KEYSTONE – It starts with a love of really technical cross country rides, continues with a need to master seemingly unridable sections of single-track and ends at an observed trials contest, where riders maneuver bikes through a natural and man-made obstacle course.
It’s a small but dedicated group of riders who have gone through that progression to become trials riders, and they were on display Saturday at the Snake River Fat Tire Festival.
“Initially it was (to help my cross country riding),” said Jon Weeks of Colorado Springs, who was competing in trials for the second time. “Then I found out that trials existed and wanted to go more along that bent as opposed to just riding cross country and riding technical stuff there.
“This is a lot more challenging,” he continued. “It takes a lot more balance and skill, and there’s more of a sense of accomplishment when you make it over a section, whereas when you’re out on the trail, a lot of times you can roll over something and you don’t really have to finesse up it.”
With speeds ranging from stopped to about 4 mph, observed trials is all about balance, power and finesse. Riders hop and manipulate their bikes over obstacles trying to avoid touching down with any part of their bodies. There’s no margin for losing focus.
“It’s being able to think about as little as possible except what you’re doing,” said Fort Collins competitor Matt Robinson. “Almost all of us can do the same moves. The person who’s gonna win is the person who can do them consistently and not get flustered.”
That was Robinson, as he finished first in the Expert Pro Stock division. Mike Snyder was second, and Josh Stevenson was third.
Saturday’s event had three different courses at Keystone’s River Run base area. Each rider did each course three times, with every run counting on the final score.
Training for this type of competition takes place in especially rocky sections of forest and on city streets with a lot of stairs and concrete features. The urban training results in an ongoing cat-and-mouse game with police, business owners and riders, Weeks said.
“It’s similar to skateboarding. Everybody wants to kick you off. They think your gonna hurt yourself and sue them or something like that. So usually when you see security or the police, you just move on to the next place. There’s the whole bunch of places we ride downtown.”
Many of the riders Saturday have been following the Mountain States Cup circuit. Mountain States is most known for its cross country and downhill races, but most stops on the tour have included an observed trials contest.
“Most of the riders here today are just solely trials riders,” Robinson said. “We’ll go out and mountain bike every once in a while, but we spend most of our time on a trials bike.”
Trials bikes have fat tires, but they are not mountain bikes. Most are smaller with lower gears and no real seat or footstraps. Some ride what are basically BM bikes in a modified division. Tom Neb won the Expert Pro Modified division with Stevenson second and Kevin Shiramizu third.
Grant Landbach won the Sport Stock class, and Derek Vaughn won the Sport Modified. Nick Nimmer was the Beginner Stock winner followed by Lisa Myklak in second.
Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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