Trackstand School

Besides hypnotizing motorists at stop lights, trackstanding indicates a level of skill both on the track and on cities streets. Mark V can trackstand any bike at any time – seen him do it with a folder and cargo. He does it while eating a burrito during his lunchbeaks at the shop, to keep his skills sharp.

Track stand show off

On occasion I ride fixed and have been doing so more while recovering from busted-up ribs. On the fixie, I focus on my legs, cadence, and control because I can’t do much yet with my body above the hips. Yesterday Mark V rode up on me on Alaskan Way and, of course, trackstanded at the next light. Being a competitive person, I attempted to match his skills with mixed results. Later on Twitter, I tweeted

Mark V said a Track Stand does not involve forward motion? What? What is that called then when you don’t clip out and move a little bit?

@JohnFriedrich replied

I guess on average it involves no forward motion, but a trackstand is a nice example of dynamic stability. Meaning moving.

Mark decided that I was stepping up with my Trackstanding and wrote in email:

“Dynamic stability” is defined in different ways depending on the context. In the engineering/physics sense, the term usage is kinda grey in the context of trackstands since a good trackstand is near motionless. The physics term applies better to actually riding the bike, when there is distinct forward motion. In the physics sense, it is usually used to describe the behavior of a vehicle whose stability changes under different conditions of travel (eg braking, turning, etc).

In the physiotherapy sense, “dynamic stability” describes a body that tends to return a “normal” or original condition (eg upright per se) after some sort of disturbance. For example, I punch you in the arm, but you don’t fall over. In this context, it doesn’t imply forward motion, though it doesn’t exclude it.

Regardless, both of you are throwing around terms to rationalize the fact that you can’t do a trackstand. Standing means not moving in much the same sense that a person standing isn’t “motionless” in the pure physics sense…it means he’s not walking forward. I don’t need to consult Einstein to be able to distinguish the difference between a man standing and one stumbling forward to keep from falling on his face.

The trick to a trackstand is that you rock the bike fore and aft to maintain balance, though the net forward progress is zero. A well-executed trackstand would have an almost imperceptibly low amplitude movement (and zero net movement). If you are moving forward while trying to trackstand, that is “riding”, albeit very slowly and very awkwardly.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but I gotta call it like it is. With time and practice, most intermediate riders or better can master a serviceable trackstand under favourable conditions. You want to say you can do a trackstand?

Earn it.

Damn straight.

Bonus if done in overalls and workboots.

On a basket bike.

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