Geoff Aaron brings trials to the people

We caught up with Geoff Aaron and his crew while they performed at Luiseno Elementary School, in Corona, California. It's no coincidence that the young Hannah Faught attends this school. While the parking lot of this elementary school is familiar to Jeremy McGrath and other top visiting motocross talent, this is the first time that a trials exhibition was held here. This is really a show, complete with roadies, truck, trailer and an announcer.Unpacking ramps and giant Red Bull cans, Aaron and his two helpers, Nick Mantzoros and Kerry Williams, transform his trailer into a trials exhibition show. Once assembled, the obstacles offer a familiar playground for Aaron to really show off the wonders and spectacle of trials riding. Performing feats unthinkable on a conventional motorcycle, Aaron shows with amazing clarity, why he is a seven time and the current National Trials Champion.Geoff Aaron, this is a fascinating rig you have here. You have bolted together your array of obstacles. What will the kids see? This exhibition showcases trials skills. We have lots of odd shaped obstacles that are difficult to negotiate, and we throw in a few trials freestyle type maneuvers and ground tricks to spice it up. Our announcer, Nick Mantzoros, is fun and he really gets the kids going. Doing an exhibition at a school is really a lot of fun for me because I know they appreciate what we do. Judging by the way they cheer, they really seem to enjoy it. I run over the announcer and hop over five volunteers, so that always gets a few smiles.When did you come up with the idea that you could make a living with your Gas Gas, Red Bull, Dunlop team and this exhibition? Soon after college I realized that if I wanted to make a living at Trials, I had to create my own things. That's when I started ERE, Extreme Riding Entertainment. I built the first mobile exhibition rig. I saw that there was a demand for this type of show, and I saw it as a way to promote my sport, and make a few bucks while we are at it. That led to a couple of video projects that we sell now too. Through this team I can raise the level of professionalism in the sport, and give it exposure. Trials can be a difficult sport to watch. The events take place over miles of trails that are hard to walk to. Bringing trials to the people seemed like a good niche for us.How long did it take you to build this trailer? Well, the original trailer was burned up in the San Diego fires last year, so I got to design all new obstacles for this one. I had been using the other trailer for several years. I sketched things out for the engineer as far as the obstacles go, and we just worked it out together. We decided to make it all out of aluminum this time so I could tow it with my truck. I bought a flat bed fifth wheel type trailer and we added the custom work onto that. I think it took us a couple of months to build, and now we are back in business.Beginning at age 12 in 1985, you followed your dad's advice to start with a trials bike? When I first became interested in motorcycles, my father said that a trials bike would be good to start on because it would teach balance and control. So I looked around to buy a used trials bike. Right after I got the bike, I met a few guys that lived nearby, and they coerced me to go enter a trials competition. That's how I got into it.How did that first event turn out? My first competition I was in the beginner class, and got third. From there I understood what I needed to do, so I kept practicing. I won my second or third competition in Wrentham, Massachusetts, in July of 1985. On the local level, I jumped right up through all the classes. In my very first year, I was in the top ten of the pro championship. So ever since then, I've been really focused on it. I've been to Europe and I've done a lot of things in my life, basically centered around trials.Tell us about your major accomplishments? My most important accomplishments are my seven national titles. I'm also really proud of winning the first ever National Indoor Championship, and in 2000 I was named AMA Amateur Athlete of the Year. I went to Ithaca College in New York, graduated in 1995 and moved to California at the end of '97.It was about this time that I started up ERE, Extreme Riding Entertainment. We do Extreme shows. With this rig we can take trials out to people and show it off. We also produce DVDs on trials that we sell. Now in conjunction with Gas Gas, we have created team ERE/Gas Gas. I put together the deals and run the transporter to all the Nationals. In return, I can promote my company and present a professional image to the public, showcase my sponsors, all while looking for new talented riders.There are six of us on this team. We have four pros; three are out of the High School ranks. Right now we have the number nine nationally ranked rider, the number three and also the number one rider, that's me. Also we have new kid to the class who just placed seventh in only his second ride out. He's going to be a really good rider. We also have a 12-year rider from Southern California. Kerry Williams, who helps me with sales and set-up, also is the sixth team member and was the 2002 AMA women's national trials champion.When we set up the team our goal was to have a mentorship type program. They can use me as a roll model, and I can give them encouragement and coaching. Several times a year, I can give them serious hardcore one on one training.How does a Trials event work? Normally at a National Level Event, there are 15 different zones, or hazards. They are spread out over a 5 to 10 mile loop, each judged individually. The object is to negotiate the difficult terrain, without making any mistakes such as putting your foot down. Each time you put your foot down you are given a point. So, just like golf, the lowest score at the end of the day, wins.How do trials bikes compare to other bikes? The first thing you will notice is that they are so small. Over the years they just keep shrinking them. They have really torquey engines with very predictable power bands, really soft suspension. Everything is precise and predictable. The last thing you want to do is be in a mountain goat situation and have a peaky motor, or a slippery tire.What do you think is the hardest part about Trials Riding? Probably just the basics, such as learning to steer the bike with your body in the proper position. Lots of riders develop bad habits trying to compensate for loosing their balance, and habits are hard to loose. I try to teach proper form and technique in the beginning that the rider can build on. That's where it all starts. There is a huge mental factor in Trials.Are you surprised that some top motocross and road racers use trials as a form of training? I think a lot of people realize that trials is a difficult sport, but it is relatively low impact. I know that guys like Doug Henry, the Bostrom Brothers, and others have a good time challenging themselves on trials. Even though it seems like slow motion, there are a lot of things going on at once.What do you think impresses people the most about trials? I think that would be the ability to scale a huge vertical wall, just by using a tiny kicker. What looks like an impossible obstacle that you can't even walk or climb up, we are scaling on our bikes. We just wind them up and somehow the bikes just Spiderman up the face. Also I think the confidence to trick-ride on the points of all these different rocks would spook most riders.Tires are crucial to this sport as you said. Have they changed much over the years? Yes, tires are crucial. They have made huge leaps forward in tire design in the last ten years. The manufacturers are always experimenting with compound, sidewall stiffness, and other factors. I use Dunlop D801 with only about 5 pounds of air in the tire. Tires are why we can do what we do.How much are trials bikes changing for the better these days? It seems like they are so trick now that they can't get any better, but they do. Just a couple of years ago, for instance, somebody figured out how to make the clutch basket half the width. Well that just made the engine casing an inch and a half narrower. That is pretty significant to the weight and width of the bike.A few moments with Geoff's Announcer , Nick Mantzoros****What is your part in this exhibition Nick? I'm the announcer, crowd control, and I get everybody excited.What about this speed bump role you play? Ha, yeah, that's really my only important job. That gets the crowd laughing. Geoff does this huge set up, as if he is needs speed to hop over me while I'm lying down near the front row. Then at the last minute, he slows down, and just rolls over me. He does a bunch of tricks based on almost hitting me. The kids love it.How did you end up in such a compromising position? I have ridden the Nationals since 1999. I found myself hanging out in Geoff's pits a lot over the years, that's where we became buddies. He was always asking me if I would come out to California and ride with him. So, I said I would come out if he could get me a job. Coincidentally, the guy that used to do this had something else going on, so I just picked up where he left off.Has anything scary happened in your days as announcer for the show? NM: Oh, I've seen some scary stuff. I don't know if Geoff scares himself though. One time he came off the top of the front box. That's about 11 feet up. He went over the bars from up there. The bike went crashing into the ground and smashed the foot-peg, Geoff landed on his feet. This was my first show, if you can believe it. I just stood there in shock for a second. He picked up the bike and said, "Well say something" to me. So I just said, "and he's OK."Why does Trials as a sport have a hard time getting exposure? Really I think it's because of the huge loops that trials is run on outdoors. But the indoor events are really helping the sport. People can now see much more, and not have to be so ambitious in their spectating.Do National level riders like or despise the indoors? Everybody is into it because we see the need for exposure. Anything to get more publicity is a plus. It is a spectacular sport, so anything to get more people to see it will benefit all of us.Be sure to check out Geoff's web site for more information on Trials and Extreme Riding Entertainment.