Revised Unicycle Trials Rules and Photo Library of Trials Sections

Hi All,

I’ve re-written sections of the unicycle trials rules and posted a new draft version at

There is also a link to a photo library of previously built trials sections at that URL, or it can be seen directly at

Hopefully the sections photos will be helpful for people designing sections for new comps. Anybody with good, detailed photos of cool sections, let me know and I’ll add them.

Basically the rules have been re-written to make it simpler and easier to organize and participate in unitrials comps.

These are the main changes:

  1. The method for awarding points to riders has been simplified. There is no longer a requirement to assign difficulty ratings and point values to sections. Each section is worth a single point, and the rider who completes the most number of sections wins.

The reason for this change is that the order of finishers will always be the same irrespective of the point values of sections, because the winning rider will always do the most number of sections. This means that it doesn’t matter how many points a section is worth, making section points irrelevant.

  1. I do still think it is important to rate the difficulty of sections, so that competitors can quickly decide which sections they want to try. Besides the U-system, I have added a alternative, simplified way to do this that’s based on the difficulty symbols at ski areas.

  2. The Guidelines for Course Setters section has also been expanded and revised- hopefully this will be helpful as well.

When I finish it I’ll post a set of generic “freetrials” rules for both bikes and unicycles, because ultimately I think it would be great if both biketrials and unitrials communities worked together to do some of the bigger events.


Kris Holm

Re: Revised Unicycle Trials Rules and Photo Library of Trials Sections

Nice photos! Perhaps captions with a description of the section and its U-system rating would make them even more useful. Just my 2c.

Not necessarily true! In a competition with a small number of sections a rider could concentrate on a few, high value sections and still win under the U-system ratings.

Thanks a lot, particularly for the index of photos. A link to the index will be a great addition to (for the ‘Obstacle Building’ section). I have some photos of some great sections from bike trials competitions here in Australia. I’m just trying to find where I put them. What’s the best way of getting them to you? Email or this thread?

Thanks a lot,

Edit - I found one photo (the one with the ladder). This was really fun and challenging because the rungs were too widely spaced to wedge the tyre between them (but perfectly spaced for the bikes of coruse :)). I was forced to hop on the tops.

I have more photos somewhere.

The rules look really well thought out.

I especially like the part about rock-paper-scissors (or equivalent) being used in the event of a tie.

What, exactly, is the equivalent of rock-paper-scissors?


If you have a lot of photos, the best is to post them somewhere. If it’s only one or two, then email them to me at

Re: Re: Revised Unicycle Trials Rules and Photo Library of Trials Sections

I’ll try to include a caption with at least the location, hopefully the U-rating if I know what it was or can guess at it.

You are right that a theoretically, a rider could concentrate on a few, high-value sections and still win. This was one reason that the point values were in there. The other reason was that theoretically a rider could accumulate a large number of low-point sections and win over a person who did fewer high point sections. This second scenario could happen if there were too many sections for a rider to reasonably do in the time allotted.

However, in actuality neither scenario seems to happen. I’ve never seen an event where the organizer has managed to make so many sections that you couldn’t do them in 3 hours- you’d need to build/set over 50 sections and even then, I’d be tempted to just extend the competition time so people had the opportunity to try everything. Usually it’s the opposite problem- it’s hard to make enough sections.

Also, in every event I’ve been too it has been close enough that you had to do all sections including the easy ones if you wanted to do well. Even regardless of this, the majority of riders seem to want to do all the sections they can do easily, plus as many as possible that they have trouble with.

Eliminating the point values also eliminates the last bit of subjectivity to the comps. This is important because with point values assigned, it’s possible that the best rider doesn’t win if the point values were incorrectly assigned to sections.

For example, say the organizer was great at hopping and bad at balance lines, and consequently gave hopping lines low points (ie felt they were easy) and balance lines high points. That would mean that riders who were biased in the opposite direction (bad at hopping, good at balance lines) would have an advantage in terms of collecting points. Making everything equal eliminates this possibility.


i totaly agree with the simple idea of most sections ridden. at the comp’s i’ve been to, typicaly only a couple of riders are able to complete all sections. plus, since all the nethods are unsatisfactory in some way then the easiest should be used.

however, it would be worth having a thread on the u-value of sections so that it becomes a solid consensus system. i find it super useful. a ski hill type system would be too little information. however, i’m talking as an ex-climber.

as long as there continues to be comps and great energy at them.


OK, then everyone interested in contributing to establishing a solid U-system please download the revised unitrials rules at and check out Section 15 (Guidelines for Assigning Difficulty Ratings to Sections).

It’s a lot harder to establish a solid consensus system for unitrials compared to climbing, mainly because climbing routes and boulder problems are permanent features, often described and listed in a guidebook, whereas most trials obstacles are temporary and usually never repeated except for other riders in the local area.

In the current U-system table, I attempted to provide general descriptions of minimum difficulty at each level, plus a few example obstacles. This isn’t a complete list and there’s definately room for improvement. The idea is not to make a comprehensive list, just a selection of challenges familiar to all riders, that can be used to get a “feeling” for difficulty at each grade.

Keep in mind that this is NOT a system for MUni except possibly if you wanted to rate short, trials-oriented sections of trail. For people familiar with climbing, it’s not even a good comparison to climbing grades, but does parallel bouldering grades.

Also keep in mind that the difficulty of the easiest rating, U0, is still fairly hard (ie it’s not complete beginner level), because it’s very difficult to define obstacles once they drop below a minimum threshold of difficulty. In bouldering, the easiest bouldering rating is still moderately hard by roped climbing standards.

The simplified “ski area” method is intended for people who don’t want or need to quantify difficulty to the nth degree and just want a relative, approximate, easy measure so that riders can choose which sections they want to attempt at a competiition.


Re: Re: Re: Revised Unicycle Trials Rules and Photo Library of Trials Sections

I can see that the ‘one section one point’ system would eliminate both these situations. Also it makes course setting much easier for the organisers because quantification of difficulty is not required to the nth degree. It also eliminates their own personal skill bias. These are good reasons to go with the ‘one section one point’ system.


As a course designer (well, one of a few) I found not having to go through and rate sections to be a big bonus. before Rolf mentioned the revised system, I was afriad I’d mess it up, and make some really easy section rated to a high point value. or the opposite. And it cut down on the course setting time (still, we spent about 11 hours). And it worked, Krazy karl smoked us by completing all the sections (in 40 minutes, of two hours), and I was second, with 35 of the 40. He was the clear winner. Seemed fine to me. And no one really complained, much.

Inky Binky Bonky? Bubble Gum Bubble Gum?

just a thought

in the event of a tie (much as i love the RPS plan, i can imagine the Olympic Comittee frowning on that part of the proposal…)
is it workable to take a page out of show-jumping’s book and have a timed re-run of selected* sections?
the rider with the fastest time (providing he/she is ‘Clear’) is then the winner

*i realise that the selection of these sections can become an issue
to avoid that, ‘Ride-Off’ sections can be pre-selected by the organisers (so no accusations of picking sections one or more of the riders are weak at can be made)
these sections can be marked before the start of the competition
time and logistics permitting, competitors who didn’t end up in the tie can select the sections (not particularly practical i know, i just like the idea)


With writing the trials rules my major and most important motivation is to keep a competition as similar as possible to the core values of the sport. I think this is by far the most important thing because otherwise many people won’t want to do it, and it will feel artificial. I think trials is similar to other sports like climbing and skateboarding, where some of the best athletes in the world never formally compete, and it would be cool if we can make trials comps so inclusive that they attract these people too.

On a regular ride, most people pick problems together and take turns to work on them until they get it. There’s no rules for who gets to do what, its just a group of people riding the hardest things they can. In the case of a unitrials comp, the course-setter (hopefully) creates an outrageously good version of this- with the best trials obstacles possible. Other than that you basically do what you always do- hang out in groups and try stuff. It just happens that someone is keeping track of scores.

For tiebreakers, I think the same thing should apply. Although this is a pain for organizers, I personally think that ties are OK- if the riders are happy with a tie for first, then they shouldn’t be forced to do a tiebreaker.

To conduct tiebreakers, I think that the funnest thing that’s the most close to the core values of the sport is for the tied riders to choose their own section for a tiebreaker. During a comp you often notice lines that would be cool but aren’t “official” sections, and these make for great tiebreakers. Generally, the best tiebreaker sections are really long sections, and I should add that to the rules. It doesn’t make sense to pick a single 36" sidehop as a tiebreaker, but rather a long section with easy and hard moves and lots of opportunities for little screwups to solve the tie.


I think the ties should be based more on consistency. Going with what Kris said, if they wish to have a tiebreaker, I think they should start at a certain point and do the sections. If someone doesn’t make it and the other does then the person who did obviously wins.

The only problem this would create is that one tiny mistake will cost you everything.

OK here’s the tiebreaker section re-written. I took out the tiebreaker method where riders attempt to link as many sections as possible without dismounting between sections. This doesn’t really make sense now that each section has equal value.

Tiebreaker section:

Ties are allowed. However, the riders may choose to conduct a tiebreaker. Note that this should be a decision made by the riders that have tied, not the Event Director. If one of the tied riders wants to have a tiebreaker, then a tiebreaker must be held.

The tied riders should choose the tiebreaking method. If the event is small, grassroots and non-serious, riders may just play a game of rock-paper-scissors or equivalent to solve a tie.

For a real tiebreaker, the suggested method is for the riders to create a new tiebreaker section. This section should be fairly long and test a variety of techniques. One-move tiebreaker sections are not recommended because they may be biased in favor of one rider with particular strengths. Each rider tries the section, and the number of dabs is counted. The rider who cleans the section with the least number of dabs is the winner. If more than one rider cleans the section with the same number of dabs, or no riders clean it, this process should be repeated on different sections until no ties remain.

Final rankings are calculated after the tiebreaker has been conducted. For example, if two riders tied for 1st place, the rider who loses the tiebreaker will receive 2nd place, and the former 2nd place rider will be bumped to 3rd place, and the 3rd- place rider to 4th place, and so on.

PS I totally think the rock paper scissors part should stay in there- we don’t want to make this too serious!! If riders want to each compose and sing a song and make that the tiebreaker, or whatever, I don’t really care.

You might think the rock paper scissors bit should be in, but I really think it shouldn’t. We want people to take unicycling serious, not as a clown sport or some circus thing, and our two top trials riders could decide the tie break of the biggest trials even by playing rock paper scissors? At least have a high jump competition… that’d be really quick. If it’s low key and there’s nothing to hop on to, then long jump.

Plus if two riders tie for 1st place, then the next person usually gets 3rd place going by the standard sports convention act of 1457. Well there’s actually nothing like that, but it goes that way in all sports I know.

OK I shouldn’t copy my own rules until I get my sematics right- cleaning a section and counting dabs at the same time doesn’t make any sense. Here it is again:

For a real tiebreaker, the suggested method is for the riders to create a new tiebreaker section. This section should be fairly long and test a variety of techniques; one easy way to do this is to link several course sections together. One-move tiebreaker sections are not recommended because they may be biased in favor of one rider with particular strengths. Each rider tries the section, and the number of dabs is counted. The rider who does the section with the least number of dabs is the winner. If more than one rider does the section with the same number of dabs, this process should be repeated on different sections until no ties remain.


I suggest you reword it so it says:

…The rider who exits the section…


…If more than one rider completes the section with the same number…

the words “exits” and “completes” could be used interchangably. I just thought that “does” sounds weird.


p.s. I like the compose/sing a song even better than RPS.

Good point about the 1st,1st, 3rd convention; I had left it out because it’s normal practice not just related to trials comps.

Ryan Atkins and I used rock-paper-scissors as a tiebreaker at Motorama this year and it certainly didn’t diminish people’s respect for the sport. Obviously you can’t decide a national or world champion by this method, but sometimes people get so wrapped up in competing and it’s cool to have a sport with something non serious in the rules to keep things in perspective.


since when does deciding a competition have anything to do with clowning or circus? i’ve never even heard of a clown sport.

last i checked, clowning and circus arts are extreamly seriouse pursuits. i realize that this is not your point but if unitirials were as seriouse as clowning or circus and managed to gain that recognition then the activity would be jacked to a whole new level. as it stands we have a really neat mysterious kinda underground activity.

just a thought,