Toni Bou has been unbeatable these last years. After winning the European Trial Championship in 2003, he racked up one victory after another, landing him a place in the record books as the best Trial rider in history. In the past decade he's earned 24 world titles, 12 in the outdoor category and 13 in the indoor. One of the keys to his success has been his well-polished riding technique.
The champion from Piera (Barcelona) had a background in cycling before becoming a Trial rider, which he emphasizes as one thing that sets him apart in his riding style: "There are riders, like me, who started on a bicycle, and because of cycling's specific characteristics, that has made us more technical. The riders who have trained and competed on motorbikes from a young age tend to have more control over the machine".
To become the champion he is today, Toni has had to work not only on technique, but also on control and skills, especially because this sport demands a great degree of precision when it comes to riding. One tiny mistake can have serious consequences. Each movement of the bike must be perfectly coordinated to overcome obstacles: and speed isn't nearly as important as height.
Technique is crucial to understanding Trial riding. According to the rider hailing from Barcelona, technique is what takes you to the highest level: "You can be very well-prepared physically, but it's more important to improve your technique. That's what will help you compete and set you apart from the other riders; it will help you compete better without losing your energy".
Indoor vs Outdoor
Riders usually spend around 20 minutes on their bikes at the indoor trial competitions. Their preparation requires specific exercises that prep them to be explosive, do a lot of work with the bike, and be very aggressive so they are physically able to ride at 100% during a short period of time.The riders spend a lot of time at the gym, building up their muscles.
As for the outdoor races, Toni's preparation is more focused on the bike itself and building stamina for a better performance in the longer and more demanding competitions. "In the outdoor category, there are races that go on for up to six hours, so in addition to physical fitness, you've got to think about other factors and variables: concentration, technique, patience, keeping a level head...You've got to know that even if you've made a mistake in one section, you've got time to make up for it and it's still possible to win. In indoor, however, it's a different story. If you're not 100% focused and you make a mistake, that could cost you the final or the podium, which you need to compete in the World Championship".
Preparing for special sections
In the indoor competitions, Tony faces obstacles so difficult it's hard to believe it's possible to overcome them. Preparation is key, he highlights: "There are obstacles, especially in the indoor races, that we prepare exclusively for; you could even say that the bike goes through a radical and specific preparation compared to what's done for outdoor competitions. The key to tackling obstacles is, once again, your technique, your body position when you are going up or coming down. You have to use your body to help the bike "climb" the obstacle, getting it into a position that lightens the front and keeps the weight in the back. When coming down, you lean back and open your legs to keep your centre of gravity as low as possible".
As the 25-time world champion mentioned, the bike is one of the variables that, depending on the competition, can be competitive and help the rider clinch a title. The analysis of the sections and the adjustments made to the bike to accommodate the route's characteristics can also impact the rider's competitiveness: "After analysing the route to see what types of obstacles we're up against, the mechanics know exactly how to prepare the bike and they also check its main functions: the shock absorption, the clutch, the engine, and the brakes".
And that's how this motorcycle superstar prepares for competition. What an extraordinary rider: even after making it to the top, he's still got the same spark he had when he won his first World Championship.