THE STOP, NO-STOP NONSENSE
In a Stop permitted event
Currently we have an interesting debate on STOP or NO-STOP rules raging both ways on Trials Central
and although I can read both sides of the story or argument it never ceases to amaze me how adamant
some views can be and how little some of the authors know of our trialing heritage. Questions of how
we got to where we are today and why many of our competing brethren want to change the current
status quo to what they view trials should be are not discussed nor the fact that the current level of the
WTC has become such an extreme sport that only a few can compete with any hope of winning.
What interest is there in World Trials? It has become so EXTREME that only “those” very FEW can
compete. National Champions are reduced to NOVICE performances as the magnitude of the
sections have become an “all or nothing attempt” over severe terrain that requires “minders” and
“bike savers” ….. at this level it is only a matter of TIME before someone is killed or seriously injured
attempting these near suicidal sections. Here again what is the purpose of these events? ….. well of
course like any avenue of motor sport, WINNING means SALES, but right now as interest at World
level means so little the average prospective purchaser is NOT using the World series as his
yardstick for his next “must have machine”.
Although I’ve waxed lyrical on this subject before it seems a good time to reiterate some of what I’ve
said previously. Trials HAS moved on over the years, and for the most part for the better, but right now
the sport that I grew up with has become a collection of different events all sheltering under an
umbrella calling itself TRIALS.
So how did we get where we are today? What changes have there been, and why? Where are we
going and what is the likely outcome?
When I first started the “game” your progress was a natural evolution from beginner onwards and as
trials of the day were ALL single line sections you could see progress, or lack of, when the results
arrived with a section by section print out for the entire entry. Clearly the winners would have some
amazing scores that you could only dream of or marvel at their skills but over time you learnt the way to
overcome various hazards and eventually moved through the ranks.
Vintage Non Stop, but very tight and tricky
The scoring for trials in my youth was 0 for the clean, 1 for a single dab, 3 for anything further, and
finally the dreaded 5 for failure, stopping, becoming improperly seated (both legs on the same side
of the machine) or when the front wheel ceased to rotate in a forward direction. A momentary feet up
pause in balance was never penalized as it was considered a rare skill and unless the back wheel
was spinning required the use of the dreaded clutch which when re-engaged would usually result in
more lost marks. …….and for those that think endurotrials are something new nearly all trials of the
day had a “SpecialTest” to resolve ties which was a WFO style section or bit of ground …standing
start, to flying finish against the stopwatch!
Full Bore Climb in 2nd, could have been an old “Special Test”
Trials were on every Sunday throughout the winter as during the summer it was considered too easy
over the same terrain. At the bottom there were the Club Trials and then on every second Sunday there
were the Group Trials when 6-8 clubs all joined forces and ran one event each during the trialing
months. Moving on the next step on the ladder was the Open to Center with entries usually around the
200, and save for that 2nd Sunday you could ride one of these events every weekend. Once in a while
there were Novice only Trials and you could ride in these until you had achieved a Best Novice in Open
to Center when you were automatically upgraded to Expert.
Throughout the season there were all the big named Trials with the Scottish, Scott, Bemrose, Perce
Simon, etc, etc, if you were up to it, or wanted to do something that was harder and more challenging.
Even then some of these events were so hard that only the best could shine and I can remember riding
“The Greensmith” which was a real killer where entries were seldom more than 60, and on reflection I
can see why! Of course many of the Nationals were British Championship rounds but the rank and file
could still have a go and compete on level terms and gain valuable experience which would normally
show itself on the rider’s return to Open to Center events.
The first major changes were the introduction of the “2” which had always been a bone of contention
between the great ride in a long muddy ditch where the Expert had a dab on entry, rode 100′ in perfect
control only to dab again by the Ends card compared to the centipede sit down on entry and leg it all
the way to the finish performance of a lesser light both scoring the same 3. About the same time we
saw the arrival of the Intermediate Class as it was deemed that the transition from Novice to Expert
was, in some Centers, a huge gap.
During the 70’s there was a huge upswing in bike sales as the Spanish bikes entered the fold and
were shortly followed by their Japanese rivals. Many riders would have a NEW bike every year and in
some cases a new one every six months. Whatever was winning on the day was going to be the bike
of choice for the rank and file, and worked on the premise of “if only I had one of those” or “nearly all
the top riders were on Bultacos etc etc”. Top riders of the day went from factory to factory and their
followers joined forces buying machines as their idols changed colors. Mick Andrews of course
moving from Ossa to Yamaha, Malcolm Rathmell swapping from Bultaco to Montesa and Don Smith
playing the field from Greeves into Montesa and then the awkward Kawasaki.
Exposure came to the fore with the BBC and the Kickstart series which featured all the big names
arsing about in an arena type environment of man made obstacles with such lunacy as teeter totters,
skips or dumpsters full of rocks and tires and of course the Volkswagen Beetle and now for extra
crowd involvement make it all against the clock rather like the “Jump Off” in Show Jumping which was
proving very popular with TV audiences at the time.
While this was quite fun to watch it wasn’t REAL trials, more a way for the top lads to show their
undoubted skills, earn some extra money and have a bit of summertime fun. As the obstacles became
more extreme and ridiculous the top riders practiced this discipline until they could make some of them
look easy and all too soon organizers were laying out real trials with some of this nonsense included.
For those that watched Kickstart you may remember back then some horrendous crashes by the top
men falling off pieces of scaffolding, cars, and piles of cable drums stacked on trailers. I can’t
remember any serious accidents back then but of course these hazards would be further developed
into what we have today with the Indoor World series.
As a refresher you can go to www.youtube.com and then select
Kickstart Trials Easton Neston Park 1982 Part 1, and then see Part 2. Also if you can find it look for the
1983 Kickstart Final. There were some quite nasty falls here, once again very skillful, but trials NO !!
About the same time we saw bigger and bigger steps included and absurdly tight turns that would be
quite impossible to ride round in a traditional feet up manner and instead of steep descents some
“life and limb” jump offs to make it to the next part of the section. Back then many riders would walk the
section, see it was outside their abilities and take the 5 rather than destroy their reputation. We saw
more and more of the unrideable turns creeping in and then the start of the 3 point or multiple point
turn, feet up and running backwards until the desired direction was achieved ! Incredibly skillful !
As riders bought uni cycles to train on, the sections continued getting harder and regular scores for a
Sunday ride had moved from the traditional 30-65 marks lost depending on weather and other factors
to scores in the 100+ level. Now I have to say that when this started to be the norm in trials of the late
70’s it altered my perspective of what was fun or an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday. Don’t get me
wrong I enjoy a tough but fair trial and back then would relish a really foul weather event where 3’s
could sometimes be the ride of the day on many sections. On the other side of the penny trials can’t be
so easy that we all finish on a zero card either so there must be some middle ground.
I can remember the Scottish going the same way through the 8 rides and finishes I had there. Let’s
remember the Gordon Jackson One Dab event for 6 days of severe riding around the Highlands on a
big old AJS. The ever rising winning scores of the 70’s when I rode until Dougie’s father, Martin, winning
in 78 on a score of 99! Now when the leader is on 99 you can only imagine the scores for those
finishing at about the 100th position when your score was around 600. Certainly an achievement to
finish but for the life of me it can’t be enjoyable to have effectively failed in over 2/3 of all the sections?
Still on a single line in the sections, numbers began dwindling for the reasons I have given until the
“hard and easy” routes were introduced. By now the stars are all graduating to lightweight
monoshocks and by the 80’s, and 90’s we have watercooled motors, 150lb bikes with hydraulic
clutches and disc brakes. Within no time the “stars” are using these improved tools and making the
absurd look simple.
Rules changed to accommodate all this trick riding and hopping and bopping around. A stalled motor
incurs a 5, whereas in Non stop regs there was never, and still isn’t, any mention as to whether the
engine is running or not. The interesting Stop with feet up incurs no penalty which sounds fair to me,
but what is with the stationary dab? Is this a dab? or is it a 5? and what happens when it was the
second or third dab and the rider is still stationary? …… and now we add in that a feet up stop is only
a 1 ? Does this now make the stationary dab a 2 or a 5 ???? Perhaps someone will introduce the 4 !
With all those borderline scores heaven help the checker or observer.
Now with the reintroduction of NON STOP in a lot of UK events and maybe the WTC we have some that
want a momentary feet up stop to be scored as a 1. Well sorry boys, you stop you get a 5, very simple
no argument! Taking this years Scottish as a classic event held on a single line section for all with Non
Stop rules, and probably one of the nastiest, weather wise on record, it was interesting to see the
results were comparable to some of the 70’s and the middle riders were losing 200-300 marks for
their 6 days of hell in the Highlands. Bikes have moved on and are clearly much more capable than
those of the 70’s, the sections have obviously become harder, but fantastic to see that the “test” has
taken the same number of marks so well done to the Edinburgh Club again for keeping the balance
and maintaining the traditions of what can only be classed as the best trial in the world.
Quite a surprise for me when I started riding here in the States to find “lines” for just about every entry!
We have the Champ Class, Expert, Expert Sportsman, Sportsman and finally the Advanced class who in
state events ride in the afternoon. In the morning we have Beginners, Juniors, Novice, Intermediate and
the Elite Class. Throw in a few Vintage and Twinshock riders and that completes the line up with every
section a mass of “pie plates” cards and ribbons!
Moving into the Vintage scene and trying the AHRMA series I’m still presented with 4 different lines in
every section and more often than not a good Vintage rider will lose marks for missing a “split” rather
than a true failure in a section. Of course riding Vintage sections on an old bike I find very enjoyable
both as a rider and as Clerk of the Course or Trialsmaster. If I were to run a trial purely using the “TD”
rules then I would have a SINGLE line set of sections, Non-stop rules, and for the most part use
“Buddy Check” as the scoring system. Now what does that do for the sport or your Sunday
entertainment? Well it means we don’t need a dedicated team of Checkers and Observers, it means
the lesser lights can get some “free instruction” from the more able riders as we go round the route,
and a little round of applause goes a long way for a good attempt when you are a beginner. Also,
generally speaking, it means the event will finish earlier than the morning + afternoon sequence.
Now of course I fully appreciate that with single line sections for all, like the Scottish, the disparity of
scores will be high but each class is still competing within its own limits. What will be a “main road” for
Champs, Experts and the like will provide excellent sections for Novices and Intermediates. By using a
“group of sections” we would see the sections getting progressively harder so it maybe that in a group
of 4 Continuous sections, everyone should clean 1, top Novices and Intermediates should clean 2,
most of the lost marks for all classes will be in 3 and section 4 is where the top riders get their
challenge but at the same time a Novice can at least attempt it and maybe struggle through with a
working man’s three rather than a visit to the ER. As was once said you only have to put up a “BEGINS”
and an “ENDS” card and someone will FIVE it! ……… and that was always true of Town Hall Brae,
Fort William in the 70’s when it was always included being in the center of Fort William but for most
riders was little more than a joke, however on my last visit there I saw some enormous boulders have
appeared to bring it up to today’s standards.
A few changes on Town Hall Brae
……and finally IMHO I think NON-STOP rules are the way to go for the foreseeable future, it will never
make trials easier, it just means the sections will be more flowing with less extreme hazards and
should therefore be seen as more “do-able” to the beginner or would be trials rider.