basic trials training: how to spot for a trials rider
Spotting for a rider is providing support through a tricky section, or when someone is learning a new technique and likely to come off the bike. It can make a huge difference to how well you ride, as you can focus more on your technique and less on panicking if it all goes wrong!
clarify what you expect from your spotter
Usually spotting for another trials rider means grabbing their bike so the rider can look after him or herself, but it can pay to clarify this with the rider - e.g. do they want you to save the bike, or them, from falling downhill?
There is usually a lot of trust involved both ways with spotting - the ideal is to team up with a riding buddy and spot for each other all the time - you can discuss how you want to spot, then work out the details as you go along. If you don't know anyone, trials riders are a very friendly supportive bunch and you'll only have to ask someone and they'll be keen to help. Make sure it is someone with a bit of trials experience under their belt, and not a total noob to the sport!
offer to spot for new riders
Spotting isn't just for expert riders doing impossible things. Look out for new riders who may be intimidated by a section, and offer to spot for them. It can be very reassuring for them to know someone is looking out for them and they can focus on their riding, not the fear of injury.
look after yourself first if spotting
As a spotter, your own safety comes first. Always wear your gloves. Make sure you grab the bike in safe spots like the tires, handlebars or front forks - as a rule you will only grab these front parts of the trials bike. Generally you don't want to grab the bike anywhere else - you don't want broken fingers from getting jammed in spokes or the chain and sprockets.
Stand somewhere safe where you won't fall down a slope or be hit by the bike flying out of control. It can be tricky to position yourself to be close enough to grab the bike quickly, but not actually be hit or distract the rider by standing too close. Usually you want to be uphill from the rider, not downhill and having to catch a falling bike. Rear wheels have a habit of spinning on slopes and taking out spotters who are downhill from the bike - there is at least one case of a broken ankle for a spotter who was downhill from the bike.
Ideally the trials bike should have a lanyard kill switch fitted - this reduces the chances of a trials bike flying out of control on full throttle and taking you out as the spotter. Consider getting one fitted if you haven't already.
how & WHERE to spot
On a longer steep section, the spotter will need to work out where they best position themselves for the rider's safety. Experienced riders are usually able to jump off their bikes and bring them down on the first part of a steep climb or ledge. It is usually in the upper parts that the bike and rider have a long way to fall.
It's a good idea to be ready to grab the bike and have your arms extended already. This way you aren't moving as the bike approaches and are less likely to distract the rider.
In a competition, you definitely don't want to grab the bike until you know the rider cannot get through successfully. Jumping in too early will result in a five for the rider, and you will probably have to buy all the beers at the pub afterward.
stay focused if spotting
Don't relax too early if you are spotting for another trials rider. It is easy to assume the rider has cleared the tricky bit but can still get out of shape and then tumble down a slope. Focus on the rider until the bike has moved well beyond the technical part of the section.
See our How to spot video on Youtube, along with all our other training videos.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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