Try an electric trials bike at Inch Perfect Trials
Sweat is pouring down my face as I focus every ounce of concentration onto negotiating the rocky river bed, desperate to keep my feet up and avoid a 'dab' whilst my fingers tickle the throttle just enough to maintain momentum.
Above the sound of crunching gravel and splashing water, my coach shouts instructions on what to aim for and where to look, to keep my head up and place the bike between the flags.
Despite his best efforts to keep me on track I find myself drifting off line, but rather than risk a face-plant in the muddy bank I decide to give it a handful - possibly not the best idea on a 75kg electric trials bike with 600Nm of instant torque.
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But let’s rewind for a moment. I am far from an off-road expert. Apart from a day on a borrowed bike at a motocross track some 20 years ago, a bit of occasional gentle greenlaning on road-biased tyres is about as challenging as it gets for me.
Trials riding has always held an attraction though, from the days of watching Kickstart on the BBC as a lad to marvelling at the skills of giants of the sport such as Dougie Lampkin and Toni Bou.
I guess the reason I haven’t tried it up to now is that, despite there being hundreds of ACU clubs organising events all around the country, it’s still a rather well-kept secret.
Enter Inch Perfect Trials, who offer experience days for all abilities (including complete numpties like me) at their facility in Lancashire’s picturesque Ribble Valley.
The location is stunning, with miles of forest trails featuring all manner of natural obstacles, not to mention a custom-built arena packed with giant cable reels, balance beams and rock edifices.
The weather today could not be better, and after a warm welcome from owner Matthew Alpe and his team, it’s straight inside to get kitted up. Aside from a pair of long riding socks everything is provided, including sturdy riding boots and a decent helmet.
Stepping out into the sunlight and looking the part, I’m introduced to my instructor Andrew Reeves, a hugely experienced rider with vast competition experience.
As he shows my fellow novices and I around our bikes for the day, the 2022 Electric Motion Epure Race, my nerves are already starting to jangle. These look like serious machines and I’m wondering if I’m already out of my depth.
Reevesy’s jovial nature acts as a metaphorical arm around the shoulders though and with the briefing over we coast with motors off down to the training field.
To begin with it’s basic CBT-type stuff to allow us to get a feel for the throttle and learn about body position.
As the Epure Race is electric all focus is on the twist grip, although it can be configured with a clutch and even a 'tickover' that mimics a petrol engine. Within no time at all Reevesy has me going up and down dips and bumps, before we start tackling steeper and longer climbs.
Every step up feels like a major achievement on my part and I find myself repeating his instructions to myself out loud as a pep talk and whooping with delight at every cleared section.
I’m ready to rest when we break for lunch and after some sensational home-cooked spag bol, it’s back on the bikes and into the forest.
This is where things really start getting interesting and with his unwavering enthusiasm and encouragement, Reevesy is soon egging me on to bounce over slippery rocks and ride down muddy riverbanks on sections that I would never have dreamed of tackling at the start of the day...
Which is where we came in, launching myself into the air with a fistful of 'gas' as someone, somewhere shouts 'Woah!'.
With more luck than judgement (or perhaps the result of top- notch training and natural skill?) I manage to land it and, remaining steadfastly focused on the route I want to take, rattle my way up the stream and through the finishing flags without putting so much as a toe on the deck. It was far from elegant, but I made it. What a result.
By the end of the day I’m exhausted, yet pumped and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I’ve discovered there are so many benefits to trials riding - it’s perfect for bike control, building core strength, a personal sense of achievement and, most importantly, it’s bloody good fun. Everyone should have a go, I guarantee you won’t regret it.
The expert's view: Matthew Alpe, Inch Perfect Trials
"Trials riding is fantastic for your fitness and really good for mental health, because you really have to concentrate.
"All the worries in life go out the window when it’s just you and the bike focusing on clearing the section ahead, and when you do clear it you’re absolutely buzzing and elated.
"It gives you a massive adrenaline rush and a completely different sense of satisfaction from any other form of motorsport.
"Whatever your level of ability, you’ll leave here with the same feeling of achievement – we want everyone to go away with a smile on their face."
Now it's your turn
Inch Perfect offer days for everyone from novices to regular riders, starting at £60 for a two-hour taster to £115 for a full day. Their attention to detail is second to none and by focusing on the individual rather than the group everyone leaves with a sense of achievement.
For more experienced riders they can tailor training to specific disciplines. There’s also the opportunity for a masterclass with Dougie Lampkin himself. Visit www.inchperfecttrials.co.uk now.