ISOLATION BIKING: A skills session for your daily exercise - PART II

So, you're stuck at home? First of all, well done. It really does make a difference to stopping the spread of COVID-19. The sooner we get on top of this the sooner our lives go back to normal.

Yesterday we took a look at some basic skills you can practice while out for some daily exercise. Don't worry if you can't make it to your trails, you really can practice this anywhere (preferably a big backyard).

So without further ado, here is Part II! We pick up just after learning how to master a wheelie.

Once you’ve mastered finding the balance point on your pedalling wheelie, aim to graduate to a coaster or manual. It’s basically a wheelie that’s instigated and maintained without pedalling—not at all easy but something to shoot for. Lift the wheel with a rearward lunge and pushing forward with your feet. Note that it’s a rearward throw of your torso; you don’t just yank up on the bars. The rearward shift places your weight over or behind the back wheel which in turn keeps the front aloft—find your balance point and roll with it as long as you can. Again, practice with flat pedals to avoid potential pain.


Use quiet road crossings to practice gutter hopping. The easier option is to approach at lower speed and use a pedal stroke to pop the front wheel up—refer to the basic wheelie technique. Using a gutter forces you to work on the timing but only bother with the move once you’re competent at getting the front wheel high enough. Once the front wheel is up, unweight the rear wheel to let it roll up without stopping or denting the rim. Progress to lifting the back wheel with a quick kick up of your heels. More advanced riders can approach at speed, use the manual wheelie to get the front up and transfer the weight forward hop the back up.


So your local trail network isn’t blessed with a skills area loaded with North Shore skinnies? No biggie, there’s probably many kilometres of skinnies in your suburban streets. Best of all they aren’t too intimidating, so you can concentrate more on the skills rather than tensing up in fear of failure. Straight gutters are best to begin with but there’s no reason not to get tricky with corners and dodging power poles as you progress. The key is to stay relaxed and look ahead. Focus on a point that’s around five metres up the skinny—focus immediately in front of your wheel and you’re sure to veer off line. Try it pedalling, try coasting, stick your knees out for balance; just try different techniques to see what works for you.


Don’t just hop off at gates like these, use them as a physical challenge. Stay on your bike and go super slow, turn as much as you can, hop the bike around if you can. If all else fails you can always grab a railing and hop off in defeat. As silly as these efforts can be, it’ll develop your balance and bike handling skills, so you’ll be skipping around the rocks like a trials rider on your next trail ride.


Use traffic lights and stop signs to your advantage and work on your track stands. It’s best attempted on a gentle uphill slope. Select a gear that gives you something to push against and roll to a stop, facing uphill. Let the bike roll back slightly, then push it forward with your pedals. Gently rock the bike back and forth with this action to assist with the balancing act. It usually helps to turn the bars. When there’s no uphill, you can turn the bars to point yourself up towards the crown of the road and use that to rock the bike to-and-fro. If you’re not comfortable with standstills, practice on a gentle grassy slope with flat pedals and start by simply trying to go as slow as possible whilst still pedalling. Using your brakes can also assist and give you something to balance against.


Employ all of your newly developed skills by finding improvised obstacles. Be sensible about it and don’t do anything that’s likely to damage public amenities but you’ll probably find plenty of obstacles. Hop up using your wheelie technique, time the rear wheel lift that you originally honed on the basic gutter hop, then wheelie off the end to practice your low-speed drop-off technique. Pick a number of challenges on route and try to clear them with greater finesse as you improve!

Missed Part I? Find it here!

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