Anyone can host a trials competition. While it takes a bit of effort, it’s absolutely doable, and does not require you to be a pro trials rider. This guide is meant to provide an overview of some of the things you’ll need to consider when hosting a trials event such as a competition. The guide is geared toward those who have never hosted a competition, and/or have limited (or no) experience even participating in a trials competition. While there could be tips here that help experienced riders also, the objective is to help less experienced riders and trials enthusiasts understand what to expect, and to be able to plan and host a successful competition.
The details here are expected to grow over time as more resources and information are identified, so please check back.
There are a number of things to consider when planning the location for your trials competition. While trials can be done pretty much anywhere, you’ll need to ensure that there are enough obstacles or enough room to set up your own obstacles. If there are no local trials parks and sufficient natural terrain is not available, you can make your own temporary (or permanent) trials course using whatever materials you can scrounge up (more on that below).
Once you have a location identified, you need to obtain permission to use it for a trials competition. In some cases, it could take a little bit of investigation to identify the appropriate contact with authority to grant permission. Ensure that you complete this step – having to cancel last minute or get into trouble is neither fun, nor is it a good way to ingratiate the trials community with the public.
Speaking of the public, if possible, it’s good to have a location that allows people to watch the event. Obviously the amount of spectator space required depends on the size of the event. Also, having the event in a location where non-trials bikers can take notice is always a good opportunity to help grow the sport.
When selecting your event location, keep in mind that you will need enough onsite parking to accommodate the riders, staff, guests, and spectators.
If people traveling to your event, they will need a place to stay. This can be as simple as on-site camping, or can be just availability of off-site lodging (campground, hotel, AirBnB, etc.). If you expect travelers, it’s not a bad idea to identify and communicate some of the best local options.
Unless you plan on hosting a huge competition, the expenses should be pretty reasonable, but they are not zero. At a minimum, you’ll need event insurance (more on that below), but there are also things like section gate markers, timers, prizes etc. that can add up. There are a number of ways to help cover your costs, that include (not limited to):
- Rider donations
- Rider entry fees
- Event sponsors (which could require posting sponsor banners, etc.)
- Prize sponsors
Event Insurance & Waivers
In order to cover liability risk, it’s necessary to have event insurance in place. Depending on your event, this could be the largest cost. While there are a number of options, we’ve used Eastern Fat Tire Association (EFTA) lately since they have offered affordable trials event insurance.
In addition to insurance, all riders will need to sign waivers stating that they are aware of the risks to their health and safety. You’ll need to provide waiver forms (and pens) and collect the completed forms. Here is a waiver form that you can use.
Getting the Word Out (Marketing)
Unless your competition is limited to your local trials crew or club members, you’ll need to generate some awareness and energy around the event to encourage people to come. Make sure that wherever you advertise the event, that you include the critical details such as: location, date and start time, rider meeting time, entry fees, contact information, and other unique aspects that will entice people to come – e.g., if there are prizes, if MTBs are welcome, additional special events at the comp, etc.
There are a number of different ways to get the word out, including examples such as the following:
- Use the Contact Us form to request that your event be added to our Event Calendar here on this site (make sure you provide your contact email to request additional details) [Pro tip: put all the details of your event here and then link to the event page in your “ads”]
- Post the event on social media in as many sites and locations as makes sense for your event. For some examples, check out the online communities listed on our Get Involved page.
- Post the event on the FXN Global app
- Post event flyers at local bike shops (with their permission of course!)
Setting Up The Course & Sections
Typically trials competitions will have multiple sections for a variety of different skill levels, or “classes”. However, you can adapt the scope of your course based on what you have available for your location as well as the number and difficulty of the obstacles. To offer some examples, the 2023 North American Trials Championship (featured here and here) used a professionally-built trials park for the course and had five sections having six gates each, for the following classes: Youth, MTB, Novice, Sport, Veteran, Expert, Master, Elite Women, and Elite Men. Conversely, the 2022 Trials and Tracks Competition at Arrowhead Bike Farm used basic materials like wooden pallets and picnic tables, and had only two sections for three classes: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. In other words, don’t get too hung up on having a massive, perfect course – start with whatever you have available – even if it’s just wooden pallets.
Competitions usually require riders to attempt each section multiple times, referred to as “laps”. A course with five sections would typically require 2 laps, whereas courses with fewer sections might require more laps. For example, a course with 2-3 sections might have riders complete 3 laps.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the course should be challenging, but fun. Particularly for riders who are new to the sport (or, for example, mountain bike riders who are just checking it out), we want them to keep riding, to keep coming back to more competitions, and to spread positive energy to help grow the sport.
In order to mark of sections, you will probably need some sort of barrier/barricade tape. You’ll need “flags” for marking each of the gates such that they are easily distinguishable for each rider class. Also, you’ll need permanent markers to identify each gate by number and travel direction. For our local competitions, we just use different colored duct tape for the gates.
The start and finish gates need to be a bit different from the rest of the course gates, but you can do this in a variety of different ways. We typically just hammer wooden stakes (approximately18 inches long) into the ground and write the section number, rider class, and START or FINISH on them with a marker (or for example, staple paper plates to the stakes with that information).
If possible, try to set up the sections the day before the competition since it can take a while. If you have a local crew, enlist their help. Also, if you’re using a public area (with permission of course) such as a local park or trail, consider posting signs explaining what the section markers are for, asking people not to remove them, and stating that you will remove them after the event.
If you plan to ride in the competition that you are hosting, you should ensure that someone else sets up the sections and gates for your rider class. Likewise, for others that help set the sections for the event, they should only be setting sections for other classes. For example, if you are a sport/intermediate class rider who is setting the sections, you should not set the sport/intermediate sections – maybe have an expert/elite rider do that for you. The objective is to avoid any conflicts of interest, or the appearance of a conflict.
Running The Event
Prior to the event, you might want to coordinate options for food and drink. If you decide to provide food, this can be as simple as bringing a grill and providing complimentary hotdogs and water (remember plates, napkins, utensils, etc.). Alternatively, concessions can be provided for sale/donation, or you could even coordinate a local food truck (or trucks) to appear at lunch time. Regardless of your approach, you’ll need to plan ahead before the day of the event.
As riders arrive, you should have them register, sign the liability waiver, and get a scorecard. At this time, riders can also walk the course, but no bikes are allowed on the course (no-pre-riding any of the sections).
The riders meeting generally follows registration. This is the opportunity to provide an overview of the event schedule, describe the course (number of sections, number of laps, etc.), explain the rules, and provide basic logistics information – i.e., bathrooms, food, water, first aid, etc. – and allow riders to ask questions.
After the riders meeting, it’s time to start the competition. It’s generally best for the sake of time to have riders form groups of 3-4 within their rider class to ride together. For example, if you have 9 beginners, consider breaking them into 3 groups of 3. Each group then takes turns riding different sections simultaneously in order to minimize the time required to have each class complete all of their laps through the different sections of the course. Also, note that if the space constraints dictate that sections of different classes overlap each other, you will need to take that into consideration as well.
It is possible to both run a competition and participate in it, but that can prove challenging since you need to coordinate the event. If you do compete as a host, note that (a) remember the point is not for you to win, and (b) you could be so distracted with managing the event that it’s tough to focus while riding. That’s ok – remember to have fun, and more importantly, make sure everyone else is having fun.
If you’re running the competition, you get to choose the scoring format and which rules are being used (e.g., BIU vs. UCI). The old method of scoring basically counted each dab (single foot down, etc.) as 1 point, with a maximum of 5 points per section, and the overall score being the sum the points for each lap of every section (lowest score wins). The newer scoring method still allows a maximum of 5 dabs, but uses positive scoring: 10 points per gate, but no points when any dabs precede a given gate (highest score wins). Here is a sample scorecard template (3 rider scorecards per sheet) that uses the new positive scoring system. It’s critical to clearly communicate which rules and scoring system are being used during the riders meeting, as well as to clarify any questions.
In order to support scoring, you will ideally want multiple timers, pens and/or hole punches, and possibly clipboards so that each group gets a set (or they share between groups). Of course these items can be re-used for future competitions, so you can consider these an investment.
For less formal competitions, riders can take turns judging each other as they compete. For more formal competitions, independent judges can be used. The purpose of the judges is to keep track of time for the time limit and communicate time remaining (or time up) to the riders, as well as to watch for and count dabs, points (positive scoring system) and any disqualifying moves (i.e., any “fives” such as two feet on the ground, a palm against a tree, etc.). Having a separate timer and judge helps, which is why having the riders do it makes life much easier. Riders must keep track of their own scorecards, making that they provide them (and get them back from ) the scoring judge for each section.
Following completion of the competition, you’ll need to tally up all the scores to determine the winners in each rider category. There are different tie-braking strategies, so make sure you know which you will use prior to the event.
Awards Ceremony & Prizes
Typically competitions include an awards ceremony following the competition. It does not need to be a complicated affair and it doesn’t take long, but it’s a fun part of the event for the riders. Generally the top 3 spots are awarded for each of the rider classes that participate in the competition.
Prizes can be handled in a number of different ways. Place awards can be store bought certificates, medals, or trophies, but they could also be simple (but fun) DIY “trophies”. In addition to the place awards, it’s also a nice touch to provide some bike/trials related “SWAG” or even cash prizes, if your budget allows for it. One of the best ways to get the prize packs is to work with bike shops (online or physical) that want to sponsor you. If you do get sponsorships, make sure you spread the word to the competitors regarding the sponsors and their generosity – in other words, they’re hoping to get some business, which is only fair since they’re giving you free stuff.
In addition to all of the other information above, there are a number of other tips and ideas that don’t necessarily fit neatly into the above categories, but could help you offer a great experience to the riders.
Safety & First Aid
You don’t necessarily need an ambulance or EMTs on-site, but it’s a good idea to have some basic first aid kits handy with bandages, gauze, and medical tape.
Regarding safety, make sure that all riders wear helmets, handlebars have endplugs, stuff like that.
You can handle registration onsite, but you can also consider online pre-registration options. We are considering offering that as a service through this site. There are other existing services such as BikeReg as well.
Whether riders pre-register or register when they arrive, it’s a good idea to request email addresses for anyone interested in opting in to an email list. We do that with our events, so that we can let people know of upcoming group rides and/or competitions.
Games & Events
The competition is the main event, but consider adding other activities to the event. A group ride is a no-brainer, either same day (maybe even right on the course) or the following day, depending on the group size and travel plans. If you plan to have it on a different day, let people know that before they make travel plans.
There are a number of other activities and games that you integrate into the competition day as well. Examples include:
- Trials bike relay race
- Gap contest
- Skinny contest
- Game of “foot down”
- Slow-speed “race”
- Anything else you can “gamify” on trials bikes
Mix It Up / Try Something Different
Consider other ways to make your event interesting, fun, and unique. Feel free to try something different. For example, one year our group hosted a 2-day trials competition/clinic. You might even consider offering non-trials related activities like rock climbing, white water rafting, whatever.
As a final note, make sure that you clean up the event grounds when the event is over, before you leave. You can enlist the help of other riders to remove all the barrier tape, gate markers, signs, trash, and anything else that you and the participants brought in. Leave it nicer than when you arrived. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will also help provide a positive image to the public about trials riders.
This page is meant to highlight the process overall and provide an overview to help ensure that you consider all of the necessary details.
- Look in the “Guides” menu of the North American Trials website for tips on running a competition, setting up sections, and scoring
- Rider waiver form template
- Scorecard template (positive scoring system; 3 riders per sheet; up to 5 sections, 3 laps)
- Look in the “Documents” menu of the BikeTrial International Union (BIU) website for the BIU event format rules
- Look under the “Regulations” menu on the UCI website for UCI event format rules (Part VII contains the trials rules)