September
5

Trackstands – the most basic, yet overlooked, skill in mountain biking

I recently started working with the new high school mountain biking team that started in the area and during the first practice I asked how many of the kids could perform a track stand. Almost none of them raised their hand, which reminded me that most riders simply overlook this essential skill. I wrote and article on this a while back and wanted to re-run it today to remind everyone that if you can’t track stand, you are missing one of the most basic skills a rider needs…

The track stand is one of the most basic, yet overlooked, skills in mountain biking. It was something that I thought every rider could do when I first started riding – I would spend hours in my driveway working on being able to balance without actually moving and I thought that this was how every rider got started.

However, this is not the case. I have to say that it amazes me how many riders can not do a track stand for more than a couple of seconds. The truth is that if you can not do a track stand then you can not really balance on your bike.

Once you start moving momentum starts to help you stay up. The problem is that mountain biking will put you in situations where your momentum is killed and you need to be able to navigate something while barely moving. If you can not do a track stand then you are less likely to be able to pull it off.

Here are some examples of trail situations where being able to do a track stand will help you immensely…

– Switchbacks: This is one skill that baffles a lot of riders and I guarantee that most riders who can not do switchbacks can not do a track stand either. Switchbacks get you because they make you almost stop while navigating them. If you can not keep your balance in the middle of the switchback where your momentum is practically stopped then you are just rolling the dice as to whether you make the turn or not. And no, putting you inside leg down, locking up the rear wheel and skidding around the switchback doesn’t count…

– Technical Climbs: This is another area on the trail that can dramatically cut your momentum. Being able to slow down and even stop without falling over can really help out a lot when you are trying to pick your way through a technical climb where precision is more important than momentum.

– Rocky and Rooty Trails: Again, the more technical the trail is the more important precision is. Anyone can rail a piece of buffed out single track but being able to pick your way through a minefield of rocks and roots is another thing entirely. If you can not feel comfortable at slow speeds on your bike then you will have trouble with the more technical trails out there.

The reason I bring this up is that the track stand is also the easiest skill to work on. All you need is your bike and some space. You can pull you car out of the garage and work on it so it is the perfect skill to work on in the winter when you can not get out and work on other skills.

Being able to pull off a track stand for at least 10 seconds will make a huge impact on your riding. Suddenly you will be able to actually balance on your bike instead of relying on momentum to keep you upright. You will find all of the things I mentioned above becoming easier and that will make your overall trail experience better.

Even if you have a track stand down, can you do it switch foot? This is a skill I have been working on recently and it is pretty tough to pull off but I know that it will help me gain better balance on my bike with my feet switched.

You can also work on being able to “hippity hop” your bike by doing little bouncing turns to work on turning your bike in place. This is something that has helped me countless times be able to get back on track in a technical spot without having to put a foot down (you get extra bonus points for that).

Simple skills are the basis for more advanced skills. If you have skipped this important step in your development as a rider then now is the time to go back and perfect it. If you have the basic track stand down take it to the next level by working on switch foot and the bouncing turns. The truth is that in order to get better at riding the trail you have to do stuff off the trail and this is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your riding.

Check out this video from Joe Lawwill and Bike Skills to learn how to work on this essential skill…

-James Wilson-

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  1. Malte says:

    I really agree. I live in the austrian Alps where we have a lot of very technical (hiking) trails. They are steep with a lot of rocks/roots and tight switchbacks and sometimes it’s more trial than trail riding.
    I often see riders struggling with the switchbacks as you are riding very slowly because of the steepness and loose ground. They get into trouble because the can’t balance the bike at low speed.
    Or they fear to have to stop in the middle of a section (and clicking out fast enough). On really difficult trails you often have to put a foot down and stop because you get caught or to look for a line. Most riders have to go back a few meters to get to a smoother place as they can’t start in the middle of a steep rock/root section.

    Reply • September 10 at 5:49 am

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James Wilson