The balancing act

Posted On: 31 January 2008
Category: Training


Mountain biking involves a wide range of technique and skills. However, before attempting advanced manoeuvres it’s important to understand the basics and practice the basics. Self-awareness is the key to being able to coach yourself. If you don’t understand how your bike and body work together on the trail then the first step is returning to square one. Even if you have been mountain biking for many years, returning to the basics can bring your riding on in leaps and bounds. 


CHAPTER 1     -        THE BALANCING ACT                      


How many mountain bike riders and racers out there actually spend time practising their balancing skills? It’s all very well to be a fit and strong athlete, but good balance enables you to be a quicker and more skilled rider. In turn a skilled rider is a more efficient rider. Save your energy for when it counts.


Here are a few exercises that can help improve your balance –



Step 1 - Find yourself a wall and rest your front tyre on it.

Step 2 - Keep your pedals level, hold your brakes on, rise above your saddle.

Step 3 - Focus on a spot and try to relax.

Step 4 - If you find yourself wobbling towards one side then try to counter balance.

AIM – Hold position for 2 minutes before moving to advanced exercise below.





Ex.1 – As above, but this time place one hand on top of your head for at least 20 seconds. Then change hands.

Ex.2 – From standing position, sit down and stay seated for at least 2 minutes.

Ex.3 – Sit down and place alternate hands on top of head for at least 20 seconds.



The key to the track stand is finding the balance point through the chain and not relying too much on your brakes. 

Step 1 – Find a trail or road with a slight rising gradient.

Step 2 – Change into a medium gear to restrict the chain’s movement.

Step 3 – Ensure pedals are level, or at least keep your front foot slightly higher than your back one.

Step 4 – Using your brakes to begin with, slowly ride to a halt on the upward slope.

Step 5 – Turn the wheel towards your front foot.

Step 6 – Stay relaxed and don’t squeeze brakes on too hard. Try to feel the balancing point through the chain. The bike will move forwards and backwards, but try to keep each movement small until you can track stand without moving at all. 

Step 7 – As soon as you hold a track stand for at least 20 seconds, change your leading foot and turn the wheel towards it. Also move to a flatter area and attempt a track stand on the flat.

AIM – Hold position confidently in all gears and on different gradients, including slight down hill sections.



Ex.1 – As soon as you have mastered the track stand, try it with only one hand on the bar, and alternate hands.

Ex.2 – Rest the top tube on your inside leading leg and attempt it with no hands on the bar.

Ex.3 –Track stand from a seated position.

Ex.4 – Stay seated, but this time place feet on front tyre. Manoeuvre tyre forwards and backwards to maintain balance.


Good balance will make a difference to your riding and your racing. Cotic Bontrager elite racer and AQR guide Kate Potter spends 15 minutes every day practising her balance. “Slow technical trails require good balance, but more importantly if I’m racing a 24 hour event there are times when there are so many people racing to the start of the single track that I’m forced to stop or slow down. If I can stay in my pedals then I can move past people quickly without wasting energy or time.”


Practice these exercises and stay tuned as the AQR crew focus on Bike Set up and Peddling Dynamics in the next chapter.


Cheerio for now


AQR Crew

Ian, Kate, Jon & Paul


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