AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame | Where Heroes Live On
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Wiltz Wagner


Founded Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Trials Association Founded North American Trials Council 2005 Inducted into NATC Hall of Fame

Since the 1960s, Wiltz Wagner has been deeply involved in the sport of observed trials, first as a fierce competitor and, later, as an unwavering advocate who helped gather scattered groups of enthusiasts and clubs into a cohesive national organization.
Living in Denver, Wagner was first attracted to motorcycles as a way to explore the mountain trails. But competitive riding was not his first choice as an outlet for his sporting desires.
He tried target pistols, martial arts and fencing, but each of those disciplines disappointed him in one way or another.
“I was looking for something to compete with, something sporting,” he said. Then he saw an observed trials.
“It looked like something I could do,” Wagner said. “I said, ‘Give me a bike. I think I can ride better than that guy.’”
He started with a 175cc Kawasaki Bushwacker, “which was quite a challenge to ride in trials.” Then Wagner bought a Montesa Cota.
“I loved the people, and I thought the sport was fascinating,” Wagner said. “That became it for me. I never did any of the other things [competitive sports] again.”
At 28, Wagner was starting in trials at an age when many top competitors retire.
“I had a lot of catching up to do,” he said. “The riders who started out as kids were wired differently. They could watch someone do something on the course, then use it right away. It took me weeks to do that.”
So, Wagner dedicated himself to the task. He trained four hours a day after work and spent weekends on his bike. He got up for 5 a.m. workouts.
“The competition became a measuring stick for how well the practice was going,” he said.
Eventually, Wagner and a few of his fellow Colorado riders began traveling to California and other states to compete in trials events. And they began to see the potential for more organization on a state—and even national—scale.
Wagner formed Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Trials Association, one of the oldest AMA-chartered trials clubs in America. The club is run by a steering committee that talks things through to reach a decision. There are no officers and no elections, Wagner said.
When Wagner left Colorado in 1985, after 25 years in the state, the RMTA had more than 225 members and put on 30 to 40 events a year.
Outside of Colorado, the trials community supported large events in Southern California, Texas and Michigan.
In 1973, Dick Debolt and the Michigan-Ontario Trials Association staged a two-day North American Trials Championship. Wagner was there.
“We saw that people were ready to travel to compete,” Wagner said. “Debolt showed that it could work.”
So, Wagner started putting together a list of all the trials clubs in the country and collected their membership rosters.
“That was the key,” he said. “Once you had the lists, you could reach out to the members.”
That outreach was the genesis of the North American Trials Council.
In 1974, the NATC put on nine events. In 1975, The Rhode Island Trials Club worked with Wagner and the NATC to host the first World Trials Championship in New England.
For the past 46 years, the NATC series, sanctioned by the AMA, has crowned the sport’s national champion.
Wagner was inducted into the NATC Hall of Fame in 2005 for his contributions to trials.
But he has competed and won in other disciplines, including drag racing, ice racing and land-speed racing where he, his late wife and his daughter hold more than 50 records.
Wagner said his selection for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame was somewhat of a surprise, because “trials is not a front-and-center sport.”
“It’s a hall of fame, and you don’t get a lot of fame if you are hiding in the woods with a bunch of your friends riding motorcycles,” he said. “But I am over the moon. This honor shines a spotlight on this sport.”