A good trick to know and to learn in a confined space is a track stand. It will help your overall unity with your bike and will give you a better feel and confidence in tricky situations when you need to balance at low speeds or at a standstill. These kinds of situations occur all the time on trails or in traffic. Imagine riding through a tight switchback at low speed—one needs to have patience, skills and confidence. In some situations, you cannot be rushed, and you need to stay calm and focused on the task ahead.
I used to practice track stands in the basement of the house where I grew up in Germany with my cousin and friends. One of the challenges we gave ourselves was to traverse a 10-foot section from A to B, as slowly as possible without coming to a stop. Another version was to do it with stopping, which can take a long time once you figure out how to track stand. I also used to watch TV standing on my bike doing a track stand. You’ll be surprised how exhausting it can be on certain muscles after 10 or 20 minutes. I also did it to learn to concentrate on something else—watching a program or film—while doing the track stand subconsciously.
Hans Rey is a former Trials World Champion who has been a professional bike rider for over 30 years, exploring the world on his mountain bike.
Here are tips and pointers:
• Start out by trying to ride as slowly as possible. It’s best to have your favorite foot (your “chocolate foot” as I call it) forward. With your cranks horizontal, your balance point is much better. Use your brakes to control speed and do tiny little pedal engagements to increase speed/forward momentum.
Do an actual track stand. It helps to:
—Turn your handlebars 45 degrees and twist your upper body parallel to the bars while your lower body stays straight.
—Lean your front wheel against something solid, like a rock or curb (that will help you find the best and most effective body position on the bike).
—Use your brakes. Sometimes release them to make small adjustments in balance or position.
—Look ahead; don’t look at your front tire. It’s like carrying a full cup of water. If you look at it you are more likely to spill some.
—Unlike in most other situations on a bike, you actually want to straighten out your arms and legs to a degree, so your body is more solid between your arms on your bars and feet on your pedals.
—It’s best to practice while not being clipped in.
—For starters, do these exercises standing up, not sitting (even though that could be another variation).
—While standing up, your weight is kind of forward with the entire body forward from the seat and your head almost over the handlebars.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.