April 18, 2007

Wheelies are hard


I’ll start this post off with a great photo Eric sent me. Spring is (finally) here!

So this spring, I’ve committed myself to learning to actually ride a wheelie. What’s that, you say? I should have figured that out a long time ago, given that I ride constantly and build bikes for a living? AND given that I can ride a unicycle pretty well? Well, all I can do is hang my head in shame, ’cause I have no excuse. I just can’t ride a real wheelie.

Don’t get me wrong – I can get the front wheel off the ground, and in fact I can keep it there for several pedal revolutions. Lifting the front over a rock or stump or what have you? No problem! A little semi-manual to keep the front wheel off the ground through some rocks? Ditto. But I have to accelerate the whole time to keep the front end up, because I’m not actually at that (terrifying) balance point where you can just keep riding on the rear wheel indefinitely.

Today was an inauspicious start – I went out in the grassy area next to 55th street and practiced for about 10 minutes (10 minutes a day is the deal, because I’ve got other stuff to do with my life than ride wheelies). My goal was to be able to consistently go past the balance point (ie, start tipping over backwards) and correct using the rear brake to bring the front wheel back down. No actual wheelies, just bringing the wheel way up and then using the brake to set it back down, hopefully without panicking and jumping off the bike.

As luck would have it, every weird old lady, 8 year old, and delivery person in the neighborhood managed to walk by during that 10 minutes to witness me pathetically falling over backwards, forward, and sideways. Some ancient reptile part of my brain refuses to believe that the rear brake will actually save me from falling backwards and breaking my neck, and intervenes every time to save me from myself. If I was about 7 years old, I could have managed to salvage some dignity, but given that I’m 30, I think I lost major cool points with most of the folks walking by.

I did finally manage to get the wheel up past/to the balance point and then brake it back down at the very end of the session, but then I smashed my knee on the bars and called it a day. I’m hoping that it takes less than a month before I can do, like, a serious wheelie. We’ll see. All you master wheelie riders out there are welcome to give me tips, eh?