Yeah, Chris, in america a bike is what you ride when your car is broke and you gotta go more than 1/2 block but less than 2 blocks. Us americans are lazy speciaists. If there a PhD in lazy we'd be a country of scholars, well, maybe not, cause it would actually take getting off the couch to go get the PhD.
But yeah, I've run across people that recognize trials quite often. Mostly, the people who recognize trials are motocrossers who know about mototrials and biketrials as a trianing aid for moto, or xc geeks who think trialsers are gods cause we can balance without falling over.
The most amazing thing that ever happened was a non-rider seeing my bike and recognizing it as a trials bike without me riding.
But yeah, exposure and also attitude towards someone doing something different. I remeber when i was a kid of maybe 13 or 14 i asked my LBS for info on trials and trials bikes. At that point i have only heard of it and saw a few small vid clips on TV of ppl hopping around. I asked my LBS for "those bikes with the bashguard" and they said "oh, trials, you don't want one, they break easy, and they're crap, blah blah, blah, so i kinda forgot about trials and got another BMX.
Thing is, after i got my BMX i started unknowingly doing trials on it, stuff like sidehopping, back and front hopping, lots of rocking and pivoting, and stuff like that, and had i had a trials bike, i prolly would be a trials veteran now with 14 years of experience.
I've been thinking about all kinds of ways to give trials publicity and public visibility. If anyone wants to do something with this, let me know, i'll help and contribute. If i had the money, i'd buy 1/2 dozen trials bikes, a trailer with a portable trials course, and print a bunch of information to hand out and travel all over setting up whereever i can and doin demos inviting ppl to try trials in an introduction seminar type environment.
I'n currently writing a book for complete beginners through intermediate riders dealing with all aspects (aside from comps) of trials riding. I also hope one day to begin a technical riding school, where riders of all kinds can come and learn basic trials techniques and technical bikehandling skills to apply to mtb and BMX, and also for trials riders to come and train in an environment where the focus is on fun and progression, not winning comps.
I think that's part of the problem, is that because there is a lack of comps, many people think trials bikes are essentially useless. Trials needs to acquire a public image that what we do is not to win comps, but to have fun.