The raucous cry of a trials or motocross bike catches the attention of anyone who hears it, and once heard it is never forgotten. These competitions are not the kind where hugely powerful bikes go around a perfectly manicured track at ridiculous speeds. They do not even compare to road racing where the rider can rely on knowing the surface is at least relatively even and flat. Instead, these competitions are held on what can most charitably be described as obstacle courses, full of rocks, hills, and if the rider is lucky, rutted tracks. While trials are essentially a skills competition, motocross is all out racing, full speed across a surface most people would never dare to get near on a motorbike. Naturally, all of this is hard on both machine and rider, meaning that parts wear out much faster than they would on a cruiser that is only taken out for rides on summer afternoons. With all of that in mind, it should be no surprise that buying parts is a valuable skill for trials and motocross bike owners.
History of Motorcycle Trials
Motorcycle trials differ from racing in that the winner is not the person who can complete a course in the least amount of time. For trials competitions, speed is not only unimportant, it is irrelevant. Trials are tests of skill and control, and are scored based on how well the rider completes the course without touching the ground. The sport itself goes back to the first decade of the twentieth century, initially gaining popularity in the United Kingdom, particularly in Scotland. Originally consisting of events such as hill climbs, these first trials were run with road bikes. There were no dedicated off-road motorbikes at the time, and the then-current road bikes were fully able to handle the conditions, so riders had no reason to use a special bike for the competition. In fact, dedicated trials designs did not begin to appear until the 1960s.
The Development of Motocross from Trials Competitions
It did not take long for motocross racing to grow from the existing trials competitions. In the beginning it appears to have been based on the idea of finishing up the competition with a race. It was a way to avoid the tricky rules and scoring, and just have fun while keeping the element of competition. As with many things, motocross was interrupted by the Great War, and so the first official race was not held until 1924, when an 80 kilometre race called "Scrambles", ran in Surrey. Motocross then moved to France, where many of the modern features, such as a shorter course with laps were introduced. The French also introduced the name motocross, with the first event to bear it being held in the Netherlands in 1947.
Trials and Motocross Bikes
While trials and motocross bikes may look similar to the uninitiated, there are some important differences between the two kinds of bikes. For many buyers, the one that stands out the most is the seat, or lack thereof in the case of trials bikes. Because of the importance of balance in trials, competitors ride standing. This gives them more control of their balance and helps them stay upright without touching the ground. As lightness is also important, many trials bikes forgo a conventional seat, since it is not used anyway. The greater speed and longer races means that not only do motocross bikes do away with seats, they also require stronger suspensions in order to handle race conditions. This translates into heavier bikes. These differences mean that parts for these bikes are not interchangeable. Every bike has its own needs, as does every rider.
Choosing Parts for Specific Trials and Motocross Bikes
Every competition bike is unique; no two models use exactly the same parts. This means that a buyer looking for parts has to be sure they are getting the right parts before making a purchase. For some parts, the purchase may be obvious, but for many motocross and trials riders there is one important step that can reap huge benefits: buying a full factory manual. The big advantage of a full manual with complete teardown information is that they generally include all the part numbers the owner needs. This one piece of knowledge can be invaluable when ordering parts, as knowing the part number can make the difference between guessing the wrong part and buying the right one.
Identifying Trials and Motocross Part Needs
Not only do different riders have different needs based on their specific motorbike, but many also find that their own needs vary based on the situation. For example, a rider may keep one set of parts for quick and dirty repairs at the track, and a completely different set of parts for maintenance and overhauls between races. Knowing the circumstances under which the parts are to be used makes finding the right ones that much easier. Some buyers may focus on original factory parts, while others may want to add a personal touch with third-party and aftermarket parts. These parts are perfect for anyone who wants to add either a little style, or perhaps a performance enhancement.
New or Used Parts for Trials and Motocross Bikes
One important question buyers often need to answer is whether to look for new or used parts for their trials or motocross bike. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For those buyers looking for parts for a specific older bike that is out of production, used parts may be the only option available to them. Used parts are also a good choice for buyers looking to stretch their budgets. New parts may be more expensive, but they are also more of a sure thing. It is easier for a person buying new parts for their motorbike to be sure the part meets all their requirements.
Things to Look Out For When Buying Used Parts
Used parts buyers are well advised to remember that every used part is unique, being the product of its own history and the circumstances under which it has been used. This is particularly important when looking for used parts for motocross bikes due to the heavy use they are normally exposed to. Anyone buying used motocross parts should pay extremely close attention to the condition of the parts in order to be sure they are suitable for the intended use in race conditions, as the last thing one would want to see is a catastrophic failure on the track. They should also remember that some parts suffer extreme amounts of stress in use, and are not suitable for reuse. This is especially true of mounting bolts, which are inexpensive enough, so there is little to be saved by choosing used anyway.
The key to buying the right parts for your trials or motocross bike is knowing both your bike and the parts. Knowledge is the most powerful tool any buyer can have. This is one reason why obtaining a full parts manual is so important. It enables you to know exactly which parts your motocross or trials bike needs and to search for them by part number. This is particularly important when looking for parts for a competition bike because of the amount of stress competition puts on a bike, motocross more than trials. One result of this is that while used parts are often available, they require even more due diligence for motocross bikes than they generally do, just because of the stresses involved. Still, there are some situations where used parts make sense for trials and motocross riders. Again, it all depends on the buyer knowing what they need and why they need it.