Monday, September 1, 2014

For new cyclists: How to start and stop your bike without looking like a goof

If you don't feel confident riding a bike, this article is for you.  But you know, it's also for all you experienced cyclists out there - if you have friends who don't feel comfortable riding a bike, this article might help them, thus scoring you a new biking buddy!

Do you ever see people doing something that just makes you cringe?  Not a judging cringe, but a I've-been-there-and-I-wish-I-could-show-you-the-easier-way cringe?

When I see a biker come precariously to a stop (or worse yet, try to start) while still tottering on their bike seat, I get that kind of cringe.

Are you that kind of new biker?  Does the feeling of not being able to confidently stop and start your bike prevent you from biking more?  Have you been told that you need to raise your bike seat but you can't figure out how you'd manage it without falling over?

Guys, I completely understand.  I've been there.

My personal journey with awkward bike riding

A few years ago I started riding a bike for the first time since childhood.  You know how they say that you never forget how to ride a bicycle?  It's only kind of true.  I could still ride a bike, obviously, but I was really awkward, especially when it came to starting and stopping.  Each time I did so I felt like I was going to fall off the bike...and at least one memorable time I actually did. (I cried.  So what?  Yes I am a grown woman.  Shut up.)

It was anxiety inducing to say the least.

But when I looked at Mountain Man, gliding along god-like on his two wheeled steed, I saw no such awkwardness.  How the heck was he doing that?  I asked him what I was doing wrong.  He had no idea, but definitely something.  I surveyed the two of us while stopped at an intersection, and realized there was one big difference.

Picture me: I teetered awkwardly, still sitting on the bike seat and supporting myself on an outstretched leg like a crazy outrigger, my whole body slanted to the side and unstable.  Not only did this position feel precarious, it made it very difficult to get started again.

Mountain Man, on the other hand, was resting easily, standing astride of the top tube of the bike (rather than sitting on the seat), one foot firmly on the ground, body comfortable upright, and free leg poised atop a pedal, ready to take off at a moment's notice.

The difference is that while MM was stopped he was not sitting on the bike seat.  

Figuring out HOW he achieved this was a HUGE biking breakthrough for me.  Once I mastered this move I felt in control and much more comfortable on the bike.  Consequently, I improved dramatically and biking became one of my favorite hobbies.

It's actually pretty simple.  I'll break it down for you.

The Solution

To stop

  • As you are coming to a stop, stand up on the pedals (aka, get your butt off the seat)
  • Shift your weight to one leg (so that the pedal drops to the bottom of the circle)
  • As the bike comes to a stop, step the opposite leg (unweighted, or on the high pedal) onto the ground.

That's it!  You'll be left standing astride the top tube of the bike with your feet comfortably on the ground.

To start

  • Use the top of your foot to push one pedal forward.  Then put your foot on top of that pedal and push down.
  • Use the pushing down motion to stand up & get the bike moving simultaneously.  From this standing position you can get your oposite foot on the other pedal and sit down on the seat.

Easy, right?  Want to see that in a video?  The League of American Bicyclists made a great one.

Once you get this down you can raise your bike seat up to the correct height which will make you more efficient and prevent injuries.  Plus, you'll look a lot cooler.

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