LDT stands for long distance trial. A competitive motorcycle event where the competition is based on rider skills on a specified number of ‘sections’ – riding through, up , down and around obstacles – steep banks , trees, streams, rocks, logs , roots and mud. There is often a timed section and a hill climb. The winner is the rider who completes the course with the least points. In the event of a tie, the time on the timed event decides the winner. The scoring in a section is usually 0 for getting round the whole section without putting a foot down , one or two for one or two dabs, 3 for paddling through the whole section and five for stalling, falling off or going outside the markers delineating the section. What are the differences between a normal trial and a long distance trial? In a normal trial there is a circuit in a small area of land like a quarry or a bit of woodland which provides the requisite challenges and there will be ten or twelve sections and two to three circuits. A long distance trial is over a circuit but it is mainly on roads both metalled and unmetalled – the total distance usually between 50 and 100 miles. The circuit is interspersed with sections – none of which are repeated. The long distance trial is also a test of navigational skills as navigating the circuit involves following a ‘road book’ – a set of instructions covering the whole circuit printed on A4 paper which may start along the lines of :’keep to the fence along the left side of the first field, turn left at the road, drive 2.5 miles at the T junction …’ this road book is posted out two to three days before the event, allowing the rider to stick it together into a scroll and mount it in a road book reader which allows the rider to scroll through it as they ride along. It is generally not possible to plot a route on a map or a sat nav from these instructions, and it is quite a skill to follow them not least as once you miss a turn it can be quite a way before you realise you are on the wrong track. Novice navigators will end up missing out sections or failing to complete the circuit in the time allocated (the last section will be closed at a certain time.
Aside from the competitive skills riding and the navigational challenge an LDT can be enjoyed as a fantastic day of green laning with beautiful scenery, varied lanes and entertaining company, with the opportunity to spectate expert riders completing the various sections.
As a group CBTRF has always encouraged its members to do LDTs with our club coach Dean Allen being the main proponent of the joys of LDTs, so there was little surprise that once again this year he twisted my arm to enter. The night before I was changing my fork seals and putting new oil in my forks until 10 pm. At 3 am on the Sunday morning my alarm went off and I dragged myself out of bed to get my kit ready for Dean’s arrival in his van at 4.15. Then to Weston super Mare to collect Byron Williams at 5 and down the M5 to Littlehampton near Totnes for 7.30. the atmosphere in the van, as usual thick with tobacco smoke and X rated conversation, which only stopped when we went into Taunton Dene services to get our McDonalds breakfast. We had an hour to get kitted up, our bikes out of the van and for Dean to roll a days supply of roll ups before we zoomed off. Dean had not only memorised the whole route and where all the sections were but had also plotted a route in his head which took every available shortcut meaning that although we were not the first to leave (from the start time pairs of riders leave at 30 second intervals) we were first at a number of sections, which was fantastic because quite often there will be ten to twenty riders all queuing to get through a section. The only disadvantage of this approach was that I tended to rush sections and did some of them ‘blind’ in order not to slow our group down. When I say blind I do not mean with my eyes closed but without getting off my bike and walking through the section to work out how best to ride it.
The Hill Climb
The last section number 20 was the hill climb with six markers as you go up the hill if you stop between the first and second marker you get 5 , second and third 4 right on to zero for getting to the top of the hill. Last time I did it I did a massive 360 in front of the watching crowd and fell off before getting to five. So this year I was very pleased to keep the bike in a straight line and get past the first three markers before falling off not least as the going was a lot more slippery than my previous attempt. The hill climb finished we managed to drag Dean away from his gossiping and got back to the carparkwell before 3pm and finished the day off with a rather special cheeseburger where the cheese was grated and griddled into a crispy wafer like affair stuck on top of the burger – I would go back just for that!