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 BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 521

Plonkers Trials Club at Cougar Buttes

 "Caught between a rock and hard place," has a different meaning for participants of the observed motorcycle trials sponsored by the Plonkers Trials Club. On Sunday March 4, 2012, approximately thirty participants used their skills to navigate, balance, and maintain control of their bikes through numerous technical challenges at Cougar Buttes. Participants were divided into seven different classes: Novice, Sportsmen, Intermediate, Club-Men, Advanced, Expert, or Pro.  (text continues below)

a helmeted rider on a motorbike climbs over large rocks

The objective of a trials event is not speed, but technique and maintaining complete control of your bike through a technical designed course. Event Officials watched each participant one-by-one going through their section of the course to see if participants put their feet down onto the ground. If they do, they are given one penalty point each time, officially called a "dab." If they put their foot down a second time that would be two dabs, and if done a third time, three dabs. If they put their foot down more than three times, they would receive the maximum penalty score of five for that section of the course. If the engine dies, the participant rolls backward, or they go out of bounds, it is considered a failure for that section of the course and participants would receive five points for that section. Participants rode the loop three times, giving them a chance to improve their technique each time around. At the end, the total scores are added up and the participant with the lowest overall score wins for that class level. (text continues below)

a helmeted motorbike rider on the rocks
a man raises a forefinger to signal a motorbiker riding over rocks
Event participant getting a one "Dab" from Plonkers event staff.

The motorcycles are not your average off-road built bikes. They are specially designed bikes that weigh approximately 150 pounds, have a half gallon gas tank, and have no seat on them -- since you are standing the entire time through the course. The gearing inside the bikes is engineered to go at much slower speeds with a lot of torque to get up and over various obstacles. The tires are specialty tires that use low pressure, as low as 4 psi, to get the "gummy rubber" effect to help increase traction, which in turn means better control. It is not uncommon to see participants stop, hop around, and/or balance themselves on the motorcycle without moving for long periods of time, without ever putting their foot down on the ground, as they determined their course of travel over or around an obstacle. Many participants will walk through the section prior to riding it to pick their line of travel and get an idea of how to approach the various obstacles. Only one participant is allowed into the section of course at a time, so event staff could closely observe and score each participant as they go through that section of the course.

two men watch as a rider climbs a rocky ledge on a motorbike
Mike Trost (Far Left), Operations Specialist with the California District Office, observes a participant maneuvering the course at section 9, better known as "Bennett's Boulder."

a helmeted rider steers his motorbike over rocks on a course marked with red tape
Dave McNeil from San Diego tries out the course on his 1972 Bultaco Motorcycle.  Bultaco was a popular brand of motorcycles in the 1970s.

Observed motorcycle trials originated in Europe, and tend to draw huge crowds to stadiums to watch participants go over built courses of rocks, waterfalls, logs, etc. Here in America, the popularity is still growing. Charlie Rowlett, a Plonkers Trials Club Official, described motorcycle trials as "The best kept secret in the world of motorcycling." 

The Plonkers Trials Club name originated back in the early 1970s and originated from the term "plonking," which is an European term meaning to "hop" or "skip" like rocks skipping on a water's surface. 

Cougar Buttes, which is made up of large granite boulders, is a popular area for off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, as well as for commercial filming. Plonkers chose the popular Cougar Butte area because it is a natural formed landscape which provides several different challenging levels for the different classification levels of participants. The hard granite rock also provides excellent traction to the specially designed bikes, which helps participants clear the various obstacles. Cougar Buttes is located on the southwest section of Johnson Valley OHV Area.

a rider takes his motorbike up a steep rock ledge

a helmeted rider takes his motorbike down a rocky course

motorhomes and campers in an area behind rocks
Plonkers Trials Club Main Camp located on the back edge of Cougar Buttes

- Rusty Gates, outdoor recreation planner, BLM Barstow Field Office (March 5, 2012)

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 521 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.

Last updated: 04-27-2012