Whats Wrong with NATS rules

After using NATS rules at motorama this weekend, I dont really see what the problem is for uni riders using it. I think its possible to dab (plant one foot) and the only real problem I can see is the crossing the center line of the bike (uni) on pedal grabs.

The U system seems to be good aswell, but i personally like competing at the same time as bike trails riders. If Uni Trials and Bike Trials are going to co exist in competition We should try to develop rules that both can use. This works with the U System, but I can see potential problems with it as well. With Unlimited trys at an obsical at a large Trials event This could cause long lines for runs worth more points.

At Motorama there was a problem with Riders bunching up at the harder sections, After about half way through the competition they allowed the sections be be run out of order. Riders could only do each section 3 times there. So if riders were able to do a section more I think the lines would be even worse. In addition if everytime someone falls they have to go back to start a section over agian in order to get points for it you would have many more people that can not finnish sections. Bikers frequently dab 1 or 2 times but still are able to finnish a section. If they were unable to dab, they would have to ride sections more often and lines for sections would be quite large in big events.

After watching the pros stratodab I dont think I even have a problem with that. What if something is too hard and the only way (even the best riders) can get up it is by dabing and pulling themselfs up the obsical. At Motorama there was a trailer section that I believe only 1 rider made it through cleanly and everyone else had to use a stratodab to get up a difficult section. It can be used for cheap boaring riding and I saw that being done too, But it seemed that the people doing this were not in contention to win and if you could make it over an obsical people went for it.

So why the push to use the U system over NATS. The u system promotes good riders to go big. But the NATS rules promotes consitancy in all of your runs. Right now I think a slightly modified Nats system is the way to go with Unicycle. Next week I’ll get to ride with the Usystem so perhaps I will change my mind…


Apart from maybe using their hand, how would a unicyclist dab? And also, what’s stratodabbing? I agree with what you’re saying about the lines although I’ve never whitnessed a bike or uni trials competition.


I was able to dab quite often when I fell by landing on 1 foot and not putting the other foot down and staying on the uni partially.

As long as both feet arnt on the ground at the same time you can mount back on your uni and continue a run counting as 1 dab.

Your hand hitting the ground for balance is 5 points though.

I saw many occasions where people dabbed but then not realizing they could remount put their other foot down. It deffenatlly is possible for unicycles to dab. Getting on can be tricky but its possible.

Strat-o-dabs are when you use a dab for stratigic purposes. So you take the points for 1 dab vr falling and getting a 5 on the section. I dont like it in most situations, but sometimes stuff is too hard for even the best riders in the world.

Okay, that makes sense. Thanks.

Re: Whats Wrong with NATS rules

I don’t like the NATS rules for several reasons. My biggest problem is the basic premise. With NATS, the question is how little can you mess up. With the U-system, the question is how big can you go. NATS rules encourage conservative riding, which will not help the sport grow.

The concept of dabs in a competition is a little weird to me. When I’m out riding, I’m not satisfied that I can ride a line until I can ride it without dabbing. It’s useful when your practicing to continue where you left off when you fall rather than starting over, but I don’t see a place for that in competition. Either you can ride it or you can’t.

The dab problem is most apparent with stratodabs. When your allowed to negotiate obstacles using your feet rather than your wheels, it makes you wonder what the competition is about. It was very disappointing to see even the best pro bike trials riders using stratodabs to get through the harder obstacles.

As far as lines for obstacles go, in my somewhat limited experience U-system comps have much shorter waits. At Motorama, we where regularly waiting 20 minutes or more for each section. Part of the problem there was that there where less sections than was planned, due to a truck of supplies not showing up. But even with the planned 6 sections rather than the 5 that where there, the lines would still be very long. At the U-system competition at UNICON, I never waited in a line longer than a couple minutes.

My conclusion is that at events run by unicyclists, we should use the U-system. We should still use the NATS rules at bike competitions because It’s not practical to use a different set of rules at there event.

I just want to say that despite my feelings about the NATS rules, Motorama was an awesome event. I think everybody had fun, and there was a lot of good riding to be had. The bike guys where incredible also, at least when they weren’t stratodabing. I’m planning to go to more bike trials comps like that, and I’d recommend it to anyone else considering going.


I’d have to suggest not judging which is better before you’ve competed in an event with U-level rules Mike. i.e. next weekend in Toronto (It’s going to be so much fun)
While the NATS rules are definately reasonable and were better to use since we we’re competing with bikes at Motorama, I think the U-levels are more suited to unicycling.
I agree with Ben about the strato-dabs being kinda weak. On several obstacles I suppose I could have done one and finished a section with a point or two rather than going for a jump I can’t make and 5-ing the section, but you’re not accomplishing anything by doing that. Its not fun, its boring to watch, and you’re not pushing your limits.
I’m interested to see how the U-rules work in practice inext weekend. See everybody there.

I tried to stratodab on one section to no avail. For bicyclists I think the format is very good. Placing lots of pressure on you and really pushing to show how consistant you can ride. For unicyclists, I think it really tends to polarize the scores. I felt like, as some of you mentioned, I couldn’t really let it rip and see how I could do on the sections. I rode tight as a result and my performance was not as good as I feel I am capable of doing. I was anxious to get back on the sections after and try them for real. But then Mr. happy pants and his forklift jacked them all up right away (I understand why, it’s just unfortunate). Anyway, with the U system, it would be possible to have like a dozen sections. They could be bult much faster to build, because you wouldn’t have to really try and and make like 4-6 sections that spreads a diverse collection of riders into a score from -5 - 30. With more sections there would be less waiting. People would probably also ride faster since there is less pressure. I of course haven’t ridden in this format, but it is very similar to a climbing competition.

Another format with climbing is that you get points from one to ten based on how far you get through the section before you dump it. This is sort of neat because you could make the section progressively harder and it would not polarize the scores as badly as NATS. You would keep the pressure of an “onsight” every try counts atmosphere. Sometimes at motorama, I knew I had no chance of getting the section so I lost a lot of motivation to really try and get parts of the section I knew I could do, because I was sure I would get smacked down a few moves later. This format could work pretty smoothly on bike sections as follows. You start with 5 points. If you make it through the first few moves, you are down to like 3. After getting to another point you have say one point. If you make it out of the section then you cleared it. This would be pretty easy to score for bike observers (give them some credit), it would still allow us to fraternize with bike trialsists (I don’t think they would look down their nose, more then one mentioned to me that they thought it really sucked that we couldn’t dab on anything), And it would keep people like me really motivated to get further into a hoplessly impossible section to clear.

Anyway, I would be happy to use any format. I think they are all fair, and lead to helping to develop different aspects of riding. I did enjoy riding and talking with the bike trialsists. And really enjoyed meeting all of you. Hope to see yo all soon.

For those of us that did not go to Motorama, What does NATS stand for?

Of the few unicycle Trials competitions I’ve been to, easily my favorite was the big one at UNICON last summer. A huge array of sections, with something for everyone. I thought this was the most appropriate presentation for that type of group; a group of expert riders who mostly did not have previous Trials experience.

I enjoyed it partly because I was able to have success on a number of sections. The same was not true at MUni Weekend in Santa Cruz last fall, where most of the challenging sections involved jumping to heights slightly higher than I was able or willing to go, which put a big limit on the amount of sections I was able to do.

I only competed in the tradiditional (NATS?) format rules twice, at NUC and MUni Weekend in 1999. I think if we’d had the same number of riders at NUC '99 as we did at UNICON 11, it would have taken several days to get through the competition. Each rider took a lot of time on each section. Those were longer, more complicated sections, so that has to be considered as well.

Another reason I think Kris chose the U system was ease in judging. Putting on a competition involves more than just doing what’s fun for riders. It also has to be able to be carried off within your limitations of manpower. If you need more people than you have, you can’t do it. You also have to fit your time constraints, as well as, hopefully, provide something that’s fun for spectators to watch.

NATS stands for North American Trials series (a short way to refer to the official bike trials rules). I agree with what Ben said. My 2 cents:

  1. Dabbing/Stratodabbing IMO, is much more questionable on uni than on bike. In the future, I would propose that unicyclists competing under NATS agree to avoid them.

  2. There was a wide range of skills at Motorama - a beginner and advanced course might have worked if we had more time and experience, and if the overall setup had run more on schedule.

As for dabs, a uni doesn’t have a center line the way a bike does. This is a very grey area. I noticed at Motorama that some of the really great bike trials guys had to stratodab in a few places. They had no choice in order to maintain a competitive score. Even in the most precarious moments, they kept as much as a toe across the center line of the frame.

On Uni, if you go down on one foot, the uni just sort waggles around in your hand in front of you and you look silly at this point for continuing. You could claim that you are straddling it, but this is really impossible to judge. Taken to the extreme, you could dismount, hop up three feet landing on the other foot and remount, but this would be ridiculous.

No offense to those who dabbled in dabs - it was all a big, fun experiment. Some of the riders intentionally dabbed because they knew they were not ready for the obstacle. They could see that there was no way they would clean it.

If I had tried, I could easily have avoided some of my UPDs with stratodabs, or even unintentional dabs. This would have given me a more favorable score. But I would have felt real cheap doing it, and I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun because I wouldn’t have been trying nearly as hard. I cleaned the roof of the car 2 out of 3 times - I had no idea whether I would make it. I really surprised myself under pressure and I learned something about myself, so I’m glad I tried.

I would like to see Muni riders competing under NATS rules to just agree not to dab in the future. One foot down = 5 points. Along with this agreement though, there would have to be a push to make sure that the course has something for everyone. The skill range at Motorama was wide enough that some could clean sections easily, while others had a pretty tough time.

The setup at Motorama got behind schedule and we had a tough time simply defing the single course. With more time, resources, and experience, we could have set up a full fledged Uni section with a wider range of challenges. As it was, we created two very good Uni specific sections and did two laps on them. In retrospect, maybe we could have run these sections “U-style” and simply treated them as negative lines.


ohhh… the toque games are donna be soooo fun!
That reminds me, i should go downstairs and build some more stuff. Any ideas for obstacles?



Good strong teeter-toters. Lots of teeter-toters are too wimpy for unicycles and break (usually right at the pivot point). Unicycles tend to slam teeter-toters down hard when they ride over the pivot area. Unicycles are more destructive on the teeters than bikes are. Unicyclists need to learn to pause at the pivot point and allow the teeter to drop slowly instead of just slamming it to the ground (easier said than done).

Teeters are fun.

Wish I could justify going to the toque games. Sounds like fun.


Aside from the centerline problem, it is also clear that dabbing on a unicycle is not the equivalent of dabbing on a bike. On a bike it’s real easy to put one foot down, and it’s not as easy to stratodab. On a unicycle it’s the other way around.

Based on this, the bike scoring system is not very appropriate for unicycles. Add to that the centerline problem, and you have a set of rules that at least requires modification for it to work for unicycles.

I’m assuming the centerline thing states that the rider can’t be totally to one side of the bike at any time. If that’s the case, then it definitely needs to be addressed in some other way to be meaningful for unicycles. As Joe said, twisting the uni to the side should not make or break you when doing a stratodab.

And as far as that goes, if stratodabs are allowed, people are going to use them. You win by getting the most points, and doing whatever is legal to get you there. The philosophy of the event is secondary to that. So the philosophy should determine the rules first, not ask us to ignore them later.

In my 20 year involvement with unicycling rules, I’ve come to see it like this. The rules are laws, and the competitors (and their parents/coaches) are lawyers. Rules need to be clear and specific. When making rules, think of every possible way a person may try to sneak around them. If it’s airtight, you have a good, workable rule. Referees or judges are only the last link in the chain, and should not have to interpret too much.

This will work if it’s specified in the rules. Otherwise it will not work at all. People will use every legal advantage available to them to win the contest. That’s what contests are all about. Either the NATS rules will work for unicycles, or they won’t. Or at least won’t work well. It sounds to me like at least some modifications are needed to apply the bike rules to unicycles and keep it in the same ‘spirit’ of difficulty.