How do I balance on my bike while standing still?
September 2, 2007 10:36 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn to balance on my bike while standing still?

I'm just getting back into cycling and am finally comfortable with toe clips.

I've seen urban cyclists stopped at red lights, balancing themselves and I'd like to learn how to do this without breaking any bones in the process.

Any tips? Is there a proper name for this feat?
posted by jeffbarr to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
track stand. good luck!
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:39 PM on September 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try this: get on your bike on some flat ground and turn the bars 90 degrees towards your lead pedal. Keep one foot on the ground, the other on your leading pedal. Now, pick up your foot and put it on the front tire, moving right and left to maintain your balance. That's basically how a track stand works and it's pretty easy. In a few minutes, you can probably see yourself staying balance for hours using this method.

Now, to do them while out riding, instead of using your free foot to go back and forth on the front wheel to balance, you'll want to use pedal pressure to control the front wheel. It's not that hard, but takes some practice.

It's easy to practice them on banked surfaces, like a big sloping driveway or something. Basically, with both feet on your pedals you simply ride slowly along a bank, slow to a stop, then turn your bars up the slope to 90 degrees. Now, when you are falling up the slope, just push a little on your lead pedal. When you start falling down the slope, you release pressure. Gravity will "push" the front wheel back. It's the same as your foot on the tire track stand but using gravity you can keep both feet on.

After getting good at doing them on sloped areas, you can eventually start doing them on flat ground, which is what you often see bike messengers being really good at, at stoplights.
posted by mathowie at 11:03 PM on September 2, 2007 [5 favorites]

Unless you're going up a hill, you likely won't be able to do this without a "fixie", or "fixed gear" bike, since most other bikes have a coasting, rear freewheel; pedaling backwards doesn't control the rear wheel.

With a fixed gear bicycle, your pedals (usually) are set to directly control the rear wheel: by pedalling back and forth slowly, you can keep your balance (and then take off quickly at an intersection).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:21 PM on September 2, 2007

I bike to school but would not consider myself a biker per say, anyway I can balance for 20 seconds (getting better though) without turning my wheel perpendicularly as in a track stand, though i have to drift forward. I move forward slowly while turning my front wheel to the right, then left, then I get myself balanced and practically still for a few seconds, then I start to fall and have to ride forward about a foot as I correct, over correct the other way, then back, then I get it right for a few seconds, then I have to ride forward about a foot or two adjusting my front wheel angle back and forth doing the same thing as before, and this continues until I screw up the balance and have to put my foot down, or until I am about to hit the car in front of me so I put my foot down. I do not have a fixed gear and I think the track stand is easier with one a' them chic fixed gear bikes. Oh also I use my breaks when pushing forward to help control. Yep, thats my balancing act
posted by gavtaylor at 11:21 PM on September 2, 2007

Also, 20 seconds feels like a really long time, and its a fun challenge
posted by gavtaylor at 11:22 PM on September 2, 2007

track stand!

seriously, here has been a lot written about track standing on teh internets, yes, it comes from track racing as seen above, yes it's easier with a fixed gear bicycle, but it's also totally doable on a regular free wheeled bike. I can do it if i can position myself onto a slight incline. basically, you turn your wheel ~45ยบ in one direction or the other (whichever is more comfortable for you) move the bike one way by pushing forward on the pedals, move the other way by letting off on the pedals so the bike rolls backwards. see, if the wheel is turned, moving forward and backwards also moves you side to side. so then it becomes about relaxing and learning how the balance of the whole system, bike + rider. good luck!
posted by garethspor at 12:17 AM on September 3, 2007

Trackstands are easy once you get the knack, and very useful in traffic.

As people have said, turn your front wheels to 45 degrees from the bike. If your wheel is turned left, have your left foot forward. If right, right foot.

You're basically creating an imaginary triangle between your back wheel, front wheel and front foot. It's not a very big triangle, which is why it's difficult to keep it exactly in balance. If you're really good, the bike will just hang with equal weight on each of the 3 points. If you're less good, you will need to rock backwards and forward through the balance point. rocking forwards is easy - put pressure on the pedal. Rocking backwards is the trick. If you're on a fixed gear, there is no difference, coz you can ride backwards.

If you're riding a freewheeled bike, you're going to need to rely on something else to let you go backwards. Most roads have some sort of camber. Here in Oz, almost all roads slope up from the left hand edge towards the crown of the road. If I turn my handlebars to the right, I'm basically rocking up and down a very gentle incline created by the camber of the road. In the US, you would presumably turn your wheel to the left to get the same effect. Release pressure on your front foot and you will gently roll backwards enough to re-set your balance.

With practice, you can use things like the painted ridge of line markings to get enough of a slope. Or rely on the squish in your front tyre under brakes to generate enough spring-back to allow you to keep your balance.

I find trackstanding is easier on bikes with road tyres, pumped up hard. Smaller contact patch has less static friction on the road and responds to changes in direction better. And unless you're really confident, don't try it for the first time using cycling shoes that clip into the pedals. You will make an arse of yourself.
posted by tim_in_oz at 1:46 AM on September 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here is a tutorial video on a mtb, but same principle.
posted by neilkod at 5:14 AM on September 3, 2007

some caliper brakes make it easier to track stand without having to find a slope, because they have about a half-inch of spring to them.

also, if you fall practicing track stands with clipless pedals/shoes it means your cleats are too tight and will be dangerous in unexpected situations.
posted by lastobelus at 1:20 AM on September 4, 2007

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