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!


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!