Trials Discussion Topics - Observers

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Ken O'Brien wrote: [on 19Nov07]

Observers! We had 94 riders at our James Cup (Oxford Ixion MCC. ed.) recently where I plotted 8 double subs and we were still 2 marshals short. It's a joke but we don't let it get to us, god knows what will happen when Brendan 61, Kevin 66 and myself 53 pack it in. I guess the club goes the same way as Nobac.

Brian Valder wrote: [on 03Oct07]

I agree with Stefan Walters suggestion to start at sections corresponding with the rider number. Old man Luff is right about time limits, it is a must. All too often the observer is left wondering "has everyone gone home?". It would be good if a backmarker comes around, or better still if the observer is told a backmarker will close the course, but the best is a time limit.
On the suggestions for observers raffle, I do not agree. If you are lucky then OK, but if you are not then...?
John Luff has the best idea - increase the entry fee and split the money equally between the observers.

Phil Marsh wrote: [on 25Sep07]

I think we're lucky that the trials scene is healthy in the centre and most weekends there is an event within easy travelling distance.
The regular observers deserve our appreciation and respect.
The lack of observers is worsened by the 'ten section/4 laps' format. If there are 60 entries thats 240 marks! If its raining or cold it shows true committment.
At a SVMCC trial earlier in the year several club members gave up their ride to observe. No one wants to do this but why not allow volunteers to ride say half the trial (2 laps) and observe for the rest. If there were enough volunteers unmanned sections could be covered. Rider/observers could go to the front of any queue to make up time. Final results could be based on scores marked. Obviously its not suitable for championship contenders but for those who ride against themselves and for fun??

Tim Rochfort wrote: [on ??07]

I was pleased to offer my time to observe at Bowley Court on Sunday at section 10. As I explained to my son, you have to give something back to the sport and observing is a helpful option.

But while doing it a few things occured to me:

1.. Put a time limit on the event so that everyone gets a move on and observers, friends and family know when to finish and what time to be expected home for lunch!

2.. Invite comments on the bottom of the score sheet about the section, improvements etc.

3.. Copy a brief course map so you know where to go and can be found. Also to know where riders are coming from and going to.

4.. Make the sections tougher to make it exciting to see the best trying to clean them (spectators and other riders will enjoy this too!)

5.. Make sure the Clerk of Course pops round regularly to see if all is well as mine did.

6.. Offer an incentive to observe, I was very pleased to be given a half price entry.

7.. Offer some minor refreshments, I pitched up without my usual larder of sandwiches and got quite hungry.

8.. Invite the rider on the entry form to bring an observer and explain that the entry will be half price or free even?

9.. Offer coloured bibs-they look and feel more official

10.. The Observer draw is a great idea and could be forwarded as a cheque perhaps, in case riders have to go home early

11.. A brief description of the event at time of regs ie quarry,easy route approx half a mile. This might encourage friends and family to come along if the event is easy to follow as quite often some are.

12.. Give the observers whistles to clear the section and clearly notify the rider next in turn. I found it took several seconds each time for me to catch thier attention and vice versa.

13.. A reminder sheet( for those not in the know) of how to score effectively in modern trials.


Ben Falconer wrote:

To add my two-penny-worth, on the observers debate, I think a time limit would work.

How many times have observers been left hanging around waiting for the usual suspects to trundle round on say, their second lap, when others are on their last? If it's a 10am start and by then it's 2pm, you know you won't be getting home before 4pm, and that's harsh on even the hardiest observers.

Being an occasional trials rider (you mean you can tell?!) and WGDF MCC member, I like the Boxing Day format, ie, done by 1pm. Everyone gets a wiggle on and there's no shortage of observers. Certainly last year there was a surfeit although that may have had something to do with that fact that some people are desperate to get out of the house on Boxing Day!

In LDTs, observing tends to be around 2 hours at the start of the event and around three hours by the end sections, which seems a much more acceptable time limit.

Of course, the time limit assumes all the sections will have a steady throughput of a limited entry, and no queues, which CoC's have to bear in mind along with everything else.

John Luff wrote:

For fear people are thinking that my father's view of the lack of observers, was the view of the whole Luff household, here is my view as a rider.

Lack of observers has always been a problem, but surely there must be away of getting more sections manned on a Sunday. I do feel that we need observers, to run trials. Methods of riders observing themselves are simply open to abuse. We have, after all, had problems with riders not completing sections in the correct order, to get an unfair advantage! I also feel that riding a section with an observer is the difference between riding a trial and simply going practising for a day. How many times have you cleaned that hard section after a trial? It is always harder when someone is watching.

Many observers however, simply have better things to do with their time. This is made worse by the increasing number of trials, that are run in the summer months, when there are even more things to do rather than observe. Riders also tend to drop in the summer and less riders means less observers. My Dad's point about easy trials is also more valid in the summer. With a reasonable rider, the modern trials bike will go nearly anywhere when it is dry, but in the winter this is another story. A good third gear muddy section levels the abilities of the riders, gives the observer something to watch, without being dangerous.

Anyway, how about this to attract observers, Entry fee for trials is increased to say 15. (for 4 hours entertainment surely this can't be too expensive ?) the extra 3 per rider goes in to an observer's draw. 60 riders 3 each equals 180. How about the observers on 3 sections win 60 each or split the draw equally between all observers? It might still be a boring job sometimes, but a least you would get something worthwhile in return.

Mark Hayward wrote:

A lack of Observers for Trials, it seems the same as it was back in the 1980's.

Then from what I recall, Trevor Hunt at the Wye Valley devised a scheme where riders were placed in groups and they went out and self observed This enabled him to put on events with 20 to 30 separate sections.

Not a new idea from Nigel, but I'm surprised he could remember!

Like Andy, I can see why Observers would get bored continually writing "0", I can't say I'm tempted to come out on a Sunday morning and do this.

If I ever got my old bike out of the garage, I would prefer to have more than 10 sections to go at, so why not self-observe and have 2 laps of 20-30 sections? Is land a problem?

From the results on your informative Web Site it looks like the Hurran Trial is the only event with 20 plus sections, and it looks like they have 120 entries, do they struggle with observers? Or is it a case that most events attract 5 or 6 observers along with an observer from 10% of the entry, so if you have 50 entries you get 5 and with 120 you might get 12.

I don't know how many routes you need, but it is worth considering that while the best keep improving, a beginner is still at the same point and the gulf is getting bigger.

Old Man Luff wrote:

Whilst he was hammering me on the golf course last night, Nigel Tomkins and I were discussing the observing problems that have been brewing for some time.

He has put forward some suggestions, and during the usual fits of giggles and colourful language on the course last night, I though it would be sensible to put in a view from an occasional observer.

Lets get one thing straight, before anyone starts to bemoan the lack of observers, I suggest you have a turn at doing a stint at it. Then you can see the problem.

It can be extremely boring, that's right boring.

Look at the results at the next trial you do. If a large number of riders are on single figures, the trial had become a mind numbing event for the observer. It does, I promise you.

How to change it?

The C of C could increase the severity of the sections, that does not mean lock to lock tight turns which only leads to confrontation when observers having to justify why a rider has been given a 5 for rolling backwards attempting a gravity defying stunt. Give the riders something to have a go at.

I am of the opinion that sections have not changed that much over the last 15 years, but look at the improvements on the trials bikes. That is where the low scores are coming from.

Do you really need 3 routes?

The event is meant to be a test of riding ability, make it so.

If you are not able to ride competitively, learn, practice, get better. You cannot just go and buy a pair of rugby shorts and expect to play for Gloucester RFC, can you?

If the severity is increased the event will be more interesting for the observer and you the rider.

Have a time limit? If I go with the lads to a trial, observe, I have no idea what time I will be finished. I give up a sunday morning, and that turns into an entire sunday, in return for a few thank-you's and a Mars bar.

I always try and observe for Jules Bishop on Boxing day, and if all clubs followed WG and DF approach the whole centre would benefit.

Boxing days format.

  • 10.00 am start.
  • No yellow route.
  • Good sensible, interesting sections to observe.
  • Sections close at 13.00

Follow the Boxing day format, I might observe more.

Carry on the way you are going, no thanks.

Nigel Tomkins wrote:

In answer to the question put forward by G & C regarding lack of observers at Trials. May I suggest a couple of options:

Option 1. The riders organise themselves into groups of 4 or 5 depending on size of entry. Each rider has a punchcard with number, laps etc. One of the group carries a punch, which is used by each member in turn to record the scores on each section. Each group starts at a different section, and remains with that group throughout the trial.

Pro's. No observers required, although volunteers can be accommodated......All sections completed in order ( no rushing round or riding sections out of order to gain advantage).....No pushing in, you remain with your group or you don't get marked.......Everyone knows their score before handing in their card.

Cons. Time taken to complete trial.......No continuity at sections (each group may interpret section marking differently)......Trust in honesty of each group!

Option 2. A list is compiled yearly of all those who ride in the centre. It is the responsibility of each rider to remove him/herself from that list by assisting the centre in running trials. This could be by providing an observer, becoming Clerk of the Course/ Secretary of the Meeting, observing yourself, assisting with marking out etc.Those remaining on the list will be balloted to observe once during the season. Any who refuse do not ride until they observe.

This could be run on a club rather than centre basis, although some clubs run more trials than others.

I'm sure this will cause a lot of dissent, however both options can be fine tuned.

Stefan Walters read the comments about observers (or the lack of them) and suggested:-

If there is a shortage of observers why not have a ballot and draw riders out in pairs.The paired riders could ride round together and mark each other at the sections that have no observers on them. Or, rather than have a ballot, pair the riders up with corresponding start number digits i.e. number 1 with number 11 , number 2 with number 12 etc etc...
Also how about starting the trial at the section number that corresponds with the last digit of your riding number? This would help eliminate the large queues that sometimes gather at the start of most trials by spreading everyone out over 10 sections.