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Dualsport Trials - developing motorcycle motorsport genre.

Updated: Oct 16, 2023


STOP PRESS! New Development... new participation class for 2024:


Guided group rides!

It has become apparent that the solo or pairs Gaia class of Dualsport Trials, which was intended as the sport entry level, still poses a daunting challenge for riders who are new to the activity of backcountry travel. Solo navigation in challenging and remote country over long, unfamiliar roads presents three or four testing difficulties, the significance of which are easy to overlook to a more experienced backcountry rider.


The VIME events to date have concentrated on developing and refining the format of the competition concept, starting from an assumed level of experience with navigation by Gaia, followed by roadbook navigation and finally roadbook navigation with GPS time/speed/distance testing. All those pieces are now in place and will remain for the foreseeable future.


Now is the time to introduce a fourth class of participation, guided group rides.


The groups will comprise six to eight participants riding the same routes as all the other riders, but at a much relaxed pace and bypassing any potentially tricky passages. The groups will be led by one of the VIME staff who knows the route and will be able to introduce riders to the principles of Gaia navigation if asked to, otherwise it will be a relaxed (in terms of pace and pressure) but long ride. You can expect to be overtaken by riders "on the clock", but they won't have any need to interact with them as you will be on a very different schedule.


Apart from the navigation aspect, the group riders will be totally part of the event with the possibility of changing up a class over the course of the event, having built confidence and understanding in preceding days.


So, the invitation is totally sent to riders who have wondered how to participate in a Dualsport Trial but not known how to begin!


Now, back to the story....



Where it all started? The 1986 HPN BMW Paris Dakar rally bike...



Existing motorcycle motorsport genres.

You are already familiar with racing as a motorcycle motorsport in all its guises.

To list a few - tarmac and off road, short circuit and long, hard enduro, rallyraid... all have a primary purpose of speed - to get around the course as quickly as possible. This first priority is achieved by the rider controlling the motorcycle in an expert manner in the environment of choice and to a greater or lesser extent solving navigation problems along the way.


The only established exception to this conventional sport model of sport, up until recently has been Motorcycle Trials. No element of speed competition or navigation challenge is entailed, the sporting challenge is entirely machine control in some very difficult terrain.


The potential for "something to go wrong" in a high-pressure/high-speed competition circumstance with a field of amateur riders of potentially widely differing motivations, skills, abilities and experiences is high and if something can go wrong, by the law of Sod, it will... therefore these events, at all levels, are highly regulated and developed in order to minimise the possibility of crashes and injuries.



Dualsport and Adventure motorcycles.

The Motorcycle Industry is expert at filling product niches. It is not so bad, either at creating them. An obvious example of this is the Trail/Dualsport/Adventure bike niche. Road-legal vehicles styled and equipped as road legal versions of very capable off-road competition bikes, with engine sizes ranging from 125 to 1250cc with weight ranges to match.

Most bikes built and sold in this market sector will spend their days being ridden on tarmac roads, their riders having little opportunity or (sometimes) inclination to ride far from the tarmac road.


But sometimes not!


There are some bikes and riders, however, that as a consequence of ambition, location and opportunity, get to explore rather more of their combined potential.

But how can riders do more than just ride back and forth to work, school, shops? Is there a form of motosport that offers realistic competition and adventure to impecunious riders at grassroots levels?


To be realistic, there is no more reason to expect a road-legal cross country motorcycle to be competitive against a purpose designed competition off-road bike as there is to expect it's (weekend warrior) rider to be on par with even amateur competition riders - yet the desire for participation and competition still exists.

Up until recently there has been no competition format appropriate for this genre of bike and rider. Short-circuit motocross races will always be the reserve for MX bikes, as enduro and trials bikes best fit their niches. Road sports bikes out perform knobbly-tyred bikes on tarmac and always will.



Rallyraid as a possible basis for road-legal, amateur, grassroots motosport.

One motorsport class that offers a potential model for competition that would be open to Dualsport/Adventure bike riders is Rallyraid. Rallyraids are cross country, long distance events which entail difficult navigation using specialised equipment, typically in desert areas well out of the way of human habitation (see the note above about things going wrong...).

Practical and organisational limitations of venue, legality, liability and affordability limit such events to professional and highly motivated privateer entries but the attraction of these type of events remain.



Regularity Road Rally events also provide a useful model for competition.


Amateur car club enthusiasts have had Regularity Rally events (also known as Time/Speed/Distance rally) as their go-to, road legal event format for decades. Regularity Rally entails driver+navigator crews driving largely unmodified road cars over public roads, navigating by Roadbook "tulip" diagrams while keeping to legal set times/speeds/distances. The best crew-exponents of this genre have developed to a fine art of precision and, by use of chronometers and high precision wheel-driven distance measuring equipment, are able to keep to a timetable measured to the second over courses greater than one hundred miles. The organisers of these events have had to match their event preparations and course measurements to the participant's equipment and technique in an escalating "arms race" of precision.


This degree of TSD exactitude does not transfer well to off-road environments. The major limitation is a result of shortcomings of conflicts of mapping methods when measuring distances over steep ground, GPS-cartographic measurements versus over-the-ground wheel odometers. The greater the steepness of ground covered in three dimensions, the greater the difference between "on road" measured distances and the apparent distance represented on a two dimensional map.


Practical difficulties of distance measurement on steep ground are discussed further with some solutions here: https://www.gr200.com/post/developing-a-shared-understanding-the-meaning-of-time-and-why-the-earth-isn-t-flat


Rallyraid and Regularity GPS technology used for distance and positioning measurement around courses and for the display of PDF roadbooks does however transfer well to cross country motorcycle use on smartphones.


The best smartphones for this are used/secondhand, higher-end, GPS chip-equipped phones run without a SIM card or cell service. They can be bought relatively cheaply and being less expensive, can be considered as a "competition consumable" should the device fail. Battery life in a used phone can never be relied on so always run a USB charger and lead to keep the phone fully powered. Also, do not keep the phone in a see-through cover. The phone generates an amount of heat, it also absorbs heat from sunlight and it is not difficult to have your phone overheat and shut down... expose it to the passing air to keep it cool and functioning - except when it rains!




Environment/venues/locations.


Every country and jurisdiction has the equivalent of untarmetalled, backcountry byways that are public "rights of way", where motoring laws apply, but which are "unimproved" to a greater or lesser degree.

In the UK, these roads are called "Byways open to all traffic (BOATs)"

In the USA these roads have many names, "Backcountry Discovery/Dirt Routes (BDRs)" are established, vehicular "off highway routes", predominantly in the western states. Other unimproved motor vehicle permitted routes also exist.

In Spain and Portugal, cross country routes often centuries old and used for pilgrimages are called Caminos. The sun shines and the weather is mostly dry...

In Canada, similar cross country routes that are open to various classes of registered, licenced and insured road users exist. One of the road classes is "Resource Road" and when such roads cross government owned land (Crown Land), these roads have the status of "Highway" where all road traffic legislation applies. In the forests of British Columbia these roads are titled "Forest Service Roads" and often are the only roads connecting remote communities to Urban Canada.


These roads all have the same characteristic - they run for hundreds (sometimes thousands) of miles/kilometers through thousands of square miles of wilderness, offering the prospect of frontier-travel to travellers in search of authentic hardship travel to those prepared to search out these routes.


It is important to remember though that "rights of way", however they are called, only exist over the linear distribution of the road. Land adjacent to the highway is going to be "owned" in someway or another. If you are entertaining the prospect of riding a hundred miles up a backcountry road then striking out across country, think again! You will find that most of the land surrounding the public right of way you are on is owned - you will be trespassing at the very least. Also, you will find that land is either given over to agriculture in one shape or form, or is "jungle". I have ridden the "wilds" of England, Scotland and Wales, the forests of BC, the prairies of Alberta, the deserts of Arizona and the backcountry of California, it all falls into one of the above categories.

We can only go where we can legally go...!


But, with careful route choice and planning, very long, continuous routes are possible with no dead-end back tracking required.


The degree of difficulty of these routes can be expected to be generally moderate off-highway routes with some more challenging sections. You might not want to tackle such routes two-up on a fully loaded litre-plus adventure bike, but solo with no luggage everything is possible.


So, we have our routes, tailored to dualsport and adventure bikes, how about navigation?



Navigation.


For the purposes of Dualsport and Adventure Bike Motosports, there are two navigation methods that present themselves as appropriate - gps mapped routes and roadbook tulip navigation.


There are many gps-driven mapping apps available that appropriate for our needs... apps that allow the download of map areas into the memory of a smartphone such that cellphone data is not required to operate the map system. BackRoads Map Books, Trailforks and Gaia are just three. All allow plotting and sharing of routes and realtime progress monitoring of route following and offer an excellent event entry-level solution to backcountry navigation.


Other forms of rallysport use roadbooks comprising tulip diagrams. Following a route by roadbook alone requires an added level of rider engagement compared to a GPS route.


The roadbook route is taken one line at a time, riding from one navigation waypoint to the next, taking heed of the distance to be traveled between waypoints, the compass headings involved and any significant navigation information along the way.


The roadbooks are provided in a PDF format for either printing on paper and assembling into a scroll (in the traditional way), or displaying as a pdf in an appropriate smartphone app.


Some event participants are satisfied with this level of engagement, long distance/cross country motorcycling with roadbook navigation.




The next level of Dualsport Trials introduces the Time/Speed\Distance (TSD) complication and competition.


The Dualsport Trials route is divided into relatively long sections - between ten and twenty kilometres for example and the event organiser specifies a legal and sometimes arbitrary average speed for each of these "legs" (which may comprise a dozen waypoints). Knowing the GPS location for the start and finish of each of these legs and therefore the distance between the GPS Control Points, it is possible to calculate "target times" corresponding to the set average speeds.


The competitor-rider carries a second iPhone running a GPS position and timing app. The system of choice for VIME events is Richta Rally Timing. The app records the rider's time passing through virtual GPS timing gates and compares progress to the expected target time progress.


Having set target times it is possible to set a penalty system for riders who arrive at the CPs early or late. The total accrued time penalties over the event gives the finishing positions.


There are smartphone GPS apps, designed to provide timing data for car TSD motorsport. The beauty of these app systems is that it is possible to set timing gates across very long routes without the need for event timekeepers at the gates. These apps also translocate well to smartphone use on motorcycles.


Finally, as these routes cover public highways, there is an obvious need for the bikes and riders to be fully compliant with the motoring legislation applicable in that jurisdiction - bikes must be registered, riders licenced/insured and sober!


We therefore have three classes - well actually with the Stop Press announcement at the head of this piece we have four:

  • Guided group rides - six to eight in a group, led by a VIME staff member at a relaxed pace

  • Gaia navigation - the Exploration class

  • Roadbook-only navigation - the Navigation class

  • Roadbook+Richta timing - the Challenge class


The Guided Groups will introduce backcountry novices to the activity of backroads dulslsport travel in a relaxed and mutually supportive manner. Riders will be able to change class, mid event to Exploration if their confidence develops sufficiently.


The Exploration class serves as an introduction to Dualsport Trials as a motosport without the pressure of Roadbook navigation or keeping to a schedule. It will have some workarounds and bypasses to miss some of the more difficult terrain, without distracting from the "marathon" nature of the event.


The Navigation class introduces roadbook navigation without the complication of keeping to a time/speed/distance schedule, but has the full route.


The Challenge class combines the marathon distance, roadbook navigation and time/speed/distance Richta Rally timing.


Events in this format are inclusive of different rider ambitions and provide an escalator of participation.




Vancouver Island Motosports Events - VIME


VIME is the events business entity set up by the author with the purpose of staging Dualsport Trials events and developing this form of motorcycle motorsport.


There are currently two events in the VIME calendar, both staged on the gravel roads that go through the Crown forests of the north of Vancouver Island.


They are:

  • The GoldRiver Trials, held at the end of June

  • The Port Alberni Trials run in October before the winter weather starts.


Both events are multiday, the Port Alberni event is run over a Saturday and Sunday weekend, the GoldRiver event is a longer event - in 2024 the GoldRiver400 will start on Thursday evening 28 June with routes over the next four days finishing on the evening of Canada Day, Monday 1st July.


If you have a road legal cross country bike and you would like to do rather more than ride guided tours in large groups, or just ride the tarmac, I would like to invite you to join the Dualsport Trials community on Vancouver Island.


Regards Jonathan Binnington.



Useful hyperlinks



GoldRiver Rules. Event Regulations 2023.


Smartphone apps used for Dualsport Trials

and


and



and



How to use the apps in a Dualsport Trials setting: https://www.gr200.com/post/alberni-autumn-adventure-new-riders-join-here


Developing a shared understanding:




The GoldRiver400 - Les Chemins Sauvage... four days/1400km of Dualsport Trials!


Gold River is a small, post-industrial community in the Strathcona region of central north Vancouver Island. It is approximately 80km west of Campbell river, reached by one tarmac highway (Hyw24) and half a dozen gravel roads from Hwy19. It is about two and a half hours from Nanaimo which has ferry services to the Lower Mainland of BC. Two hours further on to Victoria which has ferry connections to Port Angeles, Washington care of the Black Ball ferry line.


US full-entitlement motorcycle licence and insurances are applicable in British Columbia and no off-highway vehicle permits are required.


While many of the forests on the lower third of Vancouver Island are privately owned, the forests on the north of the island are Crown lands with the consequences that the gravel roads have the status of public highways, motor vehicle registration/insurance/driving licence/adherence to Road Traffic laws are required.

  • These roads are not gated. You have a legal right to be on them.

  • This is not a race, rallyraid or speed event. Nor is it a group ride.

  • It is an event for solo and pairs riders


The GoldRiver400 will be the third iteration of this event, run at the start of summer.

As described above, there will be three classes for solo and pairs riders:


  • Entry-level Gaia navigation - the Exploration class

  • Roadbook-only navigation - the Navigation class

  • Roadbook+Richta timing - the Challenge class



The Exploration class serves as an introduction to Dualsport Trials as a motosport using Gaia mapping for navigation, without the pressure of Roadbook navigation or keeping to a schedule. It will have some workarounds and bypasses to miss some of the more difficult terrain, without distracting from the "marathon" nature of the event.


The Navigation class introduces roadbook navigation without the complication of keeping to a time/speed/distance schedule, but has the full route.


The Challenge class combines the marathon distance, roadbook navigation and time/speed/distance Richta Rally timing.


The GoldRiver400 will have four full days of routes.

Each day will be of the order of 300km with two rest/fuel/food stops per day.

The routes will have an absolute minimum of tarmac sections - this is a gravel road event.

There will be untimed gravel transfer stages from the event bivouac at Gold River to new-to-the-event Trials stages before transferring back to the Gold River bivouac.


The event starts on Thursday afternoon 27th June 2024 with signing-on and scrutineering of bikes and documents. Routes on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Canada Day Monday 1st July. Prizes and closing Monday evening.


Riders will be able to switch between classes during the event in the light of their fortunes but in order to qualify for the prizes, riders will have to complete the full Challenge class.


The routes will be rideable by moderate ability off road riders on trail, dualsport and adventure bikes. The hardest elements of the routes will be steep/loose/exposed sections of limited duration. No single-wheel riding abilities will be required. The days will be long - expect to be riding for around 8 hours per day with two rest/food/fuel stops per day.


There will be progress-checking census points around the course and for riders of a super cautious nature with Zoleo or InReach devices, a SpotWalla event will be opened for progress monitoring. Riders need to be mindful that they need to take responsibility for their own safety and wellbeing. This isn't a race, there won't be close rescue support. While the event organisers will have resources to recover immobilised bikes, there may be a significant delay in recovery. Emergency medical assistance must be summoned in the first instance by InReach/Zoleo.


Air (and other) ambulance and medical care is provided by BC MSP (Medical Services Plan), provided your payments to the government are up to date. Alternatively, you need to make sure you have adequate insurance coverage to pay for your medical care services.


If you would like to enter the GR4 but are unsure about your competence with the navigation and tech aspects of Dualsport Trials, new GR participants will also get complimentary entry to a training day in May 2024 located in Parksville and an online training programme covering the same syllabus through the VIME website.


It is not possible to provide any training in the techniques of off road riding unfortunately, this would be beyond the scope of VIME's mission.


If you have a cross country motorcycle and you would like to participate in a dedicated motosport event, the GoldRiver 400 - Chemins Sauvage is the event for you. I hope to have your company!


Jonathan Binnington, VIME proprietor.





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