Written by Michael Friddell on Jan. 25th, 2022
Most everyone who has ever ridden trials has had to ask this question. It is probably one of the most common questions about trials after, “Where’s your seat?” and “How do I learn to hop on the rear wheel?” Even people who have been riding trials for years struggle with it, especially us “old guys”.
The simplest answer is to wait until you get to the event, look over the sections, and then decide what you think you can handle on the day. But, this obviously doesn’t help you to know what level to practice before the event. To that end, I will try to provide below a basic idea of what to expect in sections at each skill level.
Before I get into the descriptions, though, I would still recommend waiting until you get to the event and look over the sections before making your final decision. If the event is your first trials competition, I recommend riding the Beginner/Novice class unless you are very sure your skills are higher. The stress, confusion, intimidation, anxiety, etc. of your first competition can affect your skills in unpredictable ways. Plus, you’re more likely to stay with a sport in which you finish well and enjoy yourself the first time competing.
Lastly, these descriptions are merely referential. These do not define requirements for a trials competition and are subject to change without notice.
- This includes Mountain Bike, Youth, and Beginner Trials because they often ride the same course and the riders are usually new to trials
- The lines for this class will typically consist of tight turns, loose traction, off-camber, moderate inclines and descents, low headroom, and small obstacles no more than six to eight inches tall
- It is important that these sections can be ridden by pedaling since most new to trials haven’t learned to hop or balance reliably, if at all
- All obstacles should have enough space to pedal at least two rotations before hitting them
- Short balance lines may be included as long as the width is not less than eight inches and the height off the ground is not more than six inches
- Gaps should be no more than six inches
- These sections may include any elements outlined in Beginner/Novice
- Obstacles can be up to two feet high but often have some smaller “steps” leading up to them
- The ability to hop, balance, and pivot your front and rear wheels independently becomes much more important at this level
- Space for pedaling into or off of obstacles may be reduced to one rotation
- Rear-wheel hops and drops should not be required but lines may include options in which hopping on the rear wheel can be an advantage
- Gaps between obstacles may be up to two feet unless it is possible to drop off the first and hop up the second
- These sections often include smaller, “nuisance” obstacles as outlined in Beginner and Sport
- Obstacles can be up to four feet high, jumping up or dropping down, with no lower “steps”
- Balancing, pivoting, and hopping on one wheel or two are critical skills at this level
- Obstacles may have no run-up whatsoever or the run-up may be rough
- The space available on top of obstacles may be smaller than a wheelbase, even down to four to six inches
- Gaps between obstacles can be up to six feet
- Anything outlined in the Beginner, Sport, and Expert levels
- Obstacles can be up to six feet six inches high (two meters)
- The space on top of obstacles may be less than a tire width
- Gaps can be up to ten feet with consideration given to differences in height from the take-off to the landing
The UCI also has a breakdown they call “Difficulty Grades Features” in their Trials Facility Building Guide. There is a link to it in the Resources menu.