1995 49er Rally English (GS) Trials

I watched the English Trials at the 1994 49er Rally with great enthusiasm. Afterward, Charles Petrie and I played around on one of the sections. This preceded the double dare that led to both me and Charles entering this event in 1995.

Article posted to the BMW-GS list 5/30/95. Thank you to Fulton Martin and Charles Petrie for the photos!

Under forcible peer pressure, I entered the GS Trials last weekend at the 49er rally, just for the experience. And was it ever one! It ended in a tie between Greg Gibson and Rich Hood, after which Greg Gibson won it in a ride-off in Section 1. It was very close and very exciting the whole way! It's the most enjoyable spectator event at this rally, and a BLAST to ride!

I noticed from the beginning that Rich Hood came prepared. He put his tire pressure down to 15psi, and had the gas tank on reserve. Clearly, this man knows what he's doing!

Some of us practiced beforehand, despite the obvious futility. (33K JPEG)

There were 5 sections.

Section 1 started out with a tight flat zig-zag, then over a square log, then a sharp right-hander up and down a small grassy hill, an 80-degree righthander at the bottom of that, then a tight bumpy left-hander than wound over grass, rocks and tires.

No one cleaned the bumpy left-hander at the end, except Greg Gibson during the ride-off that broke the tie between Greg and Rich Hood at the end. I dropped over the log, made it (sort of) over the hill, but bailed before the rest of the section. So far, everyone had dropped on that last part of the section, including Rich Hood and Greg Gibson, the eventual leaders. Charles Petrie rode my bike in this event too, and did not drop through that part!

Section 2 was set up as two rectangular dirt areas with loose dirt held up within 12" boards. Softball to head-sized rocks lay in between, with boards to ride over on either side of the rocks, and this arrangement was enclosed within ribbons in a square area.

Here's a diagram:

You go over dirt, rocks, dirt, then make a full-lock right-hand semi-circle, cross back over the rocks between the two dirt areas, make another right-hand semi-circle, then back over the dirt, rocks, dirt in the other direction. The second direction was harder because you have less room to build momentum, plus a higher board to ride over. And every turn required near-to-full lock!

The toughest thing about this course wasn't riding over the dirt, rocks, dirt; but rather, making the tight righthand turn through the rocks halfway through the course. Later I was told that the best way through those rocks would have been just coasting, no gas. At nearly full-lock, of course. Yeah, sure.

The full-lock right-hander to get back onto the dirt (after the rocks) was no picnic, either. Here's Pete making his way back, and you can see the white rocks in the background. (49K JPG).

I couldn't finish this section either, dropping several times, but Charles, despite proclaiming himself a beginner, made it with no drops. (Charles did GREAT at the trials! Better than some of the more experienced riders!)

Section 3 was entirely flat, but very tight and technical, with every turn requiring full lock (and then some for the one R1100GS that entered) (and by the way, the R1100GS did just fine, but the rider is a very good one, I think he won this event last year). This section took you into a cattle stable with loose dirt and hay, where you make a circle and exit with a 90 degree left hander.
This was the only section on which I didn't drop. And I even finished it! Lots of dabbing though. Here I am riding out on my own power. (37K JPEG)

Rich Hood wowed the crowd with a carefully controlled squirt of throttle that slid his rear tire from the right to the left side of the narrow course, positioning him properly for the next turn. For the very tight turns, it was interesting that of the two leaders (who ended in a tie, broken by a ride-off), one did them sitting (Greg Gibson) and one did them standing (Rich Hood). Rich was once a pro trials rider, so it is natural he would take the more trials-y approach.

Section 4 was a series of about 8 dirt mounds, with a puddle at the end just before a tight left turn. The shark fin in the puddle was an amusing touch!

Later Greg Gibson explained that the best way to take these mounds was to coast UP. As you come off the downhill, you give it a little gas, then coast up the next one. Listening to the master, Rich Hood, ride through, you could hear his bike going just slightly off-idle on the downhill, and idling up. No revving at all!

You can sort of see the underbelly of the bike scraping on the dirt mounds. I made it over all of these on my 2nd attempt. Here I am about halfway through with Rich Hood looking on (blue hat). 75K JPEG. (The original 382K GIF is on Charles' page.)

At the end, you were faced with a choice of going through a mud puddle in order to set yourself up for the ninety-degree left immediately following, or avoid the mud puddle and take much too sharp a line for the turn.

I took the worst of both worlds, and managed to go through the mud puddle and take a bad line to the turn. 122K GIF.

It was easy to look at the section and think you know exactly what to do, but another matter entirely to make your mind control the bike to do that. My first attempt resulted in a dramatic rescue by spotters who prevented by bike from taking a terrible tumble from atop a mound.

My second attempt also resulted in lots of help from spotters, including getting pushed out of the puddle (sigh) and no doubt mud-roosting my kind helpers (166K GIF).

Mike Miller pre-rode each section on a DR350, and at the end of this one, a buddy of his rode Mike's shiny new Ducati Superlight up to the entrance, as if to ride the section! Mike's reaction floored the crowd, as he ran back along the dirt mounds yelling, "NO! NO! NO!".

Greg Gibson, GS Rider Extraordinaire and the eventual winner of this event, skillfully made his way along the risky, narrow line on the right of the mud puddle and set himself up perfectly for the ninety-degree left-hander. (119K GIF).

Here's "The Lone Ranger," a guy on the most tricked-out, ratted-out R80ST in the world, trying Greg's strategy, but slips into the mud. (47K JPG)

Charles cleaned this section! (44K JPG)

Section 5 was very long and the toughest one. The entrance was a steep downhill 90-degree left hander, then an easy straight ride through grass, a 180 and back, then a tight left hander around a truck tire. Next came a steep downhill right-hander down and up a grassy hill with a stream at the bottom, then a bumpy right hander around a huge mound of dirt.

Here I am just after making it around the grassy uphill right-hander, trying not to drop in the easy part. No go! I lost it instants after this shot was taken. Notice my leg way in the air, and Charles cheering in the background. (78K JPEG) (Here's the original 350K GIF on Charles' page.)

The killer was a 90-degree lefthander down a bumpy hill which took you into a narrow path marked out with tires, bending to the right, and ending with a bumpy, uphill sharp right-hander with a pile of hay at the exit and a rock right in the middle of the only decent line, then on to the exit of the section.

Descriptive powers fail me, but that last right-hander was a bitch; no one cleaned that last part of Section 5, and it provided the best entertainment.

I had a hell of a time on the last part of Section 5, and through the force and will of 7 guys, they succeeded in pushing me through it, at one point lifting the bike, with me on it, completely up off the ground!! Charles also had some help there, and upon the suggestion to gas it, managed to spin the bike around 180 degrees.

Though I had by far the hardest time of anyone, I also had the most help and support from spotters and onlookers. The guys who were always there to push, catch, and pick up my bike were real heros!

And, my poor motorcycle deserves credit for taking three riders through this event (Charles and someone else named Mike also borrowed Blue Tweety), and it being just off breakin for a new top end! It suffered only a broken rear turn-signal mount, a popped-off windscreen and a missing swingarm cap.

From what some onlookers said, some of these courses were tough even for real novice Trials -- and on GSs, it makes them downright difficult. But what a fantastic way to learn how to control a GS! If one can master this stuff, the possibilities on rough dirt roads widen considerably.

I asked the expert, Rich Hood, for advice on how to practice. Eavesdroppers volunteered, "get a trials bike!" but Rich said, "Hey, ride what you brung." (and practice on a trials bike if you can, but his point was: don't not practice just because your only bike is a GS).

Rich suggested practicing riding right into an obstacle like a pickup truck bumper or curb, slowly of course, and see how far you can roll backward before you have to dab. Also ride up a short hill or mound and try rolling back, steering backward, and see how far you get. Rich emphasized throttle control, and said he uses one or two fingers on the clutch.

Another bit of advice he offered is that that if you're riding up a hill, but lose momentum and a drop is imminent, turn the bike to one side before you lose it, so that it ends up perpendicular to your path of travel. From there, you move the handlebars back and forth to work the front end down, so that you can ride down and try again.

For slippery uphills with little traction, inertia is your friend. Rich said use momentum, but ride in a *higher* gear than you would normally so that if you do need power, you don't ask for too much and outdemand available traction.

Rich mused that a seminar/clinic/practice day with trials-type courses set up for GSs might be a good idea, and I hope I impressed upon him that it would indeed!

It really is amazing what a GS with the right rider can do.

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