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.
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It was pretty cool to watch the lessons evolve from big fears of falling backwards to you comfortably not afraid to lift the wheel to the sky! How much bigger is the right quad now?