We arrive in Sandhurst and are firstly greeted by a grinning JK - RUST’s trusty part-time tester and another trials bike virgin - fresh back from a snowboarding trip to the Alps. He’s parked up in a small farmyard complete with a couple of barns and a paddock with some ponies being put through their paces.
After a quick chat with JK I wander off to find Jason, who is busy preparing a spanking new Beta trials bike that he’s just picked up from Inta Motorcycles. Jason’s sporting a huge grin, and there’s a glint of mischief in his eyes… a hint of things to come, I fear!
Having introduced us to Mick who’s helping him out on the day, that’s the formalities over and he kits me out with some boots, a lid and some gloves. A red crash helmet clashes perfectly with the lairy orange Acerbis riding gear, kindly ‘donated’ by Barni…
Three other Betas are ready to go, along with a Yamaha WR250F kindly lent by Jason’s mate Steve, so after a brief introduction to the bikes we’re led down a track, through some woodland and into our main play area - a good sized rectangular field surrounded by woods. At one end there’s a marquee with refreshments and a BBQ at the ready…
There’s an air of informality that I warm to immediately. The emphasis of Tricks in the Sticks is on the practical side rather than hours of theory, which, never having been a huge fan of the classroom, suits me well. Before he starts teaching Jason encourages you to simply spend some time on the bike and get a feel for it. The 270cc Betas quickly inspire confidence. Having never even thrown a leg over a trials bike the initial feel is quite strange. The pegs feel set back, the bars a bit of a stretch forward, and the gear lever is higher and much further forward than on a regular dirtbike bike - but with good reason. The punchy little bikes are designed in a way that makes you rethink how you use a gearbox. You often select one gear and stick with it, taking your foot off the peg and shifting with your heel if strictly necessary. And with careful use of the clutch they’ll happily pull away in fourth.
We all buzz around the field for a few minutes and then gather round to watch Jason’s first demonstration of the day. He starts off with a wheelie lesson quickly followed by a pivot turn - a handy technique for turning around in confined spaces (like a sunken lane) that requires you to plant a foot whilst hoiking the front-end and turning the bike around on the back wheel. I manage a fairly modest wheelie but struggle with the turn. Si owns a trialler so is more familiar with the bikes and the techniques, and JK rides on a regular basis but also initially finds the feel of the little Betas unusual.