Trials bikes are purpose-built machines designed to tackle obstacle courses in a competition setting. Learn more about these machines at Dirt Rider.
Trials bikes are interesting machines that combine the lightness and handling qualities of a mountain bike with the power produced by a small motorcycle engine with lots of torque. Trials motorcycles are purpose-built machines designed to perform acrobatic-like maneuvers over rocks, boulders, logs, stumps, and even man-made obstacles. These seatless machines are rugged and capable of tackling the most difficult obstacles of any type of off-road motorcycle.
Being that they are used only to ride and compete in this one discipline, trials bikes are extremely niche. As a result, there are only a handful of manufacturers that produce gas and electric trials bikes. Trials bike manufacturers include GasGas, Sherco, Scorpa, Beta, Montesa, and Oset.
Gear for trials riding consists of thinner material with less padding because most of the maneuvers take place at low speeds and the gear has to allow the rider to be extremely flexible. Trials helmets feature an open-face design to give the rider the best field of vision possible so they can see the entire obstacle. Sharing the jersey and pant system used in dirt bike and motocross gear, these garments feature about the same amount of impact resistance on the joint areas.
Most trials bike parts and accessories are focused around trimming weight off of the bike. Carbon-fiber components, titanium exhausts, and internal engine parts are some of the best-selling aftermarket items.
You’ve seen the photos, you’ve gone to the manufacturer's website, you’ve tried to decipher the trials bike segment by yourself, but you still don’t know what they are? A trials bike is a motorcycle featuring a small-displacement engine—usually between 125cc and 300cc—that is designed for observed trials courses. It is very lightweight, which allows it to be easily maneuvered through the course from obstacle to obstacle. It has a small fuel tank (usually with a capacity of 2.5 to 3.0 liters), knobby tires with a soft rubber compound, and no seat. Not having a seat allows the rider to move around freely on the bike as they make their way through obstacle-filled trials courses.
GasGas bikes are some of the most popular trials motorcycles because the Spanish manufacturer has developed and refined its lineup, and sponsored some of the best riders. Most trials bikes are equipped with an internal combustion engine, but with battery technology continually improving and the overall popularity of electric motorcycles, one such company, Oset, has developed an entire lineup of youth electric trials bikes.
Showcasing a tremendous amount of skill, coordination, and balance, trials bike competitions push the ability of every rider to keep their feet on the pegs and the bike moving forward. In trials competitions, competitors are judged by the number of times they put their foot down, or dab, in a series of sections. The maximum penalty comes from the rider crashing, missing a gate, going out of the section boundary, not completing the section in time, or for the bike moving or rolling backward. The rider with the least number of dabs and penalties at the end of the competition is the winner.
Trials bike competitions are popular worldwide. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) works closely with the National American Trials Council (NATC), holding a championship series across the United States. The highest level of motorcycle trials competitions in the world are the FIM Trial World Championship (outdoor) and FIM X-Trial World Championship (indoor).