Faff time fillers
Waiting for friends to catch up, fix a puncture or finish their chat? Find an obstacle or challenge and hone your skills and your balance.
Olly Wilkins shows us how to mid-ride mess about.
“There is more than meets the eye to the ‘car park show-off’ at your local trails (a name I have been branded with quite often!). I’ve grown up with a fairly unpunctual group of friends. During the periods of time I’ve spent waiting for them I’ve actually learnt some super valuable skills that have come in handy time and time again out on the trail. Messing around is guaranteed to improve your bike skill even more than actual trail time, not to mention improving your core body temperature too! Give some of these a go next time your friends are ‘stuck in traffic’!” – Olly Wilkins.
What: Using the front brake to roll along on the front wheel only, usually down a hill or coming to a stop.
How: It’s best to start off on grippy ground like a dry fire road or tarmac, pedal in with a bit of speed, shift your body weight towards the rear of the bike, then as you progressively pull the front brake on, shift your weight forwards, if you start to feel like you might go over the bars, let off the front brake! It takes practice to find the balancing point, and to keep the stoppie going for as long as possible, but it has genuine trail applications so is useful to master. The further the better, mark a point where you start and try to get as far as possible!
2. Flat turn
What: Flat turns are easy enough to ride slow, but supremely difficult to ride at high speed. It can be a simple imaginary turn in a car park, or a hairpin on a fire road descent.
How: This is pretty straight forward, find a wide area, pedal in and lean into a turn as much as you feel comfortable, try tightening the radius of the turn half way around, try shifting your weight a little further back off of the bike, try different pedal positions and see what makes you feel more stable, how does it feel with a foot off? Etc… The real goal here is to experiment with different body positions and bike lean to see where you feel most comfortable.
3. Trail turn
What: If you’ve taken a wrong turn and need to turn around, you could put your foot down…. but it somehow always seems better to keep the feet on the pedals.
How: Roll to a stop with your weight in the centre of the bike, and before you put a foot down, hop the front wheel around to keep balance, once you feel steady, try rocking the front wheel off the ground to one side, and then the rear wheel the opposite side to start pivoting on the spot. Start with smaller hops to stay in control more, big movements are easy to misjudge. Make a full 360 degree turn your goal, and to do it comfortably, not in a panic!
4. Back hop
What: Can you get onto the rear wheel and hop on the rear wheel alone without the front touching the ground?
How: The easiest way to start a back hop is to come to a stop pitching your body weight forwards, maybe doing a slight endo, and rock backwards bringing your weight over the back wheel while picking up the front wheel. Keep your back brake on and then it’s a case of compressing the rear wheel into the ground and using that to bounce off from. Again, small controlled hops are better than big out of control movements! How long can you go? Count how many times you can hop the back wheel.
What: Rolling backwards, and turning out of it if you can.
How: Look for either flat ground with a slight ramp at one end, or a gentle uphill slope. Ride at it and stop at the top of the ramp or slope while shifting your weight forward on the bike, then lean back as you come off the brakes to start rolling backwards. You’ll have to pedal the bike backwards because of the freewheel, balance is best aided by turning the front wheel. Once you initiate a turn it’s not actually too hard to hop the front wheel around in order the ride out forwards. The goal is to ride backwards as far as you can, and even better if you can turn back to facing forwards!
6. Long jump
What: Easy, find something small to jump off, preferably on a gentle downslope, or at the bottom of one, and see how far you can go!
How: Long jump isn’t only about speed, it required good bunny hop skills to get the most from a small take off. You’ll have to really pull up hard on the front of the bike and time picking up the rear at just the right moment. Keeping the front wheel slightly high for landing can help lessen any impact. Ask a friend to mark where your rear wheel lands, then there is a clear goal between attempts!