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Thursday, June 16, 2016

BikeTrial Tutorial 1 - Track Stand

In this tutorial, we will explore the various ways to learn the age-old track stand. The track stand is used in all types of biking styles and disciplines ranging from regular cycling, technical mountain biking, BMX flatland, cross-country, etc. It is one of the most useful biking skills that can be used anywhere anytime.

In BikeTrials, the track stand is one of the most crucial skill to master. At any time, you may be required to track stand on or between ledges, rocks, water features, planks, logs, etc. It is the first step in mastering the art of BikeTrials.

Brute Force Method

Let's start off with learning the track stand using what I called the "brute force" method. This method requires the rider to try to balance on two wheels as stationary as possible without any aid.

1. Firstly, determine the "favorite foot". The "favorite foot" is the foot that you want to use on the pedal when you want to cycle forward from a stationary position.

2. Secondly, you will need to know how to hold and engage your brakes. From a BikeTrials perspective, you should only use 1 finger (index finger) to engage the brake lever as shown in the following photo. One finger braking is a must. This will be explained later.

3. After you have determined your "favorite foot" and versed in the braking technique, we can begin our tutorial. For the ease of explanation, I will refer to the "favorite foot" as the right foot or right-footed.

4. If you are right-footed, position your front wheel pointing roughly 45 degrees to the left. Vice versa, if you are a left footer, position your front wheel pointing roughly 45 degrees to the right.

5. Start by ensuring that you have the front and rear brakes fully engaged.

6. Put your right foot on the right pedal. The pedal position should be placed in the forward position as shown in the following photo.

7. Next, slowly lift up your left foot while constantly adjusting your balance by slowly shifting your body weight around. You can also try lowering your center of gravity by bending your knees. Tilting your bike left or right will also help you to counter your off-balance points.

8. Having your brakes fully engaged is very important. Depending on the quality of your brakes, you may struggle with this. Sore index fingers are a norm.

If you practice on a hard surface like the tarmac, you may want to switch over to a grassy patch. Make sure the ground is not too soft and overgrown with grass.

The grass will provide additional traction so that you do not have to rely on your brakes too much. Another tip is to lower your tire pressure, soft and bouncy is just right.

You have basically covered the techniques to learn track stand brute force style... lol. The next learning method is the "assisted" method

Assisted Method

There are a few ways for you to accelerate learning the track stand using various techniques. Before you can start to learn balancing, you will need to make sure that the bike is stationary. Hence a lot of emphasis on good brakes and braking techniques.

1. The Drain - This is by far the best and easiest method to learn the track stand. Simply put the front wheel of your bike across and over a shallow drain. If the front wheel fits nicely over the drain, you do not need to use the brakes at all. After you have secured the front wheel from moving, you can use the techniques described in step 6 & 7 above.

2. The Object - This method is simply using the front wheel of the bike to lean against a large immovable object like a wall, a large rock, a bench, a pillar, etc. Basically any object that will support the weight and pressure you will put on it when you lean the front wheel against it. But be warned that the front wheel tire will leave dark rubber marks on the object.

3. The Slope - This is a popular method used by many to learn the track stand. Simply point the front wheel perpendicular to the gentle slope. (Remember the above 45 degrees angle to position the front wheel respective to the bike body.) You will pedal into the slope to move forward and releasing your brakes to roll backward. This method will lead to the brake-less track stand as explained in the next section.

Look ma! No Brakes!

This will sound contradictory to what I said earlier. The best track stand is when you do not need to use any brakes at all. When you reach this stage, you will totally own the track stand. It will be effortless and requires little or no strength at all.

Basically, you "roll" the bicycle forward and backward to adjust your balance. This continuous forward and backward rolling motion allows your body to unconsciously adjust itself to maintain constant balance on the bike by keeping the center of gravity positioned correctly. There is a whole field of science that explains this. If you want to know the details, go check out this article on Wikipedia :)