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 Trials FAQ     (v2.11)
 
by: blushark
Back Back to Urban Assault Vault...
 
 
(Updated: March 30th 2007, 15:44 UTC+1)

 

   
   
  TABLE OF CONTENTS
   
General  
  0.  Trials, street, urban assault... What's that?
1.  How do you guys do that, do you use clipless pedals?
2.  What do I need to get started?
3.  How much will it cost? Can I break it up in several portions?
4.  I'm not wearing shinpads. I'm not wearing a helmet.
5.  How to deal with calluses?
6.  Suffering pain in the lower back?
7.  Where can I read more? Where can I find good videos?
8.  Where can I find LawnMM's How-to Manual?
   
Bikes / Frames  
  0.  How do trials bikes look? What's a stock and a mod?
1.  Should I get a stock or a mod?
2.  Which stock frame should I choose?
3a.  What is trials geometry? How is it different from XC bike?
3b.  Is my cross-country/freeride/DH bike okay for trials?
4.  Is _ _ _ _ _ _ _ frame/bike a wise choice?
5.  I want to make my bike lighter. How?
   
Techniques  
  0a.  What is the fastest way to learn?
0b.  How do I begin? How do I learn all those move names?
1.  What is rocking? How do I trackstand?
2.  Preloading, forward hopping, stationary hopping.
3.  I can't bunnyhop! (two kinds of bunnyhopping)
4.  Backhop
5.  Lurch/Pedalkick Guide
6.  Manual Manual
7.  Japslap Guide
   
Parts  
 

1a.  Rigid vs. suspension fork. Reducing travel.
1b.  Replacing a suspension with a rigid fork (& associated problems)
2.  Brakes (& everything about them)
3.  Building the perfect wheel. (hubs, rims, tires, tubes, PSI..)
4.  What is a quick engagement hub?
5.  Are my short/flat bars okay for trials?
6.  What kinds of derailleurs/cassettes work best?
7.  I find it easier to hop with clipless. (Are clipless OK in trials?)
8.  Crankarms & bottom-bracket choice.
9.  V-brake setup guide (You CAN ride trials without HS33)
10.  Stem issues - right choice of stem for trials riding

   
Links
Credits
 
   
 

 

Disclaimer: This FAQ evolves as I learn.
I'm not a pro rider and certainly don't claim
I know everything. I'm just a random rider
willing to share his insights to help others.

 


 

 
 ^ Go to top
  General

Chapter:  Next Chapter
  0. Trials, street, urban assault... What's that?
 
 

Most common mistake associated with trials is misspelling its name. It's not trails (as in tracks), it's not trial (as in single attempt), but it's trials. Trials as in trial and error, trials as in multiple attempts to do something. Official sport name: mountain bike observed trials. It is one of 4 types of mountain biking recognized by the UCI.
However, term trials originated in Spain about 25 years ago, and it was originally called 'trial sin motor', or trials without a motorcycle, as it was ridden on small 20" bikes which were originally used as a cheap method of training motorcycle trials riders. Later it evolved into a sport of its own, and went under name of "trialsin" and later "trials", so there are people who think sport should actually be called "trial" instead of "trials". I disagree with this, because we're talking in english, not spanish.


There are few kinds of riding which are often mixed with trials, mistaken for trials and called incorrectly altogether. I'll try to explain basic differences between riding styles, bikes used and give a few examples.

'Trials' usually means natural (or pure) trials -- an almost artistic way of getting over obstacles with your bike, obstacles most people wouldn't walk on -- without putting your feet down in the process, using fascinating and exotic techniques (as far as crowd factor seems to go). Of all the disciplines using this kind of techniques, most will say trials were the first to develop most of them, about 25 years ago. Natural trials are the form of trials mostly used in competitions (although that's going to gradually change, in my opinion).
Common misconception is that trials riders do tricks. This is not true - trick is something you do to entertain others, while trials riders use techniques, which are meant to accomplish something useful, for example clear an obstacle without dabbing (putting your foot down). This may not seem like a big issue, but most trials riders will prefer you don't call it tricks.. some will even get upset about it. :)
Very lightweight bikes are used for natural trials riding, because when you have to surge from mud to a moss-covered trunk and then lurch to a slippery piece of rock in the middle of a stream, you want every inch you can get from your bike and muscles. Pure trials frames and parts are not as strong as in other kinds of riding, because there is less big drops to hard terrain (no concrete/asphalt) and more ups, which require lightest bikes. They usually have sponsors, and have no financial problems snapping a frame every few weeks, as they get a new one for free. In other words, you don't buy a natural trials frame for jumping around the town because its strength was compromised in order to make it lightweight. (Similar conclusions can be drawn from comparing XC and freeride frames)
Typical trials-specific moves (at least originally) are techniques like pedalkick, japslap (or pedal-up), rocking, sidehop, bashguard upping, pivoting and many others. Typical frames used with rigid forks and toothed bashguards: Brisa B26D, Echo Pure, Ashton Justice, Megamo and Monty bikes, Zoo Piranha etc.

'Urban trials' is a mixture of trials techniques and urban environment. The result is a kind of riding easier and usually more fun than natural trials, because of widely available riding spots, good friction, right angles, firm terrain (concrete/asphalt) etc. - making it overally easier and therefore - more fun.
The difference between urban trials and urban assault is in techniques used: urban trials retain basic trials idea, which is to get over obstacles without dabbing, using same old trials techniques, sometimes a bit modified; while urban assault is all about high speed fun, jumps and drops, usually leading slightly downhill - at least in riders' minds.
Most urban trials riders mix trials elements with street tricks, so any good urban rider will know how to manual, stoppie or fakie - there is always that element of pleasing the crowds (which are abundant in cities) that original trials miss, as rarely anyone will be in the woods staring at the rider doing crazy stuff.
Urban trials require stronger bikes because of shocks delivered by unforgiving asphalt and concrete, big drops on hard surfaces. Some riders opt for short-travel suspension forks, while others ride rigid forks and make their whole bodies act like suspension. Smooth bashguards are most often used to slide in on smooth obstacle surfaces, as opposed to toothed bashguards used in natural trials to bite into surfaces like wood or rock.
Some typical frames are: Planet-X Zebdi, Echo Urban, Koxx Urban, Onza T-Rex, Thylacine X-Trials, etc.

'Street' is a discipline that originated in BMX world decades ago (and both worlds still share a a lot of same tricks), and it's based on 'eye-candy techniques', or tricks, designed to entertain the rider or the crowd, without any real use. It involves moves (tricks) like manuals, nosepicks, fakies, g-turns, rockwalks, (twisted) stoppies, catwalks, x-ups, barspins etc. Street riding on mountain bike is getting more often called jibbing, since it evolved a long way from BMX in 1980s.
Good example of an MTB frame that could be used for street riding is Goatbike Goatbike, Ashton ET24 (Edd Tongue Signature), Curtis T1 Street and KoxxST frames, Norco Moment, Author A-gang... Urban trials and street frames have very similar geometries and you can use both types of frames for both kinds of riding, but if you really want to know the difference, usually street frame will have shorter wheelbase, smaller head angle (=less steep) and they're usually built to ride with suspension forks.

'Urban assault' is, as its name suggests, aggressive kind of riding invented to damage urban stuff all over town, usually ridden on a bike with plush-travel suspension fork and a steel frame (or fat aluminum frame), like for example Planet-X Pitbull.
It can't really be precisely defined because of all the different styles that get called urban assault, but when you see someone doing a high-speed drop down the stairs or launching off a wall down a piece of grassy slope, you can be reasonably convinced you've witnessed an urban assault maneuver. Lately, a lot of riders opt for full suspension frames, knowing concrete is unforgiving. However, most of dirt jump and dual slalom frames will do for this kind of riding, since it requires frames that are designed for high speed stability and suspension forks.

 


Now, here's what UCI says about pure trials:

"Bicycle trials is one of the most absorbing types of cycle competition. The object of this sport is to ride over an obstacle, called a 'section' without touching a foot on the ground. Typical obstacles are rocks and trees, but can be anything: boxes, automobiles, tables, etc. Foot contact with the ground is called a 'dab', and each dab receives a penalty point. After negotiating a series of 'sections', the rider with the fewest penalty points is declared the winner.
The first UCI bicycle trials world championships took place in 1984. The sport grew up in the USA, partly as an off-shoot of the motorised sport, and partly as logical extension of off-road cycling.

Two main categories of cycle trials exist. They are based on the permitted wheel size of the bicycle. These categories are 20-inch [mod] and 26-inch [stock].

Participants in this sport spend much time working out a route through each section. They will carefully observe their rivals in action, and are very sympathetic to the performance of each other. (...)".

Also see: Trials-Online -- What is trials?

 

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 1. How do you guys do that, do you use clipless pedals?
 
 

We most certainly don't. If anyone actually used clipless pedals in trials, we'd probably call him a cheater and make fun of him, haha... There are many reasons why you don't use clipless pedals in trials, few of them being: before all -- you don't need them to do any of techniques, even if you used them you'd gain nothing (unless you didn't know any of the basic trials techniques); they are very dangeorus (hard to bail), it's very hard to learn proper techniques riding with them (you rely on your legs too much), they are more expensive, require special shoes and servicing, they have 0 advantages in total etc.

Trials is all about weight-shifting and clever/timely application of forces, so anything you think clipless pedals may make easier/possible for you, is already possible without them.
Clipless pedals are dangeorus when you need to bail, and there are known deaths caused by clipless pedals---people died because they couldn't clip out of them in time (or at all). Read more about it in this FAQ article.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter
2. What do I need to get started?
 
 

You need a mountain bike, preferably not a full-suspension one. You can start right away by lowering your seat as much as you can and start practicing simple introductory techniques described in technique section of the FAQ.

As you get better, you will feel like your bike is holding you back, which will in most cases be true, so then, if you can afford it, you can start adjusting and replacing certain parts to get more trialsy feeling on your bike. Check out this great guide for step-by-step guidance through the bike setup:

Trials-Online -- Bike Setup Guide

After you've read it and got some feeling about what you may need to upgrade, you can read about most popular part replacements in the parts section of the FAQ in much more detail, to learn more about why you need to upgrade, what you get and what you lose.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 3. How much will it cost? Can I break it up in several portions?
 
 

You most certainly can. For details, go here:
Trials-Online -- 'Cost planner' (see bottoms of colums)

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 4. I'm not wearing shinpads. I'm not wearing a helmet.
 
 

I'm not going to start by saying that you're an idiot for not wearing a helmet, although I could. Instead, I'll show you how most trials riders feel about trials safety.
The thoughts that guide us are following: We enjoy trials, we do it because it's great fun. We understand the risks involved. Therefore: we want a way to enjoy without permanent consequences no matter what happens. Since this is utopia, you have to at least reasonably minimize risk level.
Now I don't care about a scratch or two, I'm talking about not being able to ride for month(s) or big time screw-ups finishing in concussions (causing balance problems, amnesia, blindness or any other brain-related injury) and all of that because your head hit the concrete just when you were about to bail that 5ft drop like you usually do.. Or because you were riding down your street and your slipped on a wet pile of leaves or hit a wall when some kid ran out from between two parked cars or hit the sign at bus-stop (hi Danny! :-). There are so many picturesque brain-damage related injuries -- you don't want to get me started.
It doesn't matter where you ride, how long you ride and whether you are on a bike for the first time in your life -- it can happen anywhere. You are NOT wearing a helmet because you expect to be crashing every few rides. You are wearing it because you expect one bad crash in 5 years. It's all about one crash, but since you don't know when it'll happen, you just always wear your helmet.
I needed my helmet about 3 times last year, and without it I'd be seriously injured and wouldn't be writing this. I'm lucky because my occasional crashes remind me to keep wearing it. Don't be lulled into false security!  ALWAYS   wear  a  helmet . Besides, they won't let you enter any competition if you don't have one.

---

Shinpads.. well.. ask any pro that's not using shinpads to show you his shinbones. It's disgusting! I don't want to have scars that bad for life... And I certainly don't want a crutch because I smashed my knee. That's why I got myself shin+knee guards. My DMR-V12 have already eaten their way half through the skid-plates, and I don't have to illustrate what that means. Flat pedals are a very dangeorus thing. Some people bail/crash from a big move because they have a fear of tearing their shins to shreds -- again (shin-shy people). That's the point where your choice of not wearing shinguards becomes more than "I can live with some shin-pain" and becomes life threatening.
If you think this article is too dramatic, you're either not well informed or over-self-confident. ;p

Having elbow-guards makes you a very happy man the first time you make use of them. Potential pain flashes trough your mind and you're thankful. You won't die without them, but I used to wear them for big moves/on big rides (they are kind of pain in the butt if you always wear them)

The main problem with knees and elbows is the fact that they're complicated motoric devices which, once smashed, take thousands of dollars and years to partially heal. You will NEVER be able to completely heal a damaged knee or elbow.

Not wearing gloves is a matter of personal comfort and performance. Everyone wears them because gloves are directly involved in your trials performance (reducing sweat influencing grip on handlebars for starters; protection when you fall etc.). Every mountain bikes wears them (except this 1 guy I once knew). And if nothing else, they're cool.
Not wearing a helmet is also considered cool in some backward parts of the world... but please, use your head when it comes to helmets. Not wearing a helmet is like not wearing a condom while f**king this random person you just met. It's just not a good idea. Wearing shinpads is like choosing a lubricated condom, most people appreciate them after they try them. And wearing elbow guards is like using a spermicide on top of all that.
You decide how much protection & comfort you want and how much you want to pay for it. ;-)

And at the end, do not forget what kind of confidence-boost (=> and performance) wearing protective equipment provides. (if you never experienced it, you're at loss) Personally, when I put my helmet, gloves and shinpads on, I'm at least twice as daring and three times less likely to bail. That makes me 6 times the rider. Try it and you'll see.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 5. How to deal with calluses?
 
 

The big trials problem: almost anyone riding enough (2-3 times a week for a few hours) will develop bad calluses (depending on gloves, grips and his specific riding style). It's a problem that no-one really managed to solve, but there are workarounds to make your life easier.

Let's list a few, with good and bad sides:

Manage calluses. Even if you won't use any of the following advices, don't ignore your calluses. In my experience, when I first start riding after a long pause, with nice soft hands, after two rides I develop blisters (bubbles under my skin). I don't puncture them, I pause for two or three days, and then ride carefully until the situation blows up, peels off and develops into hard skin (callous). Then it becomes easier if you ride regularly.
After a shorter pause, when hard skins just starts to peel off (or simply disappear), it's hard to start riding again because something very painful starts happening, and that's bubbles under hardened skin. I've found no workaround for this, except avoid shorter pauses or use one of pain-reducing techniques listed later.

Use pumice. In case you don't already know, pumice is a lightweight natural porous stone, sold for managing hardened skin or calluses, that by some chance even floats on water. There are few kinds of artificial substitutes, but artificial pumice-like materials work best for me, since it's hands we're talking about, and the one I've found is not as hard as natural pumice. Try different stiffnesses and see what's comfortable. Use it just to keep control over your blisters (soften them a bit), don't try to remove them completely.
Bad sides: hurts a bit, boring to do regularly (and you have to do it regularly).

Use crèmes. Using hand crèmes during night, applied to calluses in excessive quantities (white ponds of crème on your hands) usually make them softer, therefore easier to deal with. I've tried hydrating and fatty crèmes, and they both work differently, so I use them both, in turns. It's great to use combined with pumice.
Bad sides: if you're not careful, you can get the bed dirty. :-)

Use padding. The best callous-reducing way by far is padding in your gloves, but it can sometimes sacrifice your performace (especially if you get gloves with gel implants). You can try and get long-fingered padded gloves, but I always felt feeling of the grip/handlebars was not as direct, meaning not as good for trials -- I couldn't twist the bars as effectively since padding would always bend and twist etc.
Then I thought of impossibly stupid but simple idea, which was to try and wrap a piece of cotton cloth around painful places (or even before they become painful). This helped, and the feeling of the handlebar was still very good, so I use this trick for almost every ride.

Why does this work? I think it's because:
(1) it eliminates direct rubbing of your hands against the grips and
(2) due to increased sweating, your hardened skin is always moist which makes it softer, therefore easier to deal with (hurts less, slows down further skin accumulation)

How come cloth doesn't slip off during the ride? If you install it properly, it almost certainly won't slip off or slide back. It never moved out of position for me. (read more about this later)
How to make it? Simple. I took a really thin piece of cotton cloth (almost transparent), from a thousand times rewashed piece of old T-shirt. I cut a long narrow strip (about 30cm/12" long), widened at one end. It looks something like this:

I put the wide part over my calluses, and wrap the long part between my fingers and one more times over calluses, then stick the end under any of the layers or just leave it hanging (if your gloves fit perfectly). I put on the gloves and that's it. It doesn't shift or move during the ride because it's wrapped between your fingers which keeps it from sliding backward, and you forget you have it on in a second.

You can design your own strip any way you want; I use this design because it works so I never bothered improving it, but I also tried plain rectangular form which worked pretty good too. (I've been using it for a few months now)
It's a good idea to keep the shape narrow and long, so that the whole thing doesn't get too fat when you wrap the strip around your fingers, and it's also good idea to find tender and thin cotton cloth. Using at least two layers when wrapping it around your hand is a good idea because one layer stays in place on your skin, and the other slides with glove material, so your hand doesn't have to endure constant rubbing. It seems friction is pretty low with thin cotton material. I suggest not using more than two or three layers so that your feeling of bars during the ride doesn't get lost in layers of material: you want to avoid twisting your bars three times as much to get desired effect.

The only bad side of all this is a small waste of time installing the strip before every ride.

Also, try rotating your bars slightly forward or backward, as if it isn't in the right place, it will put all the stress of pedalkicking/bunnyhopping/etc. on one point in your hand, and it hurts bad. I learnt this the hard way, and it helped A LOT to rotate my bars for just 1-2 degrees. (advice by Gardenfan from TO forum)

 
At the end: you can't expect to completely get rid of your hard skin or callouses because that would mean not ride trials. Instead, just make sure you have it under control using advices mentioned here, and just try to explain it to your girlfriend before she assumes different origin. ;-)

If you have your own techniques to battle hard skin, e-mail me. (address is at the bottom of the FAQ)

 

        ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 6. Suffering pain in the lower back?
 
 

Pain in the lower back usually occurs for three reasons:

1) your muscles are inadequately developed for your riding desires
2) your bike’s geometry isn’t suited to your body
3) you're using wrong backhop/pedalkick stance

Reason #1
When you just learn certain backwheel moves, especially backhopping and pedalkick (lurch), you will suddently start intensely using muscles you most probably have never used before. They will get sore and hurt a lot. Easiest solution is to keep practicing with less intensity until they develop. With every day riding this usually takes from 1 to 3 weeks, depending on your ovarall condition.
The pain itself should clearly come from muscles and not from your spine.

Reason #2
If, after muscles stopped aching, your lower back still hurts, but this time mostly bones (your spine), it is very likely your bike (stem, frame, bars) aren’t adapted to your body. Usually, the stem will turn out to be too short or with too much rise. For more, read about stem issues in this article.
Remember, the longer your wheelbase, shorter stem you need. The longer your fork (rigid 400mm vs. 440+mm suspension forks), the less rise you will need for your stem.

Reason #3
If you have right stem and frame, and your back still hurts, it’s almost certanly because of your riding (backhop) stance. New riders, just like me one upon a time, tend to keep their butts low and arms straight. This puts a lot of stress on your lower back and causes sorness, inability to maintain backhop, hardly controled pedalkicks etc.
I’ve written about this on a couple occasions in this FAQ (in backhop and pedalkick guides), so I’ll just repeat in short: keep your back as straight as it’s comfortable, and bend your arms by pulling bars closer to your body. Feel your arms straining. You may reach a conclusion that your current muscles aren't sufficient to maintain this kind of backhop for a longer time, but keep working on them and you'll come to a point when it becomes comfortable.

Dealing with all 3 causes will usually greatly reduce (or put a stop to) your lower back pain.
If you have additions to my experiences, please e-mail me.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 7. Where can I read more? Where can I find good videos?
 
 

Visit our links page to see links to three best sites with technique descriptions and a list of sites serving nice videos with comments and more.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 8. Where can I download famous LawnMM's How-to Manual from?
 
 

You can find it here (HTML). It contains very good tips on back wheel moves, wheelieing and sidedropping.

 
 


 
 
 ^ Go to top 
 Bikes / Frames
Chapter: Previous Chapter  Next Chapter
  0. How do trials bikes look? What's a stock, what's a mod?
 
 

Basically, a stock bike is a mountain bike, more or less adapted for trials riding. It has big 26" wheels. A mod bike is basically a BMX-look alike completely dedicated to trials riding: small, light, trialsy. The most obvious distinguishing characteristic are small 20" wheels.

To see pictures of top-of-the-line stock and mod bikes and read well-written short description, go to trials-online's trials bikes 101. There you will find more info on differences and characteristic of both types of bikes.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 1. Should I get a stock or a mod?
 
  Making a choice between two usually comes down to simple state of preference, to decision on which kind of riding you like better.

Mods are specialized beasts designed for performance, factory-trained to be devoted to trials. When you buy a mod, you will be condemned to pure trials riding, and nothing else. Not even riding 3 miles away to a cool place for lurching around; and it's not just that most of them doesn't have a seat. You will have hard time going downhill, no matter how smooth the asphalt is, for more reasons than just because smaller wheels are less stable. Replacement parts are much harder to find, and you've lesser choice of them.
On the other hand, you will have no rear mech (derailleur) to bash against whatever it is you were just trying to sidehop on; you will have true trials geometry that will enable you to camp on your back wheel if you wish; you will have a bashplate (that means easier balance); you will have a very small, light bike that's unbelievably responsive to all kinds of maneuvers, and finally -- you won't have to spend months building up a perfect trials machine out of expensive parts, because you get it all in one package, rideable out of the box.
Generally, you get it and ride it, but usually keep it riding only if you want to go pro in mod class. Most riders enjoy it at first, but then they wish for a stock, which offers far more options. There are very few exceptions to this rule (people who sticked with mod, I mean). I like to think of stock as a long-term investment.
You can ride mod at first, and later sell it to buy yourself a stock. People report it's not that hard to transfer skills mod > stock because you already understand the mechanics of the moves.

Some people say mods have no style, no spirit, and no versatility. I agree. It's like swimming with flippers: it's great while you're in the water, but when you get out of the sea, it's clumsy to walk in them. It's similar with mods.

This is where we come to stock bikes. They have style, nice frame designs, artistic paint jobs (some of them, at least), versatility, flexibility (to configure them to your specific needs). You can also show off your ability to build a bike that looks good and rides good. :-) You have a wide range of thousands of product you can put on your bike to suit it to your needs and abilities, or you can just buy a complete stock bike. If you're on a limited budget then stock is the way to go: start with any mountain bike and modify it part by part.
Stock bikes, therefore, can be used for more than trials.. you're not limiting yourself to a specialized bike. You can ride natural trials or urban assault (most urban riders choose stocks). You can perform wider gamut of cool things. You can fit suspension fork if you change you mind later on. You can pull off much bigger moves and gaps.
The downsides are that in the end, it costs you a lot of money. Also, you have a steeper learning curve on a stock, meaning you learn slower. However, once you master all of the skills, there will be no mod-match for you!

Bottom line: despite all talks about easy mod to stock skill transfer, it's still a skill transfer, and it's still easier (and cheaper) to switch from a stock to mod if you change your mind later on, then vice versa.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 2. Which stock frame should I choose?
 
  The choice of the right frame is always an issue. There are two basic limiting factors: the price and the level of frame's "trials dedication" you wish.
Usual recommendation goes for the price: get the most expensive frame you can afford. :-)

As for "level of dedication", well, you have to list all uses for your new frame, and then see if you've mentioned anything except trials. If you have, then you usually don't buy a frame with totally converted geometry. (See: "what is trials geometry?")
The most important thing about this is to decide whether you'll be riding more natural or urban. Urban generally requires beefier (also heavier) frames with loads of gussets, butting and weird alloys to keep them from breaking in the coarse urban environment. If you're particularly smooth, you can go with competition frames (lighter, but not as strong), but if you were so smooth, you probably wouldn't be reading this.

Choice of material usually isn't that big of a deal because cheap frames are aluminum, and expensive ones steel or titanium. For the latter they say they last forever. Not so few of them have lifetime warranties. Aluminum frames usually snap sooner or later. The most important factor here is your weight: if you're over 185lbs, seriously think about getting a cro-mo or steel frame.

Then, you have to decide what kind of fork and brakes you will be running. As for choice of the fork, see "rigid vs. suspension fork", and now I'll just explain fork <to> frame relationship. Every frame has been designed to deliver certain performance, and that's mostly based around its geometry. However, geometry greatly relies on the fork you use, and that's the very reason why any decent frame manufacturer specifies the length or travel of the fork the frame was conceived for. That means that by choosing your frame you narrow down choices of possible fork selection. That's always good to keep in mind in case you already have a fork. Don't run forks that are way over the specs (too long or too short for your frame), because you're distorting the frame's geometry and making it ride different.
Using a fork that's too long, for example a suspension fork with 3-4" travel on a bike designed for rigid (trials) fork, will decrease your head angle, making your handling at low speeds a pain. It will also bring the front of the bike up, which means all kinds of trouble while performing some of the moves. Bike will feel funny.
A fork too short, for e.g. using short rigid fork on a bike designed for 3-4" fork, will bring your front end too low, usually meaning some picturesque crashes, twitchy handling, hard bunnyhops, unpleasant drops and generally bad handling.
Some frames advertise "variable geometry", depending on the fork fitted, but only few deliver the promised performance. (Planet-X New Jack Flash is one of them)

The choice of brakes: you can choose to run rim or disc brakes. However, if you want to run rear disc brake, then you have to make sure the frame will endure the abuse that disc will put it trough. Not so long ago, rear disc brake was a big no-no in the trials world because frame's disc tabs have been designed to be pushed forward while braking (rotation direction of the wheels) and not pulled back as is often the case in trials -- while dropping off, lurching, back hopping etc. So, what would usually happen was the disc tabs (or even whole chainstays) were being ripped out of the frame.
Nowadays, there are frame designers addressing this particular issue, and if you want to run discs you'd better be very sure your new frame will be one of those. Some of those frames are: Brisa B26D, most Echo frames, Planet-X Zebdi Mk5-6, Orange Zero etc.
(article on brakes)

Frame sizes usually don't matter much in trials world, because most trials-specific frames are under 13.5". All that matters is stand-over height, so smaller frame usually equals lower standover -- which is very nice when bailing. It usually has nothing to do with your height, because, unlike XC, you won't be sitting while riding anyway. In trials world, frame size doesn't tell you anything about rest of the geometry, and there is only 1 size of each frame available anyway.

Check whether frame you want has a functioning seat tube, ie. can you use a real seatpost and real seat, just push-in plastic trials saddles or no seat at all. (usually comp frames have no seat at all) If you expect to be riding some distances to your trialsin spots, you will want a functioning seat that can be heightened so you don't have to kick your heels in your butt while pedalling. If you won't be riding long distances, you can get a push-in seat. If you're only interested in comps and riding in your backyard trials park, you can comfortably get a frame with no seat.

Last but not least: check out the warranty terms. Some frames have very demoralizing policies, like Echo or Pashley, while others have very stimulating terms, like Planet-X for example.

Usually you match all of these characteristics, and only then look for the frame that's lightest for the money. Any trials-specific frame with weight under 3.5 lbs (1.6kg) is extremely light. It's probably a competition frame and as such, unless it's titanium, will not last trough too much trials abuse. You get it when you have sponsors.
Any frame weighing 3.5-4.5 lbs (1.6-2kg) is a good, pretty lightweight, trials frame. You can find some very tough trials frames in this range, like Planet-X Zebdi or Ellsworth Specialist. Any frame weighing more than 4.5 (2kg) and under 5.0 (2.3kg) is considered acceptable. Frames over 5.0 lbs are considered heavy. These are rare in trials world.
Please note that frame weight is very relative -- a big strong rider will ride a 5.0 lbs frame like if it was made of feathers (i.e. like it's very light). You can also forget about frame weight if you've intended heavy parts for it. Trials bikes usually weigh between 20 and 30 lbs (9-14kg), and 1 lbs (0.5kg) more (or less) on the frame usually doesn't play a big role. Advice: don't be a weight freak if you don't have loads of money. ;-)


Don't forget: visit our stock frame list for loads of info on (much) more than 100 frames: geometry, weight, materials, prices and other info. It's there to make your life easier.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 3. What is trials geometry? How is it different from XC bike?
 
  Stock frame trials geometry was derived from cross country geometry. Its purpose was to, obviously, make the bike more suitable for observed trials.

First off, while someone rides a 19" XC bike and enjoys it, he'll find a 13" trials frame to feel just as comfortable while trials-riding. The smaller the bike, the easier it is to throw it around. This is very important. If you have a frame small enough, you'll be able to pull off all kinds of moves without having to worry too much about exact geometry. (to some extent, though).

The chainstay length was brought down from usual 16.5-17" to pretty short 15"-16". Few demonstrative chainstay lengths are: 15" (Echo Urban/Pure, Zoo Piranha), 15.15" (Koxx Level Boss), 15.25" (Crescent Ilions), 15.5 (Planet-X Zebdi), 15.75" (Ellsworth Specialist), 15.85" (Orange Zero, Brisa B26D), and even 16" (Norco Team Trials, Giant Team Trials, Planet X Pitbull falls a bit short of 16"...). These are all good frames, some of them seriously expensive too, and yet they are so different; but short chainstays do not make up complete geometry, and carefully balanced specs are more important than simple 15" chainstays.

However, the rule of thumb for chainstays usually is: the shorter the chainstays are, the more stable will bike handle on the rear wheel, easier it will be to get there (simple physics - you want your bottom bracket to be closest to the axle) and bike will be twitchier: it'll be easier to throw it around.
If you don't understand why this happens, find a BMX, put your feet on rear pegs ("those two spikes coming from the rear wheel") and try to get onto the rear wheel by pulling up the front. Exactly. The bike will fly. That's an example of having virtual chainstay length of 0".
The longer chainstays are, farther you will be able to gap and more stable you'll feel rolling high speed/doing rolling dropoffs. Some people like their stays longer, like Ryan Leech for example. They are usually more into urban riding, or in some cases very good natural trials competitors (where longer gap is more important than stability which they mastered years ago).
One of the things keeping some of these manufacturers from obsessively shortening the chainstays beyond any recognition, is the fact that anyone running 26" wheels requires the constant space for rear wheel + tire: about half the size of the wheel, (26" + tire) / 2 = 14 to 15" (and this is where the mods come in, with their 20" wheels). A lot of specialized frames can't even have front derailleur mounted because the rear tire would be rubbing it. Some frame designers have bent the seat tubes to get the tire even closer in.
The drawback of very short chainstays is following: longer chainstays let you gap farther and provide more stable (predictable) roll on two wheels.
It's all a matter of your skill, philosophy and a little getting used to. It's best to get a frame with medium length chainstays and after a couple years of riding you'll know what you want.
 

Top tube was shortened too. It's much easier to handle such bike during trials moves, and it's generally more responsive. It was brought from somewhere around 23-24" to around or under 21-22".

Trials frames also have shorter wheelbases. (wheelbase = distance between front and rear axle) Some typical trials wheelbase values range from 1020mm to 1100mm. The shorter the wheelbase, the easier will bike respond to throwing around and pulling up into bunnyhop, but it will be harder to roll up higher objects. Shorter wheelbase is usually desired in street riding, where it greatly aids performance of various tricks.
Longer wheelbase makes bike feel more inert, but you'll get better performance riding natural trials (that's where they're usually found). Some (rare) frames have even different wheelbase versions: for example Koxx makes a frame with 1065 and 1100mm wheelbase, but otherwise completely identical geometry. This just illustrates the importance of good wheelbase choice.

Head angle was steepened from 69-71 degrees to 72-75 degrees. The steeper the angle, the better handling, and more importantly, precision are at low speeds (and vice versa - steering will feel twitchy and render bike unstable when rolling high speed). Steeper angle also greatly helps pivots and rocking, making them easier and more controlled.
This angle also depends partially on the length of the fork so you have to be careful to choose the right one. Longer fork than what the frame was designed for, decreases the effective head angle. Almost every trials frame there is, is designed for 400mm rigid fork, and roughly, suspension fork will decrease head angle by 1 degree for every inch of travel it has (approximately). However, there are many trials frames which use 71 degree head angle, aiming at people who want to be more stable while going fast -- usually street riders. In my oppinion, it is unneccessary for a trials bike to handle good at high speeds at cost of losing precision while trialsin, so my choice was 74 degree head angle frame.

Difference of 0.3" in chainstay length may not seem too much - or even noticeable, but the rider can usually feel it very distinctively. That's one of the few reasons why carefully balanced frames are so expensive and etch their extraordinary feel the first moment you try them..


There are other modifications trials frames have undergone, like being made of unusual alloys, gusseting, special butting, casting critical parts of the frames in one piece, heat treating more than once, different ways of assembling and welding the frame, strengthening the disc tabs etc., but that's getting out of the bounds of this FAQ, and besides, every manufacturer has his own specific tricks.


With this information, you can now know to what extent a frame is dedicated to trials after examining its geometry specs. (hint from gurus: looking at our frame list comparing geometry specs of different frames, and then reading user comments on the forum can be astoundingly useful experience).


Please note that measures given in this article are only approximations and can vary.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 3b. Is my cross-country/freeride/downhill bike okay for trials?
 
  Technically, you should be able to pull off most of trials moves on almost any hardtail mountain bike. Those moves will never be as easy and long-ranged as they might be on a trials-specific bike, but you should be able to do it. This means that usually, with some slight modifications, your hardtail WILL be sufficient for first few months of your trials career and WILL NOT hold you back to extent where it would be justified to spend a huge amount of money for a new bike. You will have a harder time learning some of the moves though.
This, however, is a very generalized answer and is valid only for the first few months of trialsing, depending on your own speed of learning.

Usually, people want to know if their cross-country (XC) or freeride/dirt/dual (FR) bikes will suffice for a bit of playriding in trials. Let's deal with both kinds separately.

XC
Cross-country geometries can vary greatly. If you have oldschool XC geometry, it will mean almost straight top tube, meaning very, very high and unpleasant standover. This by itself will not so much prevent you from practicing techniques, but will degrade your comfort.
Newschool XC geometry has slanted top tube and higher standover. You are, of course, lucky if you have a newskool XC frame. If I recall correctly, a great deal of frames manufactured after year 2002 use slanted top tubes. There are also many other factors that will make your trials attempts more or less successful, but to learn more, read this article on the difference between XC and trials geometry.
Other important aspects of a trials bike are brakes and bars. You absolutely need nice wide riser bars. They are not that expensive, and anything below 24" is completely unacceptable. Read the article about bars for more info. As for brakes -- you want to be able to comfortably lock up both wheels with one finger. In the beginning, most v-brakes might do, especially if you choose the right pads (like Kool-Stop). For more info, read the article about brakes.

The only issue left to cover are other, either lightweight, or cheap XC parts. You see, the thing is that they won't last. Chains, hubs, spokes, rims, bars, stems -- they will all be snapping and breaking. If you understand this, and willingly go ride trials with such configuration, be well aware of the risks involved and wear lots of protective equipment. Parts snapping may be regular occurrence after a few months abuse, and it's never a pleasant thing. Few people have to money to upgrade everything the second they wish to try trials, so ride, but be careful. Don't try things that are beyond your bike's abilities.

For my first 6 months in trials, I have ridden an oldschool race XC bike with completely straight top tube, excellent brakes and 25" wide riser bars. I learnt all crucial techniques on that bike and have also broken the frame.
Bottom line: your XC bike will suffice, maybe with slight modifications. Go for it.

FR/DH
If you have a hardtail freeride, dirt jump or dual slalom bike, you can consider yourself lucky. Let's make it clear: while XC riders have to be patient until they buy another frame, you may be lucky enough to have a frame that will serve you well for a couple of years in trials. This is why there are so many freeride, dirt jump and dual slalom frames in our stock frames list.
Your worst problems, in case you own a freeride frame, will be long chainstays (more than 16.5"), head angle not steep enough (equal to or less than 71 degrees) and long travel fork (more than 3").
Let's make this clear -- long chainstays never harmed anyone, they just make back wheel moves harder to learn and render you less stable while on back wheel. XC frame riders have to deal with a lot more problems. Smaller head angle means a bit worse handling when low speeds. Also not an issue too big.
The only real issue is your long travel fork. You can ride trials with forks with up to maybe 3" travel (4" if you're good), but anything more will be real pain. Your balance will suck, your front end will be too high; you'll basically be able to perform almost nothing satisfactorily. That's when you want to reduce travel of your fork, get another fork with less travel or get a rigid fork.
For pros and con's of choosing rigid over suspension forks, read the corresponding article in this FAQ. The same applies for buying yourself a rigid fork: read some of the problems and advices in this article about replacing suspension forks with rigid ones.

In case you own a full suspension freeride/DH rig, be aware of two factors:
1) your rear suspension might not endure the abuse rear wheel moves will put it through -- they tend to snap very soon and the owners usually end up feeling bad about it.
2) rear suspension will render your bike very unpredictable -- there's a few of people who got used to it, but they'll never amount to anything doing it. It's just too hard to control the bike.
3) FR/DH bikes are to heavy to do anything useful, trials-wise. When you get really good in trials, you might be able to do a bit of trials moves on such bike, but you will sweat over simple pivot, not to mention pedalkick. I tried it on a 18kg FR bike for more than a week.
 
Although it's possible to try some trials moves for fun on full suspension bikes, it's practically impossible to actually learn anything using such a bike.

In any case, however, start riding now and think later! :-)

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 4. Is ___________ frame/bike a wise choice?
 
 

Such questions are always welcome to forums and newsgroups, as long as you say what kind of riding you do and what amount of money you have available. So, go ahead and ask. There are frames with good geometries but lousy manufacturers which often break, so it's a very good idea to check for other people's experiences before choosing a frame just based on it's geometry information.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 5. I want to make my bike lighter. How?
 
 

The things you can do for free is getting rid of 32 and 44t chainrings in the front, taking off front derailleur and shifter, saw off your seat tube, take off some sprockets off your cassette etc. However, if you're seriously into trials, the chances are you've already done this.


If you have a lot of money, this is not a real problem. Get a lighter frame and most expensive parts.

If you're on a limited budget, the first and basic thing is to find out the exact weights of your current parts and write them down. If you can't find the weight for some part and are completely desperate, then get the part off the bike and scale it. It's a pain, but I've done it.

Consider the amount of money you have available, and for each of those parts find a lighter alternative. Then you choose the part whose replacement will take away most of the weight. It usually turns out to be your seat, rear hub, tires, rims, brakes or cranks. Some of these parts are very expensive to replace, though.
After this, the next time you have some money, go through the list again, and replace the next part.

However, be VERY careful that the selected part will endure everyday trials abuse, especially if you ride urban and not natural. DO NOT drill your rims. DO NOT radially lace your wheels. NEVER save money on your chain or your rear hub. Those are the first thing to break, and also the most painful. DO NOT buy lightweight parts intended for XC/competition. The safest way to make sure if part is strong enough for trials is asking on the forum or asking manufacturer if they give the part warranty for trials use. Many won't, but some will, and those are the ones you're after.

 


 
 
 ^ Go to top
  Techniques
Chapter: Previous Chapter  Next Chapter
  0.a. What is the fastest way to learn?
 
  There is a reason this question bears number 0. It's a question hardly anyone ever asks, but it's pretty good to know about. Advanced riders usually figure it out by themselves, rarely anyone tries to convey it to other people.

Human's brain and learning process are pretty complex and even still mostly mysterious topics. In order to keep myself from writing a 5470 word essay on that, I will NOT explain why things are the way they are. Instead, I'll just tell you what you need to know, understand and keep in mind. For those of you who want to know more, get your hands on few good psychology and neurology books, and I'll see you in few months.

First off, let me remind you that the younger you are, the faster you learn and the better you are in the area after you've 'finished' learning (you're never really finished). This is why infants pick up language(s) fast instead of learning it for years and that's why some people seem to be born on their bikes - they've started riding when they were very young. If you take up trials at the age of 39, you will never be as good as someone who started at 15. However, do not be discouraged by that fact: with enough practice, you'll be good enough, just not a world-champion.

Every complex learning process usually consists of 3 phases.
(1) First phase is the period you spend in trying to understand something. In trials it's a bit different since it's linked with motor skills and involves some other parts of your brain, but close enough: the first phase is trying to pull off a move. It can take a very long time.
(2a) Second phase begins after you've succeeded in doing the move a few times (usually very clumsy) and then transforms into a form of confusion. This is far more noticeable in areas like mathematics, but in trials it still plays a significant role. That's when you don't know how you pulled off the move after a short while, when you're even clumsier than you've been before and when you feel that you won't succeed if you try it again.
(2b) For more complex moves, there is a period when you manage to do the move, but not really like it should be done. Example is bunnyhopping all over the pavement, but something feeling wrong - not preloading right, not getting the desired height, not flying and landing correctly etc.
(3) Third phase usually begins after a couple of days or so (weeks or months for advanced moves), when you suddenly say "Aha! I nailed it!", and then present the skill to the world. It feels like sudden insight and is officially called 'Aha-effect'. Without going into too much depth, I will just say it happened because the subconscious part of your brain kept working on the problem without you knowing it (that's why it's called subconscious), and after analyzing all the data, suddenly worked out the right movements, angles and positions to complete the successful move. Then it transferred the data to the conscious part of your brain where it waited for the first opportunity to be used when you get out and ride.

After the third phase, you know the move, but it needs polishing. This can take a long while. Do not be mistaken by the fact you know how to bunnyhop. It may take months before you've polished the technique to extent where it becomes:
a)Automatic. You can do it whenever-wherever. Recall ideal conditions you required for the move the first few times you tried it (speed, approach angle, type/height of obstacle etc.).
b) Smooth. It looks good, but more importantly - it *feels* right. Your feeling is almost always right; listen to it. Try and be smooth after you've understood the basics of a move. By trying to be smooth, you will remove all of the tiny, almost unnoticeable moves that are wrong, and will emphasise the important moves! You will also smooth out your weight shifts which is the #1st thing in being smooth.
c) Controlled. Having control over the move is something everyone lacks during the learning process. It is wrong, because control should be emphasized over "just managing to pull it off".


The brain in trials works on a statistical basis - that's why you have to try the same phreaking thing over and over again until you make it a few times in a row. You'll notice that you won't *know* the thing the first time you make it. Brain collects all the data about trials and errors you make and analyzes it when it has the time (usually while sleeping/eating/walking etc.). That's why it's good to pause a minute or so after you've made the move for the first time and concentrate on how it felt and how it might have looked -- so your brain has the time to store (memorize) the first correct input data you've had about the move so far. It's wrong to immediately try the move again, because you know you'll mess it up and lose (part of?) correct data as well. After that you still won't make it, but your brain will at least remember.
That is one of the reasons why experienced riders always say: "If you can't make it, take a rest, try something else, try it the next day. Don't push it!"

What can somewhat aid to the trial and error process are two things: description and modelling.
Description is of course the verbal analysis of the move, and you can read descriptions of all moves on hundreds of websites, forums etc., just like in this FAQ too. It is crucial that the description is complete, because after reading an explanation lacking one key element, you'll fanatically concentrate on trying to pull off the move without that element, and will willingly ignore the element that is a vital part of the successful move thinking it's wrong or doesn't matter. How many times have you cursed someone for not mentioning that crucial detail? Of course, it is self-understanding that you cannot tell which description lacks what or who forgot to mention something -- and for that very reason you must try to attain as much info from as many various sources as possible. It is not a rare thing that talking to someone who can perform the move correctly just gives you what was needed to succeed.
Sometimes you'll have to force yourself into consciously doing the move a certain way in order to override your subconscious part which is forcing wrong statistical data upon you. Example is trying to pedalkick without lowering the front or ratcheting pedals back or not landing your butt low enough after the kick. All those things can help very much if you force yourself into doing them, because they're not hard to do, perhaps only not so obvious.
Modelling is seeing someone do the move and then trying to imitate him. Videos help, but real life experience is much better, especially if you have someone who will demonstrate as much times as you need to figure out the fundamental concepts of the move. Most people already know this, so I won't go any further. Children at their youngest age learn by modelling.

(Links to best sites with videos)

However, doing something by description always holds the same danger: there are simply things that cannot be expressed with words so precisely that absolutely everyone can without doubt understand what it is really about. For that reason, always rely on yourself. You know you'll pull off the move sooner or later, so don't be too impatient. First try it, then, when you understand basic problems, read descriptions and ask questions.

Practicing techniques that share some of the motion with the original move can help too: more than a few riders were very surprised when they discover how learning a seemingly irrelevant technique held the key to success in pulling off another move.
I also advise against trying 10 new techniques at the same time, as it will inhibit the role of 'aha-effect', which is significant. The best interludes when practicing new moves is revising what you already know. There are weird ways of different techniques interleaving in your brain, and be sure you won't figure all of them before learning the moves. Practicing 2 or 3 new moves at the same time seems to be a good idea, as your subconscious will switch problems when tired of the same problem. If this seems confusing, do not try to understand it, just trust me.
It happened to me more then few times that a 1 or 2 days pause (no riding) was exactly what I needed to *learn* a move. It's not a paradox, so do not underestimate the power of something with such a trivial name -- "aha-effect". Pause a day every now and then. Try not to pause more than 3-4 days as it will "un-do" your skills.

Some practical advice:
- It is a fact that wearing protective equipment will boost your confidence, and therefore speed up learning. Most helpful are helmets and shinguards, and elbow-guards seem to be helpful when pulling off big moves, especially if they involve dropping off something very high. Long fingered gloves are, of course, a must. Trials specific frame will also speed up learning.
- When balancing things, get an eye contact with something firm and not too low down or too close; looking at your front wheel is usually not a good idea, unless you know exactly what you're doing, and why, on the edge of that 6.5 ft high wall. :-)
- Always try to make your moves feel as smooth as possible, once you sense they're becoming automated. If they feel smooth, then they are smooth: meaning gentle to your fragile skeleton and less abusive to your bike. Everything will be so comfy, and you won't come in danger of becoming a seriously unsmooth rider (by automating an unperfected technique). Most important: by being seriously smooth (ie. completely understanding and performing the correct technique) you'll be able to pull the move off to the extreme (e.g. hop higher or gap farther).
- Always try to be as relaxed as the move permits. You'll be smoother, more confident and will waste less energy. Watch your breathing. Do not try to pull of the move too fast in order to make it. If you can't do it a bit slower and confidently, you're not doing it right and need to do more practicing.
- Don't try to learn the move practicing on the same obstacle over and over again. Cruise the town and pick different obstacles with different approaches and different surroundings. This is especially important for some kinds of moves (e.g. riding up, bunnyhoping, gapping etc.), while it's not so important for some other moves (e.g. backhopping, basic lurch, wheelieing etc.); you can figure it out for yourself. Sometimes different surface (==friction), different dimensions of the obstacle and different approach to the obstacle will force you to change something in your approach to the technique, which is ALWAYS a good thing. This is especially valid once you learn technique but want to bring it to higher level, to polish it and make it more versatile. But that you probably already know.


Finally, there is one thing that will help you control every single move, and thereby speed up the process. That thing is BALANCE.
Practice a lot, but never overdo it. Remember: trials is not about talent. It takes years.

And after all, read other technique descriptions. Sometimes you might not see forest for the trees, in this FAQ. Links to best sites with techniques.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 0.b.  How do I begin? How do I learn all those strange technique names?
 
 

Best way to start, without a doubt, is by learning one of the stationary balancing techniques. New riders usually tend to learn rocking faster if they have a suspension fork, or trackstand if they're riding a rigid (see next article for precise guide). Trackstanding (or rocking) is important because you need it for most moves and it's irreplaceable in trials. Improving stationary balance will improve every single move you pull off in the future, including just riding down the street.
Generally, it will take you a few days before getting the least bit comfortable while keeping stationary balance. During that time you can try and learn some moves which don't require so much balance. One good example is ride-up objects. Simple and easy, yet useful (people get up picnic tables or school desks by riding up them).
Learn bunnyhop if you don't already know it (lots of XC riders do). Also, practice pivoting. Although it might seem harder, beginners are usually better in doing front than rear wheel pivots. You obviously won't be able to do stationary pivots, so start by rolling slowly.
Practice following lines on the road while rolling slowly (and then more slowly.. and then trackstanding). When you think you're good enough, find something thin to wallride.. like the edge of curb -- don't ride high, thin walls in the beginning :-).

After you've gotten the hang of those moves, your balance has hopefully improved too, so start practicing forward hopping and pivoting down the curb. After that, you are just about ready to start hopping up your first few stairs. Kick off by stationary forward hopping to pavement and then by getting up 2 or 3 low, wide stairs. Also try pivoting up the pavement, and then, pivoting up the stairs if you feel confident enough. That will be frustrating for maybe up to a couple of months, but very well worth it for the balance improvement you will gain.
Practice bunnyhops up and down things. Beginners sometimes concentrate on bunnyhopping just over obstacles.. The only way to bunnyhop higher is doing it many, many times, so hop up and down every think you come across while riding until you get tired.

When you get confident with your balance and learn to forward hop, start sidedropping off things. Curb, again, is the ideal place to practice as it's not so high to punish you when you lose your balance. Build your way to few-feet sidedrops..
Consider trying to backhop if you trust your brakes.

This would, I think, just about wrap up the TBP (Total Beginner Phase). After this you are officially a rookie trials rider, and people might find some of your moves cool. All these moves can be performed on any mountain bike, no matter its weight or geometry. Now, if you want to progress fast and start trials-dedicated riding career, consider getting yourself something with more appropriate geometry, although you won't need it at this very moment (depending on what you currently ride).
Where to go and what to learn after this, figure out for yourself (while watching videos for example), but some new moves will probably be a natural sequel.

---

How do I learn all those strange technique names?
Well, usually, when you learn a new technique, you'll remember it's name. When you want to learn something, it's also good to remember it by name so you can discuss it with other riders. If you get confused by apparent similarity of some trials moves, use our Trials Technique Dictionary as reference. You can also use it to get a feeling of what some move or technique actually is, so you have better understanding of the move before you try to learn it.

Also, look at a video which clearly demonstrates the technique, don't start reading complicated explanations (like ones in this FAQ). The best site I've found so far, for education about things like this is Trials-Online (choose video page). They mostly filmed one move at a time and named the movies logically, so anyone can find what he/she's after in no time, and the movies usually demonstrate the moves under the best possible angles.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 1. What is rocking? How do I trackstand?
 
  Rocking is the easiest way to keep balance with a suspension fork; it consists of small pivots with both brakes applied. I will assume your familiarity with pivoting, since it's a really easy and basic technique anyone can learn on his/her own.

Try to visualize it: let's say you're trackstanding... Then you start losing balance to your right. To compensate for that, you need to move either one of your wheels to the right, in order to keep yourself from falling. You do that by a small pivot and everything that goes with it: change centre of your balance, lean the right (correct) way etc. To maintain balance in this example, you can pivot either one of your wheels to the right and lean a bit to the left.

In all this, there is usually what I refer to as "main correction" and what I like to call "secondary correction". Main correction is used to prevent the original balance flaw, the very reason you've started rocking (to remain balanced).
Secondary correction is performed for two reasons. Main reason is to keep you facing the right direction, remain parallel to an edge of obstacle, keep the bike/yourself on the bike straight etc. The other reason is to provide additional balance correction if needed. It's often the case that either main correction wasn't 100% accurate and you need more corrections (that's when smaller and more latent secondary correction comes into play) or that main correction ruined a bit of balance by itself, and needs another small correction. This is normal and happens to all riders, although not always is it so visible.

Rocking goes like this: main correction, secondary correction, main correction, secondary correction, main correction, secondary correction... (repeatedly)

Choco foot and rocking. This will come as a natural thing, but I will mention it anyway... Let's try illustrating it on an example first: let's say that right foot is your choco foot. Then: if you're losing your balance to the right, you will usually do the main correction by pivoting the front a bit to the right. That's because it's easier to do it this way when your right foot is at the front. If you're losing balance to the left, you will first pivot the rear, and then front wheel. This is a bit harder and that's why losing balance to the non-choco side always seems a bit scarier and it's harder to do a nice and small correction -- so instead you have to do a big and clumsy rear pivot first. Later it becomes natural and everything looks fine, but in the beginning it looks like that...
If you're left-footed, things will be looking vice-versa.
(Note: when you become experienced, you'll be able to override these default settings, but most beginners will do it this very way)

Most riders will tell you you're to do small adjustments, just an inch or so. I won't tell you that because it's impossible during the learning period. That comes with time, and is sort of smoothness in rocking. I will merely explain why it is a good idea to keep the adjustments small. It's simple: the bigger "adjustment" you do, the more balance you will lose and the bigger the next adjustment will have to be -- this is a downward spiral of ruining the balance. Try and control it as soon as you think you can.

It all starts with big, fast, unsmooth, maniac throwing of your wheel around and losing the balance after two rocks. That's okay. That's because you've accustomed yourself to the gyroscopic effect of the wheels - they resist losing their balance once they start spinning, and they resist more the faster you go... But now they're not spinning; you're left to yourself and your thin abilities to keep stationary balance.
We've all been there. My suggestion is, if you're a total beginner: start learning rocking by just moving the front wheel. It's easier that way, I call half-rocking, and once you learn to balance by just adjusting the front, you won't have too much trouble learning to adjust rear. It's just as easy, but a bit confusing if you do it all at the same time.
If you do it on the front wheel only, do not forget to keep throwing you weight back a bit as you rock (too much will ruin your balance), to keep the pressure off your front wheel, since you have to move it about. Do not keep leaned back all the time, lean back and forth, as you move the wheel. Try not to do it too fast.

After you've managed to keep your balance for few seconds with rocking only the front, use your front wheel pivot knowledge and start adjusting the rear too. The basic explanation is this: since it's all the same, at least most of the time (while necessary corrections are small), which wheel you move about, the rider creates a rhythmic motion with his body, moving the weight first over front wheel adjusting the rear, and then moving it back adjusting the front. This technique permits smaller adjustments and more control when balancing on tricky stuff (usually something narrow).

Learning how to keep balance is imperative since it's the basis for almost every trials move there is.

Some riders say that it's easier to rock if you have a suspension fork, because of the rebound. I'd agree. They also say it's easier to trackstand with a rigid fork. That very is true. Effectively, this means more practice before you manage to trackstand with a suspension fork.

---

There's been a lot written on trackstanding, so I'll just repeat it in short: a trackstand is performed by keeping your pedals level with the ground, turning your wheel away from your chocolate foot (90% of riders) and making small adjustments using your brakes, pedal pressure and angle of the bike compared to the ground; although your brakes are likely to be locked up most of the time. Turning your front wheel in one direction is a subtle way of gaining more side-balance, because that's the very thing you lack when you have 2 instead of 4 wheels.

There is also a kind of "rolling trackstand" which beginners find easier. In actuality, no-one's rolling while doing it, but it's a brakeless version often done on slightly sloped terain where you use pedal pressure instead of brakes. Bike is rolled slightly forward and backwards while doing it. I don't like it since it has very little uses in real trials enviroment (you need to keep still on obstacles, not roll back and forth), but some people swear by it (people who think real trackstand is impossible -- yes, there are people like that). It's only use I've found so far is to make waiting for the green light a little more relaxed.

Trackstand is easiest to learn once you've mastered rocking, because it tends to be less frustrating. The best way to learn it is to slowly roll and then come to a stop. Some people claim they like to do it against slightly sloped terrain (try and see how it works out for you). When you start losing balance, it's better to use either rocking or a small pedal push (letting off brakes of course) to regain it, instead of putting your foot down.

There are some cases when both trackstand and rocking are unusable as ways of keeping balance. That's when you use stationary hopping.. (next article)

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 2. (What is preloading?) Forward hopping, stationary hopping.
 
 

Preloading is shifting your weight farther away from the side you will be moving to. For example, if you're going to do right-rear pivot, you will preload left (and a bit to the front). Almost every technique has its own way of preloading (sometimes only vaguely different, though), so we talk about move-specific preloads. Preload is used so you could have a longer "run-up path", giving your weight more acceleration, thereby resulting in a better move (longer range). This is the reason preloading is always done the "wrong way". (e.g. for front pivot, you move back)
Preload is usually done in a fast but gentle matter, while being careful not to ruin your balance.

---

Almost anyone can learn to forward hop within 25 minutes, so you must be reading this because you don't even know how it looks and want to try it. ;-)
A simple forward hop is performed out of a trackstand or rocking, with the goal of moving the bike forward. We are talking 0-0.5m distances. Riders use it for a bunch of stuff, from getting up the stairs head on, to trying to get up a steep slippery rock or muddy slope. You could describe it as "grasping for terrain" ahead of you by using bike's locked wheels.

So, the procedure is as follows:
1) you're stationary, keeping your balance.
2) you preload; in this case, it's compressing your body down and back (usually as far as you can get if you're after a longer range hop).
3a) you explode forward; from preload position you jump straight ahead and up, taking your bars after you and still holding both brakes locked. Exaggerate the jump.
3b) you control the 'flight'; it is very important you keep track of your feet and not permit them to press too hard on your pedals, because it would mean planting your back wheel to the ground. Often feet leave the pedals while you still learn, which can be dangerous. Ignore it in the beginning since it's functionally better than pressing down too hard, but later on make very well sure that you keep pedal contact at all times. (see *)
3c) the bars in the air follow your body; it's important to pull the bars up and push them away as swiftly and strongly as possible, because that means getting the rear wheel higher off the ground. Except for this motion with your bars, trying to twist your grips a bit forward might get your rear wheel a few extra millimetres higher, giving you a split second more in the air -- resulting in longer range.
4) you usually land both wheels at the same time.
----
Note: brakes are locked throughout the move.
* Your goal is to maintain feather-light pressure at all times, so you know where to find your pedals when you need them (coming down from the jump). Since your arms are pulling the bars, and your bike just following, try using your arms as an extra help in controlling the feet>pedal construction. This is not so important in forward hopping as it isn't a dangerous move, but the statement is valid for many trials moves - your feet will rarely have to leave pedals completely - so don't forget about it.

In case you still can't jump, try giving more acceleration to your weight, doing your arm motion faster and stronger, jumping (with your body) higher or think about reviewing your feet<>pedal relationship.
If you want to learn a more advanced technique, try playing with small but swift pedalkick the second you start your hop.

If the ground is flat, you might feel slight discomfort jumping forward, like if you're doing something clumsy. The feeling gets better as the stairs get steeper. ;-) It also takes a lot of energy to forward hop. I can bet you that at first you won't be able to jump more than 7-8 times in a row.

---

A variation of the forward hop called the stationary hop can also be used to keep your balance while both brakes are locked. Some people think it is actually classic stationary bunnyhop because the technique is so similar, but I won't go into that. I think there's a very subtle difference once you master both. (you can also see "classic bunnyhop" -- opens in new small window).
Anyhow, it is rarely used for keeping balance on flat terrain as it's energy consuming and clumsy in the beginning: only time I use it on flat surface is when I lose balance (ie. mess up) so much that I don't believe pivot (rocking) would help me. Then I do a correctional hop. It's useful when something goes wrong in a big move, especially if your balance went wrong.
However, it can come in very useful in balancing when your front wheel is high on an obstacle and you can't rock or trackstand or when you're on very inhospitable terrain/obstacles (there are a few exceptions, but never mind).
You should be able to figure it out yourself once you get familiar with forward hop. The basic premise is not jumping forward, but up, pressing your feet down and back into the pedals, allowing you to pick up the bike when leaving the planet. The same way rocking is used to move your bike to the side when you lose your balance, using stationary hop to the side you're falling towards will prevent that fall. Hop small (ie. not high), or else you'll be tired before you know it.

Now, as soon as you have your balance dialled in, you're ready for big time stair hopping. ;-) You can use forward hop to move one stair at the time (check if the stairway is compatible with your wheelbase if you plan going head-on) and stationary hop to keep your balance. Now, there's a use for both moves. :-)
As for the stair-hopping, try hopping sideways (45 degrees) later on.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 3. I can't bunnyhop! (two kinds of bunnyhopping)
 
 

Bunnyhop is one of those moves that are so useful that even XC riders use it, and it surely can be used to discriminate bike riders into two categories: serious riders and wannabes. It's elements can be found in dozens of other moves, but it can be learnt without knowing any other special (trials) techniques. (How do you think XC riders figured it out? ;-)

There are two basic techniques of bunnyhopping: classic/oldskool bunnyhop (or just hop and American bunnyhop (or j-hop). Both of them have their rolling and stationary version, and that's where all similarities end: these two moves are based on profoundly different techniques, have different uses and share only the name.
J-hop is mostly used to get up high objects/clear obstacles when you have enough speed to do it. Classic bunnyhop is very much like stationary hop.

During the learning process, it isn't necessarily true that it's easier to learn the hops while stationary. It surely is less dangerous, but the chances of pulling it off do not fall drastically if you try it while rolling. Some people learn it while rolling and then find stationary hopping child's play and a good way to improve the technique -- that was the way I learnt it. Most people, however, start by doing stationary bunnyhops and then have trouble trying to transfer the knowledge to rolling versions (they feel unstable and have timing problems). Do not be discouraged, though: after you learn either version (=rolling or stationary), it's usually just a matter of day or two before you manage to pull the other one off as well. My suggestion is: start stationary.

I won't tell you that it's safest to learn rolling bunnyhops over imagined obstacles, regarding your personal safety, because you can figure out things like that by yourself. Don't go big if you simply think you can do it; do it when you know you can do it. Be aware of your limitations and risks involved.

Classic bunnyhop:
(often just "hop")
1) preload- compress your body downward, crouch,
but simultaneously:
2) turn yourself into a spring: use your arms to push the bars slightly forward, and your feet to push the pedals backward -- there should be no resulting motion, you will just have the bike sort of attached to youself. You have to choose right pressures; your goal is to produce enough traction under your feet so you can pick up the bike at will, scoop up the pedals. The more pressure, the higher the traction is, but you won't be flying very high and you will feel cramped in that position if you go too far. Good flat pedals help plenty in increasing the traction and keeping the necessary pressure low (so everything doesn't feel too awkward).
3) jump in the air pulling your bike with you a split-second after jumping; if performed right, both wheels will leave the ground at the same time and bike will be level. You won't be getting too much of altitude out of this move, though.
It's a fairy simple technique most people acquire within a day, if demonstrated right.


J-hop/American Bunnyhop:
(often just "bunnyhop")
This one is a lot trickier because it involves so much weight shifting. That is the very thing that gets you airborne in this move. I know people who took a couple of weeks before pulling it off for the first time. It usually takes months to perfect it to the point where you truly understand what is it about that move that is so enchanting and powerful. Do not forget that all of these steps are performed well within a second.

I) Getting airborne
1) preloading consists of moving your weight a bit forward, over your bars. This is so you have enough run up space to perform the rest of the move.

2) to start the move, you motion yourself to a new position, somewhere over the rear tire. As you progress, you will go lower and lower.. finishing inches above the rear tire (if you want to go big). During this motion, you start pulling your front wheel back.
Now, remember well the detail that ruins any beginners bunnyhop: you have to preserve perfect balance while pulling your front wheel RADICALLY back at the same time. If you're rolling during this, it will feel weird and will make you feel insecure, since you're literally trying to SLOW DOWN your front wheel relative to your rear wheel -- think about this for a moment, understand it. The faster you go, less balance you will lose (wheels are gyroscopes), but it will also be harder to pull up the front wheel and more dangerous if you fall.
You will possibly lose your balance to one side and crash. The trick while learning is finding the point where you won't lose so much balance, but will still be able to pull off the move. Preloading far back is for going big -- you don't need it immediately. It takes some time (months) to get very comfortable in preloading far back. Knowing how to wheelie might help, but knowing how to manual will be the half job done.

Let me try to explain the motivation for pulling back the front wheel so much. The basis of bunnyhop is pushing the bars in a circular motion away from yourself to get the rear up using your arms. However, you cannot push the bars much away the way they are; it wouldn't work since you can't extend your arms much more than they are already extended while riding. That's why you kind of cheat and first pull bars as close to yourself (body's usual location) as you can confidently do, while at the same time moving your body even further back, away from the bars. This can only be done by pulling up the front wheel while rear effectively remains in place. After that, you go in the opposite direction, exploding upwards and performing the move.

Do not forget: the more you pull the bars back, the higher your front wheel will get, and the higher it gets during this step, the higher your resulting bunnyhop goes. This should not worry you too much while learning, but it's a good tip for later. People somehow seem to forget it later on, nevermind all the emphasis.
I will re-iterate: you get your butt the lowest back you can get it while maintaining good balance. Depending on your height and frame size, your chin should be just around the level of the bars, and butt a bit above the rear tire, for big hops and with correct technique. If you've ever seen someone manual, that's about the position we want in the middle of step two (that's why people manualing can bunnyhop "with their eyes closed").

3) before step two is entirely completed, you will launch your body in the air and squish your legs a bit, to keep the pressure off the pedals (do not dismount completely, though). As you make your first inch towards the sky, you will have to do the magic thing that will pull the rear in the air, and that is circular motion with your arms. You have already performed the first part of the motion by pulling back the bars, and now you simply have to finish the circular motion of your arms by pushing the bars first up and than away. It is important you don't do it in the straight line but in *circular* motion (that's why I'm repeating it so many times). So, if we're look at your bike sideways and you're facing/rolling in this >>> direction, you will *NOT* move your arms like this:
/_ (underscore '_' is movement <back<, and slash '/' up and away at the same time)

        but like this:
C_ (first <back< and a little bit up, then more up and less back, and finally, as you gain height, more away than up == circular motion).
It is crucial that the movement be performed in swift and decisive manner, or else everything goes down the drain. Move your arms like C, not like ( -- the parenthesis shows a motion not begun and finished right.
If you do not pull your legs up and they keep pressurizing the pedals, rear won't come up. Beginners usually fail on all three points and this is one of the reasons why they find bunnyhopping so hard to learn. They usually pull back and fall back down, and then try to forward hop. Emphasize control.

4) after you've pushed your bars up and away in circular motion, you will usually level the bike out - in the air. You body should be compressed against the bike; this resulting from your wish to go as high as you can and pulling bike to yourself, not vice versa (falling on the bike). Legs have to be fully retracted in order to gain maximum height (do not worry about this in the beginning).

Sometimes you don't level the bike out in the air. Some examples are low obstacles where you want to land rear first, higher obstacles where you want to land into a backhop (ready for lurch) or manual and high obstacles where you land on your bashguard.

Theoretically, your rear wheel could never get as high as your front, if there wasn't for a small detail: when you almost finish lifting the rear by using the Circular Motion, try twisting your wrists forward. If you do it right (right force, right timing), it will get the rear even higher up. Some riders find it more powerful if they keep their index fingers on brake levers and use them to increase leverage to help the bars rotate. The lighter/smaller/shorter your bike is, the more it will show whether you've twisted your wrists or not, because there will be less negative leverage (less weight less far away == easier to twist the rear higher).
Do not be mistaken: many bunnyhop guides claim this to be as important as circular motion, but it's not. It merely helps you to more height, in the advanced phase of learning the bunnyhop.
You may also notice, that while learning, it's near-impossible to incorporate this additional movement into the chaos of weight shifting and jumping around. This is an additional reason why you should not be troubled by twisting the bars in the beginning, but also not forget to add it later on.

 
  Advanced section
                      (skip to >landing if you wish)
 
When you truly master bunnyhop, you will notice a sudden big change in your technique, and then, shortly afterwards, two slight variations in the move.
The big change will usually happen as you practice backhopping, lurching and other backwheel moves, especially manual. You will find yourself preloading for bunnyhop in a totally radical way (from your last week's point of view), and that is leaning far further back than before, getting your front way up higher, performing a really nice manual and using rear tire rebound to start off the hop. It's what you were meaning to do for weeks/months before this moment, but you never made it: you were simultaneously afraid of looping out and thinking "I don't need it right now, I can bunnyhop all right". The first time you do it, all those videos of kickass riders hopping anything 3' or higher will flash before your eyes. That smoothness, your smoothness, will carve a deep impression upon you. You will feel it being soooo right.. finally right. You will feel comfortable doing the whole move (and far back preloading thing) even over a small curb.
Shortly after, you'll notice two slight variations of the move.. not enough to call it another move, but enough to think about which one to use for which obstacle. In short -- I'll make it short just so you know it exists, you'll learn it by yourself anyway -- in short, first type of bunnyhop involves pushing your hands more up than away, and not twisting your bars (not too much anyway). It's a slight variation of circular motion, so don't think you don't have to do it, because if you don't, nothing gets the rear up. The result of pushing your arms a bit more up than away results in landing rear on the obstacle you're upping. This can be used to continue lurching or manualling when you land, landing on your bashguard or just for messing around on low obstalces.
The second type involves pushing your arms a bit more away than up, and twisting the bars as much as you can. Result of this is leveling bike out in the air, and getting extra height for your rear (so it can clear the obstacle). If you're landing on a high obstacle, you usually land front first and shift weight forward in mid-air, so you unweight rear and lift it even more when front lands. This variation is used for upping very high obstacles. You can also land flat or a bit on the rear wheel after jumping over an obstacle and going back to the height you went from; it's still the second variation.


II) Landing basics:
After this, you're in the air and may choose your own way of landing; just make sure it's smooth later on (don't worry about it during the first month or so).
a) If you've bunnyhopped over a pit, then you don't pull your rear so high in the air and you obviously land it first.
b) If there was an obstacle, you be careful to level the bike in the air as much as necessary to clear the obstacle, and do everything you can to land on your rear - this usually includes stretching your legs after clearing the object and keeping your body weight almost centered.
c) If you're hopping on a high object, you might consider landing slightly on the front, to keep on rolling (if that's what you're after).
d) If your target is downhill (negative slope), you can confidently position the bike the wrong way, that is: land completely on the front wheel (depending on the slope and the length of the target, of course). The doubles are landed this way - front first.
e) If the target is uphill (positive slope), you will very soon find out that it's of utmost importance to exaggerate the landing on the rear to keep yourself from smacking too hard into the ground.

Practicing to rolling bunnyhop *down* things is a good idea as it will help you develop better technique and familiarize yourself with the correct way to land (and that is on your rear wheel). As you just learn the technique, your rear wheel will hardly leave the ground and you will probably be landing both wheel at the same time, or even front first. You will recognize this as a very unpleasant way to land. Don't be worried about the height you can reach -- it will rise steadily by every of the many many many hops you'll be doing while you practice.

When practicing a rolling j-hop, do not be misled by the impression that more speed will give you more height. Beginners seem to have the unholy tendency to overdo it, and screw up their timing (among other things), often screwing up themselves. Faster rotating wheels will be harder to kick out of their respective gyroscopic pits (physically speaking) and will render you unable to pull up the bike in time. Please note that almost anything can be done when you've automated the technique, and there is a way of hopping when rolling high-speed. However, I will not talk about this because this article's length is getting way out of hand.
Anyway, when you've mastered the American bunnyhop (=j-hop), you will find yourself feeling more comfortable and hopping more precise while rolling at comparatively lower speeds (relative to the speeds you felt was necessary while learning).

NOTE: Please note that "pedal bunnyhop" is nothing else than wrong term for japslap (aka pedal-up), because it involves techniques essentially different to both bunnyhop techniques. In actuality it has nothing to do with neither one of the two bunnyhop methods (at least there's no direct connection).

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 4. Backhop.
 
 

First off, I want to point out that backhop is essentialy a correctional type of hop, used to keep your balance, only this time on your rear wheel. Although in beginning, while learning the move, most riders will actually hop backwards (for various reasons, but it's a good idea until you get it dialled), the name backhop comes from 'hopping on your back wheel'. That means a good and stable backhop won't mean hopping backwards, but hopping in place.

The way I learned to backhop was like this... First I made sure I can maintain two-wheel balance for long enough to start backhop relaxed, balanced and with my mind into it. This is very important. Rushing into backhop is without balance is pretty much wasting time.
I use rocking to keep my balance. You can start off with a small endo (lifting your rear off the ground for a couple of inches) which will give you momentum that will get you more smoothly onto rear wheel. (For some reason, I never did this, but most riders I know did.) Next, I move all my body weight low over the rear wheel and just start pulling up the front wheel. During this, arms are almost completely straight, and the act of pulling the font up is performed in two phases: first - by leaning back and pulling the bars with your almost straight arms, and second - a slight stand-up from "butt-low stance" combined with pulling the bars toward your chest (obviously, then you bend your arms in elbows).
It took me a bit of time to ensure I'd do the pull up perfectly straight (in a straight line determined by two wheels), because if you lean even one bit to either of sides, you will lose balance to that side and won't be able to start the backhop.
After this, all that remains is to stand up a bit and start hopping. You have to do this immediately -- as you stand up, do your first hop. Otherwise it won't work - or worse, it will work just enough times to keep you on the wrong track.
I hopped by pushing off my body off the pedals backwards, meaning backhopping getting you a little back every hop; and using the rear tire rebound to help my arms to lift the bike (this is a small detail, but it helps get you little less tired). Try to lower you body a bit every time as you come down from a hop, because that's the preload in backhop, and we all know preloading is important, don't we? ;-)
The resulting motion was hopping (with bike) WAY backwards in rather big and clumsy hops, with big periods of time being spent on falling over to the sides. After that it's practice that gets you smooth and makes you be able to hop in place or even hop forward. Later you (almost) don't have to preload, you just sort make small rear wheel taps on the ground not moving around at all. (This puts lots of stress on your spine though)

Now I want to stress something right now: while you need to pull up your bike pretty much perfectly straight into the backhop when you're going into the backhop, there is no way you will maintain sideways balance after a hop or two. So how to avoid not falling to the sides? Well, do you remember the principles of correctional hopping or rocking? In both moves, you move the bike underneath you to the side you're falling to. For example, if you're rocking and falling to the right, you will slightly move your front or rear wheel to the right, and in that way compensate for the lost balance. If you have hard time visualizing it, just take your bike and simulate what I said.
The same principle is valid for backhop. When you're on your rear wheel and start falling to one side, you will - in a way - ignore this balance problem for a split-second while your next scheduled backhop comes into action. When it does, you won't just jump up and land with same ruined balance (because by that time it's not a small balance problem, it's falling to the side and you can't help it), but jump a bit to one of the sides you're losing your balance to. In backhop, this can include jumping forward and backward as well, but that's needlessly hard to do as later, when you learn the pedalkick, there will be much more sophisticated ways of correcting forward/backward balance.

Now, I'll mention few details that are good to keep in mind.
When you go into the backhop in the way I described above, you will have most problems with sidebalance. This problem can be eliminated in few ways: by having tons of practice, which is obvious; by using an object to lift your front wheel and by using a small pedalkick to get the front wheel up.

As for second method: find an object thats 1-1.5' high (half a meter or less), and put your front wheel on it. Now you're halfway in the backhop - if you can climb on your bike and keep balance for short time necessary to start hopping.
Your first hop will usually be backwards to get away from the object.
This helps as you don't lose that much sidebalance while going into the backhop, compared with big preloads. However, this is only appropriate for initial learning period, as it's pointless to know how to backhop but not know how to get into the backhop without 'cheating'. As soon as you get first few backhops, try one of the other methods, from two wheels on the ground.

As for third method, the pedalkick, this is how you go about doing it..
You don't even have to know pedalkick (and you probably don't) to use it for backhopping. I didn't use it because of all the stories how you can't pedalkick until you know backhop, so I didn't even try, but I'm telling you right now that even though pedalkicking is almost useless unless you know how to backhop (ie. stabilize yourself and control your moves), it is a tremendous help to get the front wheel up. What's more, right now I don't think I'd be able to do a good and nice backhop by starting it the way I did at the beginning (which is described in text above). I only backhop from a small pedalkick. The reason why pedalkick is a deus-ex-machina is because you don't have the long process of leaning backwards and almost always losing your side balance. You just do a quick stroke on the pedals and you're up, ready to start compensating for lost balance by backhopping.
Since this basic pedalkick I'm talking about is a bit different from the real pedalkick you see all trials riders do (in that respect that real pedalkick is done from backhop, and you need to do this one from both wheels on the ground), I'll just give your few quick tips on how to do it.
First, find very good balance on two wheels..brakes locked. I prefer rocking cause it keeps my front wheel straight, but trackstand is okay once you get used to it. Needless hassle while first learning, though. Then, you need to do a miniature preload backwards (miniature compared to backhop preload) by lowering your butt and moving it a bit back. If you've been paying attention so far, you will probably induce that this will mean a small explosion forward and up. This is exactly what you will do, however, only after you ratchet your pedals (cranks) a bit backwards; so far, they were level, but now you need to ratchet your choco foot a bit back as a sort of preload for a small pedalkick. When a say "a bit", I mean about halfway between horizontal and vertical, 1/8 of the stroke (if I calculated it right :). You do this while preloading - it will soon feel very natural - moving body backwards and down, while letting pedals ratchet a bit back.
So now you're preloaded. Next, you do several things at once... basic thing is of course to let go of your brakes for a short time. Now, jump a bit up and forward with your body. That what body preload was for. This is used for two things: unweighting your bike, and moving your body forward in anticipation of bike's movement forward. I emphasize, you will move only your body forward. In this particular type of pedalkick, bike will be moved forward by doing a quick pedalkick (more like strong and short push on the pedals). You preloaded your pedals by 1/8 of the stroke, but you do 2/8 (or 1/4) of the stroke. This will mean your pedals will be level once you finish the move in the backhop, which is exactly what you need. After a short time, as soon as your pedalkick is finished, lock your brakes.
While jumping forward and doing a quick pedalkick, you will also move your bars into the backhop position by obviously pulling up on them. This doesn't require a lot of effort as bike's natural reaction to pedalkick is to lift the front up, but it's good to keep in mind that you still do it.

Now this is quite a short and rudimental explanation, but I don't want to get carried away. Keep in mind that it's not really easy to nail down this pedalkick right away (although it depends on the rider). If you have at least some backhop experience (ie. you managed to backhop 2-3 times in a row at least twice in your life), it may mean something to you when I say the goal of this pedalkick I talked about is to finish up in perfect backhop position.
I'm saying this because most beginners have troubles doing a confident pedalkick, so their front is lift up hardly a third of the totally needed way. They're shy in doing it because they think they may fall on their backs. Obviously, this can happen, but rarely does. It does if you forget to lock your brake after kicking or if your brake slips, but they usually slip on bigger moves.
So, if you roughly know your backhop position, try to get that from your pedalkick. After all, that's why you're pedalkicking at this phase. If you still have troubles letting your fears go, try this: find the same kind of object I mentioned for second method of backhop practice, something 1-1.5' (half a meter) high. Roll towards it and stop about as far from it as the object's height. Maintain your balance for a bit while you prepare for pedalkick. Then, using the method I described above, do a pedalkick with the goal of finishing with your front wheel on the object. If you do it, this is the kind of pedalkick you will be using to get into the backhop.
As for object's height, it can also be a wall (effectively - infinitely high object). It maybe a bit harder to do because you still don't know right positions for backhops so you don't know where to aim, but the point is that it still can do.. it will only be harder to maintain balance with front only leaned on something, instead of resting it on the top of the object, but pedalkick is the same and that's what you're after.
So now that you're there, instead of getting off your bike, just start backhopping.. (using second method described above)

Now I'll re-iterate one final time: Immediately after you get into the backhop position, start hopping. It's the only way not to fall sideways right away.
After you've gotten 5-10 backhops, it may be time to start pedalkicking. Read the next article for more information on that..

Be aware of the fact that non-trials frames have long(er) chainstays making it (much) harder to backhop compared to trials-specific frames, so don't worry if it takes you much longer to learn backhopping compared to someone with right kind of geometry.

Some people are afraid of falling on their backs/asses when leaning that far back. There's good practice to overcome that fear and improve your getting up to rear wheel at the same time. It's simple.. lean far back&low over rear wheel while pulling up the front, get the front higher.. and higher.. and higher.. and then, when you should start backhopping, just start standing up and jumping off the pedals. You bike should remain about vertical, and you have been bailed. Here's a video of the bail (please right click and "Save Target As"). Video thanks to Matt Lenore.

Like many other riders, I too will tell you to try and consciously control your backhop stance. You can do it with your butt low, and arms completely straight, holding the bars; front wheel down low, you hardly able to move from that position.
This is the hard way. Your lower back will be wasted in no time. It's normal for your lower back to hurt when you're just learning because you're using new muscles, but if it goes on for longer time (longer than a month of constant practice), it usually means you have a bad backhop position.

Easier backhop position: you should, fairly soon after learning the backhop, learn to keep your back as straight as it's comforable, and your arms bent a lot. This will make your backhop more stable and comfortable, and instead of stressing your lower back (which is bad and sometimes even dangeorus), it will put the stress on your arms. So you just need to make your arms stronger, or let backhopping do it for you.
If this is all too hard to do, you may have a bad combination of stem/wheelbase/bars that just feels unfomfortable to you. Read more about stems here.
However, in most cases you just need a very fair bit of practice (where I mean six months to a year) before getting comfortably into backhop position.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter Lurch/Pedalkick Guide.
 
   
Terminology
: Lurch or pedalkick are the same thing. Pedal kick and pedalkick aren't. Pedalkick refers to the (lurch) move as a whole, while pedal kick is the very act of pressing/pushing down your pedals a bit (regardless of it's context).
Note: for your own benefit, familiarize yourself with expert's advices on backhop. (previous article)


Pedal kick or lurch... it's possibly the most useful trials move. If you can't put both wheels onto something, if you don't have the run-up to gap something or need to be very precise, if you want to make a big drop most pleasantly as possible (i.e. 0 speed), if you want to aid your sidehop, if you want to impress a bunch of good lookin' chicks--- whoops, got a bit carried away, but you catch my drift--- then you'll make use of a lurch. It's a very versatile and impressive move that's not all that complicated once you get into it.
For now, I will give you an intro into learning lurch, tell you how I did it first time and mention techniques I think are useful when learning it. Once you make it, you'll learn to solve problems like dropping off, gapping, upping, sidehopping and impressing chicks on your own, because it's all basically a lurch variation.

First off, let's begin with a short frame's geometry analysis, or it's influences on the move itself. Lurch and backhop are rear wheel moves, so the first thing that comes in mind is chainstay length. Things are simple here: the shorter the chainstays are, the more stable you'll feel on your rear wheel. That's a very good thing. However, the longer the chainstays are, farther you'll be able to gap. This is the reason (one of them) hiding behind some manufacturers decisions to use very short (for e.g. Echo's 15") or pretty long (Norco's 16") chainstays for their trials-specific frames. It's all about what they think is more important. [for more about geometry, take a look at Bike/Frames section, article on 'What is trials geometry?']
Next thing is stem length. Depending on your stem/bar setup, it can be very easy or very hard to backhop, because choosing different stem lengths/angles are very effective ways of moving your center of balance around and put it where you like it. Right now I won't dare getting into in-depth analysis of different stem/bar/frame setups, but suffice it to say most trials riders of average height (5'8"-6'2") use stems in range from 80mm/5° to 100mm/15°. You really really have to try few different setups and find the one that makes you happy.
The shorter stem usually makes it a bit easier to backhop, because you can keep your bike more vertical while doing it.

Now let's get down to move itself. I've heard people learning the move in different ways, from accidental lurching to 2-3 years of practicing. Some will say you must master backhopping before trying it, and others will claim they lurched when they could barely backhop 2-3 times. Then there will be those who will say it's all nonsense and it's best to pedalkick from both wheels on the ground.
My personal opinion is that backhop is a crucial element of pedalkicking, and that without stable backhop it's hard to make real use of pedalkick. However, while this is is true, it's also a fact that managing to lurch without a stable backhop will make you try it more and more and motivate you more than a boring backhop practice session would, and we all know that more practice results in better moves. You can also try to lurch from both wheels on the ground, but for my particular case, it was much harder. Some may find it easier. Try it anyway and see how you feel about it.

This is what I'll recommend: get your backhopping skills to at least 5-10 backhops, and then try to lurch, because it can get very frustrating if you're hardly able to backhop but are trying to set up for a lurch -- you'll make 1 attempt to lurch in 10 tries to backhop, which means very slow learning and also messing up a lot of good backhops just because you're thinking about setting up to lurch. However, eventually, when you make it, you'll spend more time trying to lurch and will polish your backhop skills faster than you would by just trying to backhop. My suggestion is to avoid trying to pedalkick in the moments you feel you're losing backhop balance, because you can hurt your tailbone/helmet/elbow and other various parts of your body when your rear wheel goes flying away from you or your brake slips.
Every beginner has his shiny backhop moments of balance -- which is when you feel like a split-second rear wheel trackstand -- and that's when I suggest you try to lurch. It is very important that you get you backhop side-balance at least to a bearable level, because losing balance to sides will never get you into a lurch. Most beginners learn to maintain side-balance first anyway, and losing balance to the front or back is acceptable. (Actually, it's invaluable to people who learned to lurch without anyone's help. As to why, you'll find out in a moment.)

IMPORTANT: Before you start, make sure you can easily lock your rear wheel (one finger braking) and that it won't slip, because a tiny slip can result in painful injury. Even stock HS33's slip, so don't think you're 100% safe (you're usually safe, however, if you're running both hydraulic disc brakes).

Allright, here we go, the learning process. Read through it and pick up on the point where you're stuck.
1) You're backhopping, rear wheel locked with your index finger, pedals NOT level (choco foot above the other foot), moving about and not losing sidebalance.
[If your pedals are level with the ground while backhopping, always ratchet them a bit back before giving them a push/kick] What happens when you give your pedals just a push? Nothing, exactly -- the rear brake is holding everything under control. That means you have to release the brake before attempting to pedal kick. This brings us to the first timing issue – releasing and reapplying brakes in the right moment. It's fairly simple and straightforward problem so just try working on it for a while. Don't completely release your brake for now, just release it to the point where you wheel can turn with a moderate drag, because later it will be much easier to swiftly lock the wheel. Just as you're on your way releasing your brake, do a small pedal kick... actually, more of a pedal push. BE READY TO BAIL. By the time your feet reach the ground you'll know whether you've done it too early or too late, so get up on the bike and try again.
2) As you eventually get this timing right, your pedal push/kick will send the rear wheel going forward, bike finishing up vertical and you bailing (on your feet). Don't sweat, this is what we were after -- a successful pedal kick. Now we can work on next lurch element: dropping the front wheel a bit. That's right, when I said losing backhop balance to the front was invaluable to the people who learned to lurch alone, I was talking about this bit. Your rear wheel won't go speeding away from you if you drop your front wheel a bit before doing the pedal kick. It's simple physics again, think about it. If you drop it lower and then pedal kick, it will have same effect as when you're, for example, wheeling and suddenly put more power into your pedal strokes and pull the bars a bit back to get the front wheel back up because it started going down.
I'll repeat, drop the front wheel lower, and then do the correctly timed pedal kick (it's only a small kick for now). This brings us to second timing problem, and that's synchronizing the pedal kick with dropping the front wheel. You have to do it in the right moment and not let the front drop too much. I can't help you with this, just go out and practice until your bike rolls forward and you remain on the rear wheel. You don't have to be superstable after this, but it would be nice if you didn't just crash after you try it.
3) This brings us to next two points. How do we get from rear wheel roll to lurch? By jumping up a little of course!
However, before we get into move description, let's get rid of a common misunderstanding. When lurching, it's not the pedal kick that gets you forward -- it's the hop forward you're about to start practicing. Think of pedal kick as means of getting your bike forward, and your body's own hop as means of getting your body's weight to desired location.
This is what you do... from backhop, simultaneously drop the front a bit, ratchet your pedals back, move your butt a very tiny bit down and keep your brake firmly. That's all simultaneous (practice the timing!). Now start leaping up and forward with your body while releasing the rear brake. Split second later, give your pedals a kick and pull the bars a tiny bit upwards and toward yourself (making bike more vertical) as your body is in the apogee of the leap; synchronize all these movements. Lock your brake as soon as you're above the ground.
[All mentioned movements here are very tiny and none should be exaggerated for now. We're just learning the basic smallest lurch, it's easy to go big later.]
4) That was basically it. Now only thing remaining is set up for the next lurch. You will probably lose balance after your first lurch, so here's some tips on preventing that...
Be sure you've locked your brake, so your rear doesn't slip. Land smoothly, use your legs as a suspension and don't forget to keep the front high with your arms. It's CRUCIAL that your butt goes down towards the rear wheel as you land, because it's the only way of keeping your balance point where you want it when you have this forward moment (thanks to inertia). As you land, don't forget to ratchet your pedals back.
5) Now you can go into another lurch, leaping again and repeating the procedure, but in the beginning I suggest you emphasize control. While you still have a tiny bit of that momentum left, get your butt to the point where you'd keep it if you were backhopping and -- start backhopping. Maintain balance. Tell gravity you'll lurch again when you want to, not when it wants to. Beginners have the tendency to force another pedalkick and then another and another... until they crash/bail (just like I did). That sucks because it will take you longer to get stable and confident lurching. Don't think another pedalkick is just what you need to stop yourself from falling, because you'll usually end up losing side-balance, which is the same thing. In real world, when you make real use out of pedalkick, you'll often gap and then have to balance in backhop or turn around in backhop or do whatever on the rear wheel, and the fastest way to learn that is to control the bike, not let the bike+gravity control you.

...but hey, you can learn any way you wish!


Now let's go over the move one last time:

    • backhop
      • drop the front a bit + ratchet pedals back + preload your butt back
      • leap forward + release the brake (you don't have to completely release it) + pedal kick
      • pull bars a bit up and towards your body + lock the brake in the air
      • land in backhop + let your butt sink a bit lower as you land

If you're going for another lurch:

  • use low butt position as preload for next lurch + ratchet pedals back
  • repeat the procedure

If you're backhopping in place:

  • use the remaining bit of forward momentum to get your butt back into backhop position


That's all folks! Now practice lurching and go gapping, dropping off stuff, helping to preload for your sidehops, upping and having fun...

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 6. Manual Manual.
 
  First, I'm going to say that this is a hard move. It has taken me months of practice, and I still can't make them perfect.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not telling you this is the ONLY way to manual. It's MY way. If you don't like it, fine, but this is how I learned and improved. End of Disclaimer.

The key with the manual is leaning back AND down. When I learned manuals I used to do them standing pretty much straight. It both looked ugly and they didn't work very well.

Start by rolling along on the ground (flat and nice makes it easier). Roll along calmly with the pedals in lever with choco-foot first and set yourself up. Now you can choose do to one of the three things:
   1.  Pull the bars up
   2.  Pedal up into the manual (I do this most of the time)
   3.  Roll along and do the practice later (not recommended)

If you picked 1, you are simply going to roll along and pull hard on the bars and lean back. This is the hardest way, at least I think so. If you picked 2, like me, pedal back until your chocolate foot is on the highest point of the pedal revolution (12 o'clock). Now pedal hard until the front comes up. By the time the pedals are level (with choco-foot forward) you should be up. If you are not, add another pedal revolution.

When you have found your balance point, crouch down quite low and have your arms straight. Your legs should be slightly bent. Now pump the bike with the knees. This helps you to balance, and gives the bike a little bit of extra speed. It's easier if you over exaggerate the pumping.
The first thing you should learn is to manual WITHOUT the rear brake. Just practice and practice. You will have to jump off the bike a couple of times, but that is not a problem. Once you can manual a few yards, you can proceed to the more advanced technique.

Now it's time to learn how to use the rear brake in a manual. You pedal/pull up into the manual as usual, but now crouch down even more. You can lean back a little bit more too, if you think you were too high up when not using the brake. When you feel you are going to tip over backwards, stop pumping the bike with your legs instead of braking. If that doesn't help and you are REALLY falling backwards, feather the rear brake VERY LIGHTLY, and start pumping the bike underneath you again.
If you need more speed, try doing the manual in a small downhill piece of road. Too much and you will fall down, at least I did.

The manual is a hard trick, but very cool and nice to know. There are millions of things you can do with a manual. For example, manualing before a drop, or even after it if you are brave and trust your rear brake.

Falling is not an option, it's a fact. I've fallen over plenty of times when manualing. The thing is that if you bail a couple of times and get out of the crash unhurt, you are certainly boosting your confidence...


Manual Manual written by & © 2003 Robert Janson - www.CykelTrial.Net

Keep in mind that rear brake has this effect of suddenly working perfectly when you're wheelieing or manualing. That's because complete weight is on the rear wheel and the brake then BITES, so you have to feather it twice as gentle.
When you're rolling on two wheels, front brake matters more because centre of your balance moves forward while you brakes (due to intertia), and more weight on a wheel equals more braking efficiency.

-blushark

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter Japslap Guide.
 
 

I recall someone (probably Paul Carpenter) calling japslap (pedal up, zapzap...) a mixture of a lurch and a bunnyhop, during my beginner stage when I couldn't japslap. I also recall this statement confusing the hell out of me, since I always considered japslap being a move only remotely related to the previous two, and even that only by application, in which the pedal movement was used to launch the bike up and away. I tried different combinations of moves but nothing really worked...

Those were the beginner days. Today I understand that the concept of launching the bike "up and away" by pedalstroking is fundamentally wrong, and know that pedalstroke only does two things. First: it pulls the front wheel up without your strong pulling back on the bars and ruining your balance (and wasting precious time before obstacle to lean back instead of jump up -- more about this later in the article). Secondly: pedal stroke develops forward momentum that will carry you across the gap or over the edge of the obstacle.
Pedal stroke DOES NOT launch your upwards in any way, and this is the critical point for every new rider. Therefore, japslap is consisted of a pedal stroke, weight shift -- your body leaping up, and pulling up the bars while leaping up to take the bike with you. I'd like to point to the fact that this pulling on the bars shouldn't be performed like the circular motion in the bunnyhop, since the goal is not to level the bike in the air (like in bunnyhop), but to pull it up and be prepared for landing and sticking it to the rear wheel.

There is another type of japslap, sometimes used by better riders where you level the bike in the air, in which case your arm motion is basically bunnyhop motion. This is not the basic japslap we're trying to learn here, and I'm not there yet either, but I'm told it's useful for upping higher stuff you couldn't land your rear wheel on in comps where bashguards are illegal (UCI style). The point is to plant your front wheel on the object and feather you brake while leaning forward in order to bring the back (by inertia) up on the object with you. It's the same thing like bunnyhopping and feathering front brake, only japslap is very hand with no run-up space.

Now that I've mentioned it, I'll just add that japslap has three main good sides over bunnyhop:

  • it's useful when you have little or no run-up space available (when you can't build up speed for bunnyhop)
  • you have less forward momentum, so you can japslap and stick to rear on a rail, on a small object, you can easier control bike when precision is necessary, you can land on your bashguard not worrying about bending your spider arms (bunnyhops tend to do that due to too much forward momentum), there is less risk of pinch-flatting your tube etc.
  • it looks much cooler :-)

Riders tend to use japslap more than bunnyhop once they learn how to use it, and good riders can japslap to about 70-80% of height they can up with bunnyhopping.

Having all this in mind, let's analyze the move itself. It's split into two versions, which I'll call half-stroke and full-stroke japslaps. Half stroke is done by beginning with your wrong foot forward (more about this later) and is finished with pedals turned by 180 degrees (hence 'half-stroke'). Second version is done by starting with your choco-foot forward and turning pedals full 360 degrees. More about this later.
On with the move: I'm willing to risk and describe the japslap motion like a slightly modified rolling version of a pedalroll from both wheels grounded. (pedalroll -- pedalkick motion with rear wheel grounded all the time -- no jump like in a lurch/pedalkick -- bike just rolls underneath you)
Now, on with the instructions as I see them, for half-stroke version of the japslap:

1) Make sure your derailleur's shifted to 22t in the front and about 17-19t in the back (that's around 5th or 6th gear on a standard 9 speed MTB cassette). You will choose your favourite gear as you practice, but this will do for now. I find it easier to japslap in a higher gear, even 14t feels really nice, but this sucks because higher gears are useless for all other trials techniques, which you will surely be using right after japslap. So try using your trialsin gear.
2) Roll slowly, granny's walk speed, before you attempt the move. If you're extremely slow or trackstanding, it will most probably feel too awkward to set-up for the move and you'll probably lose your balance; however, if you're too fast, your gear won't give you enough power to execute the move (you'll most probably either bail or do a bad japslap -- if you're lucky).
3) Prepare: put your bad (non-choco) foot forward. For beginners it often the biggest problem: riding with non-choco foot forward, approaching an obstacle with wrong foot etc. -- it wasn't really a problem for me, so you should ask different people for different inventive advices on how to avoid this problem, but most of them will be "practice riding and balancing with wrong foot forward". (Why wrong foot forward? Read after these instructions)
4) Preload for the move. I do it by (chronologically): a) pulling my non-choco foot (which is now forward) a bit up and leaning forward (compressing my suspension fork - it makes things a bit easier) b) leaning back and and...
5) ...time for action: simultaneously with leaning back, I do a 1/4 pedalstroke with my non-choco foot to gain speed (forward momentum) and then violently execute another 1/4 pedalstroke with my choco-foot while leaning back allowing front wheel to come up. Move has to be explosive. This is very important: make sure you have enough power in the gear you're japslapping in, and make sure you're really putting some force into it. Otherwise you won't do anything but speed up.
6) Just as front wheel starts going up, jump upwards (from your leaning back position) and pull up on the bars. Bike should not be leveled in the air, as I previously mentioned, but pretty angled, something like this: / if this >> is the moving direction. Push the bars up and away. This is in order to land rear first and stick it on the rear wheel and regain balance. Same applies if you're landing on the bashguard.
7) As you take off, apply rear brake. In the beginning it won't matter, but it's good to make a habit out of it for later (applying the brake). Otherwise you'll loop out (landing on your ass) or nothing will happen except you'll be forced to change your habits later on if you want to remain in backhop position when you land. Braking in mid-air may feel a bit weird at first, and especially landing both wheels with rear locked, but don't worry about this, it will go away.

All this should be performed within half a second.

Why "wrong" foot forward? If you do half stroke japslap version with choco-foot forward, you will finish with your bad foot forward, which will automatically make you clumsy and you'll lose your balance for sure. Hence, all riders start with their bad foots forward, and with practice it will start feeling natural, not to mention the fact your brain will know what you're trying to do and automatic-japslap phase will come sooner than for e.g. bunnyhoping, once you do it a few times.

Difference between half-stroke and full-stroke japslap.
Full-stroke japslaps are not as useful if you're stuck in your trialsin gear (not enough power at the end of a half-stroke speed up phase, to lift your front wheel up), but if you can shift to a higher gear, move becomes very useful for higher objects or wider gaps since you have more forward momentum. It's a version considerately harder to learn than half-stroke japslap, so I won't talk about it, since we're only learning the basics. Once you know the basic japslap, try this advanced version as well.

My personal experiences:

The thing that did the japslap for me was violently using my choco foot, violently pedalstroking into an explosive move. I couldn't make it before this piece of information because something was simply wrong -- I wasn't getting enough power to lift the front up and it was hard to jump upwards. I also found that shifting to a harder gear makes things more predictable and gives me a bit more power. As I said, try different combinations.

Don't expect japslap to work immediately, it takes time to learn just like bunnyhop, maybe even longer, and certainly don't attempt it until you've learnt to bunnyhop pretty well. Pedalkicking is not a prerequisite, although it may come in handy (I ride with at least 2 guys who knew only bunnyhop prior to developing japslap skills). Japslaps from standstill still represent a bit of a problem for me, so try to avoid them in the beginning, just like full-stroke japslaps. I think it's best to try japslapping over virtual obstacles (lines/cracks on the pavement) or non-pinchflatting ones (leaves, cans, sticks, very low pavements…), since japslapping first time on a regular sized pavement can be pain in the top tube or cause a flat tire.
When you just start learning, don't insist on landing on the rear wheel and keeping the bike tilted in mid-air -- just attempt to lift off at all by the pedalstroke motion and copy circular motion of the bunnyhop to get airborne at all. Then, as you start getting higher and farther, start trying to stick landing to the rear and do the right motion with arms/bars (which is pushing them up and away to angle the bike like this / ).


If this is not enough, here is a different point of view from a wholly different kind of rider which may aid you greatly, depending on your riding style. TooSickS of Trials-Online Forum, thank you for sharing this with us...


Japslap guide II

The japslap consists of 1/2 pedal revolution in conjunction with a backhop. I find it is one of the easiest ways to get up to rear wheel and offers the most control. The japslap is a powerful move that allows you to use little or no runup space. The basics of the move are as follows:

Begin with your non-choco foot forward and approximately equal to the distance away from the obstacle you want to japslap.
Preload back over the rear wheel while ratcheting the cranks back 1/8 to 1/4 turn.
With one fluid motion rapidly transfer your weight forward as you begin a smooth but forceful pedal stroke. Use your foward weight movement rather than leg extension to get a smooth powerful stroke.
As you move forward on the bike, bring the handlebars up toward your waist and continue the forward body english and begin standing up as your choco-foot comes to the top of the stroke.

When your choco foot comes around to within 1/8 turn of being level follow through the standing up motion with an upward spring, weight the choco foot, give a good solid pedal kick and bring the pedals to level.
When your feet come level your legs should be at maximum extension, body striaght up, arms extended down and close to the waist, and you'll have quite a bit of momentum built up from both the pedal stroke and the body english.

Next thrust the bike forward relative to the BIKE (this will be upward relative to the ground because your front wheel is off the ground) and get your butt back over the rear tire and extend your arms out and up.

Stick the landing to your rear wheel and recover your balance.

There's a lot of stuff going on in a relatively short time, and sounds like a fairly complex sequence of events, but in practice, one event causes others to happen. I find the critical point is the initial rearward preload. The key is to not compensate with your legs, but with knees bent just stretch your arms out and pivot your whole body around the bottom bracket. I describe this technique as "sitting on your pedals".

Basically you will be sitting on an imaginary seat behind your real seat if you have one, but are supported by the pedals. From this position the initial pedal stroke will automatically happen when you move your body forward, and the weight of your body coming foward combined with pulling your bars to your waist will cause your front foot to automatically begin a powerful pedal stroke.
Once you begin moving your body forward it's a simple matter of continuing to follow the pedals with your feet till the cranks pass the vertical point and you weight your choco-foot. When you weight your choco-foot you are doing several things at once. First of all you are stabilizing yourself into a choco-foot forward position and at the same time your rear foot is forced up, assisting you in getting your body to lift. The act of weighting your choco-foot also causes you to shift weight from your non-choco foot and a geometric byproduct of this motion is the standing up, just because you have nowhere else to go but up if you're doing it right.

When your weight is on your choco foot use your front bent knee to continue to stand up with force. The act of standing up will cause your cranks to level rapidly, and this is where your pedal kick force comes from. Once you feel the pedal kick pushing your bike forward just finish the standing up motion and unload, tossing your body weight upward with all available power in your legs. Your bike moving forward and your body moving upward will cause inertia to be directed both forward (by the bike's weight and the forward energy supplied by the pedal kick) and upward (by your body's weight and upward energy supplied by standing up) and since your body is heavier than your bike (hopefully) your bike will be pulled upward more than your body is pulled forward.

Now all there is left to do is put your bike where you want it, just try and shoot the bike out from under you and land with arms extended almost 100% and butt over the rear tire and low. The lower you get your butt on landing the easier it is to balance because of a low center of gravity and subsequently your bike is lifted higher.

Japslaps are fun, easy to do, and the basis of the japslap, the 1/2 pedal rotation is a great way to get the front of the bike up with ease.

Hint: Practice the pedal rotation first by starting non-choco foot forward and do the pedal stroke without the hop, and wheelie drop off a curb till it feels natural approaching the edge with your non-choco foot.

Hint: Most of the pedal rotation in a japslap comes from the weight transfer and body english, if you're trying to actually pedal around with your legs you're doing it wrong, your body weight shift provides the power and your legs are only responsible for following the pedals through the vertical crank position. Weight shift is the key, and if you shift weight properly your feet do their thing almost automatically. Concentrate on the weight shift sequence: Preload back, shift forward, stand up, shift back, and come full circle back to rear wheel.

 Japslap guide II written & performed by Al Signore


Some additional japslap hints, by blu|shark:
(which I hopefully will be expanding as I hear your problems)

  1. If you're having troubles sticking it to the rear wheel (that means you roll forward or land on both wheels after japslapping), then you must try and perform the pedal strokes faster, much faster. Try doing it violently fast. I thought it wouldn't do me much good, doing it so fast, but it did. Which brings me to the next hint...
  2. If you feel your gear is too low, first check that you are using your trialsin gear.. that means 22t in front, and 19-17t in the back (cassette sprockets always have small engraved numbers, often covered with grease :-). If you still feel your pedal stroke gives you too much power (=gear feels too easy), you have the same problem I had while learning, and that is just to get used to it and convince yourself it's more how you jump while japslapping than what gear you're in. Only use higher gears when you need to japslap-gap a wide gap, because trying to japslap high object in a gear too high will usually prove problematic, and even if you do succeed, you fill be stuck on an object in a wrong gear for any trials move except side-drop.
  3. If you can't gain desired height, and you ARE running right the gear, problem is usually either in (1) wrong distance you start your japslap (try doing it from a bit farther away than seems reasonable) or (2) in low amount of preload and body language you put in the japslap: this includes doing extremely swift pedal stroke. The main idea is to use the pedal stroke to give you forward momentum, but then use all your body language to jump as high up as you can. Other part of problem regarding gaining height involves your mind and games it plays on you, which brings me to the next hint...
  4. If you can't convince yourself to try and go for a japslap on reasonably high object (you go for it but change your mind as you approach the object), it's obviously all in your head. Trials are a mind game, that's what flashes in my head every single ride during every harder move, so learn to be patient with your mind. Find obstacle you're comfortable smacking into. You won't do it deliberatly, of course, but knowing it won't hurt you/your bike too much if something goes wrong will give you the confidence to try the japslap. Objects I'm talking about are usually wooden, like benches or, more ideally, stacked pallets. You can also do it on concrete objects that are surrounded with such configuration of terrain that will give you confidence -- like for example wide flat concrete plateau. That means: don't sweat over not being brave enough to japslap to narrow objects surrounded by drops, flowers or rocks. This advice may sound stupid, but I remember that I always went for this kind of objects because they were much more widely available, and always had problems with them. :-)
  5. If you are having troubles staying on the obstacle and are falling back, try simply leaning more forward when landing. You will do this by not getting bike so much vertical while mid-air (for lower objects) or try developing bigger forward momentum while pedal stroking and not get your ass so low (so that forward momentum actually pushes more your body weight to the bars = lowers your front wheel = makes you stick it to the rear wheel). On lower obstacles, you will also be able to dampen this problem by not doing the pedal stroke so swiftly. All it takes is a small change in any of those parameters to give you different japslap performance.
     

 
 
 ^ Go to top
  Parts
Chapter: Previous Chapter  Next Chapter
   1a. Rigid vs. suspension fork. Reducing travel.
 
  It's simple -- if you're considering competing later on, definitely go with rigid fork. If you're going to ride mostly natural trials, you'll most likely go with rigid (everyone does).
If you're not smooth, if you ride mostly urban, if you don't have money to buy rigid fork right away -- use your current suspension fork, with reduced travel if possible (more about this at the end of the article).

Now let's compare both types of forks:
 

Rigid fork Pros    Cons
  - improved stability (a)
- improved balance (a)
- handling predictability (b)
- direct energy transfer (b)
- easier to pedalkick (lighter front)
- punishing to your wrists (c)
- dangerous if you're seriously unsmooth (c)
Suspension fork Pros    Cons
  - enhances urban riding (d)
- forgiving when you screw up (c)
- provides extra rebound for some moves (e)
- comfy when rocking (e)
- screws up your geometry (f)
- eats up energy from some moves (b)
- heavy front end (harder pedalkicks)
- doesn't teach you serious smoothness
- more expensive and requires servicing
 


..and a few explanations of points above, which you don't have to read if you understood everything:

a) As there is no travel at all, rigid bikes offer high precision – there is no unpredictable weight shifts that occur to riders when they put a part of their weight to the front (and that's the whole time front wheel is in contact with the surface). You will manage to keep your balance in situations where you regularly lost them when riding with suspension fork (this is not valid for super-experienced urban riders), and you'll pull of most of moves with improved stability.
b) Direct energy transfer and predictability of will be illustrated on the following example: imagine doing front pivot (endo). When you load your weight on the suspension fork, it travels down and stores the energy of your movement into potential energy in it's springs. Rigid fork would transfer this energy directly to the ground, making you lift your rear wheel higher and forcing you into another kind of position to retain balance -- it wouldn't alter your geometry like suspension fork does -- when you compress suspension fork, you literally shorten it! (thereby changing slightly your bike's geometry) When you're finished and return to your original position, this energy that was stored in springs will be released, giving back original length to your fork and pushing you out of balance. You will soon learn to adapt, but the fact remains you are unsure about exact forces and vectors. This means low-predictability.
c) When your wrists get punished the first time, you will remember reading this :-). It usually happens when you land the wrong way: if you have suspension fork, it will feel awkward, but with rigid you will have to get off the bike and get a grip on yourself before you start screaming in agony (painful). Wrong landing with suspension fork is landing front first, and that's wrong only because the coil springs suffer. Wrong landing with rigid is anything except perfectly smooth rear wheel landing. Also, riding across town will feel disagreeable, if your town doesn't have nice even asphalt streets. If you're seriously unsmooth, you might fly over the bars and/or crash, and if you're dangeorusly unsmooth you might prepare your wrists for surgery, never be able to ride again etc.
d) Urban riding is all about inhospitable concrete environment. It's usually good to have something else except ultra-stiff fork between the ground and your hands. You'll be able to worry less about landing when doing tricky moves. You cruising around the town will be much more pleasant as well.
e) When bunnyhopping, you will find suspension fork most helpful piece of equipment. As you preload for the move, the fork will sink storing the energy, and giving it back a few moments later, helping to lift the front wheel. There are a few other moves that will benefit from the suspension fork. Rocking will feel nicer and, what's most important -- you won't have to rock as fast as with rigid to keep balance, but your rocks will be bigger and more energy consuming.
f) When you fit a suspension fork, it will make your front end higher (depending on the travel of the fork), thereby altering angles of the frame. If it alters them too much, your trials specific frame will become less utilizable. If you ride a non-trials specific frame, it was probably designed with suspension fork in mind, so don't worry. You just won't be able to fit a rigid fork.

For a nice list of rigid forks, go here. (hopefully the site is still active: report broken links please)

You might wonder why almost all riders that have the possibility of choice (i.e. enough money) ride with rigid forks? Well.. it's sort of a legacy of the past.. in the past performance was the top issue since most of the serious riders competed.. but now when more and more riders do it just for fun, more of them opt for suspension forks. Their goal is to make the ride more enjoyable and they are willing to sacrifice a part of performance.
It's important to know the pros and cons of both types of forks, so you can change it if you need more precision or more plush.
I rode with a suspension fork (60mm travel) for first 2 years of my trialsin, and then I switched to rigid when I felt need for benefits of rigid fork, when I felt suspension fork was holding me back.

Reducing travel
To prevent suspension forks altering your geometry too much (this is in case you have trials-specific frame), people usually reduce their travel to within 1-2" if they're serious, or 3-4" if they're not so serious.
How to do it? Some (generally newer) forks have external travel adjustment. Some have ATS or compatible system: with All Travel System you just have to open the fork, no part replacement needed. Finally, with some forks you'll have much fun reducing their travel since you'll be needing new springs and/or oil. In two latter cases, looking for help at your local bike shop is recommended.

 
         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 1b. Replacing a suspension with a rigid fork. (& problems that may arise)
 
  Have you familiarized yourself with advantages and disadvantages of getting yourself a rigid fork?

If you're reading this, you probably have a suspension fork and a non-trials specific frame. That frame was designed for a fork with certain amount of travel. You first job is finding out what amount of travel that is.
In case you own a XC frame, the travels in question are usually about 2.5" to 3.5" (make sure though). In this case, you may get yourself a standard trials fork, 400mm long, since it will not alter your geometry too much, just bring the front a bit down. Some people like this, and if you don't like it, get a bit longer stem or one with more rise after you've tried riding with lower front end for a while.
However, one this needs to be said: some frames have low bottom bracket, and putting an even shorter fork on such a frame could turn it into a plow, meaning bottom bracket will be ridiculously low -- which is impractical (for getting over obstacles) and funny-feeling (bike feels weird with a low BB).

In case you own a FR frame, or anything similar like dual slalom or dirt jump, odds are your frame has been designed for 4" or longer travel fork. In case you know what you're doing and still want to replace that fork with a rigid one, you will have to be getting a suspension corrected rigid fork. That's a normal rigid fork that's a bit longer than usual 400mm - it's usually somewhere in 415-435mm ballpark. I can only think of few such forks right now, Planet-X Knifen Long or Superlight Long, DMR dirt jump forks and most rigid dirt jump forks in general. Kona sells rigid suspension corrected forks on some cheaper bikes, so maybe you can get it cheap from someone who wants a suspension. Ask around.
If you decide to get yourself a fork like this, visit this page and choose a fork long enough, and then come check with us on the forum to see opinions about it. There's a lot of rigid forks that break after a few months riding (or sooner), and people on the forum probably will know about it.

However, it would be easiest for you to simply measure the length of your current fork, from the axle to the point where it enters the head tube, and find a rigid fork that's closest to this value -- given that your current geometry works for you and that you don't want a lower front end.

There are a few frames that are declared as "variable geometry" and can take most of the forks you might put on them: from rigid to 4"-5" travel, but if you owned one of those frames, you'd already know it.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter  2. Brakes (& everything about them).
 
 

Trials riding is more about keeping balance and precisely controlling the bike than anything else in MTB world, and there's no balancing without reliable brakes. That might lead you to believe that the right choice of brakes is very important. This is a correct assumption.

I'll try to be short: trials riders desire modulation AND power. Experience shows that most hydraulic systems provide power and most of them excellent modulation. Thus, any serious trials rider will go for a hydraulic system.
The rear brake will have to be very powerful, whereas less power (usually) will be required in the front -- that's the way trials are. For urban riding, it's a good idea to have font brake just as powerful as the rear.

Why do we need modulation? When performing simple or advanced moves like wheeling, manualing, riding up or rolling nosepick, you really need maximum precision in braking, because applying too much will get your front down, or launch you over your bars, respectively. Having good modulation is being able to dose braking power with perfect precision. It's also closely related to braking power. Cantilever brakes lack modulation because their cables stretch (or snap). There are few expensive cables capable of delivering better modulation, but let's not go into that. They can never be as good as oil by definition.

Why do we need power? When dropping off something, or pivoting, or lurching---or doing most of trials moves for that matter---we need to be able to trust that our brakes will lock when we want them locked. Otherwise, serious injury might follow. That's why cantilevers are useless, and cheap V-brakes---mostly useless. They require way too much force applied to the lever to lock the wheels, and after you apply the force, cable will usually snap or your finger will go numb. Lots of them have 3 finger levers (does that tell you anything?).

About Hydraulic Brakes. Hydraulic principle tells us how to make small force at the lever (master piston) become a very powerful wicked force at the slave pistons who actuate brake pads. That's why hydraulic rim brakes are more powerful than cable-actuated brakes, and that's why (most) hydraulic disc brakes are at least three to four times more powerful than cable-actuated rim brakes..
Hydraulic brakes use oil as transfer agent which cannot be compressed even by smallest percentage. That means no 'signal' loss between levers and brake pistons.

Now that you might think you're beginning to understand, I'll give you a quick overview of brake features to confuse you again. The overview will be generalized in order to be short. Don't e-mail me exceptions to these rules, as I am aware of their existence. Most people, however, will recognize their brakes among following three types found in trials:


1) cable actuated linear-pull rim brakes (V-brakes, vees): bad modulation (pad and cable-dependent), respectable power, medium weight, simple servicing & set-up, cheap brakes, sensitive to rim damage (dents, wheel out of true), weather sensitive.

Beginners like to use Avid SD 5 or SD7 and Shimano Deore vees (or old LX models without parallel push linkage). Weight freaks who ride pure trials & comps, use these brakes in the front to keep it lightweight -- not so much power is required in the front. Urban assault riders usually don't do that; they need modulation for tricks (tricks that pure trials riders are not into), power to make sure they don't bite concrete, etc., and they don't watch their weight.
Right pad choice means a lot, for either power or modulation (usually you won't have both with v-brakes, especially when compared to hydraulic disc brakes). People also grind their rims or put tar/coca-cola/whatever on it to make the brakes grabbier (= less modulation, more power).
Remember that you will feel every dent in the rim while braking, and that a wheel out of true will cause your brakes to have fades (sudden loss of power with lever falling through) and behave erratically (brake when they're not supposed to, for e.g. when dent hits the pad).
Good side: they keep stress off the spokes while braking.
Best vees without parallel-push or any special pads and/or rim treatment offer about 3.0-3.5 m/s^2 deceleration per 100N applied lever force.

Note: it is best if you don't use brakes featuring parallel-push system: they come loose and/or fall apart very soon because of their fragile parallelogram construction. Not all, but most.. Such brakes are Shimano XTR or Avid Arch Rival. There are people that claim their parallel push brakes work just fine, but they are usually using newer models of these brakes which seem to have improved construction, OR they're very gentle with them.

2) hydraulic rim brakes: excellent modulation, very good power (with the right pads), heaviest of all brake types, complicated installation, more expensive than vees (1), push pads parallel with the rims, sensitive to rim damage (dents, wheel out of true), weather sensitive.

Magura HS11 are usually not used in trials world. They are basically the same as HS33, but with little less power (3.9 vs 4.2m/s^2) and have very different lever design---kind of design people don't usually like. Magura HS33 are the choice of all pro riders who cannot mount disc brakes (frame related problem). HS33 also feature TPA screws - turbo pad adjusters using which you can adjust your pads on the fly. Their weight is 440g a piece (including booster), which is around some heavier vees. You have wide pad choice, to make your brakes have more power or more modulation (the two usually doesn't go together and you have to choose). However, experienced riders report green Magura pads work good in the back (esp on anodized rims and/or in the wet), and red ones in the front (Magura/Koolstop), or simply red on both wheels. It's a matter of personal taste and local climathe. Not so often, people swear by Plazmatic CRMs, whereas most of the other trials folk claim they grab the wheel and don't let it go: meaning they have superb power and barely any modulation. Use them if you're a power freak and want exactly that---power. They don't work in wet. Whatever you use, remember: it's most important your rear wheel doesn't slip when you lock it; never-ever.
HS11 and HS33 brakes push pads parallel with the rim so there is no toe-in period and rims are evenly worn. Remember that you will feel every dent in the rim while braking, just as you will feel your wheel is out of true. Good side: they keep stress off the spokes while braking.
Magura HS33 without special pads and/or rim treatment offer 4.2 m/s^2 deceleration per 100N applied lever force (specs for year 2000-2003).

3) hydraulic disc brakes: great modulation (some are too powerful though), unsurpassed power (depending on the model), quite expensive (plus: you need new hubs), sometimes complicated to service, simple installation, lightweight (compared to vees), very dangeorus for your frame (rear disc), put great amount of stress on the spokes, weather and rim dent independent, automatic pad wear adjustment (all Magura 2002 and later models at least), lower the center of balance (by a tiny bit).

More and more riders opt for disc brakes these days as they surely have many advantages: they are light, simple to install, offer great power and great modulation, they are weather independent (won't slip when riding in wet), they won't confuse you with heaps of pad choices, your braking finger won't ever be tired again, you won't have to worry about denting your rims or wheel going out of true (when rim brakes start protesting), they don't wear your rims, pads adjust completely automatically providing desired lever feel at all times etc.
Nevertheless, the price will keep you realistic - they're usually the double price of a single HS33 set. If you're planning on getting a rear disc for your trials bike, first read this passage of the FAQ to learn about possible problems with disc (breaking your frame). Nowadays, discs are in domain of attractive weights (most of them being lighter than HS33), and some of them are even extremely light, which makes them a good choice if you can afford them.

Magura Gustav M 2003 is an example of an overkill - it's 600g+, has 190mm rotor, three-finger levers and more power (and less modulation) you'll ever need in trials - 7.9 m/s^2. It was designed for to withstand excessive amounts of heat and be used in DH, dual, tandem etc.---bottom line: do not buy DH brakes for trials.
People think best choice is Magura Louise/FR or some of the cheaper Hopes (although they use DOT oil), and let's not forget Magura Marta SL with titanium bolts and new steel rotors that bring it's weight well around 310g (available from Magura in 2003) or with aluminum rotor at 285g (available from third-party manufactures). You should Martas for building an ultra-light competition bike, and Louise/FR for urban rigs.
Better brakes, like Magura Louise FR (year 2002) have deceleration of 7.0 m/s^2 per 100N applied force at the levers (411g), and Magura Clara (2000) and Magura Louise (2000) even 7.5 m/s^2 (455g), which is plenty of stopping power for most of people. I strongly recommend brakes that use biodegradable mineral oil as transfer agent (like Magura Royal Blood) instead of toxic DOT3/4 oil which strips paint off your frame by the way. Royal Blood does not absorb water (so you don't have to change it every 6 months), it eliminates pump-effect, it automatically lubricates every part of hydraulic system (very useful!), it's enviroment-friendly and you won't have to wear gloves while working with it (which you will).
Lastly, disc brakes will lower the weight center on you bike, making it a bit (a small bit) less flickable. Most riders won't ever notice this, but it's there.
My oppinion: discs are the perfect choice for trials (I run discs: Louise in front and Louise FR in the rear).

I have not mentioned cantilever brakes, mechanical and semi-hydraulic disc brakes as most of them are not usable or safe in trials. Some riders swear by Avid Mechanical Discs. I don't. They still have cables and all of cable-problems attached.
Visit Magura Cult for more information on Magura brakes.

At the end, brakes are also matter of personal choice, as long as they're powerful enough. They have to make you able to comfortably and confidently use one-finger braking technique. That sort of technique is required since you'll be needing all 8 of your remaining fingers firmly gripping the handlebars. Be sure of correct lever placement, that will guarantee most power with one finger: place your levers further away from the grips so when you stretch your index (braking) finger, you can just grasp the end of the brake lever. This will provide best leverage while braking.
Some people like modulation, some don't. I do. I think it's very important.

I'll just remind you that most of the serious riders use Magura HS33 brakes, and only those of them who own specially designed frames dare use disc brakes. Read more about frame-brakes relationship in this passage of the FAQ. 

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter  3. Building the perfect wheel..
 
 


Hubs
Choice of the front hub usually doesn't matter at all. If you're at least fairly smooth, you can get the lightest hub for the money and save weight. Chris King, Hope, Sun, RBDesign and Trueprecision are excellent choices, while Magura/DT, Shimano XTR etc. are good choices.

As for the rear hub, I'll try to make this as simple as possible: get any hub that works for you and won't brake. Trials riders somehow tend to dream about extremely quick engagement & very high reliability hubs, but you don't have to join them in that dream. However, such hub surely will help you out a great deal. Why we want quick engagement, read here. Very high reliability, on the other hand, is also important. Just few days ago, I've destroyed my freehub and I know what I'm talking about. Broken freehub can be as deadly as chain snapping, given that it happens in the wrong moment. The safest bet surely is a hub with prolonged warranty. Make sure trials (ab)use doesn't void that warranty.
Another point, often overlooked, is the quality of the hub flanges. Few quality hubs feature technologies that hold the spokes more gently than other hubs, therefore reducing the stress at the critical point. The result is less broken spokes. I don't know about you, but all of my spokes broke because of sharp hub flange (or because of wild riding, some may say ;-). Very few hubs feature such technologies, and at the moment I can't remember an example. Usually more expensive hubs have the tendency to be gentler to the spokes.

Chris King is the only hub I know which offers 5 years warranty period and trials specific modifications: those are steel freehub body and extra strong trials springs. This means adding a little bit of weight, and a lot of peace-of-mind. You make the call.
Other quick-engagement hubs found in trials are:
a) Shimano LX silent clutch. Very, very cheap, also very undurable - expect it to fail from the moment you put it on your bike. The good side is that the hub lets you know it will soon fail, if you listen to it (clutch mechanism grips weaker and weaker.. and then it fails).
b) TruePrecision Stealth. The silent hub with most engagement points in this part of universe. I have no data on it's durability..
c) RBDesign Tractor DB32. Among other things, features total badass look and yet another patented engagement system, with the exception that this one guarantees simultaneous engagement of all rollers and actually does it in reality. It's quite expensive though. If you can get it from Slovakia (or find a dealer), you'll see why top riders there use it.
d) Hope hubs have 36 engagement points and are used by many riders, especially in Europe. I haven't been able to find any official info yet.
(etc.)

Here are some of the rear hubs most commonly found on trials bikes today:
Please note that prices are rough estimates since very different quotes can be found in different shops.

Hub Engagement points Price (US$) Weight
Author
24
70
450g
Chris King Classic*
72
250
268 g
Chris King ISO disc*
72
280
306 g
Da Bomb HS-R
24
70
700g
DT Hugi
18
260
235 g
DT Onyx
18
150
355 g
Hope Bulb
36
200
375 g
Hope XC
21
125
385 g
Planet X Goliath
24
175
?
Planet X Mono
24
140
?
RB Design Tractor DB32
36
200
385 g
Shimano LX
16
25
426 g
Shimano LX Silent-Clutch
36
45
529 g
Shimano XT
16
50
445 g
Shimano XTR
24
190
371 g
Sun 439
36
150
417 g
Sun 439 Lite
36
180
337 g
Sun ABBAH
48
250
425 g
Trueprecision Stealth
102
270
480 g
       
* (for steel freehub body add 48g/25$)

List compiled in fall 2002 by Eric Chow.

However, I'll remind you again, people ride with all sorts of hubs, and that's why I can't make your choice in this case.


Spokes
I choose only DT spokes. They're not extremely expensive like some other parts (hub, cranks, bb) so most of people should be able to afford them -- if not for the fact that they are so cool, then at least for the fact they will last. Quality spokes will make your wheels stiffer and save you alot of time (you won't spend mending the wheel). I've also seen whole wheels collapse after a high dropoff. Although this was partially a rim problem as well, tougher spokes would probably have prevented the crash.

The ideal combination for the rear wheel is, agree many, using DT 14G straight gauge spokes on the drive side of rear wheel, and 14-15-14G butted spokes on the non-drive side. For front, go with the same butted spokes if you wish an elastic wheel, or even lighter spokes (15G) to save on weight, if you're fairly smooth.


Rims
Most people agree, the cheapest indestructible lightweight rim is Mavic D521CD (CD version is the strongest) or D321 (for disc brakes). WTB or Sun are also acceptable rims, given you choose their strongest models. Strongest (and heaviest) rims on the planet include: Alex DX32, Planet X BMF, Psycho Heavy Metal, Atomlab Trailpimp. They're too heavy for serious trials application, but if you're a merciless rider, this is your chance not to have to true your wheels every 2 days.
Dependable rims are very important, especially the rear one, since it takes most of the beating. This is even more important if you're using rim brakes, sensitive to rim damage and using rim design that's already too streched to be as strong as disc rims. Watch the weight though, especially in the front. My personal choice is Mavic D521CD (590g) in the rear and Mavic F519 (460g) in the front. The rule of thumb is: get downhill rims for the rear, and freeride rims for the front.


Tires
No one usually pays much attention to the front tire. Keep it light but grippy, especially if you're planning on doing a lot of front wheel tricks or riding during the winter. Most of riders use 2.0" or 2.1" front tires. Fatter tire usually isn't worth the added weight.
Rear tire, however, is more important. We want something wide to increase friction (especially in the nature or during poor weather conditions), from 2.25" to 2.6". Watch for the tire pattern – it should be uniform and fairly dense to provide you with better grip on that slippery rock. They should also be a bit softer if you ride lots of natural (in urban environment they would wear down too soon). Not so few trials frames have only 2.25" tire clearance, so sometimes you'll have your choice already made. For the rest of you, tires that will work fine are IRC El Gato, Kenda Kinetics, Specialized Evil Twin, Michelin 24.1 Comp, IRC El Kujo, Continental Vertical ProTection (for front), Tioga Factory DH (although some riders hate these tires) etc.
IRC El Gato is the only tire designed specifically for trials, also offering pinch flat protection and a lot of weight. If you can stand the red sidewall and can get it, just do by all means. Continental Vertical ProTection is a soft-compond tire with many great technologies, and a good choice especially for the front in the bad weather conditions (it can be used in the rear as well, if you turn in on the other side). Kenda Kinetics is a hard tire good for dry weather featuring a nice thread pattern and offering long wear life. There is also a lighter version with an orange sidewall, but it is said it pinch flats too easy.


Tubes & pressure
In the rear, go with DH tube. They are weightier, but much more resistant to punctures and pinch-flats, which is a very good thing. However, DH tube is not a must.. just a good idea.
Determine your own pressure, every rider has his own preference. People tend to go as low as they can without the tire folding when they ride, but rather go a bit higher.. not so rarely tubes let out some air during the ride, and then, if you don't have a pump with you, you have a folding tire on your hands, not to mention pinch flats because of low pressure. However, go too high, and you'll have very unpleasant ride, since your only suspension system is gone! (given you don't ride with suspension fork, of course)
Experiment yourself: you can start with 22-25PSI for natural and wet, and go up to 30PSI (or more) for urban and dry. If you're weightier rider, use higher pressure. Pressure is of course lower for the front wheel.

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 4. What is a quick engagement hub?
 
 

Trials are a precision sport. Perfect, dead precision. Some riders do not think that regular 16 engagement points hubs are precise enough as such hubs have too much slack, too much wasted leg motion before they click -- the sound of hub finally engaging. You'll genereally use them if you're still a begginner or have no money to buy expensive hubs, although it's not so important to have QE hubs for playriding or generally having fun.

Wasted leg motion and low precision are two of the few reasons why bike industry finally manufactured some quick engagement hubs (none of them was actually meant for trials in the beginning). They had 36 engagement points (like the legendary old Shimano LX silent clutch hub), 48 (Sun ABBAH (Another Big Bad Ass Hub)), 72 (Chris King Classic/Disc) and even 120 (Trueprecision's Stealth silent-clutch). There are hubs with more exotic engagement systems, like the one patented by Slovakian RB Design's Tractor TR32 that guarantee simultaneous engagement of all rollers. Every one of these hubs, obviously, has it's own engagement system.

However, trials riders everywhere by time grew very fond of Chris King Classic with extra steel freehub body, trials springs, 72 point engagement system who weights only 316g (with these extras). Another plus was a high number of available (beautiful) colors :-) and it's real-world performance. Now it is almost everyone's dream (in mainstream at least ;-). But do not be mistaken, you'll pay the price for this hub: ~$240 at least.

Look at the complete rear hub list in this section of the FAQ.

But, at the end, I'll repeat: quick engagement hubs are not a necessity in trials, merely a precision instrument. They won't help you to learn how to lurch..

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter  5. Are my short/flat bars okay for trials?
 
 

No, they're not. They never will be. Actually, unless you ride road or uphill (XC), you will never ride with flat, short bars if you're clever. That is my humble oppinion.

Now what you undisputably need for trials are wide, wide, WIDE riser bars (usually 1.5-2" rise). By wide, I mean ideally 27.5-29" (bigger riders want up to 32-34", so they take motocross bars). They provide great leverage for controlling the front wheel, ie. steering, because they give you feel of hydraulic steering system in cars where it feels like plush. Because of such leverage, you can avoid killing yourself on giant rocks because it's easy to keep your steering wheel so steady and your wheel straight-going. In trials we like them for the precision they give us: you will turn the bars more to sweep the same angle with your front wheel, comparing to short bars. Wide bars also provide support to our body structure (you can almost rest on them. You will be more stable on your bike, and be smoother in turns. They are an absolute *OBLIGATION* in trials, freeride and downhill world. You won't make it anywhere without them, except to the ground.

Only time you really need flat and short bars in MTB, is to ease your climb (uphill). But then you'd probably need horns on your bars as well, which just takes us out of the bounds of a trials FAQ..

Go wide! Think about Roox, Planet-X, Monty, Megamo, Brisa, Koxx, Azonic, Amoeba, Easton etc., just make sure they're strong and stiff.

"Wide bars is the closest thing you can do to buying skill."

-- by Al Signore

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter  6. What kinds of derailleurs/cassettes work best?
 
 

Trials rarely require gear shifting. Usually, most of stock riders ride with 22t in the front and 18 or 19t in the back. That's why completely specialized trials machines (ie. mods) are single speed (they use other chainwheel sizes, but same ratio). So basically, you wouldn't need a derailleur at all, if there wasn't for a fact that it's:
a) simpler to have it on a stock,
b) it comes in handy when cruising the town (uphills/downhills),
c) you can fine adjust your power when trying different moves.

So, now that you know the story behind it, I'll tell you how most of the trials bikes are configured: we use 22t chainwheel on the crankset (bigger wheels removed), and usually have a 5-9 speed cassettes. Those are usually road cassettes, because they have smaller gear range (e.g. 12-22, or 11-23) comparing to MTB (biggest gear has more that 30t); why smaller range is a good thing, I'll tell you in a second. If you use Shimano mtb cassette, you probably won't have any trouble switching to a road one (as far as compatibility goes).

5 wheel cassettes are usually customized (you don't buy it off the shelf) by removing some of the chainwheels. By looking at gears you use during a standard day of riding, you should find yourself be able to spec your own cassette. You do that by marking range you use (that depends mostly on whether you have lots of uphills where you ride, or if you ride far and need smaller sprockets). If you know you mostly use range of gears 2-8 (when on 22t wheel in front) when you ride, then just check out number of teeth on those chainwheels when you get back home. (most cassettes have little numbers written on each sprocket). Then think whether you need all the wheels in between. It's okay if you do, but if you don't need extra precision, you can always leave out some unnecessary sprockets (like 15t and 14t -- leave only one) and put in another where you need it (eg. if you have 19t, it's a good idea to have 18t as well; some riders like to have 20 and 17t as well).
Next step is taking that list to someone who can build you a custom cassette. It's usually done by putting together separately available chainwheels and using spacers where necessary.

Now, let me answer three repeatedly asked questions:
1) why would I want less than 8/9 speed cassette?
2) why is a smaller gear range a good thing?
3) is there any actual use for cassette spacers?

1) When you have fewer sprockets on your cassette, you can make finer adjustments to chainline of your favorite trials gear, and it's a very good thing to have completely straight chainline for your fav. trialsin gear. You can use spacers to move those few wheels left or right to make your chain straight. I hope I don't have to tell your why straight chainline is a good thing. ;-) (few hints: forbidden gears, more power, chain less bent lasts longer, cassette lasts longer etc. - trust the man who snapped two rohloff chains and destroyed two XT cassettes :-) You do not have to buy yourself a new cassette, but it's good that you know at least why it's done.
2) Now we finally come to derailleurs. We want to have them, but don't want to destroy them, and that's the very thing that we usually end up doing because they're situated on a perfectly wrong place, sticking out, and in addition are so tender that they can't hold the riders weight on their fragile cages. So we usually end up crashing the rear mech or bending the hanger etc. (don't think it won't happen to you because you're just beginning. There is no rider to whom it hasn't happened already). So what could be the solution? Surely not buying an expensive mech that we think might last, but in reality will crush like any other (like XTR).
People like to solve the problem by getting themselves a short-cage derailleur. Short cage means it has shorter bottom part, the part that usually gets hurt first or provides leverage for hurting rear mech hanger etc. By using short-caged mechs we simply decrease chances of killing the mech, we don't eliminate it. However, the mech does stay more out of the way. And the smaller your gear range is, more you can shorten your chain (result: less chainslap, derailleur more out of the way).
3) Spacers actually have their uses. First, they simplify the cassette and make it lighter. Secondly, you can shift your chain on a spacer and ride incredible fakies and various other tricks that involve riding backwards. Third use I figured after I put spacers instead of few of my gears: when you shift on spacers, thiefs will have a hard time with your bike (you have a guaranteed faceplant for anyone who tries to ride your bike).

To be able to use a shortcage mech, you mustn't have too big sprockets on our cassettes, or if you have them you musn't use them. That's the real reason why we want to use road cassettes and their smaller ranges -- shortcage mech and finer power gradation (choose the best sprocket for every move). You can get some MTB cassettes with smaller ranges, but it's a lot more expensive. Lower class road cassettes are a bargain, and we don't need more expensive ones that might last thousands of miles (anyone who buys them is actually after the weight benefit those expensive components bring).
There are short-caged versions of XT and XTR deraillerus, but they are expensive. Common sense tells us we might make use of road derailleurs as well. This is true: they are cheap (at least the lower-class we're after) and all of them are short-caged or have short-caged versions. Again, riders who buy expensive road mechs (Ultegra, Dura-Ace) do that because of the weight benefit. We do not care about their performance, they all work well as long as they shift occasionally. You can usually keep your shifters when "upgrading" to cheap road mechs, they're compatible in most cases. You can afford crashing your derailleur 5 times as much than before, because they are 5 times cheaper.
As for the shifters, RapidFire are generally more preferable than gripshift since they stay out of the way, but some riders prefer cut gripshifts over RF. However, completely trials dedicated riders sometimes use thumb-shifters (found on old and cheap bikes). These non-indexed shifters can be mounted wherever, not necessarily on your bars), and you can almost always shift using them, no matter whether your derailluer is damaged (given it's still in one piece). This is for the simple reason that with non-indexed thumb shifters you have to pull or release the cable until the derailleur shifts, and it usually doesn't matter if it's a bit bent and you have to pull a bit more cable in, or vice versa.


So you see, it all depends on your personal preference, what you need and what you like. Sure, you can ride trials with long-cage XT and MTB cassette without suffering too low performance, but you just may find it very expensive very soon. ;-)

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter  7. (Are clipless OK in trials?) I find it easier to hop with clipless pedals.
 
 

No you don't, because you almost certainly don't know how to hop if you're hopping with clipless pedals all your life -- you're pulling up your bike with your feet which are attached to the pedals. this isn't a proper way to hop and as a result of not using correct technique, you'll always be stuck on small hops. Having flat (platform) pedals forces you to use proper technique to weight-shift bike upwards, which you can develop to jump well over a meter.
Clipless pedals are out of question for trials riding, for reasons I will explain, but you can save yourself the research and just get flat pedals -- ask anyone who's anything in trials (and they'll probably laugh at clipless rider).

There are two main points which make clipless unwelcome in trials..

Clipless are dangerous. Try trackstanding and then clipping out when you lose it. It'll be fun, guaranteed. Now imagine yourself bailing from a 5 ft drop off with clipless. Actually, almost anything you try will be potential death if you ride without a helmet and with clipless pedals. And on top of all that, not so long ago was a dual slalom rider who died because of clipless, and he had all the protection equipment. Just don't do it.

Clipless are untrials (and therefore uncool;). Anything you think you might know about trials is wrong, and it's that way because you rely on your legs pulling bike up by pedals when necessary. You will never learn proper techniques (possibility also being because you might get yourself killed beforehand) riding with clipless and hopping by pulling handlebars up with your arms and pulling pedals up with your legs. You'll be doing so called level hops and you will suck as a trials rider and will be uncool, not to mention living in constant confusion as to why your hops aren't getting bigger. Correct answer: because the technique you use is fundamentally wrong and the little bulb just won't light up because of some psychollogical barriers present when riding with clipless. You'll never come to idea of non-level hopping.
Even if you were a seasoned pro switching to clipless, you'd gain nothing---there would be nothing you could do with clipless that you couldn't have done with flat pedals.

LawnMM from Trials-Online forum once said: "You don't go to trials riders heaven if you die in clipless-related crash".

There are sexy looking flat pedals who make riding much more enjoyable, safer and they also grip your feet like nothing you've ever expected. Ask any recent clipless>flat runaway. Get ones that are wide and big and have replaceable pins. I've heard people say that DMR-V12 magnesium are the best pedals in the world. ;-)
(I ride regular DMR V-12)

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 8. Crankarms & bottom-bracket choice.
 
 

Although there are many crankarm/bb combinations that won't cause you significant problems (except for periodical structural failures), the correct choice of cranks and bottom bracket for your new trials machine will provide you with two things: a) "the right feeling" b) personal safety.
That means having stiff, responsive and dependable drivetrain. This means having performance AND peace of mind. This means you don't have to think about what might happen if cranks/bb axle bend/break in an unlucky moment.

There's a lot of combinations out there, but only few combinations will make you feel thankful for spending your money on the right thing. If money is not a problem, without any doubt, winners are RaceFace North Shore DH cranks and RaceFace Signature DH bottom bracket, both of them ISIS of course. They will impress a lingering sense of perfection, once you try them. Luckily, despite being designed for DH, both these components have very acceptable weights. This combination stays stiff, tight and responsive because of it's superior design.

If you don't have the money, I suggest you save up until you can buy this heavenly combination, because they will pay out eventually. You'll either be happy for not killing yourself over a crankarm bending with perfectly bad timing, or you'll be happy for not having to spend money every year to get yourself new, undamaged cranks.
Other possible choices almost all include ISIS drive, since it's ten-flute design significantly increases surface contact area. That means about 25% increased stiffness and twice the strength of the traditional square tapered design. Browse trough RaceFace, Truvativ and (soon) Chris King ISIS stuff and find something you can afford. However, only North Shore DH and Signature DH will provide you with longest lasting and smoothest running performance throughout the years. North Shore DH also have lifetime warranty, even when used in trials.

If you're seriously on a budget, you can consider FSA PowerPro cranks. They are very cheap and relatively good quality for the money. Don't expect them to last forever or not loosen up when abused, though.
For a bit more money, you can have Middleburns RS7. Some of the UK's best riders use these cranks. They are said to be very durable.
I guess I could also mention Shimano XTR (shorter crankarm versions) and bottom bracket, but for the money, get RaceFace.

You can also ride any other crankarm/bb combination.. if it works for you, great. It's always better if it's an ISIS or even OctaLink system.


Crankarm length should not be a problem. If you're a bigger rider, need more power or ride mostly urban stuff, then you should go with 170mm crankarms (175mm if you're extra big). If you're a smaller rider, ride a smaller frame or frame with low bb height, if you ride mostly natural stuff or your existing crankarms hit stuff while you ride, then should get 165mm crankarms. Do not forget: the shorter your crankarms are, the less power you will have (leverage decreases as the crankarm length goes down).

 

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 9. V-brake setup/tuning guide (You CAN ride trials without HS33!)
 
 
Many times I hear from noobs and experienced riders alike that they have problems getting brakes to lock. This, it seems, is one of the most common problems encountered in biketrials. Since most of us come from other forms of biking, usually mountain biking, we end up with a V-brake equipped "starter" bike. The exception would be discs and HS33, of course, but as far as rim brakes go, we're pretty much running V's. The reason so many people have problems locking their V-brakes up is not what is often blamed. "My brakes are teh poo!!!" is the common thing that's said. In reality, your brakes are not poo. Even the most low end brakes can be set up to work for trials. Brake system quality really does begin to matter when a rider gets into higher levels of riding, but for beginner/intermediate level riders, just about any V-brake on the planet can be made to work, some better than others, but nearly all can achieve reasonable lockup with one finger.

Before we begin, I will give you an example. I am anything but your average trials rider. I weight 250lbs and I ride with a lot of BMX influence. BMX riding is quite a bit different than trials in the fact that BMX responds well to what I like to describe as "Angry Gorilla" style. Basically pure power riding, getting things done by brute force. My size, power and aggressiveness make me among the biggest and angriest gorillas you'll ever see on a bike. Everything on my bike is built up so tuff that it can survive a direct hit by a 10 mile wide asteroid. When it all ends, there will be cockroaches and my bike left standing.

So, what brings my big nutty self to an instant stop when I need to hit an edge and not loop out? The answer may surprise you. I run a set of old Tektro OEM brakes that came on a low end '01 GT XC bike. After a year my back brake is still perfectly functional and I get a good solid positive lock. My front brake of the same type finally died when I stripped out the brake cable retaining bolt hole while doing a fork swap, and I was forced to put on a set of Wal-Mart quality brakes of approximately '98 vinatge. The levers I use are OEM Tektro off the low end GT. "What? How does that work?" you wonder? Setup: it's all in the setup.

The Setup

The cool (and oftentimes frustrating) thing about V-brakes is that they have a lot of latitude for adjustment and tuning to suit different riding conditions. There are several things that can be adjusted to completely change the braking characteristics of a set of brakes. Since most of us start trials on our XC bikes, let's look at the typical XC setup.

XC brake setup

Most XC bikes are set up to use 2 finger braking and to have good modulation. Both things that are detrimental to trials. On XC bikes, a 23" wide flat bar is the norm. After putting grips and shift levers on a narrow bar, there's not a whole lot of room left for brakes. This is one of the big advantages of running a wide trials bar. I found on the standard 23" bar that comes on nearly every XC bike the brakes can only be moved in towards the stem slightly. Also for XC, we want good modulation, and we DON'T want brakelock. Brakelock on singletrack means skidding and skidding on trails is bad. Brakelock up front is REALLY bad for obvious reasons. To achieve good modulation the brake pads are set up with the nose (the part of the pad pointing backwards against the rotation direction) of the brake pad "toed in" to the rim. This is done for several reasons. First, it prevents squeal and brake noise. Secondly, the nose hitting first provides light braking and as you squeeze harder the braking increases as the pad flexes and more of it's surface contacts the rim. This is where all that modulation comes from. Third, the toed-in nose serves to clear mud, dirt, dust, water, bear poo, or whatever you run over off the rim before it gets trapped under the brake pad. Some pads have little extended nose pieces called "scrapers" that aid in water and mud removal. Add this to the 2 finger setup which reduces leverage (explanation of leverage comes later) and makes you have to pull real hard to lock. This setup works great on XC, lets you apply "enough" braking at any point, and prevents you from accidentally skidding or pitching yourself over the bars. For trials though, this is a setup far from adequate.

Trials brake setup

Okay, time for the "fun" part, trials, YAY!!! Trials is the opposite of XC when it comes to brake performance. Unless you're manualing, modulation is essentially a bad thing. You want some modulation up front but in the back, you really want to achieve a brake that works like an on/off switch. To visualize why, picture landing a gap to rear on a skinny with brakes that modulate well. OUCH!

Hopefully by now you also found out that wide bars are essential for trials success, and here's where it can actually affect your braking, lever position. Good braking begins at your fingertips, literally. Brake levers that are out of position even slightly can cause brake perfomance to suffer drastically. This is one of the most important aspects overall of good brake performance. For trials, you want to use one finger braking. Your index finger should interface with the brake lever between the first and second knuckle (I will refer to this hereafter as the interface zone) and your middle finger should remain securely wrapped around the grip. Lever placement is critical for achieving this. The lever should be positioned so that with your wrists in neutral riding position you just comfortably rest your interface zone on the brake lever. The levers should be far enough inward of the grips so that your index finger must reach inward to grab the brake. The middle finger knuckle should not be under any part of the brake lever tip when the brakes are applied. When the lever is brought all the way down to the bar there should be a slight gap between your index and middle finger to ensure clearance of the end of the lever. Any further outward and you're set up improperly for 1 finger braking. The idea of this is that even if you try, you can't reach the lever with both fingers without moving your hands inward. Only wide bars allow the brakes to be adjusted properly in this way, and that is why trials bars have the rise and sweep well inward of the ends. This will feel strange at first, but ride it and get used to using one finger and your braking will improve by this alone. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT and is the basis for all trials moves.

Next in importance of braking is the brake pads. This is where a majority of the adjustment takes place. V-brake pads can be adjusted to virtually any angle of contact and be toed in and out. For trials, it's fairly simple. You want the pads to strike the rim completely flat, as flat as possible. No toe in, no angled up or down, just all the brake surface hitting at the same time. This won't give good modulation and may make some noise. Deal with it, those are trials noises. Ride with 'em long enough and the noises will be "normal", and brakes that don't make noise will feel wrong. What this will do is cause all of the brake pad surface to engage the rim braking surface simultaneously and provide maximum friction between the two all at once, rather than the progressive increase that toed in pads provide. The easiest way to do this is to loosen the brake pads with a 5mm hex key, and with the key still inserted long end first into the hex head, position the pad and squeeze the brakes just so the pad contacts the rim surface. Do this on a true part of the rim with no dents to ensure accuracy. Use the hex wrench to wiggle and move the brake pad into position. You want to get it as low as possible on the rim, towards the hub. The reason for this is simple. As you move the pad towards the brakearm pivot point leverage increases. Remember leverage from back at the brake lever adjustment? Well, here's the other side of it. By moving the levers inward you are causing your index finger interface zone to contact the outermost possible part of the lever, providing maximum mechanical efficiency. If it helps to visualize it think of this in the same way a longer crankarm works. It's mechanical advantage. Now, at the brake pad we do the same thing in reverse. We want "torque" to be increased there, so we move towards the pivot instead of away. The pad moves less distance now but does so with more force. In my experience I found that this is the best place for tuning, and can make the difference between locking and slipping. Just make sure you don't set the pads so they miss the braking surface. Do both sides like this and tighten each up as you hold the brakes locked where you want the pads. When you look at the brakes you should see that both brake pad posts are alinged across from each other when the brakes are applied and that the pad contact area is flush in all directions with the rim... If they're not, fix 'em. THIS IS CRITICAL. The pads must be the same on each side, one high and one low pad will cause the rim to twist slightly, not enough to damage the rim, but enought to make your brakes ineffective for trials.

After the levers are positioned properly and your brake pads are adjusted, make sure your brake arms both move an equal distance when the brakes are applied. If one arm doesn't move and just stays on the rim while the other moves a long way, check for any place the cable may be interfering such as being tied off too far back on the toptube and not allowing enough cable for flex. If this is not the case, there are adjustment screws for spring tension on most brakearms. Tighten the screw on the side that is too close to the rim, 1/4 turn at a time, and work the brakes several times to see if they both spring back equally. Reapeat until you get it right. If the screw does not allow enough adjustment you may need to change the position of the spring engagemet on the frame or fork. There are usually 3 holes in the frame/fork where the spring end can go. Try a tighter position and loosen the screw. Also, on older brakes the springs can become bent and require straightening. This is simple, just bend them back slightly with your fingers and a pair of pliers so they are straight where they run up the brakearm to the spring catch.

That covers the adjustment part of the brakes. There are other things you can do to increase braking. One thing you can do is use tar. Be warned though, tar is an on/off switch. Your brakes will either be locked or unlocked no matter how fast or slow you will be going. Don't tar if you want any modulation at all. Don't tar your front if you plan to ride anywhere except on trials obstacles. Rims can also be ground, and better brake pads can be selected. Ceramic rims are also available that have a ceramic coating which increases friction.

Something that anyone with enough ambition can do to improve braking is scuffing your rims. To do this, get yourself a green scotchbrite pad. This is the green scrubby thing you use to wash dishes, the thing attached to the yellow sponge in your kitchen. Scotchbrite can be bought in the hardware store for about $1 a sheet. Make sure you get 3M brand green, as this is the grit that you want for the scuff. I've seen other brands that were green and had different grit, they were either too coarse or too fine. Use the 3M one cause the green color is a standard abrasiveness. Take your tire off the rim and begin by scrubbing the braking surface in the direction of the spokes, radially. Use water to help with the initial cleaning and rinse away the grime till you got a dull/shiny surface. Do both braking surfaces entirely and be sure you scrub radially or you will lose some braking effectiveness. Put it all back together, double check your brake adjustment and go ride.

If you followed the instructions above you will have maximized your V-brake effectiveness. Keep in mind a good set of pads makes a world of difference over the black hard rubber pads that come on most low to mid end XC bikes.

The rest of the adjustment is done simply for rider perference. Adjust the cable length and barrel adjuster on the levers to achieve brakelock in a comfortable hand position. Some brake levers have a leverage adjustment, on Avid it's called the speed dial, Shimano calls it the power-something-or-other, but it basically changes the "gear ratio" between the lever and the arms. Adjust these till they feel right and you get good lock. Tektros even have this as a 2 position adjuster. On the leverblade where the cable end clevis is (the thing that holds the brake cable on the lever) there is a slot with 2 positions, C and V. C is for older centerpull cantelever brakes and V is for V-brakes. Try the C position even though you have V-brakes. The C position provides more power but at lack of feel. Some riders like this position others hate it, and vice versa. Remeber when you make this change it will affect how far the cable is pulled and will require a cable adjustment on the brakearm.

Well, that's about it for V-brakes. A brake booster may help, good cables are always a help, but mostly it comes from proper setup. It helps to think of your brakes as a kind of drivetrain. All the leverage stuff can be likened to changing gears. The C and V positions are like the front chainrings and the brake pad position on the arm is like your rear gears. Pick a "gear" that works AND is comfortable. Also, give yourself time to build up a strong index finger for braking. Because you're going from 2 finger braking to one finger braking, you'll be working your finger pretty hard. Back when you were using 2 fingers your middle finger was doing all the "heavy lifting" and your index finger was just there cause there's nowhere else to put it. Now that you swap fingers it will take time to develop that muscle and also the skill of using one finger to control the brakes. Don't give up. If it helps you, try and hold your middle finger down with your thumb from around the grip to train yourself not to lift that finger and reach for brakes.

Happy Trialsin' Peace

V-brake setup guide written by Al Signore

  

         ^ Go to top  Top of the Chapter 10. Stem issues - right choice of stem for trials riding
 
 

[ Note: this article is written only for riders riding trials-specific frames (i.e. very small) ]

I'll tell you right away: this article has no miracle solution for your stem dilemma, due to the nature of this very elaborate problem. Namely, while you could claim that a 185cm/6.2ft guy will most often be very satisfied with a 19-20" XC frame, it's impossible to know which stem will be right for any trials rider before he tries at least 10 different stem combinations.

Why is this so? It seems every trials rider has different riding stance, different riding style (i.e. considers bunnyhops or backwheel moves or something third to be most important etc.) and of course -- different frame, fork and bars. All this means he's more likely to choose a stem that will make it easier for him to bunnyhop or backhop or something else, meaning he's willing to sacrifice performance in one move for better performance in another. This, in turn, means two riders roughly the same height and riding same frames won't feel as comfortable on same stems. My trials colleague warpig claims it's due to "learned geometry" effect, I think it's more dependent on rider's current preferences (it changes over time perhaps?), but all of that doesn't matter since both theories have been proven at least partially wrong. :-)

The only safe way to determine your optimal stem length/rise is to try as much combinations as you can. This is, of course, either expensive (buying different stems) or complicated (getting your friends to switch with you for a day or two). You can go around looking for trials riders of your height and frame+fork specs, and then statistically build probability for certain stem specs that should fit you, but it's way more effort than most of us are willing to put in.

So what's left? Not much. Don't go to the forum and ask what stem is right for you, not just because forum users are getting The Rash when you mention stem issue, but because you'll hear all sorts of different stem specs and either get confused or buy the wrong one. Instead, I'll try to give you a starting point, which probably won't be the optimal for you, but hopefully won't be too wrong either.

Few small digressions before we get deeper into the problem:

First and foremost, there's a huge difference between a frame with suspension fork or that without (with a 400mm rigid). For example, I'm riding a Zebdi with 60mm travel suspension fork, which is about 435mm long (axle to top of crown), and therefore I need a bit lower rise stem compared to Zebdi with a rigid fork. It's best if you measure your fork, axle to top of crown (where it meets aheadset) and use it as corrective factor, but if it's a rigid fork, chances are it's 400mm long, which means you need a bit longer stem with more rise.
Also, your wheelbase means a lot for your stem choice. If you have a short bike (measure wheelbase: front hub axle to rear hub axle), meaning wheelbase under 1050-1060mm, you would need longer stem: 100-110mm, height dependant. If you have longer bike, around 1100mm, you would most likely ride with 80-95mm stems. (again: depending on your height)
Secondly, when I say 100/10 stem, that means a 100mm long stem (center of steerer tube to center of handlebar) with a 10 degrees rise compared to the ground plane. '100/10' is shortened for easier communication.
Thirdly, geometry of your bars will influence your stem choice, meaning bars with a higher rise will require less rise for the stem. This usually isn't a huge influence, but you should keep it in mind since some trials bars have very specific geometries.
Fourth and final thing: some riders feel like longer stems make them bunnyhop/japslap higher (easier preload) but reduce backwheel stability (they're too stretched) and vice versa, but other report how they found their ideal stem length and max out in all moves they do. As always, I'll say that every rider is different, and that you should try different combinations until you see what kind of rider you are.


Now, let's talk about influence of the stem to your riding style. A 185cm tall rider riding a trials specific frame (less than 14" size), rigid fork and a 1040mm wheelbase could choose a 110mm/10-15° stem. If he prefers bunnyhops and japslaps, he would most probably like a bit longer stem or a bit more rise, let's say 115/15 or even better: 105-110/30. If he prefers backwheel moves, he could wish for a lower rise stem, let's say 110/10 or 90/15, depending on his riding stance (put too short of a stem, and you'll have trouble maintaining backhop and controling pedalkick direction).
If he was using a 430-435mm suspension fork, a good starting point could be 100/10 or 90/15 stem, taking stems with more rise for ups (bunnyhops, japslaps..) and slightly longer and lower (10 degrees or less) for backwheel stability.

Now I wish I could tell you what to do if you were 170cm tall rider, but I don't have enough statistical data and don't want to tell you the wrong thing, so I'll just say that you should guess the right length out of what you've read, ride with it for a while and then try to find a different stem to try for a day or two. Take these data as a starting point, take the average in everything and see what stem you can get/afford, and plan your next move. I'm convinced that if you do that, you won't get a stem that's too wrong for you (like I did with my first trials stem) and that limits what you can comfortably do on your bike.

You also need to think about your backhop stance. Usually, with wrong stance, you will find your stem unadequate (and have pain in lower back), when it fact stem would fits you perfectly if you straightened your back and bent your arms more . Try to backhop in front of mirror-glass windows or tape yourself backhopping, and study and adjust your stance.

As I said in the beginning, this article probably wasn't too helpful, and I'm sorry about that, but hopefully it made you see why stem issues are the worst part of mountain biking in general. Let me quote my trials colleague warpig of Trials-Online forum instead of conclusion:

"OK, I'm here to set the record straight.
All this talk is taboo. If you talk about it,
bad things happen to you
."

Now to explain it: almost anyone who's read the infamous "Stem issues" thread has immediately found something wrong with their current stems. :-)

 

   
 
 
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  FAQ Credits
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Trials FAQ was concieved and written by: Matija Kljunak (aka blushark) (link)
Visual appearance and design by: bLACK pULSE Studio & Creative Crocodiles (link)
Japslap and V-brake guides by: Al Signore (aka TooSickS) (e-mail)
Additional proofing and various ideas: Stuart Birnie (aka firsthippy) (e-mail)
Original compiler of the hub list: Eric Chow (aka eric) (e-mail)
Mental support and complaining: folks from Trials-Online forum (link)

Contact any of us on the forum. All materials used with permission of the owners.

All requests, updates, praises and critics - send to my e-mail.

  View videos of all explained techniques on Trials-Online video page.

If you find the font too small, change to the alternative style-sheet. (depending on your browser's abilities)

 

   
   
   

The End.

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Send all comments, updates, praises and critics to my e-mail.