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An introduction to the postmodern sport of bike trials

By pnadeau in Culture
Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 06:25:08 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Bike trials is an individual sport in which a rider must negotiate a set of obstacles while remaining balanced on the bike.

You could say that balance is the goal of trials. Touching anything with any part of your body to maintain balance, which is called dabbing, is the number one thing to avoid.

Obviously remaining balanced is only impressive if the obstacles to be negotiated are 'difficult.' Bigger obstacles, longer gaps and bigger dropoffs, if executed under control, will earn you more respect.

Trials or trialsin, not 'trails' as in 'dirt trail' (the word comes from the phrase 'trial sin motor' in Spanish), grew out of the similar motorized sport of motorcycle trials. Until the late 80's and early 90's, bike trials was mainly a European sport practiced on special built bikes with 20 inch wheels.

With the increased popularity of mountain bikes, which can be easily modified for trials riding, the sport became more widespread and is now practiced almost anywhere mountain bikes are found.

What makes trials 'postmodern'

The postmodern theory basically says that all interpretations or meanings of a work (of art) are equally valid.

The sport of bike trials gives new alternative meanings to everyday objects and structures both man made and natural. The benches ledges and railings of a downtown office building take on new meanings as obstacles to be combined into lines.

A line is an imaginary sequence of moves or transitions from one obstacle to another.[1] Some lines just have one obstacle in them but better lines combine many obstacles to be moved over in imaginative ways.

The very best riders are those that can see meanings that other riders have missed and who can ride them without dabbing.

The result is that they are literally creating a new work of art using another designer's artifacts.

Some examples

This is all getting very abstract so here are some videos of some trials lines.

Low wall to cement post to railing

Sequences of rails (with a dab at the end)

Trunk of car to roof to hood to pallet.

Ride onto and along a narrow wall.

Riding along walls and over cement blocks

This should give you an idea of what is involved. To see more videos try some of these links:

Videos from trials-online.com

Videos From "A Bike Trials Site"

Videos From trialskings

The Bike

Trials bikes come in two flavours: stock and modified

Stock Bikes

A stock bike (picture) at it's simplest is just a regular mountain bike. There are some things you can do to make your existing mountain bike handle better for trials.

The most fundamental things are that the seat should be as low as possible and that, if you use special clipless pedals, that you switch to flat pedals.

Lowering the seat, aside from the fact that it can prevent painful injuries, allows greater range of motion while on the bike. This is important as some of the moves are accomplished using dramatic weight shifts.

Flat pedals make it safer to bail out when things go wrong. Also, they make it easier to do the really big moves, by encouraging proper form.

To make the bike even more trials specific you should have as small a frame as possible, 15 inch or 13 inch would be better, install a bash guard to protect the front sprocket, short chain-stays 16 inch or shorter to make it more stable on the back wheel, wide riser bars, good rear brakes a good rear hub with as little play as possible etc. The list of possible modifications is almost endless and I won't go into any further here.

Modified Bikes

Modified bikes (picture) are machines specially built for trials.

They have 20 inch wheels, a huge rear tire for better control and shock absorption, a bash plate to protect the front sprocket and a drivetrain with an almost 1:1 gear ratio.

These bikes are only useful for trials and would be very difficult to pedal any distance because of the gear ratio.

Being built especially for trials they are much easier to balance on the rear wheel, which is an important move in trials.


The use of shocks might look like a good idea in trials but it turns out that fully rigid bikes are more accurate to balance. Rear suspension would make back wheel moves almost impossible. Front shocks are sometimes used by some stock riders and are acknowledged as a matter of taste. They can suck up some of your energy (they are called shock absorbers) and add weight, arguably making it harder to do the really big moves.

The moves

The two most fundamental techniques in trials are: the trackstand and the pedal kick.


Trackstanding means remaining balanced on the bike while standing still. The name "trackstand" comes from track racing, where there is an advantage to standing still on the bike in some situations.

The true trackstand consists of turning the front wheel 45 degrees and exploiting the fact that the bike tips left and right as one rolls the bike forwards and backwards. It looks like this.

This allows the you to set up for some of the bigger moves or to stand there and consider your next move.

Though it's not a true trackstand you can also remain balanced by rocking back and forth from one wheel to the other like this. This has the advantage that you can change directions or move from side to side. To stay in one place you can use tiny little adjustments. To move around you can pivot the bike a larger amount on each wheel in the direction you want to go.

Pedal kicking

Pedal kicking is a technique that is incorporated into most of the dynamic moves of trails.

A pedal kick consists of a quick short rotation of the pedals, like this, that creates torque on the rear wheel. The effect of a pedal kick is to both move the bike forward and raise the front wheel.

You have to watch this video closely, but you can clearly see the rider's right foot pumping the pedal before each lurch.

The lurch is a useful move that makes use of the pedal kick. It involves coordinating the rear brake, your body position and the pedal kick so that the bike is thrust forward and lands on the back wheel with the rear wheel locked.

The lurch is probably the move that is most unique to trials. It opens up all sorts of possibilities because it allows you to use the back tire like a foot and 'step' over obstacles that are too narrow or far apart to roll over on two wheels.

More advanced moves

There are all sorts of more advanced moves, most of which incorporate a pedal kick, to allow you to handle different situations.

The sidehop allows you to get on an obstacle that is parallel to the bike, the pedal up, also known as the Jap Slap[2], allows you to launch the bike onto higher obstacles and land on the rear wheel ready for a lurch. You can also use the lurch to drop off obstacles. Almost arbitrarily high obstacles can be safely landed with this technique, without the use of suspension.

Here are a few links to trials sites that have instructional sections showing how to do the moves: trials-online instructional section, biketrials.com instructional section

Trials Competitions

There are trials competitions where riders are observed while riding through sections. In trials competitions the act of putting a foot down or otherwise touching anything other than the bike is called a dab and will earn you one or more demerit points. The rider with the lowest score is the winner.

Generally several 'sections' are set up and delineated by plastic tape. Sections can be made of anything but often include logs, pallets and cars. Natural sections exploit natural features and are among the toughest because of all the irregular angles and surfaces they present.

The rules get pretty technical to accomodate subtle situations and to close loopholes. Here is a link to the 2001 North American Rules.

Getting into trials

If you ask most riders how they got into trials they will usually say that they saw a demo at a bike show and asked the demo riders about it.

One of the nicest things about trials, perhaps because it is such a small sport, is that most riders, even the pros, are very approachable and are willing to take total beginners along on their rides and show them the ropes. The best way might be to check out some of the trials mailing lists and asking if there is someone in your area who rides and would be willing to take on a beginner.

Back to the postmodern

Once you get good enough at trials you start to see lines (or sections) everywhere. This is known as 'section tick'. It can be very distracting and can make it very dangerous to drive as you will find yourself looking at all sorts of things and imagining the lines through them.

Sometimes you will see lines which are so above your current skill level as to enter the level of fantasy. These will provide much needed inspiration to keep practicing. You will find yourself daydreaming about moving over them like a biking demi god. Sometimes you might actually clear one of these, when your skills have improved enough, which is an amazing feeling.

You now can dominate your urban environment by giving it a new meaning and literally rolling over it. Some otherwise depressing areas like railway depots or demolished buildings make some of the best trials locations and will have a much more positive meaning for you.

I recently had to take a job in a very bleak industrial section of town but I found it was one of the best places to ride trials I had been to. This was for me a way of taking back that part of my personal geography and turning a negative into a positive.

[1] The concept of 'line' is not unique to trials of course, and is shared with other urban sports like BMX and skateboarding

[2]No one seems to know where the term Jap Slap comes from. One theory is that someone first saw this move being performed by a Japanese rider. The term is intended to be deferential to the Japanese riders, who are very good.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
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Related Links
o [1]
o Low wall to cement post to railing
o Sequences of rails (with a dab at the end)
o Trunk of car to roof to hood to pallet.
o Ride onto and along a narrow wall.
o Riding along walls and over cement blocks
o Videos
o trials-onl ine.com
o Videos
o "A Bike Trials Site"
o Videos [2]
o trialsking s
o (picture)
o (picture) [2]
o this.
o this
o like this
o sidehop
o pedal up
o [2]
o drop off
o trials-onl ine instructional section
o biketrials .com instructional section
o 2001 North American Rules
o Also by pnadeau

Display: Sort:
An introduction to the postmodern sport of bike trials | 47 comments (35 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Contradiction (4.40 / 5) (#3)
by thefirelane on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 03:32:55 PM EST

Not that I have fully explored post-modernism much though.. but I thought someone might be able to comment on a seeming contradiction...

The postmodern theory basically says that all interpretations or meanings of a work (of art) are equally valid.
but better lines combine many obstacles to be moved over in imaginative ways.

Isn't this a bit of a contradiction? As it sounds like in a true post-modern sense, all "interpretations" aka. lines, are equally valid and therefore you would not be able to judge them?

If this is the case, then is the post-modernism stuff merely added as an afterthought, and shoehorned into a simple introduction article just to make it "cooler".


Prube.com: Like K5, but with less point.
I meant it this way (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by pnadeau on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 03:56:40 PM EST

I'm not trying to engage in critical theory here but:

The interpretations that I said were equally valid were the use of a bunch of structures as benches for people to sit on and rails for them to hold on while going down sequences of small terraces to make it easier to change elevations (stairs) and the interpretation of these same artifacts as riding obstacles. And here it extends to other interpretations, such as lines to be rode along on a skateboard, or perches to stand and shit on if you're a bird :-)

That different interpretations (better executed or more imaginative lines) within these kinds or classes of interpretations (as things to sit, ride on or perch on) have relative values does not mean that everything collapses into equivalence.

"Can't buy what I want because it's free, can't be what they want because I'm..."  Eddie Vedder

[ Parent ]
But, (none / 0) (#25)
by jvance on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 11:15:34 AM EST

The parent poster's interpretation of your collection of words is different, and equally valid. Don't mind me, I'm just being a smart-ass, just like most post-modernists, I suspect. Good article!


This is taking too much of my time. I've gone away. You can reach me at john_a_vance atsign hotmail dot com if you wish.
[ Parent ]

+1 FP (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by Melankolic on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 04:53:03 PM EST

My bias: Trials takes the most alienating of places, and turns them into a thing of unintended beauty. A very well written article, that needs a bit of work. But yes, +1 FP indeed

Good post (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by thekubrix on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 05:21:30 PM EST

I'm not very much into bikes myself (maybe because my parents bought me a sorta girlish bike as a kid), but I've a few number of friends who have made it a hobby (and a couple, a sport and a way of life!), it was good to see a glimpse into this, +1 FP!

About the demo movies... (3.00 / 3) (#10)
by DLWormwood on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 06:03:13 PM EST

Slightly off topic, but what codec was used to produce the MPEGs? I haven't been able to get them to play...

Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
Mplayer Says: (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by carbon on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 10:10:43 PM EST

VIDEO: [MP42] 384x288 24bpp 13.00 fps 353.3 kbps (43.1 kbyte/s)
MPEG 4.2

Software: AVIEdit [ build Nov 30 2001 ] (C) 1998-2001 Alexander Milukov, AM Software
Detected AVI file format!

AVI encapsulated

Detected audio codec: [pcm] drv:2 (Uncompressed PCM)
And a raw audio track

Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
+1 but (4.00 / 2) (#11)
by dmt on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 06:30:05 PM EST

I have problems with the fast and loose definition of post modernism without sport getting mixed up in my self referencial recursion.  That's a pretty dumbed down description of post modernism.  Ok  within the confines of this article probably acceptable.  

+1 for managing to really fuck up my idea of post modernism by including sport.

Ridiculous use of buzz-word (+1) (3.50 / 6) (#19)
by Pac on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 11:33:48 PM EST

You clearly don't have the faintest idea of what post-modernism is short of what the mass media told you. So, your words could be easily rephrased as "Anything that calls itself post-modern is post-modernist". And as a matter of fact, in some deeper level it would be right.

But at the shallow level of concrete walls and pedal-powered machines one may well reduce the understanding of literary and art evolution to a self-indulgent belief that small-scale (nevertheless mediatic) urban interventions serve another purpose other than pumping adrenaline into the human body trying to cope with the machine and the wall at the same time and pumping cholesterol into the human body lying in the sofa staring at it through the TV.

But then again the text is a nice introduction to yet another week-end endeavour that may add meaning to someone's life. I vote for post.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

oh shut up... (2.00 / 1) (#26)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 11:27:42 AM EST

Ever notice that purveyors of "true art" are always elitists sounding miserable saps?

Who gives a fuck if it's not the "proper" use of "post modern"? It was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Ah, the joys of ignorance (2.66 / 3) (#29)
by Pac on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 02:29:03 PM EST

As I said, I voted for post, mostly for the reason you point, "it was an enjoyable read".

As for true art, elitism and miserable saps, I will let it rest. I never wanted to touch anyone's sensitive spot of ignorant happiness. And I won't impose a discussion about why one should or should not "give a fuck" about the proper use of words and concepts on someone who obviously don't. Rest assured I would never try to educate or inform you out of your own, self-developed and obviously perfect understanding of the world. Have a long and happy life full of blissful ignorance, friend.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners

[ Parent ]
balk (none / 0) (#39)
by faustus on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 05:45:35 PM EST

Being so arrogant about your infalible intellegence is the worst ignorance of all.

[ Parent ]
Please (none / 0) (#46)
by Josh A on Thu Sep 26, 2002 at 11:39:51 PM EST

Run4YourLives deserved every bit of that, considering s/he completely missed Pac's point in his rush to name call and discourage discussion on a topic that some readers here do "give a fuck" about.

I wish I could attach a poll to a comment... who here rates the "shut up about that, I don't care about it" post over the "sorry you read it, have a nice life" post?

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
pomo? (3.25 / 4) (#20)
by delmoi on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 12:10:49 AM EST

erm... I don't really get how you can call this 'post modern'
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Great. (4.00 / 4) (#22)
by qpt on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 05:13:21 AM EST

Ignorance of postermodernism is very post modern.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

I enjoyed this article (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by gr00vey on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 07:45:48 AM EST

I wasn't at all familiar with this stuff, even though I did "BMX" back in the day... I also don't give a shit if you used "post modern" incorrectly, I still thoroughly enjoyed the article. Thanks for sharing!

original? (none / 0) (#24)
by YetAnotherDave on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 10:38:38 AM EST

Enojoyable read, but VERY similar to something Robin Coope had on his website.  His essay seems to have been lost in the site redesign  :(


See http://www.ryanleech.com/ for more cool trials stuff...

My riding buddy is an artist (none / 0) (#27)
by pnadeau on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 11:36:55 AM EST

My riding buddy is an artist and I remember us coming up with this on one of our rides. It must be a case of independent re-discovery.

I'm sorry I even mentioned it now. While I think the rather small point I'm trying to make is defensible it just acts as flamebait and draws all attention away from the rest of the content in the article.

One other thing I would have liked to get across is that trials is not about waking up one morning and deciding it would be cool to launch yourself off of cement obstacles. (<flamebait>That's called freeriding</flamebait>. These comments insinuate some kind of culture of instant gratification, XtReeM DOOD adrenaline seeking personality is attracted to trials.

It might start out that way, but for those who stick with it to get good at trials it takes years of unglamorous practice on some really piddly looking obstacles.

"Can't buy what I want because it's free, can't be what they want because I'm..."  Eddie Vedder

[ Parent ]
A post that's NOT about postmodernism! (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by Cutthroat on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 12:47:19 PM EST

Whoa, an article about my favorite sport on k5! With something as obscure as trials I'm surprised! (At least in North America, it's obscure.)

I got bit by the trials bug when watching some videos online. I was already an avid (if novice) mountain biker, so it wasn't a huge leap for me.

Trials is hard. It can take weeks or even months of daily practice to figure out how to do a move. Practice will usually involve falling off. Falling off often involves pain.

And daily practice is almost essential. Four weeks ago I was out riding every day for an hour and a half and I would always finish feeling invigorated. I went away for a few weeks and had no access to a bike. Now a half hour of riding leaves me panting and the next day every muscle in my body seems to be sore.

Yet I still find it rewarding to go through all of that just for the meager reward of being able to hop a few inches higher than before, or pivot a few degrees more. Each skill you learn is a building block for one you haven't. String a few together and you can ride lines you'd never have imagined before.

Probably my favorite thing about trials is that you can do it anywhere. Rewarding mountain biking tends to involve a half hour of preparing gear and a half hour of driving somewhere worthwhile to ride. Rewarding trials can usually be found a short distance from where you keep your bike.

And the worst thing about trials? Hardly anyone else is weird enough to be as interested in it as I am. Makes it hard to find other people to ride with.

Which on the whole isn't necessarily so bad.. the rewards in trials are the ones you make for yourself, not the ones you find by comparing yourself to others.

This Brings Memories ... (none / 0) (#30)
by icastel on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 06:27:18 PM EST

... Oh, yeah.

Even though I've never done Trials, I was familiar with the term and actually have watched some video clips.

Up until mid-1993, I was really into BMX Street riding and a bit of Flatland. I rode about 5 times a week for about 4 years. I can definitely relate to what you're talking about when you say that you "see the lines." In fact, to this day if I see a canal, river, fence, bench, I still get a mental picture of some possible (or impossible) trick.

Good post.

-- I like my land flat --
Clarification (none / 0) (#31)
by icastel on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 06:29:14 PM EST

River as in walled-up, dry-or-nearly-dry, running-through-a-city kind of river.

-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Stopped in 1993? (none / 0) (#32)
by Timwit on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 09:13:20 PM EST

If you stopped riding in 1993, you hung on for a long time!

I was into freestyle (ramps and flatland, but mostly flatland) in the 80's in New England--we actually had a pretty cool scene going on here, though from reading Freestylin magazine you would never have known it. I stopped riding in 88, and as I recall, things really dried up by 1990. While a core group of maybe 100 riders kept going for a few more years--enough riders for some well attended competitions--the average teenage boy was no longer interested at all. I sneered at "street" when it came into fashion--what a dumb mistake. I should have supported anything to keep trick riding from dying out.

BTW, there is still a small group of serious riders in New England--check out www.ewirezine.com, and the related site (link from the main page) New England Flatland.

[ Parent ]

I'll Check It Out [N/T] (none / 0) (#34)
by icastel on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 11:57:48 AM EST

-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Postmortem? (none / 0) (#33)
by Timwit on Tue Sep 24, 2002 at 09:16:33 PM EST

When I first read the title, I thought it said "postmortem."

Imagining lines (none / 0) (#35)
by jmzero on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 01:28:41 PM EST

Once you get good enough at trials you start to see lines (or sections) everywhere. This is known as 'section tick'. It can be very distracting and can make it very dangerous to drive as you will find yourself looking at all sorts of things and imagining the lines through them.

If you want to get this feeling without being too post-modern, you can try playing "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3" for a while.  I rented it a couple months back, and I still imagine myself grinding that car - doing a 900 off that - manualing down that driveway and up that guywire to the power line.  

It's especially bad in airports and on cruise ships.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

Tony Hawk video game (none / 0) (#36)
by pnadeau on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 02:39:14 PM EST

A guy I worked with this summer is a pretty good skater and he told me how this guy came up to him and started asking him if he could do this or that move like he could in the Tony Hawk video game. The things he was asking for were impossible and or didn't make sense. All his skating 'knowledge' came from that game :-)

It does sound like a fun game but it's missing two things: the frustration factor and the fear factor.

Frustration is a big part of why people do 'extreme' sports. We just love to get pissed off and have our pitiful attempts laughed at by ten year old kids and grandmothers :-) It's pretty common to throw your bike. One time I saw a skater stomp on his board and break it in half. I know it can still be hard to press the right combination of buttons in the game to pull off a move but that's nothing compared to the months it can take to nail, say your first decent sidehop.

Fear, and overcoming fear is part of the rush. So for the game to be faithful to the sport there should be some kind of peripheral on the game box so that if you crash in the game a big cement block smashes you in the face or something (not intended for children under 8 years old)

"Can't buy what I want because it's free, can't be what they want because I'm..."  Eddie Vedder

[ Parent ]
What? (none / 0) (#37)
by jmzero on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 03:30:59 PM EST

You mean it's not real?  You mean nobody can do a 900 degree turn off a grind, land on two wheels on a wire, olly off the wire, and grind on the back of the board from there to a ramp 80 feet away?

You're right in that the game doesn't capture the feeling of the sport (not that I'd really know, I can olly about an inch and a half and get pretty shaky at medium speeds).

But it's a really fun game.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Dave Mirra BMX2 (none / 0) (#44)
by unstable on Thu Sep 26, 2002 at 06:36:49 PM EST

got this and there are some impossible tricks too..

like the superman barspin 360 ... lets see that in real life...  although I have seen some incredible stuff done for real (like a flair to double peg stall and cant forget that 900 no hander in the x games this year)

back when i used to ride a moutain bike everywere (pre driver licence days) i used to try stupid stuff like this.  I could hop up on a flat surface about 3 foot high with my stock all steel mountain bike (weighed about a ton and a half)

i can only imagine what I could have done if I had a trials bike.  now i ride so little i have trouble on simple jumps and bunny hops ..  need more practice...  also might get rid of this gut i have :P

Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

[ Parent ]

bleh (none / 0) (#40)
by Work on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 08:49:41 PM EST

THPS3 is bad compared to 2. I find 3 to be mostly boring...

[ Parent ]
Hmm (none / 0) (#43)
by jmzero on Thu Sep 26, 2002 at 09:59:17 AM EST

I suppose you probably like whichever one of the two you played first.  I played 3 first, and 2 felt sort of silly.  

Without the revert, the only way to get huge scores is to do these crappy eternal grinds.  Look, I'm grinding here.  I found a circle I can grind.  I'm grinding.  Still grinding.  Grindy-Mc-Grind-Grind.  Grind.

In either game it's way too easy to get a huge score (assuming there's a rail around), but at least in 3 you get some variety via trick to manual to grind to trick to manual to grind...  

And even if you're not "in it for the score", the game is, so that's what you end up doing a lot of the time.  Either game is a "renter" to me - just no replay value after you've got the controls figured out and the levels done.

"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

additional notes (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by Swashbuckler on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 03:58:08 PM EST

I started riding motorcycle trials at the age of four (I will see if I can find and pictures I might have scanned to prove it).

First off, I really enjoyed your description of trials and I dig the whole "postmodern" slant you tried to convey; nevertheless, here are my contributions (that might clear up some confusion):

1. About the postmodern thing: Postmodernity refers to a period of time (i.e. after modernity), so its hard to call trials a postmodern sport. That said, it can be understood in the context of the postmodern era. You said, "The sport of bike trials gives new alternative meanings to everyday objects and structures both man made and natural." For those who don't get what pnadeau is trying to convey, here is my interpretation. It is common for an athletic enthusiast to "philosophize" about the sport he or she practices. From my days of skateboarding, I remember thinking how neat it was to romanticize ones interpretation of urban architecture and the skateboard moves one can perform on them as an expression of ones self. Therefore, my choice to "kick flip" this set of stairs and "board slide" the ledge that follows it is an expression of myself - it is art. For those of you who think I making fun of skaters, I assure you I'm not. I was very much into the philosophy of skateboarding and think that its one of the more interesting aspects of the sport; that said, I also don't take it very seriously. I am a rockclimber now and I do much the same thing: my "interpretation" of the route someone has already set is an expression of myself. Rock climbing, like dance, most enthusiasts rightly consider as a form of art.

Trials riding is very much the same. Someone defines a "section" of terrain and different riders interpret how they will get through it with out putting their feet down. The best riders make it seem easy, graceful, even aesthetically pleasing. Recreational bicycle trials, I imagine, often takes place on urban structures. You can see how ones ability to imagine a memorial, a park bench, a set of stairs, etc. as a section to ride through is a creative process and some form of expression. In much the same way as climbing is not about whether you can reach the top, but more about the style in which you do it, trials is a form over function sport too. Skateboarding is a form over function sport. White water kayaking is a form over function sport. That's what makes it postmodern in much the same way that the PT Cruiser (in all its glory) is an example of postmodern automotive design. Programming, no less, is postmodern phenomanom. Everybody knows that "ugly" code can function, but who care? A true "hack" has to be a beautiful thing, right?

The only other thing I have to add is that motorcycle trials began by one guy saying, "hey, I bet I can make it to the top of the hill better (not before) you can." And slowly, riders began drilling holes in their bikes to make them lighter, and lighter so that they could get up the hill better then the other guy. In that regards too, the sport is very postmodern. Bikes were originally designed to use for specific purposes, i.e.progressing from point A to point B (modernity is all about progress), where as the guys riding up hills were doing it just because that was their interpretation of the motorcycle, they weren't progressing anywhere really (postmodernity denies the belief in progress).

*Note* - this comment contains no inside K5 humour because inside K5 humour is only for/by K5-wankers. Media does not = "community."
Start with a Mountain Bike? (none / 0) (#41)
by genman on Wed Sep 25, 2002 at 09:27:33 PM EST

I was confused on why you metion Mountain Bikes at all, since they are totally inappropriate for bike trials.  You don't need gearing, suspention, clip pedals, larger wheels, or actually any sort of pratical bike frame designed for riding.

In any case, interesting article.

I first saw "trials" in Japan, when I was in Okinawa for a week.  They had BMX bikes with large cylinder caps which extended the length of the axels.  Meaning, they could rest their feet on the back axel and bounce around.

Something tells me you didn't read (none / 0) (#42)
by Elohim on Thu Sep 26, 2002 at 12:40:18 AM EST

the article too carefully.  Besides, what you're describing is a BMX bike.

[ Parent ]
of lines and bent wheels (none / 0) (#45)
by NFW on Thu Sep 26, 2002 at 11:01:21 PM EST

I was into BMX freestyle from about 6th grade until I got my driver's license (funny coincidence), and into skateboarding from about the same time until... well, I haven't quite quit yet, but almost. Anyhow, I'm now 30 and compelled to random acts of pedestrian line expression, like hopping onto and walking backward across park benches while walking down the street.

Lines are a big thing in snow sports too, and even wakeboarders are getting into obstacles with various lines. I think it's slightly less inspiring when the "obstacles" are purpose-built as with snowboard and wakeboard parks, but it's no less amazing what the top riders are doing.

I really want to do a helmet-cam run with my snowboard, then look at randomly selected frames from the video a month later and draw a squiggly neon blue "line" on each frame depending on where the good lines appear to be... through moguls, over jumps, carving steeps, etc, etc. Then, stuff all the frames back together as an mpeg and hopefully get a video that captures the mental process of picking a line. That, to me, is a huge part of the fun... picking lines that flow from one challenge to the next. Like someone else said here, not faster, but better, in a subjective way. Smoother, more flowy, or more agressive, or whatever feels fun.

When I was in college I was doing a fair amount of trials-ish stuff around campus on my mountain bike (though I'd never heard of trials riding and just thought of it as BMW freestyle with a bigger bike and no axle pegs). I bent a few rims, mostly while getting up stairs and low walls... are stronger rims available now? Do the thicker back tires help? Or are regular rim replacements just a fact of life in this game?

Got birds?

bending rims (none / 0) (#47)
by Swashbuckler on Fri Sep 27, 2002 at 11:47:33 AM EST

Anyhow, I'm now 30 and compelled to random acts of pedestrian line expression, like hopping onto and walking backward across park benches while walking down the street.

That's hilarious! I'm so glad you told me that. I'm going to wax the bottom of my shoes and 50/50 a handrail today for you!

To answer your question - yes, there are rims that can stand up to the test now-a-days. Urban riding has become a huge thing and as a result, beefier bikes, rims, headsets, forks, etc. are necessary to withstand brutal urban assault. That's equipment for the go hard or go home type where style is less important. Trials riding, however, is about fidelity. If you are breaking rims on a trials bike you are not doing it right. I'm not criticizing you, or anything. I'm just explaining trials riding. For example, I'm sure the way you "taco'ed" your rim was by riding hard at a set of stairs, lifting the front wheel, hoping that you generated enough speed to just roll up the stairs. That way traction isn't an issue. A trials rider would approach the stairs slowly and might even stop at the bottom. He or she would then lock up both breaks and hop the bike on to the stairs paying careful attention to where each tire makes contact with the step. One hop at a time he would climb the stairs. Ride smart not hard.

I just want everyone to know that this article reminded me how much I enjoy trials riding. I'm going to sell my big ass full suspension bike that I ride here in the Gatineau park (north of Ottawa) and build, piece by piece, a trials bike. Heck, there aren't as many chicks to impress in the woods as there are on the architecture of University Campuses and the steps of the National Archives. And lets face it, we ride bikes for chicks!

*Note* - this comment contains no inside K5 humour because inside K5 humour is only for/by K5-wankers. Media does not = "community."
[ Parent ]
An introduction to the postmodern sport of bike trials | 47 comments (35 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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