Cold, windy, wet and stressful rides during the winter aren’t what dreams are made of. Instead of braving the cold, use this time to work on your technique. One of the most valuable skills a mountain biker should learn is the track stand. A track stand is basically holding your bike in a steady position without moving. This maneuver is perfect when descending tricky terrain. It is also good when racers crowd a switchback corner, which causes the inevitable trail traffic jam. Track standing can also lead to more complex techniques like wheelies and jumps. It is a good technique to master.
Learning to track stand begins with the clipless pedals off. Go ahead and put your old platform pedals on your bike. You’ll want to be comfortable when dismounting the bike, if something were to happen. Your next objective is to find an open field where you can safely practice. It needs to be level and without obstacles, like ditches and land mines. Once you find the appropriate location, you are ready.
You need to ask yourself an honest question: what foot do I usually put forward when descending. Think long and hard about this foot. Is it your left, or right? Once you identify the foot congratulate yourself; you’ve just found your chocolate foot. Your chocolate foot is the one you are most comfortable with. It is the one you’ll maximize when beginning your track stand training. Next, ride in a large circle in the direction of your chocolate foot. If your chocolate foot is left: ride counter clockwise. The opposite is true for the right: clockwise. After two or three large circles, lessen the diameter of the circles. The smaller the circle the closer you are getting to actually track standing. After all of this circular training, you’ve mastered leaning your bike over and balancing. At some point, circles will not be doable. Now you’re ready for track stands.
Get back on your bike and begin the circles. After you feel comfortable, stop for a second during one of the rotations, completely. Hold the position for a second or two and then proceed to complete the circle. Continue to do this until you’ve bored yourself. Standing up might make balancing easier, which is fine. Try holding the bike still a bit longer each time you stop your bike. Always remember your chocolate foot; the foot you typically hold forward during downhills. Once you master a 10 second hold you are ready for the prime track stand routine.
Find a wall, or object to stop your front wheel. Ride your circles, practice the quick stopping technique and then ride up to the object. Continue riding toward the object at a SLOW speed. Once you reach the object, gently tap your front wheel to the object. The pressure should cause the bike to stop rolling. Your objective is to apply enough pressure to the object so that you replicate the circular stopping training. What I mean is you should be track standing. If you begin to lose your balance simply apply more pedal stroke pressure. This shouldn’t cause your bike too much stress, so go ahead and try to push hard in to the object. This type of training helps you negotiate those sections where you might find a rock or root blocking the downhill section of a trail. You will be able to hold the position for a long time. Now you’re ready for complete track standing.
Start with the circular training. Next, you’ll want to stop completely. Hold the position. Try not to brake too much. Gently sway back and forth on the pedals. The back and forth motion will help you balance. Stay loose. Turn the wheel right to left in order to gather yourself if swaying doesn’t work. Continue holding the position until you count to 40. Then begin the circles again. Repeat this process over and over until you feel comfortable track standing for a minute or two.
The trick to technique training is devoting the time to it. Without practice you’ll never learn how to master these crucial skills. The old maxim is true: practice makes perfect! Good luck!