Photos and words by Daniel Walker
What are they doing? Where are their seats? Are they racing? They are riding up THAT!?
Questions fill the air -- punctuated by oohs, ahhs, and the squeals of disc brakes -- at the Bike Trials National competition in Durango, CO. Resembling elements both of mountain biking and street BMX, trials is a unique sport within the cycling universe. Unlike most forms of two wheeled competition, the focus here is on pure technical skill rather than speed.
Trials bikes are highly specialized machines with wheel sizes varying from 20 to 26 inches; fat, low pressure tires; powerful brakes; and extremely low standover heights, aided by the complete lack of a seat or seatpost. The courses, meanwhile, more closely resemble the aftermath of a landslide or a children's sandbox creations than a trail. Large rocks (some taller than 10 feet), wooden planks, and other natural and man-made obstacles strung together by course tape mark the edges of 5 separate courses.
The goal? To get up, over, and across the fields of obstacles while accruing less points than your competitiors. Putting a foot down is one point. Crashing, jumping off your bike, putting a hand or both feet on the ground, or going out of bounds is five points (the maximum). The rider with the least amount of points after completing all 5 courses is the winner.
Additional photos courtesy of Mike Starkey
Though the competition is fierce (with many of the riders having traveled long distances to compete here), the atmosphere is friendly. Riders compare lines and techniques, cheer each other on, and help ensure the event runs smoothly. The overall feel is more that of a lazy afternoon spent sessioning lines with good friends than a national level competition -- and that's part of the appeal.
Trials is a small sport, but has some of the most passionate riders you'll ever meet. With events that are this much fun and as this much spectator appeal, it's hard to imagine anything other than a bright future for this sport.