Two months in the making. Eight weekends, countless hours spent in the woods, boxes of staples and colored paper. Five rolls of plastic ribbon, two sets of weed trimmers and pruning shears. These are the things that go into setting up a single trials event. Many people experience and enjoy the end result, but few get to see and participate in helping to build an event from scratch. Eric Olmstead, 32-year old Pennsylvania resident, joined Trials Inc as a Sportsman-level rider in 2015. In 2016, less than a full season later, he stepped up as Trials Master for the annual event hosted at Cables Creek Campground in Toronto, OH. But what makes someone take on such an important and labor-intensive role, especially so soon after joining a new club? Trials Inc photographer and journalist, Stephanie Vetterly, took a moment to sit with her boyfriend and understand.
How long have you been riding trials? (since what age?)
That’s a bit of a loaded question. I started riding a trials bike at the age of 10. My dad and I would go to both the Spring and Fall Ohio Valley BSA Owner’s Club rallies here in Toronto and ride the vintage trials event they hosted. That was the only time we rode those bikes; they literally sat in the shed for the rest of the year and were only pulled out for those events. My girlfriend and I started with Trials Inc in Round 1 of their 2015 season; I actually took riding trials more seriously from then on.
What was your first trials bike?
My first trials bike, and my first vintage trials bike, was a 1974 Honda TL125. My first modern bike was a 2002 GasGas 280 Pro.
How did you find Trials Inc? What made you want to join the club?
I knew about Trials Inc through Royce Klein and the BSA Club. Royce always came down to the rallies. TI was the closest trials club to my home, so when I got more serious about riding trials, it just made sense.
What part of this sport is more appealing to you than doing other offroad motorcycle sports such as motocross or enduro?
It’s definitely the fact that I can practice at home instead of having to travel somewhere to ride. I was never inherently fast to begin with, so motocross was never really an option. I like that trials is more of a skill-based sport rather than a contest of who can hold the bike open the longest and not die.
How did you come to find yourself as Trials Master of Toronto?
The offer was presented to me and I stepped up.
What do you find is the most difficult part about being a Trials Master?
That’s an easy question. The hardest part about being Trials Master for a location like Cable’s Creek is making sure the loop is passable for the lower classes. Toronto has really cool rocks and creeks but all the cool stuff is really hard to get to. You have to find a balance between finding cool stuff to ride and making sure everyone can get there.
The terrain at Toronto is a trials rider’s dream; because there are so many options for obstacles, how do you determine where to create sections?
Least amount of clearing. You try to do your best to not repeat sections every year so you’re constantly looking for new places to ride or a new way to ride the same section. On top of that, they all have to string together with a loop that’s passable by all the classes. I honestly think, if I went through and counted, I have at least 80 sections ready to pull from. You have to make sure that you don’t put too many sections close together, otherwise you’ll create a bottleneck. Bottlenecks slow down the event and may cause people to run out of time to complete their loops.
What have you found to be the most difficult part about planning obstacles/gates inside the sections?
You ride the section many times and assess the difficulty of different lines. Having started out riding Sportsman, I understood what the capabilities were of the riders around that level. There was a lot of wild guessing at the beginning and a lot of questionable section layouts.
What is your favorite part about riding trials?
I think I like the dynamic of riding around with a group of your friends and being able to have a conversation all day while you’re riding the event.
What is your training regimen? How has this helped you progress from a Sportsman rider in 2015 to an Expert rider in 2018?
My training was drilling the basics in my yard. I didn’t have anything for terrain at my house, but it doesn’t take much to practice all the basic skills to ride trials. It also gave me more of a reason to learn to hop since I didn’t have anything else to ride.
What advice do you have for people looking to get into trials or progress to more difficult skill classes?
My advice would be find your local club and get involved. Club members are always looking for people to ride with and are usually a good source for finding used bikes. As for progressing through the classes, the best advice is to ride with people that are better than you and don’t be afraid to fail. It happens… a lot. But that’s what makes it fun.
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