TRIALS TRAINING: body positioning
Body positioning is a critical but often neglected part of trials riding. If you've ridden dirt bikes a lot then you may need to unlearn a few things.
legs bent & apart
Your default position is to ride with your legs bent and apart. Why? Having your legs bent means they will soak up bumps and also be ready to compress the suspension or de-weight the bike as required. It also lowers your centre of gravity which gives you better balance. Keeping your legs apart means you have more chance of recovery if either wheel is deflected sideways. It also allows you to lean the bike more easily for turns or riding across a slope.
boot position on the footpegs
On a dirt bike your boots will tend to be firmly against the bike but on a trials bike you will want about an inch between the bike and your boot - the centre of your boot soles will tend to be on the outside of the pegs. This allows you to lean the bike sideways easily.
When cornering, put pressure on the inside footpeg and you will find the bike naturally wants to turn - this is very handy in slippery conditions. Also, as the bike leans it can make even tighter turns possible. In effect you are steering with your feet, not the handlebars. Keep your shoulders in line with the handlebars. See our Full lock turns page for more detail.
body position for traction
Constantly move your body position for best balance and traction. We have noticed the girls in our club seem to pick up on this intuitively - possible the boys have been overly influenced by dirt riding and tend to grip the bike more with their legs and not change their body positioning as much.
When traction is good, you simply lean forward when climbing hills or obstacles. You'll be surprised at just how far forward you can go to prevent the bike flipping. Simply lean back when descending - again it's surprising what you can descend if there's nothing between your butt and that rear tire except your rear fender!
However, this changes once traction is poor. Due to your low tire pressures, your body positioning has a big impact on the contact surface, or footprint, your tire has.
Climbing a hill with poor traction will mean keeping your weight to the rear for a bigger footprint and more grip. This needs to be carefully balanced with keeping the front wheel on the ground, or at least being able to manage any resulting wheelies.
Likewise on a downhill, there may be times you need to keep your weight slightly forward to get a bigger footprint from your front tire if traction is poor, even if the rear wheel leaves the ground. These are counter-intuitive to dirt riding skills due to the higher tire pressures and far heavier bikes.
A handy tip is to bounce up and down on the bike just before entering a section, or before tackling an obstacle or tricky bit of terrain. This reminds you to keep your legs bent, apart and ready to move your body around.
On a modern trials bike, you should easily be able to easily operate the clutch and front brake levers with just your index finger on each, and leave them there permanently.
When riding along a slope, weight the outside footpeg and lean the bike into the slope. This positions your body to the outside so that if you slip you have a chance to recover without dabbing by adjusting your weight to the other side.
heads up & look ahead
A common problem for beginners is not looking ahead far enough. It can even happen to experienced riders when trying techniques outside of their comfort zone. Looking down at your front wheel or an upcoming obstacle will hamper your riding no end.
Even when crossing a large log or hopping up a ledge you need to be looking head. Trust your brain to react instinctively while tackling the obstacle as you consciously plan on your next moves. Trust us, you will be a better rider for it!
See all of these techniques in our Body positioning video.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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