I refer to Tony as our “ringleader,” since he’s been instrumental in organizing group rides and trials competitions for years in Southeastern, CT. He loves bringing new riders into the group, and never hesitates to offer coaching and support – whether for learning to ride or hosting a comp. Tony also brings plenty of humor to every ride; you’ll see some of that shining through in his interview responses.
One of the reasons I thought it was important to interview Tony is because of the way he has maintained energy in the local area by organizing different trials events. In fact, much of what I’ve provided on this website regarding how to host a trials competition comes from Tony, either as direct input or just from learning by watching him do his thing. Tony provides a good model for growing a local trials community.
Tell us a little about yourself (brief background, your profession, etc.)
Anthony Delima, 58 years old and still horsing around on bikes of all sorts. As a kid we moved back and forth from Trinidad to the US several times, but one aspect of life held true: regardless of which country we were presently living in, my brother and I rode bikes. We rode mostly in the street… sometimes off plywood ramps and other obvious obstacles, to school and to odd summer jobs. As kids we gathered up our share of raspberries then and still do now. Unfortunately, he is now in CA, so we both mountain bike and then share photos. Professionally I am the founder and owner of Forte Carbon where we manufacture structural carbon fiber sections for many engineering applications (however, very little for cycling). Wife Lynn (we met at one of the old Route 66 races) and I moved recently from Mystic CT arguably the epicenter of trials in New England, to Wakefield RI close to the trial meccas of Narragansett and Arcadia’s famous Ledges.
How long have you been riding bike trials? What is your riding level (beginner, intermediate, expert, elite)?
I think I started riding around age 48 or 49 in our garage during a snowy winter when we were off the trails. My riding level is normally categorized a “Loose Cannon” but in all seriousness recently I have survived in Expert class but lately prefer to chill in Sport so I will say “Export” or “Sportspert”.
How did you discover bike trials and how did you get started?
There is a local mountain biker and frame builder who is an incredibly talented technical rider and could throw down some moves on his trialsy hardtail that blew my mind, that led me to buying a 20″ Onza from Odd-bike in Canada. The 20″ Onza was too weird (though I did learn the basics on it) and I soon moved to a 26″ Metta VTT and felt much more at home.
How would you define/describe “bike trials” in your own words to someone who never heard of it?
I tell people to think of bicycle trials as a bike obstacle course. The challenge is to get through the course without putting a foot down to regain balance and to stay out of the ER. Then I try to describe what some of the obstacles might be, range of size, and common skills a rider might have to negotiate their way through the course.
What type of bike trials riding do you prefer (style, obstacle types, moves, solo/group, etc.) and where do you like to ride?
Honestly when I started and drafted my best riding buddy Jim to have a go, we really didn’t know how folks “rode trials”. So bravely we would just ride our trials bikes to the most gnarly sections of local single track and try to get through the section over and over again. After about a year of the aforementioned torture, I went to ride Novice class at the now defunct Racoon Rally Comp and was able to see first-hand how real riders rode trials. Long story short, natural terrain and we have lots of it around here.
Why do you ride bike trials and what keeps you motivated to keep riding?
Originally trials efforts were cultured to assist my mountain biking skills; the beast slowly took over and now I ride both disciplines about the same amount each week. Our intrepid little group keeps me motivated, we laugh a lot, cry a little and normally finish with a beer. It’s the most positive group of riders you could ever wish to meet, so motivating for a ride is without question.
What other styles of cycling do you do? How has trials helped you improve your skills in those other biking disciplines (and vice versa)?
XC single track on a full sus 27.5, gravel when asked. Trials has mixed up the muscle groups so though it is still cycling, it uses more core and upper body strength and helps avoid some typical overuse stuff. Without question, trials skills transfer to the trail are infinitely helpful. Regular XC riding is great for general fitness and nothing demands fitness like trials, so it’s a give and give relationship.
How often do you ride trials? What sort of routine do you have for practice versus riding for fun versus making edits, etc. – how much time is dedicated to each?
About once a week, with the group; every once in a while, I’ll also go to one of our well-known trials spots and just do what I call compulsory figures, scroll through most moves maybe 5 of each and a few short sections (not hard). Group rides are about 1.5-2 hours, compulsory figures 45 min.
What’s the bike trials scene like near you? How many other riders are there? Do you have regular group rides? Comps?
We have a good group (maybe 6-10 riders) and we do a pretty good job of keeping the fabric from fraying but also careful not to be too cliquish and accidentally intimidating new folks from joining in the fun. We also maintain a guest bike or 2 for visiting royalty and/or new riders to give it a go and with a text alert we bring it again and again for them to ride until they buy their own bike.
How do you manage fear when doing new/bigger moves or lines?
Defecate and go! Actually, sometimes I’ll just start the move and if I’m feeling the love keep going; if not, have a plan on how to get out alive.
What are your personal goals with respect to trials (near-term and long-term)?
At 58 my goal is to get smoother, and try to keep the momentum going and the skill-building train rolling. I try to ride sections with less effort in order to minimize wear and tear on the body. Keep laughing at myself and of course others.
Who are your bike trials ‘heroes’ and/or influences? Favorite trials video(s)?
Hands down Chris Akrigg.
You’ve been the “ringleader” for Northeast Bike Trials, the local trials crew in southeastern CT – recruiting riders, planning group rides, planning and hosting competitions, etc. How did Northeast Bike Trials come into being?
Organizing people is something that comes easily to me, but to be frank, our group, even when small, has always had a huge amount of horsepower and many hands make for light work, especially on my part. My crown as Ringleader is only by default, but establishing an active email group is likely the most effective way of keeping the Mid Atlantic and New England events populated. Northeast Bike Trials is our group name which we have used for various town special use applications and necessary event insurances over the years. When we host a non-event like the Turkey Shoot, we are careful to have no leader and that we are a like-minded autonomous collective that all decided to ride at this location on this day and I am sure to leave my crown in the garage. While wearing my ringleader crown I organized our first comp; it all started like this. After my first comp (Racoon Rally), I was pumped to survive Novice but subsequently disappointed the next year to find the event had been canceled. Then I attended the Candy Town Classic and thought, sure it’s definitely some work but between our now growing group of riders we could probably put something like this together. Heck, around here mother nature has done most of it for us. Don’t get me wrong, there is about a week of after-work raking and section-setting for a full-on comp, plus some admin. Local riders setting sections makes all the difference; they know the boundaries of skill and what’s fun and what’s dangerous. The rest is history but we are now more careful to work with land managers and agencies so as to avoid getting busted.
You’re also the administrator for the Northeast Bike Trials Group on Facebook. How have you and the group members leveraged this online “forum” to promote the local trials scene specifically and trials in general?
Northeast Bike Trials FB, I believe is the brainchild of Johannes Nightingale; he is somewhat digitally capable and set up the Facebook site then plopped me in as admin. The NE Bike Trials Facebook group turns out to be one way to get the messages out to the group but as some riders are not in FB we use email quite a bit and local day of text for group rides. At the time (2016), OTN was crumbling as a useful forum, so the FB group sort of took on some of the better attributes of OTN. The FB Events Calendar is also hugely useful when we have an upcoming event as folks can check for updates.
What advice would you give for building and maintaining an active local group of riders?
Apprenticeship: as a more experienced (not necessarily better) rider, it is our job to culture good riding and not just shred the living shit out of a section. Also, when in a group I think it’s super important to set challenges that most of the riders in the group can tackle with success, for the more talented riders who might not find the obstacle challenging enough, then levels of style can be added.
Support: in our group you absolutely cannot pull even the most modest of moves without someone letting you know “That was cool”. Sure, we give each other a super great ribbing and we have all had to get off our bikes because we can’t stop laughing but that goes with the territory.
You’ve hosted and attended a number of trials competitions over the years. In your mind, what makes a competition successful?
I understand that we all should know by heart (at least mostly) the traditional UCI scoring and that is the foundation of our sport. Also, for the Elite and Pro level riders there can be a livelihood involved… (there, I had to say all that, and I said it). If there is a need for a UCI type of comp, the host will need help for scoring, section-setting, observers, timers, media and the list goes on. We have had peer riders observing riders etc. to lower the demand on the host, but ultimately there are quite a few moving parts to a properly scored comp and it gets stressful to herd all the riders through all the sections in a day (I think the riders feel this stress). The most successful comps from a rider enjoyment status have been a bit more flexible and sometimes less traditional. Some of the NE gang are currently working on an indoor event which has non-traditional challenges. I’m fully in favor of it and can’t wait to attend and assist (probably go over the bars).
What are your top 3 tips for anyone thinking about hosting a comp?
Use as much existing terrain as you can find.
Delegate, and especially make sure someone has time to make really sure the novice sections are super fun. Remember without this class (often the largest at any comp), the sport will not live on.
Be sure to have fun while hosting and don’t sweat the details. Most riders are pretty chill and really want to help in any way they can, even on comp day.
What are your perspectives on the trials biking scene in general and in North America in particular?
We have a lot to re-learn from the European scene. I think the diversity of age is the most important, to see the wee little English and Spanish riders is fantastic. Ultimately this is how the sport must perpetuate itself. Drafting ambitious mountain bikers is one route, but filling the funnel with the youth age riders is a better bet. The Bike Farm event in WV was a great example of how trials can be and is fun for all ages.
What would you like to see happening in North America with respect to bike trials?
Dedicated trials spots are a huge start. Sometimes I feel like carving a few signs to place in our local parks where our local group rides, rakes, and maintains little trials/bike skills pockets. It would also be great to see more trial-ish activities at bike parks in conjunction with other events to increase public exposure. I think at one time NORBA downhill events used to include trials (this is way before my time). Our group once linked up with a large NEMBA mountain bike “fun ride” and in one case a moto trials training day at The Ledges; both of these exposures generated a lot of questions and interest. Outreach like this is tough to organize but seems to target the right audience and again increases public awareness of our tiny sport. So hitching our wagon to another event cycling or other cool action sports can create a lot of local interest
Any interesting / funny / crazy bike trials stories or experiences you can share?
Our first-time hosting a comp at Glacial Park we had marked all the sections the day before and put up a nice sign explaining to hikers what all the little colored bits of tape were for and that they would be removed by the following Saturday afternoon. Well as fate would have it, 1/2 way through the ride while taking a group break from riding sections, three police cars show up and I’m thinking “busted, littering”. The officer kindly asked us to stay out of the woods as they were involved in an active man hunt for a drug dealer on the run, and he would be back shortly to let us know when it would be OK to continue riding. Upon return, maybe 30 minutes later, the officer gives us the go-ahead and then quizzically asks why we would choose to ride here? We explained the whole trials thing to him and he seemed quite pleased that we were enjoying ourselves (plus we did not aid or abet the fugitive, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
Don’t be proud at a comp. At Candy Town all the riders in my group were shying away from being the first rider down the first section. Unafraid to show my mettle, “WTF I’ll give it a go” and within 20 yards on the very first obstacle I was fully launched over my handle bars. I got up, dusted off, and asked “anyone need some tips?” It was a great ice (and neck) breaker. The comp continued as normal with lots of ribbing and great riding; remember to have fun.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start bike trials or has just started?
Don’t get frustrated, each skill or tool you are sharpening to eventually place in your trails toolbox takes time to learn and even more time to master its use. Sometimes, like in real life, you misplace a tool and all of a sudden, for instance, can’t surge to rear wheel worth a shit. No big deal, it’s somewhere and doubtless will turn up.
Another common mistake I see is folks trying the exact skill development move too many times and suffering from overuse injuries. For example, if you’re learning to hop on your back wheel, give it a few goes after watching some videos, but then take a break and let those muscles recover, try something else for a little while, maybe some rotations or some trackstanding, then maybe a few more goes at the intended skill. Then after that session, sleep on it; it’s amazing how the mind will weed out all the junk and on your next ride or maybe the one after that, the skill will start to come together.
Don’t go too big too soon. When you get a new hammer, it doesn’t mean you will hit the nail on the head every time. So be sure that the skill required for an obstacle is well within your wheelhouse and even then, make sure you have a well thought out escape route. If you get hurt or for any reason and can’t ride for a spell, don’t worry your muscle memory will get you back on your game way faster than you would expect. Just try to maintain some fitness during the break if possible.
Let an experienced rider ride your bike. They can tell in the blink of an eye if there is anything mechanically that may be holding you back.
Like me, you’re in the over 50 crowd. Riding trials and mountain bikes puts demands on your body that riding the bike alone may not develop or maintain. How do you avoid injuries? What other workouts, routines, or techniques do you use for strength, resilience, mobility and recovery?
Injury comes in two disguises: overuse and bad luck. I’ve broken my share of bones on the mountain bike (bad luck) but never riding trials. Use your head to detect muscle and tendon soreness, rest and ice when you need, and try to pinpoint what is triggering the pain. For example, if it’s your right forearm, you may be braking too much, so make a point to ride some easy smooth, even brakeless sections. I stretch every day, especially lower back, I try to surf as much as I can, and always finish the ride with a parking lot beer unless you’re under 21 or no one thought to bring any (it is the original sports drink).
How do people find you online? (i.e., YouTube, web, social media, etc.)
Mostly through the group e-mail or DM from the FB group.
What other North American bike trials rider(s) should I interview here?
Joe Janicki (for some US trials history)