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Bat-hangs and Bicycles Part 2: Cycling Up the Wall

One technique that can lead to or from a bat-hang is called a bicycle. The bat-hang problem from Part 1 forced a bicycle move to stay on the holds until I came down. Does this technique sound vaguely familiar? I mentioned bicycling in my Fancy Footwork and Leg Power Part 2 article.

Pedal Power

Using a bicycle technique for a overhanging problem.

Bicycling techniques help on overhanging problems. To do it, you push on a hold with one foot as you pull it with the other. You do this with a foot toehooking and the other pressing on the hold or rock. It’s to obtain balance and control while climbing, and it’s surprisingly helpful.

One needs some amount of core strength and decent foot placement as well to stay up on the problem.

The bicycle is essentially a stabilizing technique. When combining the opposing forces of your feet with a tight core, you’re more likely to maintain a stable position on the wall. If done correctly, a bicycle enables you to climb through sequences (typically on overhangs) that might otherwise seem wicked, making it easier to grip and move between poor holds. Bicycles can relieve your arms of part of your bodyweight and transfer it to your legs and core. Although it partially limits your mobility in the process.

According to an article from Friction Labs, there are two types of bicycles:

  1. The “clamp” bicycle: your top foot is pushing down, and your bottom foot is pulling up. Picture crushing the hold(s) between your feet. This type is what I was doing on the problem. It’s easier to learn.
  2. The “void” bicycle: your top foot is pulling up, and your bottom foot is pushing down. As opposed to crushing something between your feet, in this case you would be doing the opposite, opening a “void” between them. You would want to practice this type after you’ve already learned the first.

Let’s Bike!

Bicycles are sort of easy to implement. You need an overhanging wall and 1-2 relatively large footholds to practice. Here are the basic mechanics of the technique:

1. Set your feet

Once you have a big foothold or two that you’d like to bicycle, it’s time to set the feet in position. The move combines a downward-pushing frontstep with an upward-pulling toehook Choose two starting hand holds that are about a body-length away from the foothold(s) and use them to swing your feet up.

2. Engage the feet, legs, and core

The opposition is the key factor behind a good bicycle. You should aim for equal and opposite forces between your feet. Less experienced climbers typically struggle more with the toehook than the frontstep, so make sure you stay focused on maintaining the pressure and force on your toe.

Bend your knees, keeping your legs and core engaged. If you let up and relax, there’s a good chance one of your feet will slide off the wall.

3. Move your hands

Once you have the bicycle locked into place, start moving your hands to different holds. The point of this is to familiarize yourself with how it feels to move around the wall while bicycling. You might find that you can grab holds that wouldn’t usually feel comfortable or reach others in odd locations or positions. You might also discover that it becomes easier to match hands on poor holds.

After you’ve practiced the bicycle, switch your feet and try the same motions again. In other words, if you had your right foot on top and the left on the bottom, switch them. Notice how the different positions change the feel of the technique. Some moves feel more comfortable with specific variations in your foot placement—you must experiment and find what works best.

Bicycling can be a lot of fun on the wall, and it’s worth trying out. This movement also falls under the “think outside the box” category in my opinion. Get creative with your footwork, and it can go a long way. Until next time, happy bouldering!