Similar to a trackstand, rocking is a method of staying stationary on the bike without having to put a foot down.
It is probably more useful than the trackstand in actual riding situations because it is easier to keep the bike pointing in a straight line (you don’t have to turn the front wheel). Also for a trackstand you need fairly smooth ground so that the wheels will roll forward or backwards.
Rocking is useful for correcting the bike’s position when riding along thin obstacles such as logs where there is not enough room to do a trackstand but does use more energy to perform.
To begin practicing rocking, start on flat ground. Roll along at a slow pace. Then apply the brakes and allow the bike to stop. As the bike comes to a stop lean forward slightly then lock the front wheel (good brakes will help!), push forwards on the handlebars and unweight the back of the bike. This will feel similar to leaning forward on a swing to make it go back faster.
Allow the back wheel to lift up off the ground. If you have too much momentum release the front brake to drop the back wheel and prevent you going over the bars. The idea is to get the rear wheel slightly off the ground rather than up into the air. As the wheel is off the ground, push it left or right slightly if you feel you are toppling in either direction.
As the back wheel comes down, move your weight towards the rear of the bike, lock the back brake, extend your legs and pull up and back on the bars. This movement will feel similar to when you lean back on a swing to make it go forwards.
If you have too much rearward momentum release the back brake so you don’t ‘loop out’ or simply step off the back of the bike as the front wheel comes up. Again, apply sideways pressure on the bars to move the front wheel left or right whilst it is off the ground.
Once the front wheel falls, transfer your weight forward again and push on the bars and lift the rear again using the same method we used the first time.
The idea is to gently rock backwards and forwards, keeping the bike under control. As you get better the rocking motion will become smaller.
If you are using flat pedals then it will be easier to lift the back of the bike with your feet if you point your toes downwards.
Suspension will make rocking harder but it is still possible. Rocking is a basic trials skill but can also be useful out on the trail to re-position your bike at the start of a steep or technical section or to help turn your bike on flatter but extremely tight switchbacks.
The easiest way to ride up a long flight of steps is by rocking each wheel up the steps seprately regaining balance after moving each wheel up a step before moving the other one.