No matter how good your bike skills are, they can always be improved upon. Most of us aren’t fortunate enough to have a skills course in our back yard, which means you have to get creative. Whether you notice or not, there’s an infinite number of opportunities to polish up your bike skills while commuting to work or the trailhead. To help you start seeing things differently, here are a few tips you can use to get started.
1. Track stands
Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Well Mr. Einstein, I hate to break it to you, but you’re wrong. You can most certainly keep your balance on a bicycle standing still as well. It’s called a track stand, and learning this skill will help improve your bike control and handling skills on the trail. Next time you roll up to a stop sign, rather than sitting there with your foot down like a bump on a log, put your skills to the test and see what you can do. The track stand is not something you will master overnight, so be patient and try not to get frustrated!
Wheelies are rad, plain and simple. There are few things more awesome than cruising down the street on the back wheel. But don’t be mistaken, wheelies are much more than a party trick. Knowing your balance point and being able pop your front wheel up at a moments notice are both great weapons to have in your arsenal while slaying trail. Whether you’re lifting the front wheel to climb over a log, or manualing through a rough section of trail, being comfortable on the rear wheel allows you to ride faster and smoother. Also, wheelies have a strange way of making your commute to the trail seem much shorter.
With current brake technology, stoppies are dangerously easily. Grab a handful of front brake and you will find yourself flat on your face faster than you can say Shimano. The art of the nose manual is figuring out how to perfectly manipulate the front brake to allow the rear wheel to stay in the air without passing the point of no return, also known as going over the bars. So, what’s the purpose of a silly trick like this? Maneuvering big bicycles through tight corners can be quite difficult, but when you are able to pick up your back wheel and move it in the direction of the corner, your turning radius suddenly gets much tighter. Stoppies also teach great brake control, allowing you to get a better feel your brake engagement. Every stop on your commute to the trail is an opportunity to pop that real wheel up in the air and hone your skills.
4. Curb jumps
There’s something great about the feeling you get when your wheels are off the ground and you’re sailing through the air. Sending it off big lips is all well and good, but where jumping really comes in handy is clearing sections of trail with small, natural lips. This type of jumping requires much more rider input than hitting a huge, nicely groomed jump, so constant practice is necessary to keep your skills sharp. Every driveway you pass on the way to the trail offers up a small jump for you to practice your boosting skills. As your speeds increase on the trail, the amount of time your wheels spend on the ground will most likely decrease.
5. Corner cuts
There’s an old saying in motocross community, “Jump for show, corner for dough.” While most people find jumping a bit more exciting, seconds are gained and lost in the corners. If you want to increase your speed and skills on the bike, cornering should be your main focus. Dirt patches to the side of the road provide a perfect opportunity to carve a turn and make sure your cornering skills are top notch for the trail ahead. Find the limits of your tires, throw up a little roost, and let it slide.
Rather than zoning out on your Garmin your entire commute, get creative in finding new ways to hone your skills. Mountain biking is supposed to be fun and using these tips and tricks on the way to the trailhead will certainly remind you of that. If you have other ways that you like enhance your bike skills on your way to the trail, leave a comment below!