At a standstill

Most cyclists – OK, I – prize speed. Fast is good, faster is better. Fast is cool. But, I have a secret. In my book, the coolest cyclists are the ones who are standing still. I’m talking about trackstands. If you live in a city center or perhaps in T-town, you’ve probably seen them. A biker rises from the saddle as he rolls to a stop, feet in the pedals, using the crown of the road and subtle weight shifts to balance the bike. Sometimes you’ll see a trackstander roll back and forth a bit, racheting the crank to stay upright.
Every time I see somebody do this I think dang, I wish I could do that. I’ve read everything I can find on how to do it. But, at heart, I’m a big chicken on the bike. I’m usually the first guy to unclip when approaching a stop. Not to mention the fact that I’m vain. I’d rather not fall over in the middle of the road while trying to perfect my technique. I’ve already spent enough time laying in the middle of the road this year, thanks, and that was mostly without witnesses.
But, after opening my yap just a bit too much on a group ride this weekend, I’ve decided it’s time to figure this out. No more reading, I need to practice. My commute route runs through a park with some nice, grassy slopes, so I’ve resolved to practice at least once a week until I get it nailed. Here’s what I learned in my first lesson:

  • Relax The first few times I carried a lot of tension in my uppper body and really jerked the front wheel around as I slowed to a halt. That didn’t help. Once I learned to get out of the saddle and just lean on the handlebars a bit, the bike stopped moving around so much.
  • Look up Once I remembered to look out at the horizon instead of at the ground immediately in front of the bike, I found I had an easier time keeping my balance.
  • Lube the chain, dummy I don’t do much maintenance on my commuter bike, so the chain stuck a bit when I backpedaled. This made it impossible to move forwad a little bit by racheting the crank. Once I got things unstuck I could keep the crank more-or-less level but rachet them a bit to move forward at a crawl.

I didn’t quite get to the point where I could stand still for more than a split second, but I did progress past the point where I had to put my foot down every time I got close to a stop. Small progress, but it’s a start. We’ll see how the second session goes.