how a SNAIL TRAILs ride works
Snail Trails is not an official group or organisation in any way, but just an informal social group of riders. There is no central organiser and/or person taking responsibility for participants on any ride. Rather, someone will suggest a ride, a bunch of riders show up, and any roles such as leading, corner marking and sweep riding are just shared among the group. You need to have a motorbike licence and a registered motorbike for the adventure rides, dirt rides and cross training rides. Obviously trials bikes don't need registration but you'll need club membership.
You must read and agree to this disclaimer before coming on any ride.
You are responsible for ensuring your bike is correctly set up for dirt riding.
You are responsible for wearing appropriate safety gear (see here for general info).
what riding skills are needed?
Typically a suggested ride will be from low to medium difficulty and usually suits all levels of experience – from Novice and up. The idea is that no matter how slow you would like to ride the route, there will be no pressure applied for you to go faster than you are comfortable with.
The focus is usually is on a fun, friendly ride, where everyone gets to ride how they want to.
Nobody likes rules, so we usually try to lump everything under this general principle:
'Respect for all other riders, and never do anything to spook or endanger anyone else'.
Basically don't endanger or spook others, help out when needed, and encourage novices to improve their skills. We try to be on good terms with locals by keeping our bikes quiet, not riding near houses, and respecting bush walkers and horse riders.
Basically if you can handle a motorbike easily on bitumen and a flat dirt road then you will find THE usual Snail Trails ride manageable. If a ride is going to be fast or technical we will clearly state it isn't for beginners! See our rider training info here if you aim to improve!
where do i find out about the next ride?
Dirt rides happen on the Dirt Bike World forum and were organised here in 2013. An injury has slowed things down but a new thread should be up shortly. Cross training rides start soon - this is the application of trials techniques to dirt riding on enduro bikes and should be a pile of fun! See the cross training techniques here.
Trials riding is happening within the Western Districts Trials Club, here is the website. You will need to become a club member to participate as trials bikes aren't permitted in state forests.
how do i organise a ride?
Yep! Here is some info for whether it's on one of the forums above, or you live elsewhere and would like to start similar dirt rides, adventure rides or cross training.
These tips might be useful for getting a ride happening. Before heading out, take the time to give a ride briefing. We find its best to explain there will be a lead rider, a sweep rider and a corner-marking system to make sure no one gets lost. And remind everyone that the aim of the ride is to have fun, while supporting newer riders, and that each rider should ride safely within their own limits. The whole group should always be clear on who is lead rider and who is sweep rider, especially because these roles often get swapped as the day goes on.
The lead rider will remain at the front of the pack at all times, and no rider should attempt to overtake him/her. When coming to a corner or obstacle, the lead rider points to the rider behind, then to the corner. This indicates where he/she would like the rider to stop. That rider should then stop his/her bike at the corner, pointing in the direction the lead rider has ridden. Always make sure this parked bike is out of the way, but clearly visible to oncoming riders. The lead rider should not continue until this rider has clearly acknowledged that they understood the instruction to be the corner marker. He or she must keep marking that corner until the sweep rider indicates they are free to go on. The lead rider keeps placing riders as corner markers at every corner until a rest break. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to cycle through the group and be a corner marker.
The sweep rider always stays at the back of the ride group, and clearly indicates to the corner markers that they are free to go on. The sweep must always wait for corner marking riders to rejoin in front of him/her. On large group rides, we find it helps if the sweep rider wears a flouro yellow jacket. If the role of sweep rider is handed to someone else, the yellow jacket can just be passed on. However, make sure the whole group knows exactly who is sweep rider!
Ensure at least one person in the group has a good tool kit, including spare tubes and the ability to fix punctures. Ideally everyone should be equipped this way, but dirt newbies won't know what to expect initially and won't be well equipped for a while at least. There's an informative thread on the ADV RIDER site here. At the most basic level make sure you have a toolkit that fits most of the bolts etc on your bike, and spare clutch and front brake levers.
If you can print out basic maps of your planned ride with the route marked then this will help in the unlikely event someone is lost. It may pay for the group organiser to give his/her phone number to everyone too. Check which carrier is best for phone coverage in regional parts of Australia. If you get into serious adventure riding, consider using a PLB or similar, and learn about GPS navigation here.
Take plenty of breaks and regroups. Remember dirt beginners are probably hanging on to those bars like grim death, and will appreciate lots of breaks. Experienced riders should understand this, and will often use the time to catch up with old mates. But mostly they help out with tips, encourage the newbies, and dish out the compliments on good rider skills noted..
Tough sections of track? If the terrain becomes too difficult for beginners (which usually should not happen if the route is planned well), provide a detour for novices but ensure there will be a clearly noted lead rider and sweep rider until the split group can join up again further along. But above all remember - it is amazing what new riders can overcome if you encourage them, talk them through it, and show them how it is done. Please be sure to never exert undue pressure, and always make it clear that all riders should err on the side of caution and only tackle stuff if they feel comfortable doing so.. They'll usually say "but I'm holding the group up!" so assure them it's not an issue.
Part of respect for each other implies having a reasonably reliable bike. There's nothing wrong with a 20 year old dirt bike (heaps of us have these) but if it isn't well maintained with at least the basic tool kit, then it's poor form to go on a ride with a bike very likely to break down, then delay the group and completely rely on everyone else for tools and parts! Having said that, we never leave a rider behind by themselves, even if it means cutting a ride short.
It helps if someone has a basic first aid kit, and at least basic first aid skills (good tips on the ADV RIDER site here). The organiser should have a mobile phone with good coverage in remote areas (hate to promote Telstra but it will be best in Australia!). The absolute first aid basics everyone should know are DRABC:
Danger: get riders on both sides of the track to slow everyone down
Response: Yell and rub the rider's ribs to see if they are unconscious or not
Airway: if unconscious, check the airway is clear e.g. no vomit in the mouth
Breathing: check to see if they are breathing
CPR: If someone has the proper training, they should commence and continue CPR otherwise, assist in any way you can - more info here.
Delegate someone to ring for the ambulance as soon as possible. Remember if someone has taken a bang to the head, it's always advisable for them to get to hospital for a check-up, especially if they were momentarily unconscious or feeling dizzy. It is possible to feel fine after these episodes, then have complications later.
Be very careful with moving a fallen rider at first. Consider whether it is absolutely necessary, or will it make the injuries worse? If the rider is seriously injured, it's usually best to not move them at all until the ambulance arrives. If the rider is conscious, check to see if the he/she can move fingers and toes, carefully check for broken bones first, then see how the fallen rider copes with small movements at first.
The vast majority of crashes, of course, are just good for a laugh. But experienced riders should remember that any fall can be intimidating for a novice, so make sure they are okay, give them plenty of encouragement and tips if needed, and remember you are laughing with them, not at them, if making a joke of it seems appropriate (and it usual does!).
It's gratifying to see new riders improve their riding skills so quickly, and in addition to the Snail Trails rides, we also have what we call "Caterpillar Tracks" which are basically an intermediate ride, either because the pace is faster, the sections are more technical, or the conditions are tougher (e.g. lots of rain so very slippery mud). We advise new riders to ask the organiser if they are likely to cope, and are advised on whether it will be a suitable ride for their skill level. We are also looking at a more comprehensive grading system from the Dirt Bike World forum; as with everything we'll just run with what the group thinks works best!
As informal social outings, Snail Trails rides are open to anyone to come along and join in. But each and every rider should acknowledge that it is indeed a dangerous sport, and we all ride at our own risk, so should always keep well within the boundaries of safe riding. Make sure everyone is aware, and agrees to, a disclaimer like the one we use here.
wanna do a private ride?
A larger group is very social and lots of fun. But small groups are great too, in that you can get just a handful of riders together of similar skill, then you don't have to organise much or do corner marking etc. Ideally no one should mind, or feel left out, if they hear of guys doing smaller rides with a few mates and didn't post the details publicly on the forum. Seriously, it wouldn't be anything personal (unless you don't use a deodorant maybe?).