Q: A few weeks ago I watched a Martyn Ashton video, and I wondered how he does something which I can’t even imagine. What are the fundamental techniques for trials riding? And how do I do them? I'm 27 now, and I hope I'm not too old to start learning – Reddy
A: The first thing to master if you want to ride trials is the trackstand. This is the act of remaining completely stationary on your bike, so you can pause between moves. But it’s more than that – this is the skill that gives you the balance and bike control to progress on to everything else. So practise it to perfection.
Start on a gentle uphill slope and ride up it, standing and pedalling, until you’re ready to try to balance. You need just enough speed to let you level out your cranks with equal weight on each foot. Stand tall and straight with most of your weight over your extended arms, pushing down on the bars, and then roll to a stop. As the bike stops, turn the bars a little to one side – whichever feels more comfortable. This gives you a stable platform.
Now see how long you can stay there. Initially it may be just a split second, but try to control any wobbles, not by swinging the bars but by pushing down into them, using weight from your shoulders through your straightened arms. As soon as you feel the balance go, pedal out BEFORE you need to put a foot down. Don’t hold it too long and dab a foot on the ground, as this can become a habit and slow down your progress.
To develop further try to do this while looking ahead, rather than down. Then try it on the flat, a slight downhill with your brakes on or one-handed. But first get the basics right, and without the brakes. This way you learn to control pressure through your feet, rather than push hard against the brakes with your lead foot.
If you want to go further with trials, try the slightly old but really impressive coaching video that Martyn did for Mountain Biking UK – Dirty Tricks & Cunning Stunts. You can also get Mastering the Art of Trials by Ryan Leech. It’s nowhere near as much fun to watch, and goes quickly to some high level skills, so the MBUK one would be my first choice.