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Motorcycle trials, also known as observed trials, often called simply trial/s (with or without the plural "s"), is a non-speed event on specialized motorcycles. The sport is most popular in the United Kingdom and Spain, though there are participants around the globe.
Modern trials motorcycles are distinctive in that they have evolved to become extremely lightweight, lack seating (they are designed to be ridden standing up) and have suspension travel that is short, relative to a motocross or enduro motorcycle.
Motorcycle trials is often utilized by competitors in other motorcycle sports (such as motocross or road racers) as a way to cross-train, as trials requires fine throttle, balance, and machine control.
The event is split into sections where a competitor rides through an obstacle course while attempting to avoid touching the ground with their feet. The obstacles in the course may be of natural or constructed elements. In all sections, regardless of content, the designated route is carefully contrived to test the skill of the rider. In many local observed trials events, the sections are divided into separate courses to accommodate the different skill level of riders, who compete in skill-rated classes.
In every section, the competitor is scored by an observer (hence the sport's name) who counts how many times the competitor touches the ground with the foot (or any other part of the body). Each time a competitor touches the ground with a foot (commonly called "dabs" or "prods"), the penalty is one point.
The possible scores in each section consist of 0, 1, 2, 3, or 5. If a competitor makes their way through the section without touching the ground with a foot, they earn a score of 0 (which is called "cleaning the section"). If they touch the ground once, they receive a score of 1. If they touch down twice, they receive a score of 2. If they touch the ground three or more times, they earn a score of 3—as long as they complete the section without stalling the motor, dismounting, going out of bounds, or going backward. If the competitor fails to complete the section a score of 5 (sometimes colourfully called "a fiasco") is earned. The winner is the competitor with the fewest points at the end of the event. Some events are also timed with penalty points assessed to late riders.
There is a world indoor and outdoor championship, as well as indoor and outdoor national team "world cups" ( Trial des Nations ). British competitor Dougie Lampkin is notable for winning seven world outdoor titles in the 1990s and 2000s, the same number that Spanish competitor Jordi Tarrés won in the 1980s and 1990s. Previous observed trials greats include Northern Ireland's Sammy Miller (1960s), Finland's Yrjö Vesterinen (1970s) and Belgium's Eddy Lejeune (1980s). The current outdoor world champion is Antoni Bou from Spain who is also the current indoor champion. He has been the sole outdoor and indoor FIM Trial World Championship champion from 2007 to 2021. With these 30 world titles (15 outdoor and 15 indoor), he is the most successful rider in history, surpassing Dougie Lampkin (7 outdoor and 5 indoor) and Jordi Tarrés who is third with 7 outdoor titles.
In addition to the world championship events, there are other major events, such as the Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT) and the Scott Trial.
Major current manufacturers of trials bikes are Gas Gas, Beta, Sherco, Montesa Honda, Scorpa, TRS and Vertigo. In the past there have been many manufacturers, from countries such as Spain, Japan, Britain and Italy.
Classic classes exist for vintage bikes. Classes include pre-1965 or pre-1967 motorcycles (typically British), as well as newer vintage events for observed trials motorcycles with two rear shock absorbers. In most cases, twin-shock motorcycles were manufactured between 1967 and 1985 and are typically Japanese or Spanish. A recent addition has been a class for air-cooled monoshock bikes, this covers machines up to around 1990.
A competition event is called an "observed trial" or "trial" (not plural), unless referred to as an "observed trials event". A newer name for the sport, MotoTrial, is used by some organizations. However, it was recently dropped by the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme as a name for its observed trials competitions. Outdoor events are called Trial, while FIM indoor events are called X-Trial.
As well as the traditional solo motorcycle trials, there is a form of the sport on 3 wheels known as Sidecar Trials consisting of a driver and a passenger. The competition is run in the same way as a standard motorcycle trial with the only exception being additional ways to be given a score of 5. This involves the passenger, who will earn the competitor a 5 if any part of the passenger's body touches any terrain. The role of the passenger is to balance the sidecar and prevent the sidecar wheel from lifting which would cause the driver to restablise the outfit by using his foot (incurring a score of 1).
Sidecar Trials is predominantly British, however there are events run in Europe and Australia. The British Championship is the highest level of competition, held over 10 rounds with 3 difficulty levels; Clubman, Intermediate & Expert, with the Expert class championship winner being named British Sidecar Trials Champion.
Long distance trials competition incorporates a carefully planned out route for the competitors to follow and make stops at various locations incorporating places throughout many different counties, rather than one venue. This takes place not only on the main roads but also steep, rough and loose surfaced hills and lanes. Points are given to the competitor for putting his foot down on the ground or falling off. These trials can be expected to be completed within certain timescales and can mean not arriving at a particular section and or destination prior to an allocated time.
Not only modern motorcycles take part but vintage motorcycles and cars too.
Motorcycle sport is a broad field that encompasses all sporting aspects of motorcycling. The disciplines are not all races or timed-speed events, as several disciplines test a competitor's various riding skills.
Motorcycle speedway, usually referred to simply as speedway, is a motorcycle sport involving four and sometimes up to six riders competing over four anti-clockwise laps of an oval circuit. The motorcycles are specialist machines which use only one gear and have no brakes; racing takes place on a flat oval track usually consisting of dirt, loosely packed shale, or crushed rock. Competitors use this surface to slide their machines sideways, powersliding or broadsiding into the bends. On the straight sections of the track the motorcycles reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (110 km/h).
Motocross is a form of off-road motorcycle racing held on enclosed off-road circuits. The sport evolved from motorcycle trials competitions held in the United Kingdom.
The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme is the global governing/sanctioning body of motorcycle racing. It represents 116 national motorcycle federations that are divided into six regional continental unions.
Douglas Martin "Dougie" Lampkin, MBE, also known as Doug, is an English former professional motorcycle trials and endurocross rider. He competed in the FIM Trial World Championships from 1994 to 2006. Lampkin is notable for being a seven-time motorcycle trials world outdoor champion. He is the second most successful trials rider in history, after Toni Bou with 30. In 2012, Lampkin was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.
Enduro is a form of motorcycle sport run on extended cross-country, off-road courses. Enduro consists of many different obstacles and challenges. The main type of enduro event, and the format to which the World Enduro Championship is run, is a time-card enduro, whereby a number of stages are raced in a time trial against the clock.
Motorcycle Grasstrack is a form of track racing which typically, in its current form, takes place on a flat track consisting of two straights and two bends usually constructed in a field. It is one of the oldest types of motorcycle sports in the UK with the first meetings having taken place in the 1920s.
Motorcycle racing is the motorcycle sport of racing motorcycles. Major varieties include motorcycle road racing and off-road racing, both either on circuits or open courses, and track racing. Other categories include hill climbs, drag racing and land speed record trials.
Track racing is a form of motorcycle racing where teams or individuals race opponents around an unpaved oval track. There are differing variants, with each variant racing on a different surface type.
Sidecar Speedway is a motorcycle sport involving 4 crews of a rider and a passenger competing over 4 laps on an oval shale surface. Rules are governed by the national speedway federation and are not dissimilar to conventional speedway rules.
Antoni Bou i Mena is a Spanish professional motorcycle trials rider. He has been the sole outdoor and indoor FIM Trial World Championship champion from 2007 to 2021. With these 30 world titles, he is the most successful rider in history, surpassing Dougie Lampkin and Jordi Tarrés who is third with 7 outdoor titles. At the age of 20 years and 5 months, Bou was the second youngest rider ever to win the World Indoor Title, and the youngest to do it on a 4-stroke motorbike.
The Scottish Six Days Trial is an internationally recognised Motorcycle trials competition, which has been running since 1909 making it the oldest motorcycle trials event in the world. Motorcycle riders from all over the world compete in this extreme sport, covering as much as 100 miles a day on road and off-road routes around Lochaber on each of the six days. The event is a trial of the skill, consistency and endurance of the riders, as well as a test of the specialised motorcycles used.
Jordi Tarrés is a Spanish former international motorcycle trials rider. He competed in the FIM Trial World Championships from 1985 to 1997. Tarrés is notable for being a seven-time motorcycle trials world champion. He is the third most successful trials rider in history, after Dougie Lampkin with 12 titles and Toni Bou with 30. In 2010, Tarrés was named an FIM Legend for his motorcycling achievements.
Wasp Motorcycles is a motorcycle and sidecar manufacturer based in Dinton, near Salisbury, England, that specialises in building competition solo and sidecar machines for motocross, trials and sidecar grasstrack, as well as the Wasp 3 Wheel Freedom for disabled riders.
Harold Martin Lampkin was an English professional motorcycle competitor. He competed in a variety of off-road motorcycle events, but specialized in observed trials competitions, winning the inaugural FIM Trial World Championship held in 1975. In a genre of motorcycling competition that features balletic grace and acrobatic finesse, Lampkin was an iconoclast, using sheer momentum and physical strength to assault trials course sections. He died in 2016 of cancer.
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