So you’ve decided to learn trials. What type of mountain bike training do you need to excel at this kind of mountain biking, you might ask. Trials is one of the most exacting types of mountain biking that you will ever encounter. To learn it is not impossible, but it will require patience, discipline and dedication.
To get started on mountain bike training for trails, there is very little you will need in the way of equipment. You can use your usual mountain bike, if you already have one. Check your bike to make sure that your wheel alignment is true. Check the brakes to make sure they are sensitive and sharp. Try to remove the seat or to at least lower it. Adjust your shock absorbers to make sure they are stiffer. After all these adjustments have been made, you’re all set up to start training.
The first requisite to successfully learning trials is your dedication. You have to be mentally prepared to learn it. Be prepared for repetitive balancing training. Be prepared to make mistakes and get back on the bike after each one.
If you have someone who can mentor you, that will make your trials training go much faster, because he can guide you on the techniques of keeping balance, movement, doing jumps, styles, etc.
One of the basic mountain bike training for trials is balance training. It’s the foundation of your training. Prepare to spend hours “standing” or hopping in place on various surfaces - on concrete, on dirt, on a rocky bed, on grassy surfaces, on logs, pipes, etc. Learn to do this using your rear tire only. Practice doing the same with your front tire only. Stay in place for a couple of minutes, and then extend it to 5 minutes, maybe even longer. The better you are at balancing, the easier it will be for you to pick up the other moves. Just remember, all the moves in trials begin and end with balancing.
There are 2 types of balancing techniques you will train for - trackstanding and rocking in place. Trackstanding is best on level surfaces. In this method, you angle your bike and your body so that the center of gravity is steadily on top of the bike. The typical trackstanding position is a biker with one foot forward with the front wheel pointing towards the opposite direction of the forward foot.
Rocking in place is the method used when trying to balance on unstable surfaces. In this type of stance, you need to respond appropriately to the shifts and movements of the surface you’re on. You will have to create small shifts in your position, shifting your weight from the front tire to the rear tire, hence the appearance of rocking back and forth to keep balance.
Many of the bike movements in trials are instinctual once you learn the basics of balance. It’s all about intimately knowing your bike and how to best move it in coordination with your body. The better you are at balancing, the more confident you become, and the more techniques or moves you will learn and even create.