My good mate Mark is almost evangelical about trials riding generally and the Dabbers Club; that he belongs to specifically.

Like the “drip-drip” torture treatment he tells anyone who can’t escape how friendly the club is, how welcoming and embracing their events are. There was no choice in the end and I had to give in and go and Dab.

Flat out in East Anglia

The Dabbers are based in the flat, almost featureless landscape of East Anglia. The concept of running an interesting, challenging trials event here can stretch the imagination. Dabbers events are aimed mainly at older twinshock machines and the guys that set up the event know their market well, so 15 demanding sections in the small wood next to the A10 were set out. This happened on the Saturday, a group of Dabbers enthusiasts spent the day working out the twists, turns, drop offs, adverse cambers and log hopping to mention but a few of the obstacles laid out for the riders coming on Sunday morning.

A spare thing at a whatsit

I arrived hot foot from Lunnun Tarn late on Saturday morning with the intent of helping lay out the track. But in reality I was a spare thing at a whatsit. The Dabbers all knew what they were doing and had it covered. I felt a bit of a fraud as I had a go on the Montesa that Mark had brought along for me to use. However I was able to push all feelings of guilt deep down as only an English man can and found some nadgery bits to play on. It is quite rightly considered “bad form” to practice on the sections as this might give unfair advantage. That certainly wouldn’t be so in my case but I respected the unwritten rule….mostly.


Pearls of Wisdom

Mark was on hand to proffer pearls of wisdom:

“Stay in one gear, nearly always first but occasionally second.” “Try not to use the clutch, it makes the front lift”. “Use the back brake more.”

Each of these gems was counter intuitive but often, not always, helped.

Sunday morning dawned OK and chilly. As long as it is dry it is OK by me, a good day for a trial. There was a fine showing of classic British machinery alongside 80’s Spanish and Italian bikes. Yamaha TY 175s seem very popular but there were a number of Beamish Suzukis and TL Hondas representing Japan. A heady mixture to balance their way around the woods.

For the uninitiated this is how a trial works:

A lap consists of a number of sections. 15 for this event with three laps to do, therefore 45 sections in all.

At each section you find an ”observer” who rules the section and their word is FINAL. Riders enter the section when it is clear and they are instructed to by the omnipotent “observer”.
The rider attempts to go through the marked out section without repetition, hesitation or deviation putting their feet down, stopping, stalling or going out of the marked area. If any of these sins are committed the rider receives points. And what do points make? They make unhappy riders, that’s what they make. Each time a foot goes down, (a dab, hence the name Dabbers) 1 point is handed down, up to 3 dabs, (points). After that one can dab to ones heart content. A stop, stall or trip out of the tapes attracts a maximum of 5 penalty points. It is the observer who decides when a transgression has occurred.

Riders queue up at a section and await their turn. Whilst waiting they will walk the section and watch other rider have their turn. Initially it is pretty daunting having other riders of superior ability scrutinise your every mistake but you soon realise they are only watching so they can learn the best way round. In my case I was able to show the way NOT to go round.

Another thing that happens in the queue is that riders chat. They chat about their bikes, how their day is or isn’t going and any number of interesting subjects. It is important to understand that this is as much a social occasion as it is a sport. There are a number of laps. With a lunch break in the middle. As much to give the observers a well earned break as the riders.

A good time was had by all

So, what was it like? How did this novice trials rider do? Well I certainly didn’t win but it was a great day. As might be expected the first few attempts at sections were pretty crap but as the sections went by I started to feel a little more comfortable. Especially when I had a couple of “cleans” (0 points) under my Michelins. I did stay in first gear on all the sections and I did use the clutch more than my tutor liked but we sometimes have to learn the hard way. Old dogs, new tricks and all that… Whilst not being physically hard like other forms of off-road riding it does take a significant amount of energy to concentrate, balance and manoeuver a bike through the sections. I was surprised that a few muscles ached a bit the next day. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had improved from a lowly 29 points on the first to a giddy 10 on the third. A Lampkin I may not be but it is a start.


Once you have had a go at trials you may find that your respect and admiration for the guys who are using big old British four stroke singles with no rear suspension (rigid) goes through the ceiling. They frequently made a section that I struggled on look sooooo easy.

A huge appreciation for the folk who give up their time and energy to make it all happen. It might sound like a cliché but that is because it is absolutely true that without the good people that organise the event by finding the land, sorting the entries, setting up the course, observing, adding up scores, posting results, organising raffles and countless other tasks, these fantastic days would never be enjoyed. Let’s raise a glass, metaphorical or otherwise to each and every one of them. At this time mine is otherwise.

Montesa for sale!

Of course I have to thank Mark for patiently encouraging me (or ceaseless nagging, take your pick) to have a go and lending me his oh so sweet little Montesa 200. It is up for sale as he has 242 version as well. If anyone is interested, get in touch.

Would I do more trials? Probably but first there is a trail ride in Wales, a 3 Stage Enduro and a ride around Turkey & Iran. Watch this space.

Thanks for that great trial tale - anyone done any of this? Any Dabbers out there? Let us know if so at
Posted by Dave Newman
for Wemoto News on 01 April 2014 in General News

Edited By: Lucy England



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