trials training: learn how to balance on a trials bike
Balancing is a key skill to pick up, even if you aim to ride competitive trials in a country with the "non stop" riding rule. Make sure your tyre pressures are correct - it's much harder to balance on over-inflated tyres! Six psi for the front and four psi for the rear are typical pressures but can be dropped to provide extra balance while learning.
Body positioning is critical. Keep your legs bent and apart. This lowers your centre of gravity and you can move your body easily to counter the bike's moves.
The best way to start for beginners is by riding as slow as possible in a straight line. This will also help you develop smooth throttle and clutch control.
Soon, you will find yourself being able to balance at a stand still for short periods of time. Now it's time to practice at a complete stop. If you are on soft ground, dig the front wheel in a bit to provide extra support. Turns the handlebars on full lock and try to balance for as long as possible. If you keep the engine running, it will provide extra stability through gyroscopic force. Also, you can use the clutch to slightly move the bike forward at times to keep your balance.
You can use your body (even your whole leg sticking out) to keep balance, but as you improve you will notice that a small turn of the bars is often all that is needed to keep balanced. This is why it's handy to dig a small hole in the ground with your front wheel when first learning. Keeping the front brake applied helps too once you get to this level.
Small rocks or logs on the ground can also be used as leverage points for the front wheel to work against as you turn the handlebars slightly. This usually works best if you keep the front brake applied.
If you are on a slope, it will be easier if the front wheel is turned in the uphill direction.
As you gain experience, apply your balancing skills while moving by riding along logs for as far as possible. Remember you can use your entire body - it's common to see legs sticking out in these situations.
Some riders even find themselves doing balance practice in everyday situations e.g. on one foot in the bus, train, on the way to work. Sure you will look like an idiot, but anything that refines your sense of balance will pay dividends when on your trials bike!
where to look while balancing?
In the early stages, where you look can help a lot. Most riders seem to find that fixing on something in the mid-distance provides a good visual reference to help you balance. Others find that looking at something close by on the ground is better. Experiment with both to see which suits you.
Remember to practice with the front wheel turned both ways - most of us will have a favorite side and need to work on the other one.
As you improve, try balancing with the engine off - it's a fair bit harder without that gyroscopic force. It also means you can practice at home in the yard, the garage or the lounge room!
It's much harder to balance with the front wheel straight, but a skill worth developing, as is with the front wheel pointing downhill.
Balance one-handed, or even no hands. While not applicable in competition, it always pays to push the boundaries.
Stop at random spots, particularly rough sections, and see if you can balance then ride away without dabbing.
Watch our Youtube video How to balance on a trials bike for a visual demonstration.
Copyright B. Morris 2014
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