Part 1: Event Setup and Mini Comp
Part 2: Gap Contest & Skinnies

In order to ensure we have some trials events during the colder months when there is potentially snow on the ground, I decided to host an indoor trials jam this year. It was definitely a blast, and I really enjoyed meeting some trials riders in person whom I’d only met online previously (or never before).

Before digging into the details of the event, I wanted to give a heartfelt thank you to Casey and the staff at the Peace Dale Ramp Room for letting us use your space for our event! If you like riding jumps on your bike and are in the New England area, I’d suggest checking it out.

Event Results

We held a handful of contests during the event, which lead off with a mini trials competition, followed by a gap contest and then some open riding. In addition, we offered awards for several other categories. Here are the results!

6Tim C.190
8Tim B.100
9Mike60 (DNF)
Mini Comp Scores

Other contests & awards:

  • Gap contest: Ken (7 feet)
  • Worst Shins: Tim B (got a shinner during the gap contest)
  • Most Epic Fail: Brendan (leg fell through the pallets)
  • Most Likely To Fall Down: John
Some of our DIY trophies made from old bike parts

Prize Sponsors

In addition to a number of hand-made trophies built from scrap wood and old bike parts, we offered some prizes as well. I wanted to offer a special thanks to our prize sponsors who generously provided their products to offer as prizes:

  • Trophies!

Event Preparation

Preparing for and coordinating this event took quite a significant amount of time – more than I expected, actually. However, I haven’t personally organized an outdoor trials competition, so I don’t have a solid comparison. In addition to coordinating with the facility owner, preparation required marketing, seeking prize sponsors, making trophies, buying (or scrounging for) materials to build features, building the features such as skinny beams, bunny hop bar (which we never used), and the Gap-O-Matic™ (stay tuned for a separate build video), obtaining snacks and merch to sell at the event, and of course building the obstacles on the day of the event. Since we used a facility that was already in operation for biking, the one thing I didn’t need to do was get insurance.

Reflections on The Event

This was the first trials event that I organized myself. I’ve helped with other events before, but was never the one responsible. I figured I’d share some perspectives, challenges, and lessons learned.

The Trials Jam Was Fun!

Since this was the first iteration of this event, I really had no idea what to expect. Despite having some challenges in making this a success, I had a really good time during the event and was stoked to hang out with other trials riders, including some I’d never met face to face. Honestly, that’s one of my favorite aspects of trials riding – the community! Hopefully everyone who participated in the event had a great time and considered it worth the trip. I definitely appreciate all of you who made it – I know some of you had quite a long drive!

There Were Some Challenges

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it was more effort than I expected to prepare for this event. This was driven primarily by a handful of factors:

  1. The facility is a business, so while they were amazing to work with, at the end of the day they have a responsibility to stay in business
  2. Trials riders in North America are few and far between
  3. This is the first time I’ve ever done this
  4. I was experimenting with a different event format vs. just a traditional trials competition
  5. I started planning way too late

As mentioned previously, Casey and the crew at the Ramp Room were extremely accommodating, generous, and amazing to work with! They are running the Ramp Room out of pure passion for biking and the biking community. They’re not in it to make a fortune (though they certainly deserve to – it’s a lot of hard work!). They’re doing it because they are on a mission to provide a place for people to hang out and ride – and in particular for our young people. In order to do that though, they need to at least make some money (rent for the facility ain’t cheap, and you gotta feed your family!). I absolutely have no qualms with that whatsoever. The only reason I even bring it up is that because they are a business, they can’t afford to operate at a loss. That means we needed to have a minimum number of riders register for the event. Therefore, the pressure and difficulty in getting riders to commit and register was even harder than normal. And as the second item says, not only are there only a small number of trials riders in North America, they are spread across an enormous continent. It also meant that they could not really afford to shut the facility down a day or more in advance to store and set up the course since that would mean day(s) with zero income. It’s absolutely reasonable, but it does make it very difficult to build anything more than simple obstacles. Fortunately the existing ramps and other features could be used for trials… though mostly for the expert riders.

This was also the first time I’d ever organized an event like this. I had pretty grand visions, but decided to throttle way back on my original plans. With this event I wanted to do something that would be fun and interesting for more than just the trials comp enthusiasts. I’d hoped to engage with street trials riders and mountain bikers as well. I expected that this would be a significant learning experience and that future events would leverage what I learned. I had to invest some time upfront to come up with (and crowdsource) ideas – that takes more effort the first time through. Also, I figured there were things I’d have to build once but should be able to use year after year, with minor repairs – but that meant time upfront to build everything.

Hindsight is 20/20. A couple months into the planning efforts I realized that I started way too late. Not to diminish the good time we had, but I think that starting earlier might have yielded better results:

  • More riders overall, better engagement with the MTB community, and more kids
  • A wider variety of features to ride
  • More and better prizes
  • Possible integration of things like mountain bike skills coaching
  • Higher likelihood of “celebrity” attendance

What Would I Do Differently?

So now that I’ve got one event under my belt, what would I do differently? Here are some of my thoughts on how to make the event even better. I’ll say also that this was just the first event. I’m sure there will be more lessons to learn the more of these I do.

1. Start Planning Much Earlier

Based on the amount of time to organize everything, I’d start by setting the event date 6-12 months in advance. The longer the better. This would make it easier to find an open date at the facility and get the date on riders’ calendars – meaning hopefully more participation. It would also allow more time to plan, including what I’ll cover in the next section.

Additionally, having more time helps get the planning done around my personal schedule, which includes handling my job responsibilities, spending time with family, riding my bike, and running This Is Bike Trials!, which itself is fairly time-consuming.

2. Build A Bigger Anchor

Having more time would allow me to engage more sponsors (for the event and prizes), adjacent activities and organizations (e.g., MTB coaching), and celebrity riders. Having these tings set up early allows you to promote them earlier while riders still have time to decide whether they will come. The more cool and exciting things there are to draw people to the event, the more like we are to have more riders show up – and not just trials riders either!

While I am extremely appreciative for the sponsors we had, I would love to have a broader variety of prizes and be able to help promote more trials and bike brands as part of the event. We’re all in this together!

3. Invest In Stronger Outreach

Unfortunately, this year I was essentially unable to have any outreach beyond some social media posts and some last minute outreach. It would probably work better to include multiple outreach events and actions such as giving local trials demos, providing outreach events to local schools, contacting local biking organizations, and hanging event posters in local bike shops. It’d probably be a good idea to get the local media involved as well.

Why the outreach? Beyond just attracting more existing trials riders, I think it’s important to grow awareness of the sport to the broader community, as well as to grow the trials community. Even if bikers choose not to do trials for its own sake, the skills can be game-changing for all different types of biking disciplines.

4. Open Up The Format

The mini competition was a lot of fun, but it took a long time to complete and basically wiped out everyone’s energy. So I’d probably start by eliminating the “traditional” competition and instead focus on a number of smaller contests like the gap competition, and a bunch of others we never even got to do. I’d also like to offer more events that cater to street trials riders – stuff that focuses not only on pure trials skill, but also on style and creativity as well. I’d also like to ensure that the even is more approachable and open to mountain bikers. We actually had set up a MTB skills course, but never really got to use it other than the skinnies. We didn’t have any mountain bikers show up, other than those that were already there with trials bikes. Of course that relates to the previous item (outreach). We could also play with the format to allow more “free ride” time also versus competitions and contests.

5. Limit (Or Avoid) Impact to the Facility

Given the lack of onsite storage and extremely limited time to setup and tear down the event, I think a better approach would be to limit or avoid impacting the facility itself. In fact, one approach could be to set up the trials course outside and use the indoor facility as it was intended, or timeshare with the other riders wanting to race around the indoor jump line. This has several advantages:

  • Since the facility would be open for riding the jump line, there is a bigger chance of cross-pollination to other biking disciplines, and possibly even participation in the trials activities (or anchor groups).
  • Materials for the trials course could possibly be stored or setup outside over a few days versus just a few hours on event day
  • Outdoor activities are observable from the road, which could draw attention, which could generate more participation, or even just awareness
  • There is more room outside

The obvious disadvantage is that being outside means having the risk of precipitation. I guess renting an event tent is possible, but that can get very costly. Of course having the trials riding outdoors means likely using part of the parking area, which already fills up easily.

6. Get More Help

Finally, I probably should have asked for help earlier and for delegating more of the responsibilities. I did get some help towards the end, but delegating more and better defined areas of responsibility earlier certainly would have made life easier.

What Are Your Impressions?

I’d also love to hear from the folks that participated – what do you think worked well, and what could have gone better? What did you like/dislike? Folks who didn’t come to participate, I’d love to know what would sway your decision next time.

Please share in the comments (or email/DM me). I’d love to learn from you all as well. Please be honest (but respectful) – that way we can learn together as a community. Thanks!


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