I talk a lot about balance and transitions. But what about the fact that the terrain is always trying to dislodge your balance. You can’t always plan for it….. OR CAN YOU?
Rock gardens are a classic example of this. No matter how much you plan your balance will be knocked from side to side with each rock and you’ll be left scrabbling to stay in balance.
But then you watch the really good guys go through these rock gardens and its amazing how they seem to be in balance and when a rock knocks them off to one side it was like they already had that planned , they were ready for it and a simple “Dab” had them back on track and in balance again.
But when you do it that Dab never works, your body is over the other side of the bike, The “Dab” was more like a Hail Mary moment and chances are by the time you have got past it you are even more off balance when the next rock knocks you off course.
So what’s the secret? I often say plan for balance, practice going from one stable position to another, plan for your transitions…. REALLY????
If you watch closely you notice that when the good guys enter a Rock section or other section that is going to challenge their balance, especially one that will knock them off course, the don’t have all their weight evenly balanced across the bike, they instead favour one leg or another and keep one leg “floating”.
Their balance is prejudiced toward a certain side, if they get knocked off course their bike will always fall toward the “floating” leg, which they will use to “Dab” and push the bike back up into balance.
Watch them long enough and you’ll realise that they usually change legs and preference as they go through the rock garden, assessing the terrain and deciding which way their bike is going to be knocked by prejudicing the weighting that way or the other.
You’ll also notice that the dominant (Strong) leg is held against the machine, so that there is a sold block from foot to knee touching the motorcycle, their weight on the outside peg pushes down heavily to “Push” the bike outward, but their inner (Soft) leg that is “floating” tends to want to pull it inward.
The result is that when “bumped” off course, their inner leg floats out naturally to try to regain balance, They naturally pull on the strong leg and the bike will lean that way, predictably and if need be they will “Dab” to correct it, often times they don’t even need to do this as the strong leg has enough force to hold the bike up.
Now this doesn’t just work for rock gardens, it works for hill climbs, where you know you are going to be knocked off course, like a rocky outcrop or root at an angle for instance, or a decent, even a traverse across a slope, you can and will ,naturally in that particular situation , bias your balance toward the slope rather than away.
Which brings us to how to learn this technique.
Well for starters try riding on the flat smooth ground, slowly, with one foot on the peg and one foot sort of swinging beside the bike. To balance the bike you’ll start to push it up against the inside of your strong leg (the one on the peg).
Try very hard to NOT use the handlebars as levers to keep your balance, it must come from your legs and core.
Then slow down, stop or try a little rough ground very very slowly, you’ll find you “fall” toward your “soft” leg each time and can “Dab” to push the bike back up to balance, very predictably.
Next ride across a sloping ground, a lot, try to hit rocks or even ride over small logs as you do so. Consciously, rather than unconsciously , weighting the outside peg (your “strong” leg) and riding soft on your inside leg, dabbing as required. In this case, outside is down slop side.
This is planning for stability, planning for it to be disrupted and become a transition, a transition you are ready for and can easily put back into a balanced state.
So, believe it or not, you can plan for balance, even in such confrontational terrain as a rock garden.