If you’re already a trials rider - consider sharing this article with someone who could benefit from the same set of foundational skills that you have!

If you’ve ever watched a trials rider effortlessly float their bike up and over an obstacle, you’ve likely thought to yourself how seemingly impossible it would be for you (and your bike) to do the same thing. The riding style looks so advanced that most people never bother to learn the basics, which is truly a shame - because trials is, more than anything else, just the next step of bike handling skills. Any rider who could pick up the basics would substantially increase their riding ability - and the secret is that most of the top downhill, freeride, and even cross country riders have mastered these skills. 

But where to begin: Back wheel hops? Jumping off stuff? Buying a custom bike without a seat?

Not exactly.

The best part about all this is you can start on any bike, on flat ground - and with enough practice, you can learn ALL of the basics (and then some). 

The way I teach Trials is to completely strip away all of the unnecessary stuff, to make it as simple as possible so you can focus on the core elements of technique. I’m going to do that here, to help you get started. 

These are the things you’ll learn in the first phase of Trials technique, which immediately transfer into any other form of riding:

  • Balance
  • Readjusting
  • Pedal Timing
  • Power
  • Re-simplification


Balance on the bike is the foundation of everything, and it’s not too much of a stretch to improve this skill - as most everyone knows how to ride a bike in the first place and is capable of keeping it upright. What we learn as Trials riders is how to use our body weight to move the bike around. The concept of “unweighting” the bike comes into play here, where you would specially move your body weight from the front of the bike to the back of the bike to lift the front wheel off the ground. Similarly, you could move your body weight from front to back quickly to get the bike to roll backwards - which is how you begin to trackstand (balance in place). 

The first step of progressing your balance is to learn the Trackstand technique, which will allow you to stay in one spot and prepare for your next move. Here’s a video that breaks it all down for you:


Now that you can balance in one spot, your next step is to lift your front or rear wheel off the ground - to reposition them under you. A quick preview ahead, this ability can be expanded to redirect your bike by lifting the front or back wheels up and pivoting them. Imagine a switchback or a complete turnaround made simple by pivoting your wheels. 

All of this starts with lifting the wheels off the ground, whether by hopping or lifting one wheel off the ground at a time. We’ll go back to our first phase where we learned to “unweight” the bike, which helps bring a wheel off the ground slightly. As that happens, we’ll readjust where the wheel lands - and replace it back down to help keep our balance. Rocking back and forth (front wheel lift, then back wheel lift) can even replace the need for trackstanding.

The most important element in this phase comes down to your balance points. On the bike, each wheel will have a point at which you can move the bike without falling. You’ve likely seen a rider do an “endo”, which is when they roll up onto their front wheel and lift the back wheel off the ground. That is the front wheel balance point - any further past that, and they’re going over the bars. The thing about less experienced riders is that they haven’t found the balance point yet, and that is the main reason why we recommend to riders to overexaggerate their movements - so they find their balance points. Most riders stop far short of the balance points on both their front and back wheels, and that slows their progress. 

That said, front wheel balance points can be scary to find - and not immediately helpful for the basics. This video focuses on helping you understand the back wheel balance point, and how to easily get your front wheel off the ground. Start here:

Pedal Timing

Getting your pedals to come around at just the right time can be tricky, no matter what you are riding. We always aim to have our pedals level (feet at the same point - 9 and 3 on the clock) whenever we’re trying to balance. To stay consistent and keep the pedals level, their is a constant focus on timing out your pedal stroke, which can take a bit of calibration depending on the bike you are riding. 

Most riders use the wheelie to train this skill - it’s a quick burst of power and rotation of the pedals, and typically brings the front wheel up. At an advanced level in trials, this same exact movement helps us ride onto obstacles. But even riding mountain bikes, you’ll use this skill for keeping momentum and balance through tricky parts of the trail. 

Here’s a video that will help you pick up this skill, no matter what bike you are riding:


Now that we have our balance sorted out, the next thing we need is some power behind the pedals. This one technique will give you all the power you need, and it’s the secret trick behind almost every single trials skill: The Pedal Kick.

The pedal kick is a sharp push on the pedals, combined with a release of the brakes, to quickly spin the back tire. Your body moves out of the way of the bike so it can jump ahead of you, and when done correctly, you can jump high in the air, gap over distances, or even spin around. 

The easiest way to learn pedal kicks is by doing a slow motion version of the movement on flat ground. I like to teach the pedal kick as a smooth way to transition from two tires to one, because it also helps you learn about your body position (and unweighting) - which will help you substantially when it’s time to progress the movement. 

This is a proper trials move, but you’d be surprised how helpful this technique can be elsewhere. Being able to instantly provide your bike with a burst of power will always be useful - and this is the best and most efficient way to do it:


Every single Trials skill can be broken down into many parts - and the four previous sections are the majority of those parts. So many riders try to mash it all together and try it on obstacles right away, when a little extra time dialing in their technique on flat ground would have made all the difference. 

When you’re learning any of these skills - start slow and low. There’s nothing in this sport that requires a “full send” to properly learn, and that’s one of my favorite parts about it. Everything is a calculated movement, and over time, you can master every single skill without risking it all. 

These skills are incredibly useful no matter what you ride - there is a reason why Trials was included in all of the early mountain bike events in the 90s. All the riders would have to hone their skills in this category, and it made for some of the best all-around riders of the era. 

From here, you can take it two different directions - you could continue to develop MTB-style techniques by following this playlist: Learn Mountain Biking Skills

Or if you want to dig into Trials in a more meaningful way, start with this playlist: First Trials Tutorials

First Trials Tutorials

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