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Not so easy rider

Sunshine or snow, each weekend Yorkshire dispensing optician, Philip Howlett, can be found navigating his way through rugged terrain on his trusty Beta 250cc motorcycle. He tells OT  how his hobby has honed his problem-solving skills and forged life-long friendships

Phillip Howlett

A friend at school had a small trials bike when I was 11. I had a ride on it and ever since that first ride I was hooked. I saved all my pocket money from doing odd jobs like paper rounds and car washing to buy my first bike – a Yamaha TY80 for £200.

The art of trials is riding the motorbike through an 'observed section' without putting your feet down. The more times a rider puts their feet down, the more points they accrue. The winner is the rider with the least marks at the end of the competition. The terrain can be anything from riding up waterfalls, over rocks and in woodland conditions to indoor arena events where you ride over a variety of obstacles.

A conversation starter

Chatting about trials riding usually comes up in conversation with my customers. Many of them can relate to it as they have quite often had a go at motorcycle riding when they were kids. It's great to build rapport, which adds to both trust and loyalty.

You don't wear protective clothing in trials riding – it's usually a thin and stretchy material so you can move on the bike. I've been very lucky not to have any major injuries. I’ve had the odd fractured rib or broken toes and sprained wrists, but usually you pick yourself up and crack on and ride the rest of the trial, then worry about it later. We’re a pretty tough bunch in Yorkshire.

"Most evenings are spent in my workshop up to my eyeballs in grease. My wife jokes she will be buying us walkie talkies for Christmas"

Talent for tinkering

When you’re riding from a young age it becomes instinct to think logically about a problem. You learn to chunk it down and overcome each part of the section to get through it. This is a great approach to overcoming problems in day-to-day life, by breaking it down and dealing with each part separately.

The bike I ride is an ultra-lightweight Beta 250cc, which is great for trick riding. I'm always on the look-out for a winter project. Most evenings are spent in my workshop up to my eyeballs in grease. My wife joked she will be buying us walkie talkies for Christmas.

Trials doesn't usually stop for the weather. Even in snow the sections are amended to suit. I've ridden in every condition including blizzards on the moors. It just adds to the fun.

I love everything about trials riding. It gives you thrills, adrenalin and friendship. As soon as you put your helmet and riding gear on, you become solely immersed and focused on what's in front of you.