If you have never ridden a modern trials bike, you simply don’t know what you’re missing.  The ability to negotiate rough terrain is unmatched by anything on two wheels, but the real secret is how much fun they are to ride!  The combination of light weight (160 lbs), incredible low-speed handling and a torquey engine allow them to go practically anywhere with ease.  Not only will you have fun, but you’ll experience new places to ride, meet new friends and learn new skills that will take you to the next level of motorcycling.  Intrigued?  You should be.   


Most trials riders own other types of motorcycles as well.  A trials bike is the perfect second bike because it compliments the riding you are doing now, whether it be motocross, trail or even street.  You’ll find it’s the ultimate tool for cross training as well as “Adventure Riding”.  We’ll explain it all here, and when you’re done reading this booklet, you’ll know all about trials and the funny looking bike with no seat. 


A trials bike is unlike anything you’ve ever ridden.  Comparing one to a conventional off-road bike is like comparing a Cessna to a 747.  Imagine riding a standard off-road bike (XR, WR, EX/C; you name it) up a steep mountain trail with several miles of rock ledges, tight switchbacks and loose rubble.  Unless you’re Ty Davis, you would soon become exhausted as you lifted, pushed and cursed your way to the top.  Now imagine conquering the same trail with ease while lofting the front wheel over those rock ledges with full control and near-perfect traction.  Then picture yourself floating the front wheel around those tight switchbacks in a continuous feet-up wheelie turn!  You can do that and more on a trials bike, and you’ll have a blast doing it.   


Trials riding can be difficult for sure, but the bike itself is not difficult to ride.  It is actually quite “user friendly”, despite its amazing capability.  Think about it.  The bikes weigh only 160 pounds, have a low seat height, smooth power (although surprisingly snappy), soft, sticky tires and are easy to start.  How could that be hard to ride?  If you have any off-road riding experience at all, you’ll soon be crossing logs and climbing vertical steps that you never could have imagined before. 


Trials riding is physically demanding.  When you first start out, you’re legs will burn, your hands will ache and your arms will turn to putty. That’s a good thing, of course, because eventually your muscles will adapt and you’ll be in much better shape for all types of riding.  The sneaky part is that an intensive workout can be accomplished in half an hour in an area the size of a backyard.     

But there’s an even bigger advantage than physical conditioning.  Your motocross, cross-country or street riding skills will dramatically improve because trials riding forces you to learn precise throttle control, peg-weighting, balance and line selection.  And that’s a fact.


Every off-road riding parent wants to teach his or her child to ride well, but let’s face it; it’s difficult to ride together when your kid is on a Z-50 and you’re on a CR250.  But with a trials bike, you can actually ride WITH your child while demonstrating proper brake and throttle control, turning and balance - the basic skills that are key to becoming a competent rider (trials OR otherwise).  You’ll spend more time together and you’ll both gain more from the experience.


The modern trials bike is a purpose-built engineering marvel designed to excel at extremely tight, difficult riding.  The overall package is designed to be as narrow as possible with each component designed to tuck in for maximum protection. 
Below are the specs for a 2002 Montesa, but are similar for all the makes:

Weight: 160.6 pounds

Wheelbase: 52.4 “

Seat Height: 25.6”

Rear Shock: Adjustable rebound and pre-load. 7.5” travel.

Front Fork: Adjustable rebound, compression and pre-load.  7.1” travel.

Engine: Purpose-built liquid-cooled, case-reed two-stroke (w/ electric fan) 

Displacement: 249cc

Horsepower: 17.5 @ 5000 RPM.

Torque: 18 Ft./Lbs @ 4000 RPM.

Compression (actual): 8.2:1

Ignition: Electronic CDI with lighting output.

Gearbox: Five speed (first, second and third closely spaced for trials riding).

Clutch: Hydraulically actuated, wet multi-plate

Exhaust: Tuned expansion chamber with internal packing.  Very quiet.

Frame: Aluminum Composite (Made of forgings, extrusions and machined billet).  
Maximum speed:  56 MPH (Depends on final gearing)

Front Tire: 2.75 x 21” Michelin X-11 Trials (tube type).  Pressure: 5 PSI

Rear Tire: 4.00 x 18” Michelin X-11 Trials (tubeless radial). Pressure: 4 PSI

Front Brake: 4-piston caliper with 180mm stainless steel rotor. 

Rear Brake: 2-piston caliper with 150mm stainless steel rotor. 

Fuel Tank Capacity: .70 gallons

Ground clearance: 13.7”

Skid-Plate: Heavy-Duty aluminum to withstand continuous rock bashing.


The special trials tires are a key part of the bike’s amazing capability.  The rubber is super-soft and the carcass is designed to flex at low pressure and grip better than anything you’ve ever tried before.  The rear tire is tubeless and typically run between 4-5 PSI.  Punctures can be fixed using a standard tubeless tire plug kit. 


You’ve got the usual air filter cleaning ritual, of course, and a chain to lube.  The gearbox and fork oil ought to be changed occasionally along with a check of all the nuts and bolts for tightness, but that’s about it.  The engines are well designed, and since they don’t spend much time at redline, they seem to last forever.  Piston rings last many years, as do chains, sprockets, clutches and brakes.  About the biggest expense are tires, which cost about $200.00 a set, but they, too, last quite a while.


Everyone asks this question.  There isn’t a seat in the normal sense, but there is a wide, smooth place to sit down.  This “seat” is actually quite comfortable; the problem is it’s so low that sit-down riding is awkward, even for short riders.  Why is this?  Simple.  Trials (or any technical riding) is done standing up, and the low seat allows your legs to absorb more impact before your butt hits the seat.  This “leg suspension travel” is very important when crossing a three-foot log, for example, and contributes to the trials bike’s amazing maneuverability.  Plus, the low seat allows you to “dab” (touch the ground) in spots not possible on a regular bike.  And if the going gets really tough, you actually CAN sit down and “paddle” very effectively with both feet. 


Most non-trials riders are unaware of just how fast a trials bike can be ridden through the rough stuff.  The flickability combined with the snappy power and sticky tires makes for an awesome tight trail weapon!  To prove this point, a group of local riders recently entered the famous Los Ancianos Hare Scrambles in Tecate, Mexico.  Standing up the entire time, the trials riders distanced every contestant in the tight stuff and the fastest trials rider of the group finished the race on the same lap as the overall winner (riding a Honda CR250!)  We don’t recommend you try this, however, because even though the top speed is over 50MPH, a trials bike is not designed for fast racing, and can be a real handful at speed.   


After a bit of practice on the bike, you may want to enter an Observed Trials competition.  These events test your riding skill against other riders with similar skills.  Six different classes exist from Beginner to Expert, so regardless of your ability, there is an appropriate class to enter.  There is even a special kids class with three separate divisions of its own.  Most trials are held in the forest, desert or mountains, usually far from any town.  A typical event consists of a fairly easy trail “loop”, three to seven miles in length and marked with pink ribbon.  Within this loop, ten “sections” are marked with red and blue ribbon or tape. (Red marks the right boundaries and blue the left).  Each class rides a different route through the section, and the goal is to ride each one without “dabbing” a foot or crossing any boundaries.  The rider can walk each section first to become familiar with it, but is not allowed to pre-ride it.  The “checker” (also called an observer – hence the name “Observed Trials”) will score the rider and punch his scorecard.  Scoring is as follows:

0 Points:  Called a “clean”, is the best you can get and the goal of every rider.

1 Point:  Completing the section with only a single “dab” or a single feet-up stop. 

2 Points:  Completing the section with either two dabs, two stops or a stop with a foot down.     

3 Points:  The “Three” is awarded for completing the section with three or more dabs, stops or a combination of the two.  If you paddle your way through a section, but do not go out of bounds or stall the engine, you will receive a “Three”. 

5 Points: The “Five” is given for failure to complete the section.  This could be caused by not making an obstacle and stalling, riding out of bounds, falling down or moving backwards.

At the end of each loop, the rider turns in his or her scorecard and receives the next one.   If desired, the rider may take a few minutes between loops to rest, grab a drink or snack and check over the bike before heading out on the next loop.   Because a trials event is not a race, the atmosphere is much more laid back, and you are free to ride by yourself or with anyone you choose.  Many ride with a group of friends and cheer (or heckle!) each other on.  It’s great fun!  The event is over once you have completed the required (usually three) loops.  Instead of a definite time cut-off, there is typically a “sweep” about four or five hours after the start, and as long as you have begun your last loop and remain ahead of the sweep crew, you are OK on time.


Novice is the beginning class and consists of sections that are about as difficult as an easy trail ride.  The next class is Sportsman followed by Intermediate, Advanced, Master and Expert.  Only a select few are capable of riding Expert-class trials, but everyone likes to watch!  Even if you aren’t ready to try trials just yet, come on out to an event and be a spectator.  It costs nothing, and you are free to walk to the various sections, take pictures and get within a few feet of the riders. 


The folks involved with trials are the best!  Nowhere will you find a more sincere and trustworthy group, and it is these people that help make trials such a fabulous sport.  No one knows exactly why trials attracts such a great caliber of people.  Perhaps it is because the sport can be humbling and the hot-tempered ones lose interest and move on.  Or maybe trials riding just brings out the best in people.  Whatever the reason, it’s a unique group and one you will be proud to be a part of.



There are several ways.  First, contact your local trials dealer.  He will be happy to answer any questions and point you in the right direction.  Next, come out to an event and spectate, talk to people and tell them you are interested.  You will be pleasantly surprised at how polite and helpful the trials crowd is.  But be warned – someone may invite you to try their bike!  After a test ride, you may be ready to buy a new or used machine, but a more conservative approach would be to rent a bike from a place like Motoventures and sign-up for a day of instruction.  You’ll learn a whole lot, and by the end of the day you’ll know for sure if trials is for you.  Gary LaPlante, owner of Motoventures, competes in Master-Class trials and is an expert off-road rider.  He can teach you everything you need to know to progress from Beginner to Expert. 

Next there is the International Trials School (I.T.S.), which caters to new riders by offering a trials school in the morning and a competition event in the afternoon.  I.T.S. has both a Summer and Winter Series and typically holds their events at Perris Raceway.  All classes from Kids to Expert are included, and bike rentals are available if pre-arranged.   


The American Trials Association (ATA) Championship Series begins in September and ends in June.  It consists of ten AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) sanctioned events hosted by the four Southern California trials clubs.  (All classes, including Kids, are included in the ATA series).  In addition to these ATA points events, there is the famous El Trial De Espana, now held in SoCal every other year.  (“El Trial” will be held at Donner Pass for 2002).  Throughout the year there are various trials schools, Adventure Rides, “Fun Trials” (informal – no ATA points), set-up weekends (always the weekend before an event.  Work a little – ride a lot), trials demos and sometimes a parade or two.  If you want to ride, you can do something trials related almost every weekend!


One of the nice things about trials is that you can have a lot of fun in a small area.  Many riders even practice in their own backyard on obstacles made of logs, railroad ties and rocks.  (At a recent backyard party, the host was seen riding his trials bike over a picnic table, much to the dismay of the hostess).  Even the driveway is fine for practicing full-lock turns and front wheel hops, but the real fun is getting out for the weekend and riding the gnarly stuff.  Southern California has some great trials areas, and you’ll want to check them all out.  Here are just a few of the popular trials bike riding spots:

JOHNSON VALLEY:  Located about ten miles from the town of Lucerne Valley, the Johnson Valley OHV area is spectacular for trials and the location for several ATA Trials events each year.  The most popular spot is called “Cougar Buttes”, an area of incredible uplifted granite mountains surrounded by sandy high-desert.  You can spend a week riding the granite slabs of Lucerne and not cover it all.  A great place to camp and enjoy the desert, Lucerne is also fun for your friends with regular off-road bikes, Jeeps and dune-buggies. 

THE HAMMERS:  This area is located between the towns of Lucerne Valley and Yucca Valley, (just north of Means Dry Lake) and offers a unique volcanic rock experience.  The big lure, however, is riding the famous “Hammers”.  “Jack”, “Claw” and “Sledge” are the names of three gnarly canyons where hardcore custom-built 4x4s claw their way up seemingly impossible rocks.  You’ve got to see it to believe it.  The Jeeps’ are very impressive, but what takes them two hours takes a trials rider only fifteen minutes!

LAKE MATHEWS / SANTA ROSA MINE:  Located about 6 miles north of Perris Raceway, this BLM spot is popular with the L.A. crowd needing a close place to practice.  It has a great mix of rock piles, slabs and dirt banks, and on weekends, it’s not uncommon to see twenty or more riders on trials bikes.  It’s the perfect place for a day of riding, but is not recommended for overnight camping. 

CORRAL CANYON OHV AREA:  Located about 40 miles east of San Diego, Corral is home of the San Diego Trials Riders (SDTR) annual “Tecate” event (now in it’s 18th year).  The trials riding possibilities are endless and two different forest service campgrounds are provided for overnight camping.  It’s a great place and highly recommended. 

McCAIN VALLEY / LARK CANYON OHV AREA:  Located about 50 miles east of San Diego, “McCain” is another mainstay for the San Diego Trials Riders and home of the annual High Desert Classic.  A unique blend of manzanita and massive granite rocks, McCain is definitely one of the best trials areas in S.D. County.  Plenty of camping and a freeway-close location makes it a desirable weekend destination as well as a popular spot for one-day rides.