Originally posted September 2011 — Story by Chris Green
Two wheels and a motor have always been of interest to me for longer than I can remember. Up until recently that has included a whole lot of motocross, a tad bit of trail riding here and there as well as some dual-sporting lightly sprinkled over the desert. I have definitely ridden your average dirt bike over things that would be a lot easier and twice as fun on a trials bike, but never actually been on a trials bike—except for this one time in Vegas (see my Vent Hose in the October 2011 issue of Dirt Rider). I have always thought the stuff those guys can do on a trials bike looks so totally awesome. Needless to say, I’ve wanted to give real trials a real try for a very long time. To learn the ropes and some secrets as well as get some great how-to info on the technical side of riding a trials bike, I turned to the Trials Training Center in Sequatchie, Tennessee. I was looking for a laid-back, stress-free environment to get out, have some fun and see if spending two days secluded in the woods of Tennessee could teach me a thing or two about riding a lightweight dirt bike without a seat.The boss of this operation goes by the name of Charlie Roberts, and he serves as the resident instructor. Charlie knows a thing or two about the sport of trials, and having hosted the World Trials Championships a few times at his venue, he has seen the best of the best get it done the right way. You’re getting some of the best terrain there is when you visit the TTC, not to mention the beautiful scenery and the old-school log cabins in the middle of the woods that give you the true feeling of an off-the-grid motorcycle camping trip. The land at the Training Center offers a wide variety of terrain with a ton of exciting natural obstacles such as logs both huge and tiny and rocks of intimidating sizes as well as the easier ones, which I spent most of my time on. Dry creek beds with scattered rocks wind through the area like the freeways in Los Angeles. There is even a cool flowing creek that runs through the property with fallen trees laying across it that are possible to be ridden by the daring. The bottom line is you won’t get bored here, just bring your imagination and throw together some creative lines.
You know when you’re new to something and you get the feeling that you just can’t get enough? That is exactly how I felt the moment we drove up to the TTC. I was excited—a total newbie to riding trials, ready for my two-day class, the Double-Blip.The overall experience was a fun one, almost like a vacation where you’re doing what you want to and get to learn how to ride trials at the same time. Charlie has his school broken up into many simple lessons over the course of two days with many cool ways of showing you the different techniques. How to balance, positioning your feet for traction, riding bow-legged and how to use your legs for certain things are just a few of the topics, basic and advanced, we touched on during the class.
Riding with your arms will only wear you out. Using your legs, the biggest muscles in your body, is tremendously helpful and will keep you from getting worn out too quickly. In one balance exercise I stood on flat ground the way I would normally stand and Charlie pushed me off balance easily. Then he showed me how you are supposed to stand while riding and tried to push me over and that wasn’t happening. You’ll learn many small helpful tips like this one that you probably have never thought of before. For example, think about standing on your pegs. How many ways are there to do this? Prior to taking this class I thought just one, maybe two, but listen to Mr. Roberts and you will learn there are many ways to mount your machine. And all of the different ways to position your feet come into play many times, so with all of the practice drills you get to participate in you will have the techniques down in no time.The second day began by quickly brushing up on the techniques learned on day one. With the basics behind us we hopped straight into getting over obstacles such as logs, rocks and anything else that may be in your way. Before getting too excited, though, you have to remember the fundamentals of body positioning, balance and proper foot placement as these things carry over. Recapping on what I learned the first day was paramount.
We were off to the ledges using a technique called “the double-blip” (also the name of my class) to get me up, over and beyond the obstacles. The double-blip speaks for itself, but in a nutshell, it consists of blipping the throttle twice, using the first blip to lift and set your front wheel on top of the object and the second blip to get you over it. There are many variations to this action, but it is one of the most popular and reliable ways to hop over something that needs to be double-blipped. Charlie will get down to the science of obstacle crossing and how you can size up a log, guesstimate how big it is and from there decide which technique makes the most sense.I also learned the importance of scanning ahead no matter what type of riding you’re doing. Eventually you’re going to end up somewhere, and where you go is usually where you’re looking. It may be simple to look ahead, but unless you know where you want to go, you might not be able to fully commit to your line. Trials master Charlie has the simple answer to properly using your eyes to get you where you need to go.
I definitely left with the experience that I was looking for and probably more skills than I expected. Learning how to ride a trials bike is something that has been on my list of things to do for way too long, and now I can cross it off having learned it the right way from the right teacher. Charlie Roberts pays incredible attention to detail and explains things thoroughly both with words and by giving examples. I left with a ton of techniques that I can carry over to riding off-road which is an accomplishment in itself. Mission complete.
Provided by the TTC, my weapon was a fine-tuned 2004 Gas Gas 125. Being new to the whole trials thing, it was a no-brainer to throw me on something light and easy to handle that wouldn’t give me fits when we got to the more advanced technical stuff. As with any motorcycle discipline, learning on a simple 125 two-stroke is often your best bet when it comes to learning the fundamentals.
Company: Trials Training Center
Phone number: 423.942.8688
Web address: www.trialstrainingcenter.comTypes of classes/description: One to two days of instruction for beginning and advanced riders; one- to two-day private instructions also available
Pricing: $550 for Double-Blip Instructional with bike rental; $400 without
Typical day: Learn basic body positions and techniques and have lunch; apply the techniques after lunch
Included in price:
Not included in price:
If you bring your own bike, you will need to bring your own gas
Bike rental is $250 per day; gear is $20 per day–includes helmet, boots and gloves
Good health if you decide to come in the heat of the summer as well as a big smile, patience and the desire to learn and improve
What We Tested
1) Balancing Act Three DVD: $29
If you want your jaw to drop clear to the floor, then this movie is for you. Geoff Aaron and his fellow trialsmen have some cool tricks up their sleeves and are ready to show you all kinds of crazy in this freeride-oriented video. The riders in this video put together some super-creative and technical lines anywhere from backyard pools in Malibu to huge slabs of red slickrock in Moab. Aaron is one bad dude when it comes to technical trials stunts, and this movie offers a taste of what he is all about.
2) IRC Trials Tires TR-011F And TR-011R
Front: $108.95; Rear: $173.95
The IRC Trials Tires performed great on the Trials Training Center’s tacky, moist dirt with a hint of sand. A lot of times when it rains, especially with an MX tire, the tacky dirt can get stuck between the knobbies making it feel like somebody threw a slick on while you weren’t looking. The IRC tires kept mud from caking up in the tread and even provided exceptional grip on wet rocks. After two full days these tires really didn’t show any signs of wear. Having great grip and durability adds up to plenty of ride time and a ton of fun.
3) Hebo 08 Trials Gloves: $28
Regardless of the type of riding I’m doing, I want the glove I’m wearing to feel like it’s not even there. The Hebo 08 is just that, it is made out of super-lightweight material like some of the new style motocross gloves but with a little added padding on the palm and knuckles. Some of the other trials gloves I used were way too thin for my liking and just seemed to bunch up in the palm of my hand, which made it hard to focus on what I was doing. The Hebo 08 is a little thicker than most trials gloves and, to me, has the right amount of protection and padding while still feeling light and flexible.