Ideas for improving the U System for trials

Let me preface my remarks with the following… I have only been involved in one trials event, Motorama 2004. That event used the U system. Joe Merrill, event organizer had Kris Holms (U system creator) there to help with set up and to offer guidance. I have great respect and admiration for each of these men for the uni skills and event organizing knowledge they brought to this event. I have also read the standard trials event system that is used for bicycle trials events. These are way too difficult and complex in my book. It might be that my lack of experience in this event gives me a fresh look at it. OR, maybe I am missing some critical points due to my inexperience. Thus a post for your thoughts and ideas!

Someone help me here, I lost the link to Kris’ U system description. Please post the link for those unfamiliar with the U system.

I have been thinking more about the U system for trials. I think one of the strong points of this system is the simplicity of it. Easier to judge and to score. At Motorama this past spring it worked very well. The main point of this post is…If it’s a better system because it is simpler, why not make it even simpler? I really liked the overall system and have a few ideas that might make it easier to use. One of my main concerns with the U system is that it takes a very knowledgable person to establish the point value for each section. In my opinion, that makes it harder for event organizers to use it. If it was simpler, it would be easier for someone to put together a uni trials event, thus it would be more likely to be done. In keeping with the simpler version thinking I have the following thoughts for your comments.

OPTION # 1 (the ultimate in simplicity?)
Don’t assign difficulty ratings or points to each section. Just have numbered identification for each section. Scoring is done by showing a point for each section completed.


  1. Easiest to set up, requires less time for rating and more time is available for setting up and building the sections.
  2. Beginning riders don’t have as great a gap between their scores and the top rider scores. This may help to encourage the newbies.
  3. Quick and easy tallying of scores at the end of an event. Less room for math errors and easier to verify the total score.


  1. Top riders don’t get to rack up mega scores. May not look as impressive.
  2. It’s harder for spectators to know which sections are the highest difficulty.
  3. It might be easier for the people setting up the course to overlook some key skills.

OPTION # 2 (slighty more involved that # 1)
Assign U system difficulty ratings to each section. This rating would then become the point value of the section. For example, a U4 difficulty section would be worth 4 points, U5 worth 5 points, etc.


  1. Would be more useful in showing the difficulty of the sections in an event, especially if signs were posted that spectators could see.
  2. Would also give riders a sense of the difficulty level they can ride.
  3. Closer attention to the U system levels would help create a more balanced course, all the skills would have a better chance of being included at each level.


  1. It would be harder to set up the course for the organizer of the event. Takes more knowledge of uni trials.
  2. This would require a well defined description of each U level.

One last idea… In case of a tie score for first place I think it would be a great idea to have a ride off. A strength of the U system is that the time used for the event can be controlled very precisely. That allows the organizers to allow time at the end if needed for a ride off to break a tie. A ride off would be a great event for spectators as the top riders fight for the top spot! Each of the riders picks two sections to attempt (strategy and drama here!) Then each rider gets 3 attempts to complete each section. If both riders complete a section, then the one doing it in least attempts wins that section. I think it would be a lot of fun to watch a ride off as a spectator and it gives additional exposure to the top riders. It might even be fun to do this with the top 3 or 4 riders even if there wasn’t a tie. A rider challenge just for the fun of it and to give the top riders a victory lap.

Again, I feel the U system is a good one. But it is young and still getting established. I hope my $.02 worth of ideas might help make it a little better.


Hey Billham,

There is the link to the Internationnal Unicycle Trials Rules:

­>OPTION # 1…

I think you should forget about it, because the point of making difficult obstacles is to separate the awesome riders from the good ones. If someone clean a 6’ high rail-to-rail transfer and gets the same score as another rider who hop on a curb and drop off, it’s not a trials competition anymore, but a simple session with other unicyclists.

>OPTION # 2…

That one is a possibility. But I think Kris based the scoring system on the riding experience. In fact, it’s almost exponantial, just like the difficulty. Think of the 10 level for freestyle; it’s harder to go from level 8 to 9, than from level 2 to 3.

>In case of a tie…

See Section 14. The tied-riders can choose to both attempt a long section, and the winner is the one who clean more obstacles.

That’s what they did at Toque to separate the winners: Kris Holm and Ryan Atkins. Ryan won by totally cleaning the sections, while Kris dab before the end.

Anyways, you should e-mail to Kris your suggestions, there’s always room for improving.


i see your point, but i think the best solution would be for kris to better detail the scoring. first, i think the disadvantages of your first option far outweight the advantages. good riders wont try big stuff if they have to spend all their time on this little stuff. but if a really hard line is 20 points, they can focus on that without worrying about the 1 pointer. the problem with the second problem is similar to the first, the points are out of proportion. my solution is for kris to better detail the scoring, with both natural and urban trials taken into consideration. perhaps he could post a couple pictures of lines and explain how he scored them.

And for the assignation of the scores, see Appendix1 for some examples of obstacles and their scorings. Of corse, the list could be infinite, but if you think some obstacles should be in, I don’t see why Kris would not listen to your specifics propositions.

Tie breaks should always be done with a round of rock paper scissors, this is how it was done at Motorama and it has been by far the most fun to watch as a spectator.

A ride off is a good idea, I think that was what was done at TOque this year between Kris and Ryan, and it made for a good demenstration of skill on a long and difficult line. But it still was missing a certain charm that RPS has.

Top riders should be able to complete the lower level sections easily and quickly. If they needed much time on the easy sections, that would reveal a weakness in their riding. I heard Kris saying at Motorama that the course should test a rider for all types of skills. Some riders couldn’t ride skinnies very well but could hop high and gap far. An all round rider should do both well. So a simple on the ground skinny is important to revealing weaknesses of even the upper level riders.

One assumption I was using was that the top riders would have time to complete all the sections and still work on the tough ones for a good while. If that was the case, all the levels would be needed to get the top score. At Motorama, the best riders did have time to do all the sections. If the event was short on time and not all sections could be completed, then Option 1 would not work. Option 1 needs a long time frame or fewer obtacles. Lots of time was a critical assumption on my part for option 1.

See there you go. I put out some ideas and get some great feedback. Gotta love this forum.


for those of you dont understand how incredible RPS is, check out

but a ride off is better, sorry chex. whether or not better riders should have to do easier lines depends on time and number of participants.

These are certainly some intruiging ideas. Option #1 would certainly be easier on the event organizer.

I think the question is whether or not the point values currently used in the u-system actually yield a more accurate and fair score than the “flat” point values Bill suggested. I have a hunch that relative point values could be somewhat arbitrary and that a flat point system has its merits.

I agree with Bill that the top riders should be able to complete the easier sections easily and quickly. The ability for a rider to quickly nail all the lower level sections, regardless of skill tested is an important part of the test. The rules stipulate that “The time duration should be sufficient to allow each rider to attempt each obstacle multiple times, if necessary.” Also a comp should be 2 or 3 hours depending on the number of sections and riders.

For a rider to spend all of his/her time trying to nail tough sections and gain high points, to the neglect of a few easy sections is contrary to the idea that a rider’s all around ability is being tested. In fact, a flat point system would eliminate this possibility and could more clearly expose rider weaknesses, rewarding the more well rounded rider who can clean every type of challenge.

I think option #1 would yield more ties among the top three scores. For example, at Motorama, I think there were 31 sections. Kris and Ryan would have scored 30, if I remember correctly. Then there might have been multiple scores of 29, 28, 27, 26 etc. A ride off would settle this, and I think it would be very exciting to watch.

All in all, I’m thinking that Motorama would have been a lot simpler, and just as much fun with a flat system.

As for spectators, I don’t think they will ever know, be interested in, or able to follow a relative point system. Even if point values were posted on huge signs, it would be logistically very difficult to post them in a visible and meaningful way. I think audiences are simply interested in watching riders try difficult things, and some things immediately draw a spectators attention, based on what is being DONE, not based on a numerical value.

And as for the riders, who cares about the “appearance” of a high numerical score. We go to comps to have fun and ride, not to collect trophies.

Just my 2 cents, but I like option one, but I’m sure there’s something I’m missing here, though, that I’m not considering.


The option 1 system sounds like it would work best for smaller events. It would get more troublesome at crowded (high attendance) events or if there are a lot of lines of similar difficulty.

I’ve participated in a small handful of Trials events using various scoring methods. Compared to the earlier ones, the U-system is the simplest from a rider point of view. System #1 would be even simpler, but same for the riders. In some of the events where I participated, I did not have enough time to try all sections. This was partly based on my relatively low skill level, and possibly on me taking pictures, but if all lines had equal scores, more time might be needed to make sure riders had sufficient time to work all of them.

In an event with lots of lines, some will tend to be of near-equal difficulty. A 1-for-1 scoring system would make it a test of quantity, and kind of invalidate the difference between all the different lines.

But yes, the current scoring system is hard for organizers, and causes an automatic addition to the set-up time to figure out what the scores should be. If a Kris Holm or Joe Merrill aren’t available, it might be hard to put accurate scores on your lines. But as the current set of rules gets more developed, I’m sure this area will be addressed.


I like your Avatar.

Kris’s rules also state:

" The time duration should be sufficient to allow each rider to attempt each obstacle multiple times, if necessary. "


e) Section difficulty should correspond to the range in ability levels of the participants. The easiest sections should be cleanable by all participants after one or two attempts, and the harder sections should require multiple attempts by the best riders.
f) It is highly recommended to include one or two sections that are so difficult that they may only be cleaned by one rider, or not at all. This will help prevent ties for first place, and may also help to increase the technical standards of the sport if a rider succeeds in doing something that has never been done before.

If these guidelines are followed, everyone should have a fair chance to try as many sections s they wish within the allotted time. I don’t think a trials comp is likely to be a test of quantity of lines cleaned because of the limitations in building a well rounded course.

So for example, at a large competition with 50 riders and 30 lines, the course setter would need to allow some extra time, perhaps 3 to 4 hours. I think that a competition where you felt rushed just to get through the lines that you are capable of, would be one where the basic guidelines were not adhered to. Not that that’s a problem, it’s just different. If you have lots of lines and lots of riders, hopefully the comp duration is set in a realistic way. Having to rush through a course just to hit everything would seem less than ideal.

Also, if you had lots of lines of similar difficulty, or (even worse) if there were not enough hard lines of increasing difficulty, you would wind up with many riders cleaning everything and everyone tying.

At the next competition, I think it would be quite interesting to tally results both according to “traditional” u-system point assignments, and flat scores, and see what the differences are. This would be easy to do.


my opinion of the u-rating system is that it should attempt to emulate the climbong rating system and that difficulty should be reached by consensus. in montreal we set the obstacles and among the organizers disscussed the difficulties and agreed on a rating. this will never be accurate and will vary from one rider to the next. kris’ guidlines are a great start that will evolve as the system gets used. it’s gret to have a guidline as to what is generaly considered more difficult than another obstacle (and fun too, great discussions). after that, i used option two in assinging the u score as the score and it worked out well for a small event (i welcome any opinions on my assertion). i also agree with the ride-off. that’s ton’s of fun.

more two cents


There are not too many trials competitions available for riders to do but there seems to be lots of interest in doing trials competitions. One question that needs to be asked is, “How do we encourage others to hold events?” A simpler system makes it available to more event organizers. And hopefully would encourage more to do a trials comp.

To help facilitate making it easier for a non trials rider to be able to set up a trials event, I think it would be helpful to have a set of guidelines describing various lines that could be incorporated into the comp. If this guideline had the lines broken into sections similar to the U levels, it would help assure a well rounded course was built. this type of guideline would be useful for any and all types of trials systems. I believe Kris said at Motorama that he was working on something of this nature.

I could envision myself setting up and organizing a trials comp with Option 1 (and my trials skills are certainly limited). But I find the present U system a bit intimidating due to it’s complex nature. It is also more prone to being questioned by riders, although from what I’ve seen in the uni community, that seems to be a minor issue at present.

Might be useful to have a couple of options for the U system. A simple option and the more complex option. Larger events may need to use the complex option and smaller ones or ones with less experienced organizers use the simpler version. I think it’s a good idea to strive for a common “system” of doing the competitions so that regional and national events have consistency between them.

Another option for larger events is to allow the intermediate and pro riders start for the first hour and then turn the lower level riders loose for the rest of the time. This would free up some section availability for those who need to do all the lines for the top score. With this method of staggered rider release, you could still use option 1.

Fun discussion!


e) Section difficulty should correspond to the range in ability levels of the participants. The easiest sections should be cleanable by all participants after one or two attempts, and the harder sections should require multiple attempts by the best riders.

This could be a problem if I ever compete, unless the easiest section is riding down a curb.:smiley: If they require riding up a curb, I may not make it cleanly in one or two attempts. Guess I have no business competing in a trials event.

Originally posted by Billham:
>’‘There are not too many trials competitions available for riders to do but there seems to be lots of interest in doing trials competitions. One question that needs to be asked is, “How do we encourage others to hold events?” A simpler system makes it available to more event organizers. And hopefully would encourage more to do a trials comp.’’

I think the main problem for events organizers is money. For a trials competition, a relatively big course is necessairy. Add to that the possible transport of the sections, and depending on the location, renting the place needed. Assurances can also cause some problems.

Also, those unicycling events are not yet big enought to be hold independably (except for UNICONs and such). To have a good crowd, I think everyone must still work in conjonction with a related organisation (such as bike ones) to hold regionnal events.

I surely hope one day there’s gonna be some regionnal, nationnal, and maybe a world cup series. But the sport is still young compared to others.

So I think the rating system is just details for an event organizer.


This could be a problem if I ever compete, unless the easiest section is riding down a curb.:smiley: If they require riding up a curb, I may not make it cleanly in one or two attempts. Guess I have no business competing in a trials event. [/B]

Bugman, I only completed a handful of sections at Motorama and had a blast. I had a good time riding with the others, working on harder sections (hard for me!) and watching others work out the sections. The U system is a casual, informal approach to the competition that works really well for all types of riders. That is certainly one of the strengths of the system. I decided to enter the competition at Motorama just so I could ride and not just have to watch the comp. My goal was to a least come in second… second from last!

If you get a chance to do it. Go for it! And yes, the Krispy Creme training plan works well for trials also. :smiley:


I really don’t think option #1 is a good idea. It doesn’t make sense to value all lines equally, when some take much more effort and skill to clean. Plus, it isn’t that hard to rank lines by difficulty. Getting some consistency between competitions, as far as a U4 being the same in one place as another, would be nice, but its not critical. As long as things are consistent within one particular competition, it works out. Even if some things are rated weirdly, it doesn’t effect the fairness of the comp because everybody has the same chance to ride all the obstacles.

The trials comp at NAUCC 03 was set up almost entirely by teenage trials riders (specifically Max Dingmans, Joey Cohn, Ryan Atkins and myself), so it is possible to get the U-system to work without Kris around. We just walked around as a group and assigned U-values to all the lines.

There was discussion at motorama of whether the non linear point values of the U ratings made sense. In my opinion, the things for and against it are:


Makes adding up scores at the end difficult.

Makes the gap between the top riders and the almost top riders appear very large.

Gives riders lots more incentive for trying really hard to ride the most highly rated sections. A U8 (27 points) is worth more than twice as much as a U5 (13 points). If a U5 was worth 5, and a U8 was worth 8, than you’d be better of riding two U5s, than really trying to get the U8.

So basically, I think the slight inconvenience of large more complicated numbers is outweighed by the benefits.


Heres my idea for an improvement of the U system:

At the TOque games, we had so many people in such a small place that we had to run beginner, sport and expert comps at different times. Between each we basically rearranged everything, and wrote out new lines. I thought it was a huge improvement over the usually system, which forces expert riders to ride all of the beginner lines if they want to stay competitive. I really don’t think ridding beginner lines demonstrates any kind of skill for expert riders. It just takes up time. I’ve never seen beginner lines make a difference in the placement of the top riders, except in situations where some riders weren’t able to find all of the lines, or else cared more about interesting riding than scoring high. I don’t see anything to be gained by forcing people to make that choice.

I don’t think its reasonable to expect organizers to make three different courses like we did at TOque, but I think it would be worth considering creating classes in the U-system. Expert riders wouldn’t be scored for riding any lines below a U4 (this is arbitrary, I say U4 because that was the lowest rated line in the expert comp at TOque). Sport riders wouldn’t be scored for riding lines below U3. Beginners would be allowed to ride anything they want. This also doesn’t add any complications to the setup, and allows us to continue with the practice of having experts and beginners separated only on paper. (excepting special cases like TOque)

Any thoughts on this?


i think this is a good idea if there is a division between beginner, sport, and expert. i do think that everyone should be riding at the same time though. it is awesome to ride along side kris holm and all the other great riders even if you are not that great. if this was used though, i think that there should be warm up time where eperts could ride U1, U2, and U3s, and sports could ride U1 and U2 lines before the comp begins. the only problem i can see with this is if someone enters a class that is too advanced. this would make the rider aggrivated if he/she couldnt get any of the easiest lines allowed for the class. this could easily be fixed if one is allowed to change classes during the comp. also, if a sport rider got a higher score than an expert rider, shouldnt that rider be ranked higher? i think overall i prefer no classes, like motorama. as long as there is plenty of time, i dont think anyone would complain.

In practice, everybody would still be allowed to ride any sections they wanted. If a sport rider ranks with the experts, even discounting lines that experts weren’t scored for, than it would be up to the discretion of the event organizer to allow them to switch to the expert category for scoring.

Expert and Sport riders would still be allowed to ride on U1s and U2s, they just wouldn’t get any points for them. If there was a crunch for time and space, I’d say that riders who aren’t going to be scored on a section should give priority to riders who will be.


Interesting ideas. Honestly it hadn’t occurred to me that sections could not be rated and still have scores kept.

At Motorama, Toque, or the 2002 UNICON, I don’t think the top ranking would have changed if option number 1 was done, because in all cases the best rider (s) completed all the sections.

However, several points come to mind:

  1. What about cases where even the best riders don’t complete all sections? This will inevitably happen at future competitions. What if, for example, there are 30 sections and the top 2 riders both complete 25 sections, but they aren’t the same sections (ie one rider completes a section that the other can’t and also vice-versa)? You could assign a tie, but this would not consider which rider completed the hardest 25 sections.

Consequently, I do think that ratings of some sort are necessary.

  1. Secondly, another question is, what is supposed to be more important, completing all sections or completing the hardest sections. In other words, if you spend a long time working on one incredibly difficult section, and in doing so, miss several easy sections, is this worth more? I think that it is, because the competetive goal of a trials comp is to determine who is technically the best rider.

The question is, how much more is it worth?

Right now, assigned point-values are non-linear with respect to U-ratings, because, for example, doing two U4 problems is MUCH easier than doing one U8 problem, and probably shouldn’t be worth the same.

However, I do think it is too skewed at present. If you pull off a U8 problem and there’s only one of them, you automatically get so far ahead that there’s no way another rider could catch up without doing that same problem (or another equivalent problem).

That said, as long as there is plenty of time for all riders to attempt all obstacles, U-ratings could be used as point ratings.

  1. Although I say otherwise in the rules, I do think it would be interesting to try holding a comp with so many sections that it isn’t possible for everyone to do all problems in the time required. This could work in areas with abundant natural problems.

In this case, strategy would be required to pick the highest point problems you think you could do in the shortest time.

In this situation, it would be important to have a somewhat non-linear relation between U-grades and points (as per the current system) because as I said, doing one U8 problem is way more impressive and generally takes much longer than doing two U4 problems, and I think that top riders should be awarded for this.

  1. An additional reason for assigning U-ratings to problems is general education. Trials meets are one of the only places where a larger group of riders gets together and rides. For purposes of communication, it’s useful to have some way to communicate about the difficulty of problems you did back home, and how skills are progressing over time. The only way riders can consistently rate problems in different areas is if they are exposed to the ratings at one centralized place (the meet) and then go home and apply the same system in areas where they came from.

In bike trials, riders have no quantified idea of how hard people were riding 20 years ago, but in climbing, you can track the increase in riding standards since the 1950’s because climbers have a rating system describing this. It would be great if unicycling could be the same.

In conclusion, I do think that it is important to rate the problems in trials comps, as long as at least one person is there who is capable of doing it. In summary:

a) If none of the trials riders or organizers feel capable of rating problem difficulties, it is much better that no ratings be assigned than that incorrect ratings be assigned.

b) If there are sufficiently few trials problems that all riders will get ample time to attempt all of them, U-ratings can be used as point ratings. Generally speaking, this should be the case.

c) If there are more sections than can reasonably be attempted during the time frame of the competition, a point system that’s non-linear with respect to U-ratings should be used. However, probably it shouldn’t be as skewed as the current points are.

Additionally, I do think that the U-system reference table should be updated and clarified somewhat, and that there should be an expanded guidelines for course setters section in the rules, or as a separate manual. I’m working on both; any opinions on this would be much appreciated.