as­ta­tion to the trees in the area was the top­ic of an amus­ing quip after the event was over; a bunch of us are stand­ing around out­side the scor­ing trail­er, await­ing offi­cial results, and some­one asks why we don’t have a bon­fire going, with it being so blod­dy cold and all? “we could­n’t find any wood” comes the lacon­ic reply from one of our local expert rid­ers! well, maybe you had to be there.

Cold weath­er and Alpines­tars tri­als boots: about 90 min­utes into my stint as the observ­er on sec­tion 10 in the morn­ing, i had a very weird sen­sa­tion. Just as a rid­er was leav­ing my sec­tion. I felt a vibra­tion in my boots. “Whoa! that was weird. the exhaust sound must have set up some kind of res­o­nance in one of the plas­tic com­po­nents in the boots. how odd.” But then it hap­pened a few more times, and then I noticed that some­times I could feel the vibra­tion when there was­n’t a bike near­by. A lit­tle exper­i­men­ta­tion dur­ing a real­ly qui­et peri­od con­firms that when the boots get real­ly cold, some­thing in their struc­ture sqeaks at a pret­ty low fre­quen­cy dur­ing very slow move­ment. Kind of a bass ver­sion of the ‘fin­ger­nails on chalk­board’ sound. how weird. And, btw, if not for being of ser­vice to my fel­low tirals rid­ers, that’s too damn cold to be just stand­ing around in the woods watch­ing it snow. Just so you know. 🙂

keep those feet up!

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!



Hi there!
Wel­come to obser­va­tions. I am your host, black­dog. I live in Wash­ing­ton state, and I com­pete in a fair­ly obscure motor­cy­cle sport called observed tri­als. Here I’ll share my expe­ri­ences and obser­va­tions on this chal­leng­ing sport. If you’d like to know more about what observed tri­als is, go here.

I hope you enjoy my ram­blings, please feel free to com­ment, dis­agree, ask ques­tions, what­ev­er!