Backwards riding vs. Idling

I’m a consistent rider, but have yet to get into riding backwards and idling. My question is, which one would be easier to learn first, or does it matter? Does one help facilitate the other?


idling shoul be the easiest to learn, because you just need to grab something and practice your idling, with putting less and less weight on it.
Backward riding is not that hard, and I would recommend you to go with another person which should help you balance while you train your feet at turning backward. You can learn any first, it should not change that much things. and yes, both help for each other.

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I learned to idle first then riding backwards just came naturally. When you are idling you are riding backwards half the time so you just have to do a full revolution backwards every so often and build on that.
Most report that idling takes at least as much effort/time as it did to learn to ride normally in the first place. Just have to keep after it to succeed.

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Ouch. I’m not entirely sure that I’m up for that level of time/effort! I have a 20" and a 24". Presumably it would be easier to learn on the 20"?

I’ve been riding 5 years now and I can backwards now but i’m not game to do it in the middle of nowhere and on anything bigger than a 20". You have to specifically practice it.
I can idle on a 20 or 24, my left foot is better than right.
I found learning to hop easier than either of those 2 skills, and hopping works better on all sized wheels, even possible on a 36er.

Well for the most part I agree with Jim T, idling can start as one pedal revolution forward to a stop, then one pedal revolution back to a stop. You learn backward riding as you learn to idle. When you’re comfortable with one forward one back, start shortening your pedal stroke till you only move enough to keep your balance in that small area. To ride backwards just get used to one revolution back and stop to maintain balance, then one more to a stop and balance. Only a step at a time so you focus on your balance. But on the up side it only takes as long as normal riding if you only learned in an hour or two, if it took you longer. then idling will be less since you already know how to balance. Good Luck and persevere.

I’ve posted some in-depth details on this topic. Just search it out.

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I learned idling first, but I found SIF idling really hard until I could ride SIF backwards. Then SIF idling came naturally. Looking back I feel like learning to ride backwards first may have been easier. An even better idea may be to practice both a little bit each day, since both will improve your control for the other. Idling you can just do between 2 walls like I did, and catch yourself whenever you fall. The best way to practice backwards riding is a little bit each practice session, and then eventually you can do circles, figure eights, etc.

Hey Disc_Integ_
I am interested in learning to do backwards SIF, so I’d like to get more details from you.
What is the main “feel difference” when SIF backwards vs. SIF forwards.

I can SIF(forwards), SIF Idle and SIF freemount.
Also, I can ride backwards competently including slow tight turns.

However, combining SIF + backwards = scary for me.
Also, I cannot SIF idle on both sides of my pedal.
Maybe that is they key to work on.

Mark is a legend and I would follow this advice. It’s called “super idling” when you go a full revolution forward and a full revolution backwards. This is great practice and when you can do it easily try 2 revolutions then 3. At that point you’re basically backwards riding and you’ll find practicing regular idling easier. Too many people rush to idling before they learn the balancing and do what I call “muscle idling”.

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That’s a good one! :laughing:

I’m jumping on the “building skills” progressively train.

I learned to ride, then riding under control symmetrically, stillstands and hopping came next, next was idling, then lastly backwards riding.

When learning these skills, if I learned the first skill well the next skill came almost effortlessly.
This is my method of letting advanced skills “come to me” at a slower and much safer pace.
While learning to ride backwards, I’ve only fell on my ass once while being semi out of control.
All of these skills, after learning to ride, are being learned on a 29" (I’m 6’3")

Again… this is just what works for me.

Riding SIF backwards will feel foreign when you first start learning it, but after a while it begins to feel more natural, just like backwards and SIF riding do for you at this point. It’s the same idea as learning to go forwards. Rest the seat against your thighs while you’re learning; you get more balance that way. Then holding the seat out farther becomes easier. Finding a wall or hallway is helpful, but don’t use the wall as a crutch; you probably know this by now. My biggest tip I give to anyone asking me for advice on any trick is “Learn muscle memory”. Also, whenever I make 180 degree turns while riding SIF backwards I will typically hold the seat close, though I can comfortably ride holding it farther out while going straight or doing smaller turns. It doesn’t matter too much where you hold it other than it being slightly more difficult without leg contact; I just think it looks better when you hold it further out.

Also, when I SIF idle, I use the same hand as I do foot. I usually use my left hand to hold the seat, but if I go into idling on the right foot, I’ll switch to my right hand. If I’m idling on the left foot, I’ll use my left hand. I can do either hand, but I find it more comfortable to use the same hand as I do foot. Typically I will hold the seat close when I idle. I can do it further out, but you notice it more on idling than you do riding forwards or backwards.

While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to learn SIF hopping and complete the set. It doesn’t take long to learn if you can already do a regular bunny hop and it improves your control. Make sure to learn both pedal positions too if you haven’t already.

One more note: If you remember how much of a thigh burner learning to ride SIF forwards was, expect the same feeling while learning to ride backwards. Your thighs will get used to it pretty quick though if you keep practicing a little bit each day.

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