My First Trial

I participated in the 7th Annual Poulsbo Log Jumper Trial this weekend, sponsored by the Puget Sound Trialers.

But wait, let me back up a bit.

My last post was a notice that my Montesa was on its way from Wichita. It took the full 21 days allowed contractually to arrive despite my hopes that it would be quicker.

Here it is being unloaded just last Saturday.

Because the residential streets in this part of Seattle are very narrow, I met the truck about a half mile from the house. Despite it being illegal to ride on the street, that’s just what I did to get the bike home. 🙂

On Sunday, I installed a class-3 hitch on my car.

Monday, after my workout, was a visit to the DMV to register my new “off road vehicle and pay the tax on the purchase.

I assembled my motorcycle carrier that fits into the new hitch. It’s an Ultimate MX Hauler. It is designed specifically for motocross bikes. It seems to fit my trials bike reasonably well but I may modify it in the near future to work even better.

Carrying a load on the back of my ’99 CR-V reminds me that I have some suspension work and other maintenance tasks to perform on the car. It hasn’t benefited from my attention recently. I need it to be an integral part of my trials riding experiences.

Here’s a photo of the first real-life fit.

Off to Island Lake

Organizers of the event arranged to have cabins available for anyone who wanted to arrive the day before the event. I jumped on the opportunity because I needed some practice.

So with the car loaded for an overnight trip and the bike secured to the car, I took a morning ferry from Seattle to Bremerton and drove the 10 or so miles to Island Lake, a campground with outdoor activities including dirt bike riding. They have been sponsoring this event for seven years.

I arrived just after noon. The rain, which had been steady all morning was subsiding.

I had cabin #3 all to myself.

I met Mark, another new-to-trials participant shortly after unloading. He also purchased a Montesa. After comparing notes on our bikes, we decided to walk through each of the five beginner sections that we would be riding the next day.

Walking a section before riding though it for a score is customary. I was curious how challenging each section would be. In future events, I will ride in the novice level, but the organizers of this event created a beginners level to encourage those brand new to the sport.

The novice level, as well as those levels above novice, will ride a total of 10 sections three-times each for a total of 30 sections ridden. For this event, beginners will ride five sections four-times each for a total of 20.

So you see there are fewer sections to keep track of and fewer sections ridden in total during the event. I was grateful for this one-time reprieve from the full workload.

Anyway, each section was separated from the others by a hundred yards or so, and we rode our bikes between each. Then we spent about half an hour just playing on the bikes, practicing our turns and such.

By the way, you are not supposed to ride sections prior to the event. You can walk them all you want, but that’s it.

After Mark and I were through with our practice, we went out to eat with two of the organizers. By the time we returned, it was time to get ready to turn in.

Event day

The day started with coffee at the bike barn. Free coffee was already prepped thanks to our hosts.

The heavy rains of the previous night gave way to a dry morning.

Registration took place as folks arrived.

Around 8:30, the event began with parents gathering the kids who would be riding in the event.

After the kids were sent off to their course, the new folks were given a class on what to expect, how to interpret the course markers as well as the scoring rules. Thanks to Paul and Kiley for sharing their knowledge and experience.

The kids award ceremony was next,

followed by the riders meeting.

I took a few minutes to use a practice area for warming up. Jeff had the same idea.

Course Photos

It was time to start.

For this event, a beginner section was shared with the novice and intermediate group. So we let them go ahead.

By “we”, I mean the three riders competing in the beginner class. That included me, Mark and Jeff.

For the first round, we would be assisted by Eric, who would observe us as well as provide advice.

These course photos were from section #2 and were taken by Steve Schiller, a member of the club.

Photo by Steve Schiller
Photo by Steve Schiller

The next three, me followed by Jeff and then Mark, were taken at the same tight turn. Serious focus.

Photo by Steve Schiller
Photo by Steve Schiller
Photo by Steve Schiller

I was wearing the GoPro using the chest mount that my friend Mark sent me. I will review the footage and, if it’s usable, post a video soon.

The Tally

During the event, particpants carry their score card to be punched by the observer after each section.

This was my completed scorecard.

I rode each of five sections four times.

My score was zero each time I rode section #1. I “cleaned” it every time.

Section #2, I “dabbed” (put my foot down) once during round #2, but otherwise cleaned each round.

Each time through section #3 I did better, finally cleaning the section the last time through.

Section #4 was my favorite and the most difficult. It was water soaked from the recent heavy rains. This section definitely got into my head as it became more difficult throughout the day. The last time through I was pretty tired and the log in front of me was very slick. I dropped the bike.

Finally, I cleaned section #5 each round.

My total score for the event was 21, with twelve clean sections total. That was good enough to earn me second place in the beginner group for the event. Woo hoo!!

It was a great event.


Sit and Breath

Having Eric with us during the first round was fortunate. He observed our runs through each section. After my tense run through section #3, he suggested I relax and take a few deep breaths before I enter the gates.

Be Confident

I’m a much better trials rider today than I was a week ago. I’ll be able to start novice with the confidence that I”m prepared to ride 30 sections at the pace needed to complete the course in the allotted time.

Wear my Camelbak

I wear a 2 liter Camelbak water bladder on road trips. I need to remember to wear it during a trial event.

Bring a Snackbar

I ran out of energy during the end of the trial. We hadn’t had lunch but I did have a banana between round #1 and #2. That helped, but it was inconvenient to go back to the car and get it. Better to have a bar and just take a short rest between rounds.

Training Paid Off

Both my twice-weekly workouts and January’s PST trials class converged to allow me to be physically ready and have the benefit of the training offered last month.

And with this first experience under my belt, I’ll work with my trainer to focus our time to further advantage.

I Know what to Practice

Related to the above, I have a good idea of what to practice before the next event!


I thought I’d share the reference sheet that was provided to us. It has an abridged rule set that will help you better understand how a trial works.


Welcome to the addicting sport of Moto-Trials. Puget Sound Trialers is a volunteer run club that hosts trials throughout Washington. On average we have 8-10 events per year, usually on the 1st weekend of the month. Our big event is held in Goldendale, Washington and is a two day event with a gate section for prizes Friday evening.

The main thing is for you to challenge yourself and enjoy this sport. You will not meet a friendlier group of riders that go out of their way to help one another, even the competitors in your class.

We have compiled this quick reference sheet to help familiarize you with what to expect BEFORE you start your first competition. Feel free to ask questions before, during or after the event as well. This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are occasions that some of these will change or differ slightly, but it will point you in the right direction.

1) When the horn blows, we gather for a RIDER’s meeting. The trial’s Marshal will give instructions as to the color of ribbon you are to follow on the loop trail, time limits (usually 3 hrs) and any other pertinent information. There are 10 sections and you will ride them three times in succession until you have completed all 30.

2) Walk the section before you ride. It is advised you walk a section each time you are going to ride it. Often the terrain has changed after other riders have been through.

3) Keep the RED ribbon on your right and BLUE on your left.

4) You will approach a numbered START card. Once your front axle crosses that plane, you are in the section until your front axle crosses the END card plane.

5) Follow the colored arrow cards that match your class. Eg, if you are a Novice rider and the card reading NOVICE points left, you go left and all other classes go to the right. In addition, if there is an INTERMEDIATE card saying go right, and there is no NOVICE card posted, you go left since ONLY the INTERMEDIATE riders go right. These arrows may be accompanied by white ribbon. White ribbon is a neutral ribbon and can represent a BLUE ribbon or RED ribbon.

6) The sections are checked in two ways, either by CROSS CHECK, where the morning riders check the section for the afternoon riders and vice versa where the afternoon riders check for the morning riders. The other method is called GROUP CHECK, where your group of riders check each other. Checking is where you are watching for the riders to follow all of the rules and keep score to mark their card after they complete that section.

7) The goal is to ride a section without acquiring any points. This is called a CLEAN. Each time you put your foot down it is called a DAB. One, two, or three times are each counted as a single DAB. Once you have DABBED three times you can DAB as many times as you need to complete the section and you will only be scored as three DABs. The most points you can get in a section is five. Some ways to get a five are, if you stall your bike, put both legs on the same side of the bike, take one hand off the bars while you have a foot down, ride outside of the ribbon, cross your own line with both tires, have a handlebar hit the ground or miss a split in a section.

8) Once you have completed all 30 sections, return to the registration table and tally your own points. (We will show you how if you have not done it before). PLEASE ADD QUIETLY TO YOURSELF AS OTHERS WILL BE COUNTING AS WELL! Your card will be double checked by the scorekeeper.

9) The horn will once again be blown when it is time for the awards to be handed out.When in doubt, please ask questions!

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