The 2022 New Zealand Trial Championships

 CAPTION: Christchurch’s Jules Huguenin, likely to be one of the riders to feature prominently at the New Zealand Trial Championships this Labour Weekend. Photo by Andy McGechan,

The ultimate level in the sport of motorcycle trial riding heads to the Southland region for the first time in more than 10 years when it hosts the nationals over Labour Weekend.

Run by the Pioneer Motorcycle Club, the Monteith’s-sponsored 2022 New Zealand Trial Championships – set for various venues near Alexandra over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, October 22, 23 and 24 – promises to be a stark challenge for even the most experienced of riders, although different courses are, as always, provided to suit all the various skill levels.

Sharp rocks, slippery tree roots, treacherous creek beds and steep hills … none of these obstacles are likely to get in the way of these talented bike riders.

With this branch of motorcycling sport, the emphasis is not on speed, but on fine balance, bravery and delicate throttle control.

The prime aim is to conquer the extreme terrain without touching feet on the ground or falling off. Points are lost for these “faults” and a rider with the lowest score wins.

Expert rider Jules Huguenin will be juggling his role as Motorcycle New Zealand trial commissioner with his bid to win a national title in the premier Expert Grade and he is expected to be one of the many stand-out competitors this weekend.

A couple of riders who are expected to stand in the way of his ambitions include the defending national Expert Grade champion Dylan Ball, from Porirua, and Taranaki’s evergreen Matt Foster.

Ball had been sidelined with a knee injury recently, but now, if fully recovered and fully fit, the 18-year-old will likely rate as the title favourite.

Huguenin is a former French Junior Team rider who competed in the 125cc class of the world championship during his youth and, since settling in New Zealand, he has embraced the Kiwi lifestyle, but he would like nothing better than to win a New Zealand title.

“The venues in Alexandra this weekend will be world class” said Huguenin.

“The terrain here seems to offer plenty of grip and traction and that means the obstacles will be massive. It will offer extremely good viewing for spectators. Everything the riders will face are expected to be bigger than anything they’ve seen before.

“The number of riders entered this weekend is up on what we’ve attracted in the past,” said Huguenin. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was two years ago that we were last able to run this event and on that occasion we had 60 entrants. This time around we have 95 riders lining up to compete.

“We now have a format that allows all riders a chance to win the competition overall, regardless of their skill level.

“Riders nominate themselves for a grade classification that suits their ability and they will ride the course set for that grade – Expert Grade, A Grade or Intermediate, for example. However, the easier the grade a rider chooses, the more penalty points they will accrue.

“Most riders will therefore look to enter themselves in the highest grade they can manage, hoping that they can cope with the higher difficulty of the obstacles. We believe most riders will accept the challenge of that.”

In the A Grade, it’s likely that the Hibbs brothers, Jason and Brad, from Invercargill, should be stand-outs, alongside Christchurch’s 2021 South Island champion Paul Mountstevens and multi-time former Expert Grade champion Warren Laugesen, from Hawke’s Bay.

The venues for competition at the weekend are:

Saturday: 65-69 Hawley Road, Blackmans, Alexandra 9391.

Sunday: 310 Alexandra-Fruitlands Road, Conroys Gully, Alexandra 9392.

Monday: 65-69 Hawley Road, Blackmans, Alexandra 9391.

Credit: Words and photo by Andy McGechan,