Opinion: Trials is so much more than your sidehop PB

I have been training like a maniac for the past 10+ years to increase my sidehop by a mere 20 centimeters, but I am still missing another 20 centimeters to the best jumpers out there, and I wrote this column to try to convince myself that trials is about so much more than a sidehop PB. I’m not sure how it turned out...

Trials riding is a complex sport, which involves a huge amount of different skills: Balance, technique, precision, stamina, flow, creativity, perseverance, strength, explosive power, mental strength, and much more. By reducing trials to a matter of how high or long one can jump, we’re creating just another discipline like the high jump or long jump contests we see in athletics. Of course there is room for a discipline like this in trials, much like TGS used to be, but even in TGS there were facets of so many other skills, like precision and infinite guts. Judging a trials rider’s skills solely on his ability to jump, is a reductionistic way of defining trials.

In a continuum between the extremes of pure competition riding to bmx-esque street trials riding, none of them demands an absolute jump height to be successfull. You won’t win a trials world cup solely by your sidehop PB, nor does Danny MacAskill get 105 million views on a YouTube video due to the height of his bunny hop.

We’ve seen riders being able to completely destroy their competitors at the warm-up before a competition, demonstrating jumps so high or long that it’s hard to grasp for 99% of the riders witnessing it. But, when it comes to the actual competition, they’re not even in the top 25, because they failed to ride along a log 15 centimeters above the ground.

When analyzing Cascadia by Danny MacAskill, there isn’t a single move where he’s close to his maximum jumping capacity. The entire video’s success is based upon flow, precision, creativity and a total lack of fear, which are skills that is 100% earned over countless of hours of practice, with no muscle fiber genetics playing a major role.

The hashtag #everything110 has more than 1000 posts on Instagram, and I think the street trials scene have understood something: Just get your jump up to a certain height, preferably 110 centimeters, and after that it’s just all about finding the most creative ways to conquer any obstacle around that height. I might have misunderstood the entire hashtag though, but for the sake of this column’s agenda, bear with me.

In today’s social media climate, where sensationism leads the way, your success is very much measured by the followers, views and comments you get. That is of course true to some extent, more followers dictates a bigger commercial potential, but shaping an entire sport on this criteria could be dangerous. Trials riding can be anything from a one hour session on a sidewalk curb to trackstanding on a slackline, and this must be appreciated and added to the public’s definition of the sport.

In street trials riding, they seem to be better at appreciating skills over genetically predisposed physical traits, and that is something the competition trials scene could learn from. The trials competitions nowadays are more or less a demonstration of how high you can static hook an obstacle, preferably a pointy rock. In some recent competitions, entire sections have consisted of obstacles where high static hooks are the only way to get through to the finish line. If we found a way to implement the entire skillset required for a complete trials rider into the competitions, we would see a much richer sport, where the viewers, likers and commenters could potentially appreciate creativity and precision as much as the ability to completely defy gravity.

I love to work hard in the gym to gain a few centimeters (or millimeters) on my sidehops or gap jumps, but it hurts my feelings when someone can jump more than 20 centimeters higher without even touching their bike for months. I hoped to repair my destroyed self-esteem by writing this column, but I’m afraid it’s broken forever…

This article expresses the author’s personal opinions.

Want to add something to this subject? Continue the conversation over at our Facebook page or Twitter account.

Editor in chief. I'm a pro trials rider and six times Norwegian champion. I've been riding for almost 20 years! I founded Bashguardian because I love this sport and I like writing. Simple as that!