Trials Torque Articles
"Trials involves creating a path where none exists, and competing with the obstacles in front of the bike," says Nobukazu Ohtsuki. Even now, at 57, Ohtsuki is still highly active in bike sports, as well as running his own bike shop. From the age of 16 he devoted himself to the world of racing, riding for factory teams and becoming all-Japan champion in road racing and motocross, later also becoming the Japan No.1 in snowmobile racing. Born to be a rider, Ohtsuki has been a godsend to motor racing.
Ohtsuki's involvement with the sport began 30 years ago, when trials first came to Japan. "I had a reputation as a guy who rode both on and off the road, and just as the manufacturers were creating courses called 'trial lands' around the country to promote this new motorcycling pastime of trials, I became an instructor under contract to the manufacturers."
That was how Ohtsuki got started in trials: "I went from the world of road racing, where we rode at top speeds of 200 km/h (in those days), to the almost 'no-speed' world of trials." While traveling around Japan as an instructor Ohtsuki also competed in the national championships from age 27 to 33, but unfortunately he never became a trials champion. "That just goes to show there's more to the sport than you'd think".
The delight of getting through a section according to strategy -
"If you come up with a strategy for attacking each section by thinking about it and 'reading' the terrain in a way that you didn't do when you were young, and then add some technique, trials is a sport you can really enjoy even if you are getting on in years. Maybe you could climb a 1.5m bank when you were young, but now you can just challenge yourself to make half a meter."
Nowadays "touring trials" are popular, especially with middle-aged riders. These differ from regular trials competitions held on closed courses with official observers. Instead, participants ride 10 to 15 sections set out along a touring course of 100 to 200 km, taking the whole day to enjoy the ride. In this case riders score for other members of their group.
"Motorbikes are certainly not dangerous vehicles. However, compared to four-wheeled vehicles the risk factor is increased depending on how you ride them, so bike shops like ours strive to teach safe riding methods. We get riders to practice so they master techniques of avoiding danger and make sure they always wear the minimum safety gear such as protective trials boots so they won't injure themselves if they do have an accident."
Formerly a competitor and an instructor working to encourage widespread participation in trials, these days Ohtsuki acts as expert advisor to the enthusiasts who come to his shop while continuing to enjoy trials himself.
"These days I can't do the things I used to do when I was a national champ," says Ohtsuki. "But I keep practicing and making an effort so I can stay active in the sport for my whole lifetime. That's the trial I have set for myself. I want to see how long I can keep riding and challenging myself."
At present his greatest enjoyment comes from seeing the three young riders he has been training for three years take on the national trials championships. This is a revival of his old team. "Through trials, I want young people to learn that if you try hard and practice you will definitely get results." This is the kind of spirit to be expected from a highly experienced instructor like Ohtsuki, and it applies to any motor sport - in fact to any sport at all.
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