Potomac Vintage Riders


Established in 1999 by Motorcycling Enthusiasts for Motorcycling Enthusiasts

Vintage Observed Trials

Observed Trials is a competitive sport ridden on vintage trials bikes that were, in general, produced before the advent of the modern mono-shock machines. The bikes may be from the pre ’65 era of British two and four stroke motorcycles, the early post ’65 era of Spanish trials bikes, or Japanese or European trials motorcycles which came slightly later; all of these having either two rear shock absorbers or being of rigid frame.


The object of “Observed Trials” is to ride through specified courses, called sections, without setting your feet down, riding out-of-bounds, or stopping. These sections are generally laid out in wooded areas and use the natural terrain to form different obstacles used to test the rider’s balance and throttle control. The sections are placed along a trail which forms a loop. There may be eight to twelve or more “observed sections” along the loop which is ridden several times, giving the rider new chances to attempt each section. A set number of loops ridden is announced at the beginning of the Trial, as well as the “finish time”. At the end of the Trial, riders hand in their score sheets, and their scores are tallied by rider/machine classes. The lowest score takes the highest place in each class.



The Sections

The sections of an “Observed Trial” are where the rider is scored by an observer or “checker”. These sections vary in length but usually take less than a minute to negotiate. They have an entry and exit point which take effect as the front axle passes through them. The left boundary is marked with blue ribbon or flags, and the right is marked with red. Natural obstacles of mud, rocks, logs, streams etc… together with tight turns and hillsides are the heart of each section. At Mid Atlantic Trials (MAT) events there are four different “lines” in each section. Depending on the rider’s ability and machine, he/she is assigned to ride one of these lines. The “4” line is the easiest and is designed for beginners. The “1” line is the most challenging. At the end of each section the riders are given their score and proceed on to the next section along the loop where they will be scored once again.



Each rider begins each section with “0” points, as shown by the checker’s raised, closed hand. If the rider exits the section without “dabbing”, stopping, or going out of bounds he/she accumulates no points, and is given a “clean”. If the rider dabs a foot once while in the section, the checker holds up one finger to signify the current score. If the rider dabs again, or uses another part of his body for support, the rider is given another point, and the checker now has two fingers raised. If the rider dabs a third or more times, he/she is given a third point. No more than three points are given for dabs no matter how many times the rider sets a foot down. Beyond getting three points, a rider will receive a “five” for either stopping in the section (balanced or not) or going out of bounds. Also if a rider chooses not to ride a section, he/she may request a five. The penalty for missing a section is ten points. At the end of the meet, each rider’s points are added together for a total score. If there is a tie in any class, the person with the most “cleans” breaks the tie.


The Wrap Up

This is just a brief over-view of Vintage Trials. We hope that it perks your interest. This is a fun, inexpensive sport with lots of camaraderie as well as great competition. We invite you to come see for yourself, and bring a friend.


How To Get Started In Vintage Trials

  1. Join Mid-Atlantic Trials (MAT), formerly Mid-Atlantic Vintage Trials, the most active sanctioning group in the region. Information at:http://www.mid-atlantictrials.com
  2. (Optional) join the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA). AHRMA has a national vintage trials series but none are in the Mid-Atlantic region.
  3. Join a local club like PVR.This is the best way to network and find places to ride.
  4.  Purchase quality safety gear: Boots, helmet, gloves.
  5. Choose your motorcycle carefully: Some brands have a good following, which means better parts sources and aftermarket suppliers. Before you buy, look at the MAT rules. MAT trophy classes are divided into two basic groups – vintage and modern. Vintage bikes are simply air cooled, twin shock, drum brakes; any year, any make. Modern is anything not meeting the definition of vintage. Both have 4 skill levels. See #6.
  6. Sign up for the proper skill level. Trials offers four skill levels (1-4) ranging from expert to beginner. If you haven’t ridden trials, it is wise to start out on the easier sections then work your way up.
  7. Prepare your bike properly, Remember, 25 year-old parts like chains, tires, shocks, carburetors, anything rubber, bearings, cables, and such should either be replaced, refurbished, or updated to save you from pushing your broken bike back from the far side of the woods.
  8. Start an exercise program. If you haven’t ridden in ages, consult a physician before starting your exercise program. But remember, trials can be a physically demanding sport.
  9. Practice on your motorcycle prior to competition. Speak to PVR members about local riding areas to refine your skills.
  10. Come out and have fun ! If you have aspirations of being World Champion, vintage trials is not the proper venue! We all ride trials because we enjoy old bikes and hanging out with others who share that enthusiasm.


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