World Champion bike trials rider Thomas F. Oehler showed off various tricks, flips and jumps to WSU students around the campus Tuesday and Wednesday.
Oehler has been riding for 16 years. He won the Austrian championship in 2000 and took that title five more times, becoming European Champion in 2006 and World Champion in 2008, according to Red Bull's website.
One of Oehler’s favorite achievements, however, involved breaking the world record for highest bicycle wall climb, he said. Oehler cleared a 9-foot-5.9-inch wall on Aug. 7.
While at WSU, Oehler mostly engaged in bike tricks that required volunteers, dancing over the heads of victims that he had laid on the ground with his bike.
“All the stuff to do with volunteers is pretty simple,” he said.
Oehler also described America as one of the best places for stunt or trial bike riding, he said. Oehler particularly liked Pullman because of the really big hills, ledges and flat stones that are good for tricks.
Oehler also did a trick in Kuwait, jumping between open pickup trucks in a traffic jam, but described the experience as pretty lame. The trucks were barely even moving, he said.
He said his favorite experience in a performance of trial bike riding happened during a desert rock concert by Incubus and Iron Maiden in Dubí, Czech Republic.
Oehler quit competing after winning the World Championship in 2008 and will not be returning to it, he said. The sport has changed a lot since he won his last competition.
More static bike riding occurs now than street trials in competitions, he said. In a static trial, a biker would just jump up a ledge, but in a street trial they would have to ride toward the ledge, jump the ledge and keep riding. Oehler said he misses the fluidity of street trials.
The World Championship consists of three trials that in 2008 took place in Spain, France and Japan, and based on those scores a winner is selected, he said.
Also, Oehler quit so that he could get his bachelor's in sport science. Training and competing took so much time away from his studies that in Austria what is usually a two-year process took him six years to complete.
Oehler’s father was a rally driver and a big influence on him.
“In Austria we call it racing blood. He’s a competitive guy and he passed it onto me,” he said.
At the age of two his father gave him his first bike. Although it was too big for him, Oehler still enjoyed messing around on it, he said.
Later in life, he competed with friends, he said. Eventually he began serious competitions and then started doing shows and demonstrations until he became a professional. He never planned on becoming a successful trial bike rider, it just happened through a gradual process, he said.
Despite the pressure of competitive racing, Oehler said he still maintained a good childhood. It was really exciting to get to travel around the world and he still always had time to spend time with his friends, he said.
In the future Oehler would like to race world record track and field athletes with his bike.
F. Michelle Richardson, clinical assistant professor of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology, teaches a sports marketing class and had Oehler come to her class to speak to her students at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
“I wanted my students to think about athletics at a global level and get them to think about sports other than football, basketball and baseball,” she said.
It is relatively easy to market toward the big three sports, but if someone can market for a form athletics that is practically unknown, they can market for anybody, she said.