Ryan Leech looks over the crowd gathered at Toronto’s Outdoor Adventure Show and grins. All eyes are on him, waiting. The crowd grows as more people push against the metal barriers for a closer look. As the music starts to throb, Ryan sits on his bike patiently. He’s ready to jump. At 25, he is one of the world’s top professional trials riders, and this is his job.
Trials riding is an individual professional sport where riders have to maneuver and negotiate their bikes up, over, and onto obstacles without putting their feet down. These obstacles can be anything from large boulders, rocks, railings and logs. At 11, Ryan took his mountain bike into the woods of his hometown of Port Moody, British Columbia, and tried over and over to balance himself on only one wheel, “I had a pile of obstacles set up in my front yard at my parent’s place,” he says. “I had those to play and practice on. It was a bit of an eyesore to have all this junk but [my parents] were cool and supportive of it.”
Trials riding began in the early 80s as a sport for beginning motorcycle trials riders and is now exploding in North America with promotional tours, websites and how-to videos. The sport is much more accessible today with more bike shops offering the equipment you need to get started: a 20” modified trials bike. They’re easy to maintain, and easier to fall off of without hurting yourself. Ryan admits he’s been lucky so far. He has only torn his knee once, but has survived many bruises, sprains and cuts.
Ryan’s secret to success? Remember your three P’s: Patience. Practice. Persistence. “The greatest challenge was that I was the only one in my neighbourhood that did this sport,” says Ryan. “I basically had to learn everything by myself from watching videos and just studying the techniques, slowly gaining my skills.”
Ryan now gets to do something he loves and has learned skills in marketing, public relations and publicity. “It’s an amazing feeling. It’s a fortunate position to be in,” he says. “It’s something that I know isn’t going to last forever so I’ll enjoy it while I can and try to expose the sport to as many people as I can.”
Trials riding, like any other sport, has its own unique language. Before you strap on that helmet and start hopping on that bike, learn how to speak like the pros!
Back Hop: Hopping on the back wheel of your bike. Riders do this when what they’re jumping onto is very small and they have no space for their front wheel.
Bunny Hop: One of the most important moves in trials riding, and can be as difficult as you make it. The rider hops with his bike making both wheels lift off the floor. This is usually done to get over an obstacle or onto one.
Coaster Wheelie: The rider is standing up on the bike but not pedaling.
Chocolate Foot: This is the favourite foot to start pedaling with.
Dab: Putting a foot down to stay balanced.
Endo: Hopping from the back wheel and balancing briefly on the front wheel only.
Hansing: Named after famous trials rider Hans Ray, this move is where the “chocolate foot” is used to propel the bike forward.
Kicker: An obstacle to jump off, like a curb or a log.
Nose Pick: Side-hopping to the front wheel and balancing on only that wheel.
Side-hop: Hopping on both wheels sideways, the rider uses this move to hop up stairs.
Here’s Ryan Leech showing off his trials riding skills:
Written by Faze intern Linda Nguyen