I participated in my third trial event, the long-delayed April Fool’s Trial, on July 11th. The PST leadership set up online registration, eliminated the rider’s meeting, the post-event ceremony, spectators, and finally, moved the Little Wheels (kid’s) competition to another day. These changes allowed the event to be held and remain in compliance with phase-2 coronavirus guidelines.
Relaunching the Season
Two weeks before PST #3 was held, the group relaunched our riding season with a second trials school. This would be the first time on the bike in months and was a welcome opportunity to get in some practice time.
Ian, our instructor, would provide a refresher on basic skills for my group of four first-year novices.
At the start of our training class, I felt like I’d forgotten everything I learned this spring. Even riding the bike felt new again; getting used to easing on the brakes, relearning where the clutch begins to engage and how much throttle is needed in turns to maintain momentum.
As students, we knew tights turns and small obstacles, typically logs, were predictable challenges in novice sections. Ian also suggested we practice riding up and down steeper sections, suggesting that embankments and hillsides would become part of our challenge in upcoming events.
We practiced each obstacle and each “section” Ian laid out for us repeatedly. It was super useful. And super tiring. I realized that my stamina on the dirt bike, to the extent it developed last year, had greatly disappeared. Despite working out twice weekly, I’ve been lethargic otherwise during the lockdown. 🙁
The April Fool’s Trial
Our first event since the start of the pandemic was a challenge. I wasn’t able to complete the trial and took a DNF (Did Not Finish) for the event. Adding a little perspective, Jeff and Michael, who were riding with me, also didn’t finish this event. Disappointment with this result led to the long delay in posting this blog entry.
I’m now ready to focus on the challenges ahead and changes needed to improve my performance in future trials.
Improve my Stamina
Completing a trials event takes two to three hours. There are ten “sections” that each competitor walks through at least once and rides three times. In addition, you ride from section to section forming a large loop that ends generally close to the parking area. It’s quite a bit of work and I had a sense from our practice section that my cardio fitness had deteriorated during the lockdown.
In this trial, climbing up and down the embankments and slopes while walking the sections took a lot of my energy reserves. Riding the sections, especially the more difficult final few sections, depleted the rest after finishing just the first round. 🙁
To fight pandemic-related lethargy and improve my stamina, I’ve added additional cardio exercise to my twice-weekly workouts.
I’ve got a few easy options, depending on my mood and, perhaps, the weather outside. If its raining or cold, I will complete a 10-minute jump rope routine. As I live on a hill, a 15-minute walking loop up and down is easily available, weather permitting. For a longer workout, I can ride my bicycle down to Madison Beach, and optionally, jump in the lake before returning home. That’s a 15-min ride each way.
Eating an energy bar or two during the event, along with maintaining my hydration is another opportunity to improve my performance. I’ll begin carrying energy bars along with my Camelbak (water bladder).
One of the group organizers, Dean, has an open invitation to club members to practice on his property if he’s practicing at the same time. I have ridden there once, before the lockdown, but did not want to impose while we were under some coronavirus restrictions.
I spoke with Dean at the event about my hesitation. He said not to worry – we will stay outdoors and can maintain social distance.
A neighbor, Tom, who lives one block over, has a large property and has a great deal of knowledge and interests in motorcycles. He told me last winter that he would be open to me practicing in his yard. I reached out a few weeks back but never heard back. I’ll speak directly to him next time I see him. This would be super convenient and could lead to multiple weekly practice sessions during the riding season, again providing we social distance.
Change my Outlook
There were several difficult sections laid out for this event. As I suspected from our practice session, several sections involved a steep slope – a hillside or embankment. One such section had an embankment at the beginning and a hill at the end, with two creek crossings and a log jump in the middle.
Sections that present challenges beyond anything I’ve practiced tend to psyche me out. It’s here that a change in outlook would be most beneficial. This was my third trial ever. Of course there are going to be obstacles and challenges beyond what I’ve done in a prior trial or in practice. This is always going to be the case. As my skills improve and I (eventually) move out of the novice and into the intermediate class, this will start all over again.
I need to take each challenge a little less seriously and accept my inexperience. I will learn. I will get better. It will take some time. 🙂
Like most sports, strategy plays a part in moto-trials. As a novice, strategy is usually subordinate to trying my best to “clean” a section and overcome each and every obstacle.
In a long or challenging event, it may be necessary to “skip” a section to save energy or avoid potential injury. One of the group organizers, Dan, told me that he has done this in a recent event. He watched riders really struggle to get through a particularly difficult section, risking damage to the bike and to themselves, only to stall or crash anyway, resulting in the same score as you would take by skipping the section and moving on to the next.
Had I had the energy to continue with PST#3, I would have skipped a few of the more difficult sections during the second and third rounds.
Example of Novice Thinking
Related to wasting energy, here’s one example of my non-strategic thinking during this trial.
Riding between sections, our group of three discovered we took a wrong turn and had to backtrack to find the next section. I was in the lead and turned to follow signs to the next section. Apparently, I missed the signs indicating the start of the section and followed the trail down a steep hill.
I saw red and blue tape used to outline sections and suddenly realized that I was in the next section and halfway down the steepest hill we’d ride that day. I put my feet down (dabbed) several times to come to a stop, accumulating three points. and looked up where Jeff and Michael were looking down at me. They confirmed I was in the section.
I should have just continued through the section and taken the points as my score. Instead, I spent at least five minutes fighting with the bike and hillside to get back up to the start, leaving me exhausted. I then walked down the hill to examine the section before walking back up to ride it through from start to finish.
After starting my “do-over”, I ended up accumulating three points by the time I was through the first turn in the section (just after the steep drop) and found myself with the same score in the end. Ugh!
The Tomahawk Ridge Trial is scheduled for Aug 2nd.
You’re too hard on yourself. Yes it is a competition but it’s also supposed to be fun. Be happy you can get out and do something during the lockdown! As in anything it’s practice, practice, practice!