Trialbiker Kenny Belaey made headline news in the summer of 2015 crossing a slackline in the Alps on his mountainbike. When ‘The Magician’ recently published a modest training video of him slacklining with his bike the impact on social media was phenomenal. Over 1,2 million people saw Belaey’s homemade balancing act on social media! We caught up with Kenny to chat about the slacklining phenomenon in general. And is there something in it for us, the everyday man or woman?
Download the slackline video!
Kenny Belaey: “First of all, in spite of the hype, it’s not new at all. It’s similar to rope walking that has been around for thousands of years. The main difference lies in the material. For slacklining you use a 2,5 to 5 cm wide nylon band, you could compare the material to tie-downs. When suspended slacklines have a lot less tension than tightropes or tightwires which are generally made out of steel. Because of the movement of the slackline when somebody walks or rides across it acts like a narrow trampoline! American mountaineers started the tradition to while away the time when they were stuck in base camp due to bad weather on the mountain.”
So is slacklining something for mountainbikers or cyclists in general something to integrate in their training?
Belaey: “Not really, I mean for the average cyclist to ride across a slackline would be way, way too hard! But for sure, the interest in slacklining has picked up in the trialbike scene since I did my ‘Balance’ video. However walking the slackline in itself is an amazing exercise. It’s very intense and it activates all muscles. Even the ones you didn’t know existed! That’s why more and more physiotherapists are starting to get interested in slacklining or they have already integrated a slackline in their practice. Walking while you continuously have to adjust your position for balance is an incredible way to improve your core stability! At first you’re moving and shaking all over the place and you have to get off pretty quickly. Slacklining also makes you mentally stronger. You get more self-confidence, it sharpens up your nervous system to take on what seems to be such an easy challenge.”
How long does it take to get the hang of it?
Belaey: “Every average sportsperson should be able to master slacklining in two to three weeks. With a little practice every day. By that I don’t mean hours on end. Half an hour a day is sufficient to seriously improve your balance. You need to be mentally fresh as well in order to absob the technique better. Believe me, even I didn’t master this from day one!”
What do you need to get going?
Belaey: “Two anchor points obviously. For example two trees and a quality slackline. Almost all mountaineering shops carry slackline kits, and for sure you can pick one up online as well. Even when you don’t have any trees that’s not an issue. For about 200 euro you can get a kit that you can mount independently. There’s even a completely freestanding configuration, a sort of rack that allows you to slackline indoor.” Slackline has actually developed into a separate discipline. Belaey: "Absolutely. There are many different styles between the altitude of the rope (lowline or highline) the environment and other challenges thrown in the mix. You have tricklining, freestyle slacklining, waterlining, slackline yoga and so on. Advanced slackliners combine acrobatics with balance; they jump from one line to the other, they make somersaults or they perform as a group. It’s all very spectacular. Just enter “slackline” in YouTube and you’ll be amazed at what you find! "
Meanwhile, the slackline has become a regular feature in yout trialbike competition training.
Belaey: "Occasionally I like to get the slackline out, yes! As you can see in the video I’m not about crossing the rope as fast I can. That’s actually not that difficult. The goal is really to anticipate on what happens. That's why I stop then I go on. Trialbiking is all about control and balance. The control of both your body and the bike. That’s something that will never get me bored! I think slacklining is similar. Even if people don’t want to push the envelope with ‘crazy moves’ but they want to get out of their comfort zone you can add exercises; bend one leg while the other leg is stretched out, you can walk backwards and so on.”
Sounds like fun! We’ll give it a go.
Belaey: “Leave a message on my Facebook page or Instagram to let me know how you get on!”