The Yorkshire Coast to CoastOctober 18, 2015
Adventures in the Pyrenees with the V.I.N.C.E.October 30, 2015
Away from the meandering network of green roads is a TRF group that has discovered a huge appetite for non-competitive events that allow riders to develop their skills in a safe environment. Alcuin Wilkie and his team at Central Bristol TRF have been honing a formula that has seen hundreds of TRF members enjoy fun, family days out on closed circuits. Here he describes how he stumbled onto the initiative and just what it takes to put on a successful event.
Hi Alcuin. It looks like you have been very busy down at Central Bristol TRF. You have been putting on a lot of events. Can you tell us what has been going on recently?
Yes we have been very busy – CBTRF was set up around doing events – we have run four events this year all slightly different – a free ride fun day at a local enduro practice track in Keynsham – in conjunction with Somerset TRF who have a long pedigree of running events; then our Trials fun day The Ubley Muddle which ran for its fourth year (my personal favourite); third our Checkpoints event a combination of navigational scatter in the morning and a fun Trial and Hill climb in the afternoon (Mario chickened out of this); and lastly our Wickwar Funduro a four mile loop with incorporated motocross track which we have just run to great success.
Getting to grips with the epic hill climb at the Checkpoint & Trials Fun Day
A lot of members in the TRF have different skill sets. It seems that events are yours. Is this something that you have done in the past or are you just interested in it?
My only experience of events is throwing a good party and I need to make it clear my only skill set is over confidence! However we do have someone in the club who is passionate about events and is the driving force behind all our events, he’s called Dean Allen we think his mum named him after James Dean as he is a bit of a rebel without a cause. He’s very passionate about off road riding and dirt bikes in general. He got into enduro racing 7 years ago and has won 2 championships with Track and Trail and Mercian Dirtriders over the last two years. For various reasons he got into the TRF and then got into putting on events.
"The events have to be fun otherwise people won’t come back but anyone who enjoys green laning will enjoy all our events."
Why are events important to Central Bristol TRF?
All sorts of reasons. Dean discovered a lot of bravado whist out on the trails and that lots of riders were scared of doing events and worried about holding other people up – so events were a way of introducing TRFers to competition be it enduro, long distance trials, observed trials or anything else.
The events have to be fun otherwise people won’t come back but anyone who enjoys green laning will enjoy all our events. When we started it was just about having fun as a club, getting to know each other and meeting members from other clubs. It was really only over the last 2 years that the likes of Greg and Mario have opened our eyes to marketing and the importance of growing our membership. Another reason is to try and raise money for the fighting fund.
I think that one part of event organisation that gets overlooked sometimes is the promotion in the run up. It's not easy but you seem to be doing a good job. What's your strategy to get people to sign up?
When we started up CBTRF the first three things we did were sort out a forum, a website and a PayPal account – in that order. We were lucky to have a member Matt Collins who has done a bit of work as an amateur photojournalist and he set up our website. He has a good eye for design and what catches people’s attention (his main job is selling flooring). He also put together some of our flyers.
We didn’t sit down and develop a strategy but since you ask, I guess we do four main things. We try and get publicity out to the people we know. If we put on a good event people will come back. We try and get it out as widely as we can, so we are building up an email database and we use Mario’s mailing list and we post on the National TRF forum and Facebook page. The fourth thing we do is try and develop alliances with other TRF clubs and sympathetic businesses, so we have worked with Somerset TRF (running a joint event with them and having them do the catering at our Funduro); Dirtpunk who have helped with some of our flyers and Zen Overland who provided our Checkpoints route books.
Making a splash at Wickwar
Do you have a core 'essence' of your events?
Hmm you’ve got me thinking again. The Ubley Muddle was the first event we ever did, basically a fun Trial – 3 or 4 laps – 12 sections per lap and a qualifier – a short timed circuit with a bit of open going. Dean set it up in conjunction with a local ACU affiliated club, North Somerset Motorcycle club. The event was designed to be fun, technically challenging (for the average rider not the Adam Ragas of this world) and open to everyone, so no tyre or bike restrictions. So fun, technical and accessible to all abilities could be the essence.
Variety is really important too. So this year we have done four events: a freeride on an enduro practice track; the Muddle; our Checkpoints event and a Funduro.
"I don’t know if you can imagine what this was like for us – one moment we were thinking our event was fatally wounded - the next moment we thought we had struck TRF event gold! This was a format every TRF club could use – either to raise money or purely for fun and to introduce other clubs to their lanes."
Thanks - could you tell us a bit more about Checkpoints and the Funduro – they both looked like really fun events?
There is a bit of a story behind Checkpoints and something we are very proud of. It’s a kind of series of fortunate events. 3 years ago Paul Castle from Dirtpunk put on a private party; ‘it’s a cock-up’ which involved an Austin Vince style navigational event in the morning followed by silly games on motorbikes in the afternoon.
The Austin Vince format is a kind of treasure hunt – you get given a booklet with 20 to 30 locations at each of which there is a small aluminium plaque stamped with 3 digits. For each location in the booklet there is a description, a photograph and an O/S map thumbnail. This triad is Austin’s intellectual property.
At the second of these parties Dean got chatting to Austin who explained all this to us and gave Dean the permission to use this format for a Bristol TRF event as long as we gave Austin due credit. Now you can imagine there is a hell of a lot of work in putting such a booklet together.
The next fortunate event was Gabriel Bolton of Zen Overland turning round at the same party and telling Dean he had already put together such a booklet and had all the PDF files we could use. All that was left was to add a mini trial event to the mornings navigational event and to make a flyer.
What came next was a bit of a surprise. Once we posted our flyer on the TRF forum concerns were raised about the legality of the event and The ACU and MSA regulations and the Road Traffic Act 1988 were quoted at us – the next day the flyer had been removed and we were in correspondence with Mario and John Vanuffel. Essentially it looked like any organised event on public roads with more than 12 riders was a no no.
The Ubley Muddle Fun Trial
I quickly discovered that MSA stands for Motor Sports Association. John Vanuffel suggested a way round was for us to run the event as a road safety challenge – I have to say this sounded like a big turn off to me, but then as manna from heaven as I was Googling around the MSA website I discovered Navigational Scatter.
I will have to read from the guide here: Scatters must comply with Regulation 5(b) of the Motor Vehicles (Competitions and Trials) Regulations 1969. “An event in which no merit is attached to completing the event with the lowest mileage and in which, as respects such part of the event as is held on a public highway, there are no performance tests and no route and competitors are not timed or required to visit the same places; except that they may be required to finish at the same place by a specified time”
I don’t know if you can imagine what this was like for us – one moment we were thinking our event was fatally wounded - the next moment we thought we had struck TRF event gold! This was a format every TRF club could use – either to raise money or purely for fun and to introduce other clubs to their lanes. Austin and Gabriel denied any prior knowledge of this legal loophole.
It may be that the early worries about the legality of the event put people off as we nearly had more marshals and parking attendants than entrants – those that came seemed to really enjoy it and we have learned a lot for next year.
Wickwar Funduro was conceived as an idea around the same time as Checkpoints right at the beginning of this year. Stephen Harrison – one of our members and his wife have a few acres they have horses on and an established enduro track – lots of open going with some with tight bends in between and a whole load of stream sections. What was really great was that Dean got Mid west Racing to demo the whole range of new Husqvarna bikes and at the end of the day we had lots of smiling faces and a few non TRF members saying their preconceptions of the TRF had changed and they would be looking into joining.
And just to finish, what's next for Central Bristol TRF? More events?
Yes the plan is to run the same four events but to do them better and with more people. We need to make sure we coordinate our events with neighbouring clubs like Somerset TRF and Wiltshire TRF and with other events such as long distance trials so we do not clash and lose potential entrants. Next year we want to do more training (mainly because I need a lot of it) which we have not done much of this year as we have really concentrated on the events.
Central Bristol TRF run events throughout the year. They also have a rather good website. Check it out to find out what's on and get yourself booked on the next one.