And the secret to riding standing pedaling and switchbacks is…
100% all riders I’ve met who have trouble dealing with switchbacks also struggle with trackstands.
…that there is no secret. That’s right, there is no secret technique or trick that will help you do it. The truth is that both of them boil down to one thing and that is your ability to balance on your bike.
Now, at this point I’m sure most of you are thinking that can’t be it because you can balance on your bike and you still struggle with those things so there must be more to it.
And this is where I start to lose people because I have to point out a simple ego-crushing fact…
If you can’t trackstand you can’t really balance on your bike.
I know this can be tough to come to terms with for a lot of riders but if you have holes in your fundamental balance on the bike you’ll always struggle with slow speed skills on the trail.
As a coach who’s worked with hundreds of people over the years I’ve come to realize a simple truth – if you have a lot of trouble executing a high level skill like riding switchbacks then odds are you have a hole somewhere in your movement and balance foundation. And you can’t out-coach or “secret technique” a foundational problem away, you have to fix it.
A trackstand (where you balance on your bike without going anywhere) is the ultimate test of your ability to balance on your bike and the best way to fix this problem. When you are moving momentum is adding to the balance of the bike, which is why keeping your momentum makes things feel more stable on the trail.
Whenever you are moving momentum is helping to keep the bike balanced. This is why you can ghost ride your bike – even though no one is actively balancing the bike momentum is doing it all on its own.
So this means that the slower you go the less momentum is helping you stay balanced and the more you have to rely on your own ability to balance. And when you have no momentum at all you have…you guessed it, a trackstand.
And, like I mentioned before, this means that if you can’t trackstand then you can’t really balance on your bike. You always need momentum to help keep you up and you’ll always need a certain amount of it, otherwise you’ll fall down.
While you may not think that this is such a big deal this lack of fundamental balance on the bike shows up as some very common problems on the trail such as problems dealing with switchbacks, slow speed technical rocks gardens and standing pedaling to name a few.
For example, 100% all riders I’ve met who have trouble dealing with switchbacks also struggle with trackstands. The problem is that a switchback basically asks you to be moving very slowly – if not pull an outright trackstand – at the crux of the switchback while you shift your weight so your bike can follow. You don’t steer your bike through a switchback, you steer your body through it and to do this you have to feel comfortable with your slow speed balance points on your bike.
The same thing happens with slow speed technical stuff. If you get hung up and lose momentum then you are left with your ability to balance and keep things going until you can regain some momentum. Without that slow speed balance you’ll always struggle with stuff like this on the trail.
And lastly, standing pedaling is a “moving trackstand” and the balance points you learn from doing them will ensure you never feel unstable when standing again.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that being able to trackstand with your prefered foot forward isn’t enough – you need to train yourself to be comfortable doing it switchfoot as well. When you can trackstand with either foot forward with ease then you’ll be able to ride switchfoot on the trail much easier as well.
So, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you of the need to practice this simple but powerful skill here are some tips to help you with it…
5 Keys to Trackstands
– Use flats pedals when learning to trackstand. You’ll not only find it easier to get your foot into a more balanced mid-foot position but having your feet free to move will also improve your balance. You’ll also be free of the mental stress factor from knowing you’ll need to unclip real fast at some point, which will hold you back from committing like you need to in order to really get good trackstands.
– Stand up and put your seat down. You can’t use your hips if they are glued to your seat or if your seat is in their way.
– Shift into a high gear so you have some tension on the pedals. This will help you balance better on your feet.
– Using a combination of the tension at the pedals and lightly using your brakes you want to create a point where you are pushing forward with your lead foot like you are going to lightly pedal but you stop just short of overcoming the resistance and actually going anywhere. It is this tension point that will give you the platform to balance while not going anywhere.
– Start small. Don’t try to rock a 30 second trackstand your first time. Instead start with 5 seconds and once you can do that easily then work on 10 seconds and so on. If you allow yourself to focus too much on doing it for a long time you’ll get discouraged and quit, mumbling something about bad genes or a crappy bike set up or some other excuse that won’t help you on the trail.
Here is a video from my new 30 Day Standing Pedaling Power & Endurance Solution going over how to trackstand as well as some tips to help you get more out of this drill.
I also went out and shot some video trying to show you some good switchbacks in action and while this one isn’t exactly what I wanted you can see the difference between Seated (or at least seat up high) vs. Standing efforts on a switchback. You’ll notice how the standing efforts with the seat down where smoother and resulted in a faster exit speed thanks to the ability to use the hips to find the optimal balance point throughout the switchback.
I’ll be shooting more trail video and try to put something a bit more instructive on riding switchbacks but the truth is that if you have good balance on your bike – which all starts with the trackstand – then you don’t really need much instruction at all. So work on your trackstands and fix the holes you have in your fundamental balance on your bike and you’ll discover the only “secret” you’ll ever need.
Don’t forget that you can still get a copy of my new 30 Day Standing Pedaling Power & Endurance Solution for only $17, which is over 50% of the regular price. You’ll get a specially designed Mobility, Strength and Cardio program to help improve the hip and upper body strength you need to feel more balanced on the bike when you stand up so you can lay down more power with less effort.
Click here to learn more about what is in the new 30 Day Standing Pedaling Power & Endurance Solution and how it can help you improve your standing pedaling in all situations.