Trials riding tutorials to learn bike trials and improve your mtb riding skills.
mountain biking and biketrial skills in a Trackstand
In biketrial, the trackstand is the invisible technique that gives trials riders their stability when concentrating for a move. The whole purpose of the trackstand is to secure yourself in a stable position so that you can look around, breath, or rest your arms, while staying on the bike even in the middle of a zone. There is the free trackstand before zone entry, and the locked trackstand with the front wheel pushing against an obstacle in the zone.

As you progress in trials riding, the trackstand will become your default mode, securing stability and preparing for the next big move. The whole balancing act relies on adjusting your center of gravity (moving your waist) on one side of the bike, while you lean the bike onto the other side in a counter-balance measure. It is usually easier to hold a trackstand position with your good foot forward, leaning over your driving pedal while turning your bars on the side of your bad foot. So find out what is your most comfortable foot forward, by pedaling up a slope and letting the bike stop. Your foot forward when you stop should be your natural foot forward (also for pedal kicks etc..).

Feel the pressure on the pedals, in a slope

trials riding tutorials
1° Ride very slowly upwards a slope at an angle, with your bad foot on the up side of the slope (that's along the big arrow on the photo), and go slower until the bike actually stops without the brakes.

trials riding tutorials
2° When the bike stops, turn the bars up against the slope (opposite direction of your foot forward) and keep some pressure on your driving foot to stop the bike from going backwards.

trials riding tutorials
3° Try to maintain the bike on the same spot only by adjusting the pressure on the driving pedal and by turning the bars more or less (the more you turn, the more you feel the slope).

If you lose balance on the side you turned the bars, turn the bars a bit more towards the slope, leaning the front wheel more into the slope while shifting your weight in the opposite direction. If you lose balance on the side of your driving foot, try to lean more over the bike, tucking your knees over the frame. In a slope, if you release your driving foot progressively, the bike will force its way backwards, turning the cranks backwards too. Try to play with this, going up or down as you put more or less pressure on the good pedal. This exercise is easier on a medium gear ratio. See this move in a video

trials riding tutorials
Lean your bum away from the bar turn.

As you get the idea, try this on the flat. Without the slope, you will have to use the brakes to a full stop, then decide a direction in which to turn the bars. If you turn the handlebars to the left, lean on the right side of the top tube (this is usually the easiest trackstand position for riders with the right foot forward). With both brakes locked, you'll realise that you have two solid points of contact with the ground. Then you must constantly adjust your position to find the perfect balance over the line between these two points of contact. The more you turn the bars, the more movement you have to counter-balance and lean on the other side (the front tyre contact on the ground moves as you roll the wheel, even when the brakes are locked). With practise, you'll be able to maintain a trackstand turning the bars in any direction, change your front foot, and even change from one trackstand position to the opposite in order to get the best angle and support from the ground. As a preference, if you are balancing onto a sloppy obstacle, always try to balance across the slope, with your bars turned up the slope. This gives you the most support when leaning over the front wheel. The other side offer nearly no support (the front tyre rolls down too easily and you can't stretch enough to counter balance).

Locking the front wheel against an obstacle

trials riding tutorials
1° Ride towards the obstacle at an angle of about 45° or less, with your bad foot on the side of the obstacle.

trials riding tutorials
2° Turn the bars to face the obstacle and touch it with the front wheel, then lock your brakes.

trials riding tutorials
3° Push the front wheel against the obstacle and lean away from the obstacle to reach balance.

Your bike is locked by three contact points, two with the tyres on the ground, and one more higher up on the front tire against the obstacle. In this position, you can maintain a trackstand even out of balance. See this move in a video

This is a very stable position and very useful to relax a bit and look around. Move your body around and see how much stability this technique gives you. The key to lock completely the bike into that trackstand is to secure three solid points of contact, so any irregularities in a zone can do the trick. For example, you can lodge the front wheel into a pot-hole with the bars turned (that will stop it rolling neat) and just lock the brakes. With a bit of practise, this also works if you face completely the obstacle, pushing against it to lock the bike vertically (using the friction of the front tyre). Then you still need to tune a bit your balance sideways and find a position that is perfectly aligned vertically with the bike.

trials riding tutorials
Balancing to the extreme to avoid a dab.

trials riding tutorials
Avoid big displacements, fine tune
your balance with the knees

Fighting for balance
While riding a zone, you won't always find your favourite trackstand position (actually, the whole trials riding game is about riding along awkward tracks and not loosing balance). If the usual corrections of bar turn and weight shifting over the top tube don't work anymore (because of an awkward position of the bike), you'll be loosing balance for real. In some situations you may not be able to turn the handlebar at all, and you must rely on finding the correct body position (shifting your weight around).

trials riding tutorials
If you are too much off balance,
extend a leg to have more effect

trials riding tutorials
Just balancing right

If you fall on the side you were leaning off the bike, then tuck over the top tube as much as you can to stop the move, and come back to a more natural position when you are in balance again. If you are loosing balance on the same side as you turned the handlebar, then extend your leg on the outside for a better counter-balance effect. Don't give up too quickly. If that's not enough... then... tough luck... You should do your best to bail out as safely as you can. On any plain track, you can use correction hops and move your wheels around until you find the best grip or position for balance. Riding along a narrow path forces you to keep both wheels aligned.

trials riding tutorials
Focus on the front wheel, lean forward

trials riding tutorials
Ryan Leech, the master of balance
(photo by Derek Vanderkooy)

Narrow lines
When following narrow lines such as rails or beams, you can't rely so much on turning the bars for balance adjustments. Your main option is to adjust your weight over the bike, in line with the beam you are riding on. Same if you bridge the bike over a gap, with each wheel positioned on narrow spots. Avoid large weight-shiftings that are more likely to throw you off balance. Use your knees to fine tune your weight distribution. If you need more effect, extend one leg. Keep your center of gravity over the line and you'll be fine. Try to focus on the front wheel and the next 2 meters in front of you, the rear wheel will follow.

With the front wheel lifted.
Try to balance with the front wheel lifted onto some kerb. To maintain balance in that position, you'll have to lean much more over the stem and put more pressure vertically on the front wheel (to stop it from moving sideways). Once you found your balance, keep your cool and plan your next move (that the Zen part of trials).

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