By Michael Friddell
Revised July 2021
I have found the most important thing in running an event is planning. The more you can get done, or at least planned, before the event, the smoother things will run.
The first thing you want to do is make sure the land owner understands what will go on, what kind of people will be using the land, and about how many people will be there. I usually say around 20-25 riders and estimate the potential number of spectators based on the amount of publicity I make for the event. You may also want to talk about insurance with the land owner. The insurance and waiver that I’ll talk about below only covers you, the organizer. The land owner will typically already have their own insurance (e.g. public parks, mountain bike area, etc.).
Once you have secured the site, you will want to make up one announcement for the internet and another for print. The print one needs to be a lot more eye catching. You are welcome to copy any of my event notices on the NATS website. I don’t get a lot of questions beyond what is in the announcements so I assume they are sufficiently comprehensive. If you find some stuff that needs added, please let me know. I usually try to announce my events as early in the year as possible. The more time people have to plan to be at your event, the more people likely to show up.
Next comes the insurance. I’ve used American Bicycle Racing for several years now. Although they keep upping their prices, they still seem to be the cheapest outside of the USA Cycling shenanigans. You might also check around with some of the local mountain biking clubs that put on races. If any of them run races without USA Cycling, they might have a good club deal for insurance. Your trials riders will probably have to join that club, though, in order to use their insurance. You’ll just have to weigh out the costs versus hassle and decide for yourself. Most any insurance you do use will likely require you to use a Release Form/Waiver that your riders must sign. Contrary to popular belief, making your riders sign a waiver does not prevent them from being able to sue you. It only decreases the odds that they will and increases the odds that you will win the suit if they do because they have signed something saying they rode at their own risk and understood those risks. I have a form I’ve used for years that combines an entry form and a waiver. It’s actually a copy of NORBA’s old waiver from years ago. I can send it to you if you need.
Um, let’s see, I guess the next thing would be setting the sections and supplies for that. I usually take the day before the event off of work to set sections. It typically takes me about 6-8 hours to set four Beginner/Sport sections and six Expert/Pro sections but I’ve been doing it for many years. Always try to give yourself more time than you think you need. Things always popup to slow you down. The following is a list of the materials I use for my sections and some comments about each:
The cheapest option is the black and yellow caution tape from Utility Safeguard. It usually takes me about two rolls to set one day worth of typical sections (10). I also have some white tape from years past that I use when I need to define a split more than the split markers allow. I can’t get more so I use it sparingly.
I buy garden stakes from Lowes. They’re just green, metal rods with a loop at the top. They come in 2ft and 3ft lengths, each of which are less than a dollar apiece. I like them better than wooden stakes because they are more reusable and they will bend safely away if someone falls on them. I’ve also seen pictures from other countries of white plastic stakes that have little hooks to attach the gate arrows.
I made my signs out of vinyl “For Sale” signs from Walmart ($1-$2 each). I cut the sign to size, print the wording on a sheet of colored paper (inkjet printer) and laminate the paper to the vinyl. This makes them weatherproof enough to be reusable and easy to replace if damage. I considered having a sign printer make some but if they got damaged, I would be dependent on the sign printing company. I put a piece of folded-over packing tape at the top so I have something easy to staple through and not damage the sign. This also makes them very easy to tear down.
I made these like the start/end signs but then cut the laminated paper and vinyl into the shape of a small arrow.
Some other things you might want to keep handy while setting sections are a staple gun, extra staples, camp saw, camp shovel, hammer, knife, string, and duct tape. I sometimes have to get creative when I need to attach the section tape to a rock and the duct tape won’t stick. I’ve tried that poster tack stuff and caulk but it doesn’t work.
Okay, now we come to the day of the event. This is when things can get very busy or, if you planned well, go so smoothly you can’t imagine why more people don’t put on their own events. You will want to set out the entry/waiver forms with clip boards and ink pens for people to sign up. I’d suggest designating an extra person to help collect the money and entry/waiver forms while you transcribe the rider’s name onto their scorecard and your scoring sheet. Things can get quite hectic with everyone standing around, asking questions, trying get signed in and paying. I make sure to mark their entry/waiver form once they have paid and DO NOT give them their scorecard until they have paid. It’s way too easy to get mixed up and miss things here.
I’d also suggest you bring some extra cash in small bills to make change for those without exact change (this is why I charge $20 – everyone carries $20 bills). You can always reimburse yourself from the entry fees. If I have to collect any other fees (e.g. camping, land use, club dues, etc.) then I keep it separate from the entry fees. This will make it easier later when you count up the money to make sure you got the right amount corresponding to the number of riders.
Another thing to plan for and get nailed down during this period before the start time is your use of section judges. This is probably the single most difficult thing about putting on a trials event. No one wants to judge. I hate begging people for help when all they want to do is watch. I typically prefer to let the riders peer judge. You can group them to keep things moving. I don’t like to make the Beginners peer judge themselves because they often don’t know all of the rules. But, you can group them with Sport riders and have the experienced riders take turns judging. The same can work with the Experts and Pros. It’s usually not good to have the Pros judge each other because they are more concerned about the competition. The Experts can take turns judging them. Just try to keep things fair. Trials is still small enough that most people are honest and want to challenge themselves instead of cheat.
I’ve already mentioned some of the materials you’ll need for the day of the event. The following are some details about each:
You can get these from the NATS website. I usually print more than I need and put them in a three-ring binder for ease of writing and handling.
You can also get these from the NATS website. However, if you leave them as just paper, they will disintegrate when the rider sweats all over them or if it rains. They also tear easily. You can laminate them but it’s nearly impossible to write on the lamination and it tends to destroy the hole punches. I found a local printing company that will print onto Tyvek material (like FedEx uses for their shipping bags). It’s very difficult to tear, easy to write on, hole punches easily and won’t absorb water. I have a file I give the printer to print on 12×19 inch sheets which makes 18 scorecards. I had twenty sheets (or 360 individual cards) done up for $72. It’s a great deal.
I scoured the internet and found some cheap. These will last quite a while so buy about 14 or 16 so you’ll have a few extra in case any get lost or damaged.
I got 16 of these from Walmart for $1 apiece.
Rules quicksheets (for reference)
You can also get these from the NATS website. Mine are hardly ever used but it’s good to have them, just in case.
Um, yeah, you can figure this out.
I decided to give out medals to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of each class instead of prizes just to reduce stress of finding prizes and to save money. Sure, you can get your sponsors and/or local bike shops to donate some stuff but they usually give you the crap that won’t sell or a bunch of water bottles. The medals aren’t something anyone is going to cherish right away but at least they will have it in years to come to show what they did. I get mine from Crown Awards. I use the 2 inch 3D diecast medals for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places. These were the least expensive and best looking ones I could find. Note: Keep the leftover medals for places where there weren’t any riders. You can call Crown Awards and order new stick-on engravings for your next event. This saves you spending more money.
I also try to give the Pros money if I can afford it. At my smaller events, I try to give 1st Place Pro four-times their entry fee ($80), 2nd Place Pro three-times ($60), and 3rd Place Pro double ($40). Keep in mind that your first event will be a lot of out of pocket expenses and sponsorship money (if any) but once you get the entry fees it will begin to balance out. For my first full year of competitions (three events), I was able to pull in $900 in sponsorship. By the end of the year, I had spent very close to the same amount in expenses but made over $700 in entry fees, leaving money for the next year. If you are careful, you don’t have to go into debt to put on events.