Riding Trials (or Ballet on Two Wheels)
We ride dirt bikes, street bikes, dual sports and adventure bikes; all the time improving our skills and enjoying the magic of motorcycling. It is a great way of life with the freedom and independence it brings. Although there is the casual rider and the hard-core rider, there is a way to vastly improve skill levels and confidence across all levels and that's through trials riding.
Trials is truly the ballet of motorcycling requiring stamina, finesse, extraordinary balance, and a high level of fitness. Trials bikes only weigh around 130 pounds but riding them is a great deal of fun and, also, highly exhausting. Balancing requires the slightest moves with a push on a foot peg, a pull on the handlebar, a little brake, a little throttle and the ability to use the front wheel as a balance focal point with slight gestures to the right or left to stand entirely still and maintain balance. There needs to be total focus to maintain a balanced stance for any period of time at a dead stop. Sometimes staying balanced requires abrupt moves like throwing a leg out to one side or radically shifting the lean angle.
Riding trials takes a high level of fitness to truly enjoy the sport. For me, it required riding the trials bike weekly and dedication to a routine exercise regimen to maintain a fitness level that would make riding fun instead of work. Having a good fitness level that allows one to master riding over obstacles and learning some of the many tricks is very rewarding.
Bigger adventure bikes require much the same techniques as riding the small, light and agile Trials bike. Here are some take-a-ways:
Adventure riding in sand, gravel or mud uses the same slow and deliberate techniques as trials. Amazingly, if you are on balance the bike has very little weight. The GS is like the Motessa-4RT until you are off balance and then, oh-my-gosh, the comparison is over.
Crawling an adventure bike through a rock field is mostly about going between the rocks instead of lifting the front end but the basic skill set perfected in trials makes weaving through the rock mine field much more enjoyable.
Making slow turns requires the distribution of weight prominently to the outside peg instead off the inside peg. Another similarity between the two disciplines.
It’s amazing the control that pushing one knee or the other into the machine makes to finesse the bike. It works on the trials bike but it really works well on the adventure bike, especially when you are zooming along.
Throttle, clutch and break control is as important as anything else with the slightest adjustments having great impact.
Bunny-hopping a trials bike is done with ease but you can do the same with an adventure bike and it really works well when those small surprise washouts get in the way.
With trials you can easily lift the front wheel and carry it over obstacles; an entirely new and sometimes impossible challenge on the heavier machine.
The greatest takeaway from riding a trials bike is the confidence and overall skill that transfers to any kind of motorcycle riding.
Even riding along twisty-windy rain soaked mountain roads with steep hairpin turns is more enjoyable and less nerve racking because the body seems to know how to automatically adjust and adapt to slipping, sliding or finding that sand has washed into the apex of the blind corner.
Confidence, improved skill and a better understanding of the physics of motorcycle ballet has made all forms of motorcycle riding an even more enjoyable activity for this enthusiast.