trials training: protective gear
This information is subject to our disclaimer here.
New to trials? There's no rush to buy expensive trials gear and it's common to see new club members using the same protective gear they use for dirt, adventure or even road riding until they get an idea of what they'll need to buy. We will just cover the basics without getting into specific brands of gear.
Until the 1970s even the world's top trials riders weren't wearing helmets as trials riding is the safest form of motorbike sport, but the risks are still there and changes to the rules have reflected this.
What you wear will be based on:
- a compromise between protection and comfort / ease of movement
- how rough and potentially dangerous the terrain is
- how old you are and if you have existing issues (e.g. dicky knees)
- the weather and temperature
- how much money you are prepared to spend on bling!
what the rules say for club days & competition
The rules are very basic. Generally at a club level all you will need is:
- a helmet that is road legal or approved specifically for trials riding
- boots and trousers.
Technically there are more requirements than that - the official FIM requirements here also request gloves and a long sleeved shirt with trousers or one-piece suit but it's not commonly requested at a basic club event so check with your club if in doubt. The higher the grade and bigger the event, the more the rules will apply.
In the old days a pair of gum boots were common, and you'll still see older riders wearing these if their club isn't sticking religiously to FIM rules about abrasion-resistance and non-melting materials!
A proper pair of trials boots strike a nice balance between protection and ease of movement, as well as soft soles so you can "feel" the foot pegs. But there's nothing wrong with any pair of sturdy boots when starting out, although it is good to have fairly high boots for shin protection - those foot pegs can take a chunk out of your leg if your shins hit them hard enough.
As mentioned, the helmet just needs to be road legal or approved for trials use. The main advantage of a trials helmet is very light weight, well ventilated, a quick release strap for all that constant stopping, and a high cut at the back so you can look up easily in steep terrain.
Some riders are concerned about injury to the face with the open face style and opt for bicycle-style full face helmets which are very light and well ventilated but are NOT approved for use in club days. There is always the danger of landing face first so by all means wear a full face helmet if wanted - there is a small but growing number of trials riders doing this already.
Not many riders bother with knee protection, although it tends to become issue for older riders. Some of the trials-specific pants have a bit of padding in them. The next step up would be basic knee guards as used by dirt riders - some of these are long enough to slip down the front of your boots so provide excellent shin protection.
If you have an existing knee injury, or are old enough to be worried about your knees, it may be worth looking at further protection. At a very basic level, there are basic knee supports that are just fabric socks or a velcro support. After that you are looking at a proper set of knee braces. Any proper set will cost over $500 - there are cheaper ones that claim to be knee braces but in reality don't offer much support at all. Be aware that if you want to wear those tight fitting trials pants then knee braces (and possibly even knee guards) won't fit underneath them!
Speaking of pants, the main advantage of those sleek trials-specific pants is they are cool, light and less likely to catch on objects. If you are coming into trials then feel free to wear your motocross pants as many do, or just any pair of jeans or trousers you have lying around. If it is wet, textile pants will dry out faster.
As mentioned, technically it needs to be long-sleeved but many clubs will ignore this and allow t-shirts which is great for hot weather. There are trials-specific tops that are light and designed to lessen the chances of catching on things. They also "wick" well - the sweat dries out quickly. Trials is very physical and you will often be dripping with sweat in no time, so any shirt that wicks well is a plus in all but the coldest weather.
If it is likely to be raining, consider some form of wet weather gear especially if it's cold as well.
It's not very common to see specific eyewear protection being worn. When setting sections, any offending shrubbery or branches are normally cleared but it certainly pays to have a set of clear glasses (or your dirt bike goggles?) handy in case there is a danger of eye injury in a particular section.
It's not very common to see these, but when they are so cheap it may be worth having a pair of these in case you are tackling a very rocky section where you think there's a fair chance of falling off.
Full body armour, often called a pressure suit, is becoming very common on the dirt bike scene although rarely seen in trials. However, as with the elbow guards above there's nothing wrong with a lot of protective gear if you think the terrain warrants it. A pressure suit usually has armour for your back, shoulders, elbows, forearms and chest. They do restrict air flow a lot and can be very hot to wear.
Quite a few riders wear body armour if they are freestyle riding e.g. going for a dirt ride on their dirt bikes. The extra protection is quite handy if you will be riding in the upper gears a fair bit and therefore riding faster than usual.
As mentioned, although a technical requirement a lot of clubs don't mind if you prefer bare flesh on those hand grips. Any pair of motocross-style gloves work fine and often have extra protection for knuckles and fingers if you like to argue with trees.
There are trials-specific gloves that are very light, no padding, soft and designed to provide extra grip to lessen the chances of your hands slipping off the bars. Some riders opt for the cycling or mountain bike style gloves that are often very similar and a lot cheaper.
avoiding dehydration and sunburn
It makes sense to slap on some sunblock cream, especially as your face, arms and neck are often more exposed than in other types of motorbike riding.
Staying hydrated is important. A lot of riders will wear a one or two litre water pack on their backs which are usually light enough to not even bother to remove when riding the sections.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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