When: July 5, August 5 & September 13
Location: The Downs at Santa Fe
Purchase Tickets by phone at 1-800-587-2240
One day: $10
Both days: $15
Entry fee includes unlimited scenic chairlift rides. Kids 12 and under are free.
Albuquerque resident Rachel Hassler isn’t like most 18-year-olds. While her friends may be thinking about summer movies, vacations and carefree days away from school, Rachel is thinking about one thing only: how to win a national motorcycle championship.
On August 3-4, the AIReS American Motorcyclist Association-North American Trials Council MotoTrials 2013 National Championship will take place at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort, located on Highway 518 and 20 miles south of Taos.
The nation’s best riders will compete in this event, and if Rachel snags first place, she’ll be the youngest female ever to do so, said New Mexico Trials Association past president, Chris Johnson.
“In New Mexico, we don’t have a Major League baseball team, we don’t have a professional basketball team, but we do have absolute national-level trials competitors,” he said. “At this event, you’ll see the absolute best riders in the country, and you don’t get a chance to see that everyday.”
The MotoTrials 2013 National Championship is like the Grand Prix of motorcycle racing, although in this competition, the fastest rider doesn’t get first prize. Unlike motorcycle racing or motocross, moto (or observed) trials are not about speed. Instead, trials are all about precision and technique, said Sipapu managing partner and trials rider Bruce Bolander.
“Trials events are not a race,” he explained. “They are a slow-speed, controlled balance and agility event done on a motorcycle.”
Motorcycle trials use specialized bikes to ride over seemingly impassable terrain, including vertical climbs, boulder gardens, massive logs and tricky off-camber descents. Riders are scored on their ability to navigate the courses without having to put down their feet.
With the nimble motorcycles weighing in at 150 pounds or less and featuring a very high ground clearance, minimal fuel capacity and no seat, trials bikes are highly maneuverable and fun to watch, said Bolander.
“Seeing the agility of these riders and their bikes is absolutely amazing,” Bolander said. “At the trials events, you get to see things that you just don’t think a motorcycle is supposed to do, like jump four feet in the air.”
The New Mexico Trials Association is a strong one, Johnson explained, and he expects Rachel along with her older brother, Nathan, age 20, to do well.
“The Hasslers have been competing as a family since they were kids,” he said. “The kids have been involved since they were five years old. Now they’re running over the rest of us – it’s like we’ve got tire tread on our backs. They’re some of the top riders in the nation.”
“I’ve had a lot of help,” Rachel admits when she discusses her success. “My parents have given me a lot of opportunities to ride with really great riders. Plus, the local people are always out there giving me tips or spotting me.”
Clearly, she’s been listening to others’ advice. Her national titles include 2012 Eastern and Western Women’s Champion and 2012 Women’s Support Champion. She was the 2012 New Mexico Trials Association (NMTA) Expert Champion. She is the highest-ranking woman in the history of NMTA was also crowned champion in the women’s open division at the East Youth Championship in July 2013.
Nathan (along with another Albuquerque standout, Samuel Fastle) will compete in the expert division, the class just below the professional division. Rachel will compete in the expert sportsman class, the highest level available this year in the women’s division.
“Both Nathan and Rachel have done a great job of balancing school and this huge hobby,” said the siblings’ mother, Lauri Hassler. “It’s something we’ve done as a family and it’s a sport that’s all about family.”
Johnson pointed out that the sport – even at a national level – is attractive to many participants and spectators because it’s remarkably family-friendly.
“Kids grow up watching their parents, and the sport is designed so that the family can be involved,” he explained. “Plus, the competitors are very friendly and very helpful, and there are classes for kids starting at ages 3 or 4 all the way up to 70 year-olds.”
Rachel agrees that family has been an important part of her success.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to beat my dad, and my brother helps push me,” she said. “Now, when I think about riding, I know I’ll never quit. I may ride a little less, but I will always ride.”
The AIReS American Motorcyclist Association-North American Trials Council MotoTrials 2013 National Championship will take place August 3-4 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost for entry is $10 for one day or $15 for both days, and the entry fee includes unlimited scenic chairlift rides. Kids 12 and under are free.