Humbling. If there is one word that I can think of that perfectly describes trials, that's it. Whether you're a pro motocross racer, an expert off-roader or a similarly decorated motorcycle operator, you will unquestionably be force-fed a heaping dish of humility the first time you ride a trials bike. At best, you'll feel like a seasoned beginner, and at worst, you'll feel like you've never even ridden a motorcycle. How do I know? Because DR test rider Kris Keefer and I set out to compete in the final round of the AMA/NATC Trials Championship near Donner Pass, California. With brand-new gear, a sweet new Sherco, a shiny Gas Gas, an experienced minder and a combined 42 years of off-road experience between us on everything from supercross to EnduroCross, Kris and I were pretty confident we'd have the trials deal handled. We should have known better.The credit for this story idea has to go to Dirt Rider photographer Shan Moore, whose love for trials is almost as contagious as his loud, long laugh. Shan initially thought it would be funny to watch two complete rookies give trials a shot, and before we knew it Keefer and I found ourselves sitting on the starting line in Donner getting rapid-fire last-minute advice from about five different people. Trials is a sport bound by tradition and fueled by rules, but the gist of it is simple: Competitors complete a set number of loops around a course that consists of several sections. In our case, Kris and I were signed up for two days of competition at Donner, each with three loops containing 12 sections. At each section, riders go one at a time and attempt a designated line that corresponds to the class they are entered in, with the end goal of not dabbing (putting a foot down) from the time their front axle enters the section until it leaves it. The various sections are managed by "checkers," club members who hold up fingers for each dab they see. Each time a rider puts a foot down it counts as a dab, a loss of one point. They stop counting after three, unless the rider crashes or makes a similarly devastating error (more on that later), in which case a score of five is given. It's not a race, though there is a time limit both within the individual sections and on the overall course. At the end of the day, the rider with the least points wins. Simple enough, right?On the transfer to the first section, Keefer and I were able to stretch our trials legs and get a feel for the bikes. In comparison to big bikes, trials motorcycles feel small and light, with tight turning radiuses and smooth, effortless controls. I began the first day on the Gas Gas TXT 300 and felt familiar with the bite of the purpose-built tires, although the overall feel of the machine was more like a BMX bike than a normal motorcycle. Keefer started off on the Sherco ST 2.9 and immediately got a feel for doing some little footplants and wheelies. Despite our relative inexperience with the equipment, Keefer and I did have one ace up our sleeves: Ringo. President of the Plonkers Trials club and an experienced trials junkie, Johnny Ringo would ride along with us and be there to coach, advise and spot us on each section, as well as tease, scold and mock us when we messed up.When we arrived at the first section, we parked our bikes and scoped out the obstacles on foot. According to Ringo, the Clubman line that we were riding at the National was comparable to an Intermediate line at a local event, and the first section contained all of the usual elements in a typical trials section: Rocks, logs, tight turns and loose, tricky little climbs. As we surveyed the section, I noticed a familiar face walking nearby: California off-road ace Patrick Garrahan was eyeing up the Sportsman line in what just so happened to be his very first trials event. Garrahan said he's been riding trials at home over the last two summers and feels it helps his off-road skills. "For one thing, I don't get as much arm-pump since I've been riding trials," he commented while scoping out his line. "And in off-road, you get in the habit of going around gnarly stuff, but in trials you learn to just go over it."