Club Name: Sacramento PITS (Pacific International Trials Society)
Year Founded: 1968
Home city: Sacramento, CA
Member dues: $40 Annual family membership
1. What is a Trials club?
Observed trials is one of the cheapest and safest forms of motorcycle competition. It is a test - a trial of rider and machine over rough terrain that's scored by officials observing the action. Our club is a group of people who participate in trials and want to build interest in the sport. We host events during the year with annual championships for the various supported classes based upon the accumulation of rider points throughout the season. A trials club offers competition and provides training to riders of all skill levels. The Sacto PITS club has a training day for new riders, observers and organizers.
2. How does a rider "compete" in trials?
Riders are scored for their ability to travel over difficult terrain, like boulders and fallen tree trunks, without touching their feet to the ground. The object in trials competition is to score minimal points. Points are awarded to a rider for "dabbing" or using a foot (or other body part) for support. Each dab counts as one point up to a maximum of three. Riders can also accumulate points for going out of bounds, missing a gate, rolling backwards, and dismounting among other infractions.
3. What's the attraction to trials riding compared to straight-up dirt bike riding?
Trials riding can be done just about anywhere. You can actually practice balancing and figure eight turns in your driveway. The competition is great. It really is between you and the section, and one aspect of trials is that you could be walking a section, picking out your line with a competitor and share strategy like why you would go over an obstacle rather than around it. Another aspect of trials is the amount of effort used to ride a section. Sometimes this is because a particular obstacle puts your heart in your throat and you end up with a death grip on the handlebars. Sometimes it is from shear concentration and sometimes it's because it just takes a lot of energy to muscle your bike through a particularly rough patch. Quite a few riders appreciate the effort they expended just to finish a trial, and the feeling of accomplishment is its own reward.
4. Can crafting trials skills help a rider on the motocross track?
Trials is a fantastic training regimen for all forms of motorcycling. Road racers, motocross, enduro, dual-sport, and casual riders can all benefit by learning how to ride trials. Trials is all about control, traction management and balance, and even though trials is not ridden at race pace, there are still split-second decisions to be made. These decisions could alter body position, direction of travel, appropriate technique to use for a given obstacle and the like. Many professional riders ride a trials bike to help hone skills that will benefit their particular chosen form of motorcycle competition.
5. Are trials bikes different from a regular dirt bike?
Yes, they are significantly smaller and lighter, with engines designed more for torque than outright power. There is also no seat on a modern trials bike, as this space is used by riders requiring a big step or dab. The suspension is much softer, but also designed to not bottom out when a rider jumps off a tall obstacle. Trials bikes aren't obnoxiously noisy, and if you have an electric bike, like the OSET for kids, you could practice in your backyard without anyone even aware you were riding a motorcycle. Trials tires have very soft sidewalls that allow the tires, usually running just over 4 psi in the rear and 6 psi in the front, to actually deform around an obstacle providing tremendous grip.
6. Describe a typical trials course.
A trials course has a loop from a mile in length to several miles in length. The loop connects the observed sections and is marked so riders can locate the next section. Sometimes the loop can be scenic, sometimes challenging, all at the discretion of the organizers who have to keep in mind the capability of the riders. Since Vintage/Beginner (VB) trials have riders who are either learning the sport or are riding older machines with less outright capability than modern bikes, the loops tend to be shorter and easier.
Trials obstacles are rocks, logs, creek beds, mud, water, sandy terrain, steep to vertical banks, and hills. At the lower levels, obstacles are smaller and fewer in number per section. As a rider's skill advances, combinations of obstacles, or a rapid succession of obstacles, or less maneuvering space are techniques organizers employ to challenge the imagination and skill of the rider.
7. What does it take to be a successful Trials rider?
At the extremes, we have seen riders with a healthy dose of natural talent make trials look relatively easy as they make their way up through the ranks. At the other end of the spectrum, riders use shear persistence to learn the appropriate techniques. Getting a really strong understanding of the basics - balance, using as much real-estate as a section allows, turning, front to back effects on traction, throttle control, clutch control, the use of both front and rear brakes, and timing ultimately pay enormous dividends to the rider who does not try to leap-frog the basics.
8. Why join the Sacramento PITS?
Sacramento PITS has a wonderful family atmosphere and the camaraderie between competitors is something not often found in motorcycle competition. Club members are very happy to help aspiring riders increase their knowledge and skills. The club hosts 10 to 12 events per year, with VB events on Saturdays and Class events on Sundays. Trials is also a very "green" form of off-road motorcycle competition. We take our stewardship of the riding areas we use very seriously and always leave a venue in a cleaner state than it was before. The club owns property in the mountains that is used for three or four summer events, typically beginning in June and ending in October.