Hogan's Heroes: Trials Riding

Britain's most popular form of bikesport has just got one more fan. We put Hogan on trial. Verdict? Guilty (of being rubbish)

Potential: If I hum the theme tune to Kickstart while riding it'll be okay
Reality: Outta my way Lampkin... Or I'll knock you off as I crash. Again
What I learned: Throttle control, balance and slow speed control

I always thoughtI had reasonable throttle control until I went trials riding at the Off Road Trials School run by Darren Aris and his able assistant Paul Millhouse. Between them they've done more trials than Judge Judy, and it was under their tutelage I realised my level of throttle control was on a par to the control idiotic owners of dancing bears in Eastern block countries have over their grizzly charges. They look like they're in control but actually, at any moment, the bear could tear anyone within 100 metres into beef jerky.

The school supplies trials boots, helmets and, most importantly, Scorpa 125 four-stroke trials bikes - 68kg of the most bizarre form of motorbike I have ever ridden. You start off doing some manoeuvring exercises on the flat to get a feel for the controls and learn the correct posture required (stood up, straight legs, arms slightly bent and looking up all the time). You definitely need some level of stamina as the position you have to hold to get things right will be alien to most, and muscles that have been in the back of the garage all winter suddenly start to ache and pump.
Pretty soon you will find yourself ascending and descending slopes that you would struggle to get up on foot. In between bottles of water and fags I realised that my balance was actually pretty good and my throttle control was coming on a treat. At one stage I managed to ride about 40 metres down a rutted hillside stood up without using my hands - useless but fairly cool.
I struggled when it came to getting over logs though. The idea is to pick the front end up with a wheelie and shut off just before the back wheel touches the log. Too early and the front crashes into the obstacle. In my case it was too late with the throttle, resulting in comedy wheelies into the distance or some trees or the nearest fence.

Towards the end of the day we got to have a go at a section called "The Widow Maker". It looked hard in the morning, but by the time we got there I had learned enough, or was just stupid enough, to give it a go. Everyone managed to clean it (not put a foot down) after a couple of runs. We finished the day with a competition: four runs each through three sections. I managed to finish second and felt genuinely happy with myself for doing well. Throughout the whole day I didn't do more than about 15mph but trust me, you will learn more about throttle control and balance in one day's trials riding than you would in a year's worth of track days.

A TOP 10 UK trials rider, Darren started the school as a way of introducing bikers of all ages to trials riding. No road licence, or even previous riding experience, is necessary.

COSTS: £140 for the day. Bring a packed lunch.
CONTACT: 07791 180539 www.trialsschool.co.uk