Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Machine Preparation

An observed trials bike is specifically designed for this type of competition, however it will not perform satisfactorily unless it is set up. Tricks can be performed on a badly set up bike, however you will find it a lot easier on a correctly set up bike. Set up and maintenance of your machine will also reflect in your results in trials. The following information is intended only as a guide, but we feel that it is a useful source of info for all trials riders.

The basic setup for a trials bike

What do you use to control your motorcycle? the three most basic and important are:

  1. Throttle
  2. Brakes
  3. Clutch
If any of these are incorrectly adjusted you will have trouble controlling your machine precisely. Trials is a precision sport.



All current model bikes have hydraulic disc brakes which require only minimal maintenance. Older models have drum brakes which require a little more attention, but the basics still apply.


One of the most imortant yet neglected components of a trials bike. Think of how many times it engages and disengages in a days riding!

Periodic Maintenance Schedule

The following information is intended as a guide for a new comer to the sport of motorcycling. It is based on the assumption that you ride your bike every weekend.

Once a Week

Once a Month

Once Every Six Months

Handlebar and Lever Positioning

To control your bike with precision you must position your handlebars and levers correctly. Alloy or chrome-molly bars are the best to use; they should also be of standard width and straight. Bent handlebars cause an uneven stance on the bike.

Handlebar Position

Position bars so they are in the optimum "middle position."

Wherever you put them there will have to be a compromise, so position them centrally and comfortably.

Lever Positioning

Suspension Setup

Paying particular attention to how your suspension works and fine tuning its various adjustments will be of great benefit to your riding. People have a tendency to ignore the suspension - a pity, as proper adjustment can make maneouvres such as front and rear wheel hops, air turns, etc. a lot easier.

How does oil affect suspension?

When your suspension goes up and down, the oil is forced through holes in what is known as the "damper rod." This works on basic hydraulic principles - a fluid can't be compressed so the oil will only travel through the holes at a certain speed. The speed is determined by the size of the holes and the weight or viscosity of the oil. Therefore, the damping characteristics of the suspension can be changed by changing the weight of the oil. There are two forms of damping with motorcycle suspension:

  1. Compression damping - When the suspension is being comressed the oil is forced through a hole and in company with the spring slows or absorbs the shock of impact.
  2. Rebound damping - Once the suspension has been compressed and is now starting to extend rebound damping takes over. The oil is again forced through a hole and slows the rate at which the suspension extends to its maximum length.

When performing trick riding you will find it a lot easier if your suspension reacts a little faster on the rebound. You can experiment with the front suspension by changing the damping adjustment. If you don't have adjustable damping you can experiment by changing the oil in the forks. As a starting point you could try a grade lower than the manufacturer's recommendation. (Remember: thinner oil will flow faster through the holes, thus faster damping).

Unless you have adjustable damping the rear end is not so easily altered. Oil changes in the rear shock should only be attempted by a qualified person. Note: Suspension set up with quick damping will make the bike unstable on certain types of terrain.

Setting up your spring preload

Don't be afraid to experiment! It is also a good idea when changing suspension settings to only change one thing at a time, and always take notes of what you have changed and how much you have changed it.

Basic Suspension Maintenance

Do not attempt to dismantle rear shock units - they contain high pressure gas and should only be serviced by a qualified person!!

Tyres and Tyre Pressures

Many different types and brands are available; radials are the best front and rear.


Tyre pressures should be checked with an accurate low pressure guage before you start riding. As a guide:

Front  -  dry  7 - 8 psi

          wet  5 - 6 psi

Rear   -  dry  5 - 6 psi

          wet  4 - 5 psi

Safety Clothing

A reminder: safety clothing such as helmet, boots, nylons and gloves should be worn at all times. Even when practising, you may still crash!


It goes without saying that practising intensly will improve your riding. Practise is great for refining basic skills. Novices should always start on simple sections - don't leap straight into the hard ones. Progressing from easier to harder is a universal learning technique - you build your confidence, you stay in one piece and you improve.

For competent riders another method can be of benefit - harder to easier. Lay out a section that you feel is uncleanable. Study it and try to clean it. If it is truely uncleanable then you make it slightly easier until you clean it. The important thing is that you analyse and understand why you couldn't clean it initially, and then why you eventually did clean it. This method pushes you to your limits and beyond which will improve your riding skills.

Practise Partners

Try to avoid practising alone, particularly if you are new to the sport. Novices crash a lot and sometimes a freak accident will leave you stuck under the bike or too injured to go for help. If you must practise alone avoid risky riding. Work on the basics instead.

There is a bonus to practising with your mates - whatever they try to do so will you and you will indulge in a little friendly revelry. If you are a newcomer you will learn a lot by practising with experienced riders. Don't be afraid to ask questions as most competent riders are only too happy to assist and offer guidance.

The Worst Practise Error

Don't practise what you like; don't practise what you do well.

Practise your weaknesses to improve. Find something you can't do well eg. turning on a camber. Mark out a section that includes turning on a camber and practise it. The people who mark out trias are not usually known for marking out things that you do well. By practising what you find difficult or what you lose points on, your trials sections will become much less daunting.

Warming Up

A proper warm up is essential to prepare your body for physical exertion. Do a few stretches, ride around slowly for a while, do a few turns and a wheelie or two. Loosen up then hit those sections!

Why Warm Up

A gentle warm up should always preceed vigorous activity. This can help prevent injury and/or aggravation of existing complaints by:

  1. gradually increasing heart rate and breathing;
  2. increasing muscle temperature in readiness for activity;
  3. making joints more pliable;
  4. preparing yourself mentally for exercise.

A good warm up should consist of:

Why Cool Down

A gentle tapering off period should follow vigorous activity. This can help prevent:

  1. blood pooling which can result in dizziness and fainting when exercise is stopped quickly;
  2. muscle soreness in the days following the exercise.

A good cool down will consist of:


Why stretch?

How to stretch

  1. Go to the point where you feel tension (not pain).
  2. Hold for 8 to 15 seconds, relax and repeat.
  3. Breathe normally.
Do not overstretch.

The Art of Balance

Think of your bike as a platform on which you are standing. No matter which way the bike leans, you keep your body upright and centred. With the use of handlebar pressure, peg weighting and body english you can achieve excellent balance.

Balancing the Machine

What is Bar Pressure and Peg Weighting?

Bar Pressure

Try standing on the pegs in a balancing position. Lift your left foot off the footpeg. Immediately you can feel the mass of the machine transfer to the right. What do you instinctively do to counteract this transfer of mass? You push down on the left side of the handebars. Try it and see! You have just applied bar pressure.

Peg Weighting

Now try doing the opposite to what was said above. Balance on your bike and lift your left hand off the handlebars. You can feel the mass of the bike moving to the right, and you will instinctively apply peg weight with your left foot.

Practise Balancing

The beauty of balance practise is that it can be done at any time - even in the shed at night. To gain your balance stand on the bike with the handlebars turned onto full lock either to the left or right and use peg and bar pressure to correct any imbalance. Remember - relax!

After some practise you should be able to stand there for extended periods without losing your balance. Don't worry if you can't balance straight away as it takes a lot of time and persistance to learn the art. You will improve your balance enormously if you pracise for a few minutes each day. Bored with balancing? Try balancing while listening to music or watching trials videos to occupy your mind!


Understanding and adhering to the following points will enable you to turn your bike with confidence. Turns are one of the trickiest things to master in observed trials. You spend most of the time turning over a very wide variety of terrain. Turns are also where most dabs are taken so it pays to become proficient in turning the bike.

Tight Turns

A very good technique to practise turns is to sit two rocks on the ground at a set distance apart and do a figure "8" around them. Once you can do this move the rocks closer together until you are doing full lock turns to get around the rocks. Do this exercise on flat ground and then on a camber.


There are basically three different techniques used to get up or over an obstacle. These are:

  1. Basic
  2. Punch
  3. Splatter

You will find that the nature and size of obstacles in trials sections will vary immensely, however the techniques to negotiate them are the same. The amount of traction available will also determine how you attack an obstacle. As mentioned before, you will need to be proficient in the use of throttle, brakes and clutch. You will also need to develop the skill of "unweighting" which will be explained later.

Basic Technique

This is used to ride up a basic bank or step that is not undercut.

Before you learn the next two techniques you must first learn how to unweight the motorcycle.

What is Unweighting?

In broad terms, unweighting is the technique of jumping upwards as your rear wheel is near or strikes an obstacle. When standing normally on the footpegs most of your weight is placed upon them and in turn upon the frame, suspension and wheels of the motorcycle. To unweight is to relieve momentarily the weight placed upon the motorcycle, in order that it may climb an obstacle free of this weight. There are varying degrees of unweighting, but basically you can totally unweight or unweight with pressure.

Total Unweight

Total unweighting is used for bunny hops or splatter technique.
  1. Load the rear suspension with your knees bent.
  2. Spring upright quickly causing the rear wheel to leave the ground and so that your feet leave the pegs.
  3. You can grip the frame with your legs as you near the the end of your upright spring to gain more height with the rear wheel.

This technique is useful for jumping onto or over obstacles. For example, if you are faced with a small slippery log you could jump over it so that the rear wheel will not slip on it.

Unweight With Pressure

This is the most common form of unweighting. Unweighting with pressure is used for undercut or verticle steps and logs.

Punch Technique

The punch technique is used on logs, undercut banks and steps where by using the basic technique the bash plate would hit the leading edge of the step. This technique is also known as the double blip technique.

  1. With the first blip you lift the front wheel and punch it into theleading edge of the step or log. As a general rule you should lift the front wheel the same distance away from the obstacle as the height of the obstacle.
    Eg. for a step 500mm (20") high you should lift the front wheel 500mm away from the step.)
  2. The second blip of the throttle or clutch drives the rear wheel up onto and over the obstacle.
  3. Simultaneously, for an undercut step or log, you need to unweight with pressure. This unweighting will allow the rear wheel to miss the undercut at the base of the step.

Splatter Technique

The splatter technique is used for large undercut banks or steps, normally where you have a "lifter" in front of the obstacle.
  1. You need to get all your speed before you hit the lifter.
  2. As you hit the lifter with the rear wheel you need to totally unweight the bike and pull back on the handlebars to bring the bike into a verticle position. As you leave the ground pull the clutch in.
  3. The front wheel should be above the height of the step, and the rear wheel should hit within the top half of the step (depending on the size of the step).
  4. As the rear wheel splatters into the obstacle the forward momentum will bring the front wheel down onto the top of the step.
  5. When the front wheel has landed, slowly release the clutch, roll on the throttle and continue with the rest of the section. Easy!

Hopping the Wheel Sideways

The use of the hop will enable you to turn your bike in confined spaces and negotiate turns that are not possible using conventional methods. Before you attempt to learn to hop you must be able to use the brakes, clutch and throttle of your bike with precision. Moving the bike sideways is basically a coordination of movements. If your coordination is out, this manouevre will be difficult to perform satisfactorily. By the same token, if your suspension is not set up correctly you will also find it hard to perform the move. When riding a trial you should only use hops when they are necessary because they zap your energy. It is also very easy to lose your balance and therefore lose points.

To hop you need to:

Lifting the Front Wheel

With the bike in the verticle position, handlebars straight and both brakes applied firmly:

  1. Push down on the bars to compress the front suspension;
  2. Once the suspension has compressed and is starting to extend, pull back on the handlebars to lift the front wheel. (Remember to keep your rear brake firmly applied).
  3. As you pull back on the handlebars you can also blip the throttle and the clutch in the same instant as the front suspension begin to extend. This will have the effect of helping you to lift the front wheel off the ground.

Moving the Front Wheel

A motorcycle is a static object - it will not move by itself. You must move your body first, then bring the bike back underneath you.

Hopping the Rear Wheel

Points to remember:

Practise Exercise

Use this technique for target practise. Place some wooden (plywood, chipboard) squares on the ground. Lift your wheels in the above manner and place them on and off the squares. Don't worry if you find it easier to hop one way at first; with practise you will be able to hop left and right with ease. If you are having trouble try practising on a slight slope, as it is harder to hop on flat ground. Once you have learnt the basic hops, try hopping the front wheel onto an obstacle then off again.

The Nose Wheelie Turn

Once mastered, the nose wheelie turn is very useful for aligning and turning your bike in a confined space. The technique is generally only used when there is good traction. It's great for downhill turns or in dropoff situations, as the downhill angle of the bike makes it easier to use momentum and braking to lift the rear wheel.

  1. Select a gear and ride along in a straight line, keeping your arms straight and weight forwards.
  2. Push down on the handlebars to load the front forks.
  3. Pull in the clutch and apply the front brake firmly. Make sure the front wheel is pointing straight ahead to avoid skidding the tyre.
  4. As the front brake is applied, shift your weight further forward and unweight the footpegs. The rear wheel should now leave the ground.
  5. As the rear wheel lifts, shift your weight back to control the amount of lift. If the bike feels as if it will "endo" release the front brake and move your weight right back.

This technique can be quite daunting for a novice and consequently you will probably find at first that your rear wheel wont lift enough. If this is the case it will be caused by one of a combination of three things:

Moving the Rear of the Motorcycle

After you have learnt how to lift the rear wheel using braking, momentum and weight distribution, you can now begin to swing the rear wheel left or right as it is in the air. This is accomplished by a similar technique to hopping the rear wheel. Move your body first, then bring the bike back underneath you. The amount of body movement and rear wheel lift will determine how far you can move the rear wheel. In effect the bike will pivot on the steering head.

Moving the rear of the motorcycle:

  1. Lift the wheel in the manner previously outlined.
  2. As the wheel comes up, position your body by swinging your hips in the direction you wish to move the wheel. If necessary you can push the bike with your legs to assist movement.
  3. Steer in the direction that the rear wheel is heading.
  4. When the rear wheel lands you should find yourself in a balanced position with the handebars turned in the opposite direction to which you wish to turn. At this point you may either straighten the bars and continue the section or perform a couple of front wheel hops to negotiate tighter turns.

Practise Exercise

This manouever is easier to learn and practise when the front wheel is lower than the rear. (Eg. when you are dropping off a small step). Find a small step in your practise area. Make sure that good traction is available at the bottom of the step. Ride off the step and apply the front brake while the rear wheel is still on top of the step. Lift the rear wheel and swing the rear of the bike around until it lands on the lower side of the step. Don't forget to practise swinging the bike in both directions!

Practise Exercises

Flat Turns



Nose Wheelies

Practise Sections