I have always wanted to Wheelie. Ever since I was 6 years old and could pedal a “grown up” bike without training wheels. It just looked so fun.
If I were a boy- I would probably already know how. It seems like all the boys knew how to wheelie when I was a kid. They rode around doing tricks on their bikes, falling off, skinning their knees and elbows- they learned by trial and error. They were comfortable being uncomfortable. They liked to go fast and scare themselves. I rode my bike to get somewhere, for transportation, trying desperately to stay upright and not fall. I didn’t want to look stupid or get in trouble for breaking my bike. Well look at me now, a grown woman who can’t enjoy a decent wheelie. It turns out the older I get the more afraid of falling off and hurting myself I am. It just takes too long to recover- what if I break something?
Well no more, life is too short not to be riding a wheelie when you feel like it.
I went about my wheelie education the way one does in this day and age- I googled it. There was so much information out there I was a bit shocked. Most of the videos were of guys riding wheelies, only a few women posted their videos- it made me want it even more. With all of information and you tube videos online, I couldn’t believe that everyone wasn’t riding wheelies. All of the basic concepts were there and a ton of people broke the wheelie down into easily digestible bits. Armed with that I took off to the nearest grassy field to see what I could do. Not much it turned out. I could barely get my wheel off the grass. The next morning I woke up with a sore back, sore arms and one sore leg (from stomping down on one pedal while trying to pull up the handlebars). Still not discouraged, I decided to source it out and hire a coach. I needed live feedback for what I was doing wrong. Why didn’t I think of this before.
I hired the best wheel-ier I knew to teach me. Cole. He’s 14. He’s got the sickest wheelie in town. This kid can out wheelie anyone I know, so who better to teach me than him. I wish I was 14 again, I feel like it would be easier. I texted Cole and decided to meet him in the park across the street from our houses where there was some nice soft grass. I can’t imagine what he thought about teaching a woman (his mother’s age) how to wheelie, but there was money involved so he showed up.
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We started with observation- “just show me how you do it”, I said, feeling like if I were riding near him, his wheelie mojo would rub off on me. No such luck. My first of 4 lessons over the next month was very frustrating. I was afraid of flipping over and landing on my back, so much so that I could not relax and lean back far enough to get the wheel off the ground. In fact, every time I got close to lifting my wheel up too far, I stopped pedaling and the wheel slammed back down to the ground. I never fell over but I was so scared- not sure of what. Perhaps still the fear of looking stupid was with me, even more so after all of these years. After looping out a couple of times and stepping off the back of the bike or tapping the rear break to bring the front wheel down, I still had a paralyzing rush of adrenaline shoot through my body every time I tried to wheelie. I was exhausted after the first 30 min of a hour long lesson. Learning something new made me a motor moron, I was so tense and afraid.
Cole was patient and always optimistic, “you just need more practice,” he would say. After each lesson, I left the field with one tired leg, but my arms were not sore anymore, I finally began to lock my arms out and lean back, way way back, further back than you would imagine you need to. Every time I felt that “sweet spot” of balancing on my rear wheel while pedaling my front high in the air, I freaked out a little less and held onto it a little more. Cole was impressed, but played it cool. “See. That’s what it feels like.”
I set a goal of 5 full pedal strokes by the time my lessons were over. After a total of 4 lessons I was pretty inconsistently getting 2-3 full strokes in. I wanted more. It seemed like there was never enough time in the day to set aside to practice. If I was on my bike, I just wanted to ride trails.
By the end of the lessons I had gotten 5 pedal strokes in, not on camera of course, and not consistently. I could not do it with the added stress of being clipped into my pedals. What do you expect, I am not a wheelie master. I do, however have the fundamentals of wheelie-ing hiding deep down in my synapses. All they need is be consistently activated by practice and I one day will be a true wheelie master.
I’m going out right now to practice.