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Meet Borys Zagrocki

You may have seen two-time Australian Elite Trials Bike Champion bouncing off all sorts of obstacles around town, attracting a respectful audience as he hops over rocks, seats, walls and cars. We caught up with him to find out about the gutsy sport of trials, how Borys got into it and his tips for others brave and skilled enough to give it a go.

Pssst: You can see Borys in action from Tuesday, July 7 to Friday, July 10 at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. For more information, see below.

“It can be a bit scary sometimes. You have to start small, know your limits, your bike and the terrain”

What’s trials riding in a nutshell? Basically in competitive trials you have to negotiate different obstacles (rocks, pallets, rails, walls, logs, cars, etc) without putting your foot down. Only tyres are allowed to touch the ground: Not even a pedal. You don’t have to be the fastest rider on the sections, but there is a time limit you have per section and an overall cut-off time for the comp. The rider with less penalty points wins!

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What skills are involved? Basic mountain bike skills are handy, and then you might want to invest some time in training your balance, bike coordination and concentration.

How are trials bikes different from a regular mountain bike? The first thing you notice is that they don’t have a seat! The way we jump and tuck the bike under our body makes sense not to have it — it’s basically in the way and it’s an extra weight you have to carry. The brakes are very strong and squeaky — we need that instant lock, so we use an angle grinder to roughen-up the rim’s braking surface. The rear rim and tyre are quite wide, which gives us more grip and absorbs the impact on bigger jumps. Trials bikes don’t have gears or suspension either: The lighter, smaller and stiffer the bike is, the better.

“A strong and flexible body helps you to become a better rider, but also reduces the risk of injuries”

How did you get into the sport? I used to race XC [mountain bike Cross Country] back home in Poland. During one of the events I watched some dude doing quite impressive things on this funny-looking seatless bike. I thought, ‘I’ll give it a go’, and I did! Until my mountain bike broke and it was time for my first proper trials bike (thanks to Mum). I was 15 years old then. Oh, and ‘that dude on the funny bike’ was Tomas Wozniak: Top Polish rider and World and European Cup medallist. We became pretty good mates.

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Jumping over all those big obstacles looks scary — how do you build up the confidence to do it? Yeah, it can be a bit scary sometimes. You have to start small, know your limits, your bike and the terrain. I always check obstacles before I ride them to make sure they’re stable, strong, grippy enough, etc. It’s good to practise big/difficult moves on a bit safer stuff before you try it on big heights.

What’s the most challenging obstacle you’ve tackled? That’s a really hard question! A hard obstacle doesn’t have to be huge to be difficult to get over — it can be slippery or really technical, or a nasty shape. Let’s say there have been a good few along the way.

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Any big stacks? Luckily I’ve been pretty lucky with injuries. I guess in this sport there’s no speed that can seriously hurt you. I did hurt my ribs and hamstring early this year, and — to top it off — my calf muscle just four weeks before National Champs! Other than that, only a few cuts and bruises.

How did you go in the National Championships? I finished sixth. I guess it’s not bad being sixth in Australia, but I was aiming for a bit better result. The injury didn’t bother me in the end — I was off the bike for only two weeks. A couple of silly mistakes on the day cost me a lot, but, oh well, that’s what sport is all about I guess.

What’s your biggest achievement to-date? Definitely winning the Australian Elite title in 2010 and 2012! I won overall National Elite Cup in 2013 as well.

Borys1Goals for this year? Keep improving, stay out of injuries and promote trials as a sport here in North Queensland.

What are your tips for others wanting to get into the sport? Always wear a helmet! You can start on normal mountain bike — it’s all about having fun, so just go with it. If you want to learn more YouTube is always good to look up different techniques; otherwise just hit me up if you see me practising around town. You might get to the point where, to keep improving, you need a proper trials bike. After all, they’re designed and made to make it easier and safer.

How do you train? Do you cross-train doing anything else? Other than the trials bike, I do a bit of mountain biking, core exercises, stretching and power lifting. A strong and flexible body helps you to become a better rider, but also reduces the risk of injuries. The key in this sport is to have fast twitch muscles, but at the same time your endurance must be good.

Borys4How often do you train a week? On average I ride trials four days a week, do weights twice a week, core five days a week and stretch every day. Having an obstacle course in my front yard and weights at home makes it much easier though.

Has this sport allowed you to travel all over the world? For sure! I’ve performed in Ireland and South Korea, and all over Australia. I’ve made some awesome friends, seen some amazing places and have enjoyed some good food.

Last words? I would like to thank to my six-year-long sponsor Expressive Bikes for their awesome support and the effort they’ve put into building up trials community in Australia, plus my friends and my workplace Cycle de Vie. I have some big shows coming up in and around town and other projects I’m working on, so keep an eye out. See you on the bike!

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Get involved

You can see Borys in action this school holidays at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Borys is doing gravity-defying demos in the Great Gallery as part of the Museum’s Wicked Wild Sports holiday program. He’ll be there from Tuesday, July 7 to Friday July 10 at 10am and 12pm. For more information see here.

Otherwise, if you’re keen on giving trials a go or having trials performance as a part of your event, contact Expressive Bikes or Borys directly.

If you’re interested in bikes in general, the Museum of Tropical Queensland has the Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia touring exhibition from Saturday, June 27 to Monday, October 5, which captures the essence of cycling history across 10 themes. For more information see here.

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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