THE CHESHIRE OSET CHAMPIONSHIP
There were about thirty trials bikes gathered in the paddock area and moving around the field with their riders, practising for the day's competition. But not a sound could be heard, apart from the chatter of human communication and occasional bleats from a small herd of sheep corralled away from the two wheel activity.
The reason for the comparative silence was that the bikes were all OSET electric trials machines - the range of bikes produced for the 4 – 12-year-old youth market - and, as a result of this company's existence, there are now thriving countrywide championships for the owners of these neat little competition two wheelers.
Out of curiosity - and general motorcycle enthusiasm - I'd been trying to get to one of the OSET events for some months, and the opportunity presented itself on a blustery Sunday in the Cheshire hills. It was wet underfoot, but long thick grass meant that despite copious amounts of rain, conditions were walkable and rideable.
OSET bikes were developed in the US by trials rider Ian Smith and his trials riding friend, Mike, who was also an engineer. Ian was involved in producing trials DVDs and soon noticed that his very young son Oliver was completely captivated by them. He watched them all the time and played with his toy bikes.
It was clear to Ian that, as soon as he was able, Oliver would want to ride. But none of the bike options for a very young rider appealed, as machines with conventional engines and equipment were too heavy. So in 2004, he and Mike devised and developed the first electric prototype (which worked) and Oliver rode the bike at his first trial at the age of 3 years and 3 months.
They improved and modified the first prototypes, formed a company, contacted parts manufacturers, applied for patent and trademark protection and were in business. Then, in 2010, Ian and his family and the OSET business moved to the UK, where trials are a much more prominent part of motorcycle sport, and where there is access to the European scene.
OSET bikes are manufactured in Taiwan, but all the research and specification development is carried out at the company's main base at Bexhill, on the Sussex coast. They have an organic link with the events organised throughout the UK by providing course markers, assistance with press and public relations, and advice about the competition networks that already exist so that any new organisations can link into others' expertise and experience.
The Cheshire OSET championship is organised and run by Ian Mackman, with the help of his family. He operates 2 Mach Motorcycles in Northwich and is a short circuit racer and TT rider of some note (check out his website and blog at 2machsmotorcycles.com). Before the trial began, the assembly of young riders, parents, friends, brothers and sisters all gathered for the presentation of medals from the previous round amongst smiles, proud applause and photo taking.
In his pre-competition chat, Ian Mackman asked the riders and their supporters to help each other, and this was certainly a theme as I walked around the five sections the riders would tackle. A lot of the competitors were at the young end of the age range and were often walked through the section, by a parent or adult helper, to find and memorise the right line before attempting the obstacle.
The encouragement the riders received from their supporters was always positive and empathic, and it struck me how different this was to the often aggressive urgings I've witnessed on the touchlines at football games, where kids can be verbally pilloried if their efforts are not considered to be competent enough for the adults.
The observers, who watched for a foot down in the section or a quick dab to steady the bike, knew the names of all the kids when they called them forward for the ride through. It was a thoroughly affirming experience and bringing youngsters into motorcycling at this level will pay dividends in terms of bike handling, control, education, cooperation, appreciation of safety, and the joy of just being out there involved in a physical activity; the big plus being that these competitions are producing the next generation of trials riders and motorcyclists.
Check out the events section on the OSET website, and if there's a trial taking place in your area, go and see these kids perform on their oh so quiet bikes - they go on all through the winter.
02/12/15 you cant get involved in this sport because there is a serious lack of places to take kids to ride legally. unless you have a farm or know someone who will allow your kid to ride on their land its a non starter
02/12/15 Just join a club !
02/12/15 What clubs? I dont my kid to be thrust in to competitive racing like i was, i want him to be able to hack round an open field in relative safety first so he can learn to handle and understand the bikes do the clubs cater for learners?
04/12/15 I suggest you go to a few local trials rather than motor cross events ,most now run conducted routes for kids .
03/12/15 Excellent coverage
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