The wind whirs through the wheels, the sun is sparkling on his frames. While looking to the ground, Martin rides slowly towards the wall clutching the handle bar tight. Suddenly, the muscles of his upper arm contract, a jolt goes straight through his body, lifts him up and for seconds he seems to be floating.
Shortly after, the rear wheel hits the edge of the concrete step. He freezes. Like a horseman Martin remains for a few seconds in a triumphant pose. With a smirk he circles the obstacle once again, then turns around quickly while riding away before he starts looking for the next challenge.
Martin Pretorius is a trail biker. He started very early during his childhood in Pretoria, South Africa – a town that can often be very sticky due to its low-lying geographic position. This might be one of the reasons for his stamina since his way of finally ending up in Berlin has been a very hard one. He started his career on an old girls’ bike which was perfectly suitable to be used as a trail bike due to its size. The frame of his first trial bike was hanging on the wall of his room for three months before he considered trying it out. Many bikes and stopovers all over the world later, Martin currently lives in Berlin where we met up to capture his incredible talent and skills with LUUV.
What’s the difference between a trail bike and a normal bike?
Well! It has changed a lot over the years. I started out on a normal cross country mountain bike witch was huge and not really built for riding trials. But the most obvious difference is the low slung frame of a trials bike to give you space to maneuver your body around the bike. A lot of them are designed without a seat or a seat post these days - once again for maneuverability purposes. The Gearing of these bikes are also very light so you can get up onto obstacles I wouldn’t suggest riding the” tour de france” on one of these. Wide handlebars, broad rims with big holes to save weight, and rigid forks, that’s a Trials bike.
How important has trial biking become for you?
Trials has become a lifestyle for me - a way of living. It changed my perspective on how I see every day objects, for example: park benches hand railings, rocks, power boxes – any thing really. To other people its everyday objects and it goes by unnoticed. I see a piece of art coming alive right in front of me when I look at it. I’ve become so obsessive with riding my bike in strange ways, that even when I’m without my bike I find myself walking past things and picturing myself on my bike riding these things (obstacles). Trials for me has become a way of express myself. It’s a really healthy sport but I see it more as an art form than a sport. The exercise is an extra benefit.
Which aspect about trial biking inspires you the most?
I would say the creativity behind it. You have say for example 5 obstacles and a thousand ways to make your way over or/and around them! Your own mind and Physical ability are the only things that can hold you back. Sometimes you would be out on the bike and make a mistake that leads you into another idea, or open up another possibility that you didn’t think of before! Sometimes doing something you haven’t done before can give you a real adrenalin rush or, nailing a difficult trial for the 1st time after trying it more than 50 times can be really rewarding.
What are particular challenges when trial biking?
It’s overcoming an obstacle and in some cases not just overcoming the obstacle but how you concurred it. It’s all about making it look easy and as smooth as possible, aggressive but light as a feather at the same time “Smooth like a butterfly, sting like a bee !” It’s got a lot to do with problem solving! Some obstacles throw you of like a horse gone mad! A bit of planning and changing your approach can concur the beast.
How did you explore trial biking for yourself?
I was always riding my bicycle to school and back, and after a while I started mountain biking with friends, but it wasn’t until I saw a guy called Petr Kraus on TV that I said “Wow, that looks awesome - I have to learn to do that”! After Petr I got inspired by so many other riders that I ended up spending most of my time in parks, trying to ride my bike over park benches, rocks and wooden logs more and more. I started mountain biking less and less and riding trials more and more.
Is there a place where you would love to ride someday?
I just got back from Spain seeing some of the most awesome obstacles and lines to be ridden that I’ve ever seen in my life! Another amazing spot would be the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Sorry no disrespect, but if you see these massive concrete slabs they’re just begging to be ridden.
Is there something you’d you like to try out someday?
There’s not any specific thing I would like to try but I would definitely like to put a road trip together with some of my favourite trials riders. In a group the creativity can reach an insane level! Every one inspire each other to go bigger smoother and more ridiculous through watching each other ride. It’s like a friendly competition. You don’t want to end up pulling the loser tricks of the day. That’s when you start pulling things out of the “magic-hat” that you never knew you had in there before.
What has been your most fascinating experience until now?
Probably the time I was living in England. The thing that made it special was meeting a lot of my Trial Hero’s and actually riding with them. A lot of them were my childhood heroes whom I read so much about. Another Experience I will never forget is entertaining people in trial demo’s back in South Africa and in England. It’s nice entertaining people and hearing them take a deep gulp of air, thinking you might hurt yourself.
What’s the trial bike scene like in Germany?
To be honest, I don’t really have to much contact with the trials scene here in Germany. I’m a bit more of a lone rider most of the time. I have a few friends who go out with me for a day of riding laughing and fun in the sun. What I have noticed about the German Trials scene is that lots of the Germans focus there riding towards competition style riding, which I find from a creative point of view a bit too restrictive. But that’s just silly me!
Which development do you hope for to happen in the future?
Oh! I hope that in the future Doctors will be able to regrow new legs, backs and arms. So I can still ride trials when I turn 80 years old or something that reverses the ageing process.
Assuming you wouldn’t be able to ride a trial bike ever again – what would you do?
That’s hard to say. I’m such a hyper-active person that I can’t imagine myself sitting around doing nothing. If I can still move my limbs I will continue playing my drums (I’m playing drums when I’m not riding my bike). But to answer the question, I will probably find something to keep me busy, but I will miss trials dearly if it’s taken away from me!
Have you experienced problems when filming Trials?
I Do! When we’re out riding we have guys with cameras but everyone wants to ride instead of filming. Getting stable footage is another problem. The biggest problem is finding people to film you. This was a dream come true teaming up with LUUV and making a video. It’s something I always had in the back of my mind but never knew the people to help me realize such a project. I hope there’s going to be more to come.
Which aspect does one have to pay attention to when filming Trial Biker?
I think the most important thing when it comes to the filming of trials is to give the viewer a good perspective of the obstacles we ride. The height, the distance of the gaps and just having a creative eye. In so many videos the perspective of a move gets lost in translation because the camera was too close to the rider or too far or even the angle can make a big difference. And then having a steady hand like I said makes it look so much more professional. That’s where LUUV comes in to play. Thanks!