Confession: Dirt Bike Magazine doesn’t cover trials very well. We do hit-and-run stories here and there, but between motocross, enduro, dual-sport and adventure bikes, there isn’t much room for such a specialized sport. Tim and the guys at Beta understand, so they dream up events to rekindle interest. They have a “Try Trials” program that travels around the country with demo bikes and instructors. And, they occasionally invite the media to an event they call the Beta Press Challenge. There have been three so far, but the 2024 event attracted more of the extended motorcycle press than the previous ones. It’s probably because Beta has recently inserted itself into the Supercross world with the 450RX. Now, the race coverage side of the motorcycle press is suddenly aware of Beta, and the company is trying to bring that attention to the other parts of its business. Frankly, it’s the only way that a Supercross team can make sense at all.

2024 Beta EVO 300 two-stroke
Lane Leavitt said the EVO 80 was a cheater bike. He was right.

The Press Challenge also served to showcase the 2024 Beta trials line. The company has 13 different trials bikes. There are 80cc, 125cc, 200cc, 250cc and 300cc two-strokes in addition to a 300cc four-stroke. The 80 is available in two different configurations that differ in wheel size and suspension travel. The other bikes come in either the standard “Evo” or upgraded “Factory” configuration. There’s one other two-stroke model called the 300SS, which stands for “Super Smooth.” Apparently, the 300 two-stroke is very aggressive, so a second, milder version is offered.

All in the family: Daniel Leavitt, Debbie Evans and Lane Leavitt have made trials and stunt work a family business.

The rules for the press challenge allowed each media outlet to bring a ringer. I brought three: 1974 U.S. Trials Champion Lane Leavitt, his wife Debbie Evans and thriller son Daniel Leavitt. That meant there would be two Dirt Bike teams. The Beta guys might have started off concerned about my ringers, but Lane quickly earned his keep. Before the official scoring started, he took me to a remote corner of the MotoVentures training ground and gave me tips. Within a few minutes, everyone else gathered around to pay attention. It turns out, that’s what Lane has been doing for years. He has a small compound where he trains trials riders. It isn’t really a business, more of a passion. At one point, Debbie pointed to Lane and said “Look at that grin.” Open face helmets are still in style for trials, and Lane had a smile that would barely fit in his.

Lane Leavitt has made a career of being a Hollywood stuntman, but his heart is still in trials.

When trials images and videos break into mainstream social media platforms, it’s generally because Toni Bou is doing something terrifying. That probably serves to scare most riders away from the sport. That’s not real trails any more than backflips are real motocross. Real trials consists of tight turns and maximizing traction. Lane had a hit list of techniques that made an immediate difference in my results:

Stay centered: The most common reason for dabs is washing out the front end. If you keep your weight over the center of your contact patch, that’s less likely. In motocross, your speed allows you to lean with the bike, but at the lower speeds involved with trials, it’s more effective to lean the bike more than your body. On hills, it’s hard to be too far forward. Your face can be so far in front that your field of vision only catches a little bit of front tire.

Look where you’re going: I had a tendency to stare at my front wheel. Bad Ron. Lane had me doing a tight figure 8 and kept yelling for me to look toward the center of the “X” where my tracks crossed.

Drag your rear brake: Even though the 200 two-stroke I rode was incredibly smooth, I could still grab too much throttle and push the front end. Lane points out that light pressure on the rear brake serves to smooth out the power delivery.
Steer with your shoulders: If you steer by extending one arm more than the other you lose strength and stability. By keeping your shoulders parallel with the handlebar, both arms have similar extension and both elbows have similar bends. That adds up to more strength.

Plan your dabs: In any trials section, the goal is a clean. If you touch your foot to the ground, you can get a score of one, two, three or five. There are no fours, so once you touch your foot down three times, then take as many safety dabs as you want, just don’t stop, crash, kill the bike or go out of bounds. So, if you must dab, make it count. Use it to regain your balance and composure.

“Plan your dabs!” Ron plants a foot under the watchful eye of Lane Leavitt.

The Beta guys brought out a dozen bikes of various sizes. I rode three of them before the day was over. I thought the 250 was going to be my favorite, but it turned out to be a lot of motorcycle for me. It had so much torque that learning to roll the throttle on smoothly was difficult. I ended up using the clutch too much and that made things even more jerky. The 200 was much easier to ride. Even though it was supposed to be the same weight as the 250, it felt 50 pounds lighter. It was the power delivery that made it so easy to ride. The 80 was the biggest surprise of all. “That’s going to be the secret weapon here,” said Lane. “The sections are going to have tight turns that were laid out on a full-size bike. The 80 is about 4 inches shorter and will fit in those tight spaces more easily.” He was exactly right. The most difficult section just consisted of S turns that were exactly spaced for the 300, 250 and 200. The 80 would have been a clear advantage if I had listened to Lane. I didn’t, of course. I rode the 200 and that section was the site of my worst scores.
In the end, we still did pretty well. Lane and I actually tied with Dirt Bike #2, but the tie breaker was our combined age–which was 138. That rule, I’m pretty sure, was made up on the fly. Overall, the two Dirt Bike teams crushed everyone else. There was nothing in the rule book that said I couldn’t call a National Trials Champion and his family to be my partners.
Next year, I’m pretty sure there will be.


–Ron Lawson


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