A Horned Dilemma

by Thomas Day

I don’t fish, but I used to shoot fish (spearfishing, not a .22 from the river bank). I do know the feeling of having a favorite fishing spot and not wanting to give it up to the rest of fisherdom. Duluth and observed trials is my favorite motorcycling fishing hole.

Twice in the last four years, me and a handful of lucky folks have had the national trials riders in our backyard and had the pleasure of watching them do their magic without much competition from the rest of you so-called bikers. I wrote about both events for this magazine and, maybe, you read my meager attempts of being there. There is no way, in print or on camera, to capture an observed trials. It’s the world’s most incredible motorcycling spectator sport and you can be just a few feet from where it happens. Compare that to watching tiny little motorcycles buzz around a micro-motocross track from the nosebleed seats at the Metrodome.

I’m not trying to talk you into seeing it for yourself, though. Personally, I’d just as soon you all stay home this coming June. However, some really committed and incredibly nice folks have gone out on a financial limb to bring a World Round to Minnesota and I’d be more geezerly than normal if I didn’t at least try to help them get the word out. June 1 & 2, Spirit Mountain, Duluth. World Trials Round. There, now you know. Deal with it.

If brain surgeons were worth a damn, there would be a conscience-ectomy for people like me, to prevent this kind of mental torture. I really don’t want you all there. I want to hang with Dougie Lampkin and the guys all by myself. I love being able to stand inches from the exit point of section seven and watch Geoff Aaron wire-walk his Montesa on one wheel (not necessarily the rear one) through the rocks. I loved getting to pester the observers into considering five’ing an occasional non-compliant national rider.

If you’re not there, you’ll miss seeing the most incredible motorcyclists in the world in a world-class setting. I’m fine with that. I’ll be there if I have to crawl around the course, dragging my IV and bedpan behind me. I think you should go to a movie, read the paper, clean the cat box, and rearrange your sock drawer.

Just getting to look at competition trials bikes is a treat. They’re art. They’re the most specialized, precision bikes you’ll ever see. Sure they cost a bundle, considering that they are only 350-350cc two-stroke singles, but that’s the way art is. Trials bikes are a steal compared to custom-made guitars, stained glass, or 25th anniversary jewelry. All of the trials manufacturers put together sell somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 bikes a year. That’s barely a model run for any of the major motorcycle manufacturers. We’re talking specialty market here. A tiny little niche market with dedicated, fanatical riders who know the purpose of every nut and bolt on their bike and are as finicky as audiophiles or surgeons about their machinery. And these manufacturers build motorcycles that meet the demands of these wackos, right out of the box. In fact, two years ago Geoff Aaron won the Duluth national round on a Gas Gas that was uncrated just a few days before the event.

But you’ve probably seen art and obscure technology before. This stuff bores you and you’d be missing the X-Files on Sunday and God knows they’ll never rerun that. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, Fox TV on Sunday in June, you wouldn’t think of missing it? I agree. You should stay home.

And the riders, Good Lord the riders. You can’t believe what they do, even when you see it with your own eyes. Even when you see it several times from just a few feet with your own eyes. It’s freakin’ magic. Some of these guys can, honest-to-the-kahuna’s-toe-jam, levitate their motorcycles. They can leap small buildings from a standing start and sail over large ones with a pebble for a launching pad. They can turn on either wheel, balanced on a stepping stone, and roll up cliffs that I can’t scale with climbing equipment. Of course, why do you care? If you were interested, you could buy the video next year at the Cycle World Bike Show. The Harley needs polishing and the trash needs to be rolled to the curb. Just wait for the July MMM issue, I’ll tell you what you missed.

The only down side, for us fat folks, is that you have to walk quite a bit to see every section. The upside is that the view from Spirit Mountain is worth the trip, so when you’re taking a rest stop you won’t be bored. But this year, even hiking is no problem. Spirit Mountain is a ski park and ski parks have ski lifts. For the World Round they are cranking up the ski lifts, so that us fat folks don’t have to walk nearly as much. The Duluth planners have worked hard to make the path to the sections as spectator-friendly as possible. They’ve even tried to organize the event so you’ll be able to see someone doing something at every section most of the time. Never a dull moment.

Still, I think you should stay home and plant flowers or mow the lawn. You probably won’t like all that motorcycling or the scenery or downtown Duluth the evenings after the event. The worst thing about Duluth is all that designer beer you have to drink and the damn live music they insist on making you suffer through at the downtown bars. Not to mention radio stations that don’t play the same three songs continuously. Stick with disco, ducky, it’s comfortable.

However, if you miss an observed trials World Round that was held in your own neighborhood, hang up your biker badge. This really is one of those “be there or be square” moments. Miss it and you’re not a motorcycle enthusiast, you’re a poser. The worst kind of poser, too. A dumb one. A freakin’ idiot who doesn’t know enough about motorcycling and motorcyclists to be allowed to own decent riding gear. And I’m glad you are who you are. The more there are of you, the more room there is for me at Duluth. I don’t like sharing my toys or my fishing holes.

M.M.M.

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