70 riders. 70 headlights. 8pm start time…
Wait, what? Yep, you heard correctly: 8pm!
Just as the sun was starting to set on Saturday, July 15th, riders were warming their engines and getting geared up to enjoy the 2nd annual Night Trial hosted by Bob and Quinn Wentzel at their compound in North Benton, OH. "We're the only ones we know of, so far nobody's come forward and said, so we're gonna claim that, that we put on the first night trial in the United States." As part of the 2017 Trials Incorporated series, the Wentzels wanted to add a new element to the already spectacular and challenging world of Observed Trials. “It’s all about everyone having fun and enjoying a different experience,” and a different experience is exactly what Bob and Quinn delivered. Around 9pm, when it was getting too difficult to clearly see obstacles in the sections, on came the spot-lights and work lights. While sections were well-lit, the tractor tires, concrete tubing, and rocks that made up the sections were instantly all the more challenging by the mix of light and darkness.
For anyone who is new to the world of Observed Trials, each section in the competition is connected to the next by a trail ride of varying distance; the trail that connects all sections is known as “the loop.” Normally, the riders finish one section and navigate to the next by means of brightly-colored arrows. As you can imagine, this would be difficult without the presence of light. The Wentzels overcame this by hanging glow sticks in the trees to help illuminate the loop. While most of the 7 sections presented for Saturday’s competition were near the main buildings and camping area, riders were given the opportunity to explore the nocturnal world by venturing out into the neighboring woods in search of the next section. Generators made it possible to ride these sections.
As the NATC National circuit had ended several weeks ago, the pros were provided the opportunity to take part in the Night Trial. Among these pro riders were Logan Bolopue, Sam Fastle, and Josh Roper. Sam was the first to take a point, unfortunately in the first section. This was followed by an unfortunate 5 taken in the next section, a section that proved to be one of the more challenging sections of the event for both Josh and Sam. Josh experienced a rather rough crash in section 5 when he used a kicker to top a tractor tire that had been set on its tread, his brother, David, perched at the top to catch the bike, should things go awry. Barely cresting the tire, Josh didn’t have enough lift to get him to the top, and fell backwards with the bike, which was unable to be caught by David. Josh wrenched his wrist from this fall, but was able to finish the event to take third place.
The Quonset hut strewn with rocks and normally used as a practice area for Quinn, proved to be one of the more interesting sections for the pros, complete with numerous splatters, the least of which being 5 ft tall. At one point during the night, the generators experienced a power blip while Sam was running through the Quonset section, leaving him in complete darkness. Luckily, he had already completed the first splatter and was perched atop the concrete cylinder. All at once, all the spectators and checkers in the hut turned on the flashlight apps on their phones and helped illuminate Sam’s way to the finish gate. Logan took 1st place with 13 points for 4 loops, Sam in 2nd with 42 points, and Josh in 3rd with 73 points.
For the second year in a row, the loop was gentle enough to allow for the youth riders to partake in the adult trials in addition to their youth competition, an opportunity in which they took full advantage. The largest class of the event, sporting 14 riders, saw Logan Conley take top place on the podium with an impressive 5 points for 4 loops. The rest of the podium was filled out by Steven and Ben Zigan, who each took 10 points, Ben having one less clean ride of the night and moving to 3rd place.