Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ride Slow to Ride Fast

When you think about it, going fast on a bike is easy. A lot of the time, the hardest part of riding trails is going slow. If you have slowed right down, it means that you have come to a piece of trail that is very technically demanding and riding it too fast will lead to crashing your brains out! However if you can improve your slow riding skills, you will find yourself exiting these technical sections faster, smoother and safer.

The drill used to practice your slow riding skills is called the track stand. The track stand is seen as balancing in a stationary position on your bike and can look pretty impressive through the eyes of onlookers.

To perform a track stand there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

- In a track stand you are not actually keeping completely still. In fact you are constantly moving, rocking back and forward. When you are beginning your rocks can be bigger and more obvious and you will find that with improvement you will be able to keep your movements much tighter and controlled.
- Off the brakes! Being off the brakes will make the rocking action a lot easier.
- keep your head up. How often do you ride your bike looking at the ground beneath you? Keeping your head up helps to simulate trail conditions where you need to be switched on and scanning for the next obstacle.

It is often easier to begin on a slight gradient with your front wheel pointing up hill. Get yourself in a gear that allows you to have some tension on the chain without being too light or too heavy. Standing on the pedals, put your favourite foot forward in about the 9 o’clock position and gently apply and release pressure to give you a calm rocking motion. It may also help if you turn your handlebars to one side.

Advanced techniques
If you start mastering the basic track stand you can begin to take off one hand, one leg, two legs etc. Trying a track stand sitting down also adds some extra difficulty and is handy of you can do it right. You may even want to venture into some trials riding where your skills will be put to the ultimate test. Stay tuned for a beginning trials post.

How the track stand will improve your riding
The track stand is the most fundamental skill on a bike. If you can perform a track stand well, you are definitely on our way to being a more skilled, faster and safer rider. Even after about a weeks practice, I have found that my stability at high speed had improved greatly, my skills through technical terrain were better and since improving my track stand I have been crashing much less! Learning the track stand at first can sometimes be slow and frustrating, however the rewards are defiantly worth the time spent practising.

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