Don't miss out on this essential skill
On-bike balance is key to every single skill and move on the trails, but it’s overlooked and under-practised — try our three ways to trail equilibrium.
1. Slow it down
Speed on the trail can mask gaps in your skills, so take it away and practise the balance basics. Then when you return to speed, you’ll find yourself riding with more control and accuracy. Find a car park with painted bay lines and ride along them as slowly as you can without putting a foot down, track-standing or using the brakes.
Pay attention to your body position — try moving your body from the hips, from the front to the rear of the bike and see what the effects are. Find your ideal balance point. The slower you go the more exaggerated your body movements will be, but don’t be afraid to stick a leg, elbow or tongue out to help you stabilise.
Watch Brendan Fairclough’s body position tips
2. Corner control
Use a stretch of quiet cul-de-sac and try weaving between the broken centre lines down the middle. No quiet road? Set out a few little obstacles in the car park to practise on. The idea is to get used to the feeling of moving your bike from one edge of the tyres to the other, while keeping your body upright.
Start off as slow as you can, and only gradually increase the speed to make it harder. You’re doing it wrong if the tyres start to lose traction — the point is to flip quickly and accurately between perfect traction on the left side of your tyres, and perfect traction on the right. Practise till it becomes second nature.
3. Take it to the trail
Forget Strava and KoMs, and pick a technical downhill trail you often ride and slow it all right down. The lack of speed will force you to use your balance and concentrate on riding as smooth as possible, taking perfect lines and gaining the maximum grip you can from the tyres.
Now try the same thing on a technical climb — not only will you be concentrating on the best use of your strength, you’ll also be looking for the path of least resistance rather than using pure power to overcome obstacles. For the final step, go back and gradually ramp up the speed, still concentrating on those slow skills.