Sunday, December 13, 2015

On Striving for Bike-lingual Fluency

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For those of us who learned to ride a bicycle rather late in life there sometimes lurks a sense of anxiety about "passing" as a real cyclist. We might cycle to work for years, reach excellent levels of fitness, hang with the fast group on club rides, successfully finish brevet series, and so on. But no matter how much we love bicycling and how comfortable we get on two wheels, deep down there is an awareness that we will never attain the fluency and mannerisms of the "natives" - that is, of those who learned to cycle as very young children. It's a bit like speaking a language fluently, but with an accent. Even if it's only a trace of an accent - a twang, really - it is nevertheless discernible, marking us as latecomers and at times, we fear, as outsiders.

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My own achilles heel of self-consciousness in this respect is the bicycle mount. While I have managed to pick up most of the basic, and even not so basic, cycling skills by now, and am told again and again I have "good form," this most basic skill of all continues to elude me.

In order to get a bicycle moving from a stop, I must lean it dramatically to the side, so that my bum can reach the saddle whilst a toe still touches the ground, whereupon I push off with my other foot and start pedaling. What I can't do is the "normal" method most other cyclists seem to use, which is to push off out of the saddle and hoist yourself upon it only after the bicycle gets going.

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For years, I have tried to teach myself this technique. And others have tried to teach me, employing various methods and tricks. None of it has worked, and to this day I remain a butt-in-the saddle mounter - betrayed by this tell tale "accent" despite my overall fluency!

As far as my everyday experience goes, I suppose this isn't really a handicap. I do opt for bicycles with lower bottom brackets, so that my saddle height can be adjusted optimally (allowing me to both mount/dismount comfortably and pedal with full leg extension). But aside from that, I do not really suffer tangibly from this gap in my cycling skills.

And yet, suffer I do. Because the "proper" mount is a stunning sight to behold. Graceful and fluid, if only for a moment it transforms the rider's body - no matter the shape and size - into a glorious, elongated, foward-striving force of muscular elegance. It is an everyday ballet that I cannot partake in, a language whose exotic intonation I cannot mimic, because - for all my practice of it - I have yet to fully internalise it. Perhaps some day I will. Until then, I accept my bike-lingual limitations and watch with admiration the glorious native speakers. How lucky you are, and how beautiful!

55 comments:

  1. I never learnt how to do that as a kid. I always, always had my seat so I could have both feet touching. I've only "mastered" it in the last year (been adult riding for 3-4 now) and I did so by standing more when riding, then slowing down and learning to stop off the saddle - then learning how to "go" and remount. I can't do it with new bikes right off the bat - I need to learn their braking systems a bit first, but I can after awhile. I had a Gazelle omafiets as my first adult bike and because I couldn't stand up comfortably on it, I didn't learn this until I had a different bicycle (a Simcoe). Maybe try to master an unseated stop first?

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    1. Last year I hired something like the omafiet when on holiday in Denmark and never mastered the rear coaster brake and even managed to fall off a bike for the first time in over thirty years trying to get going!

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    2. Agreed, an unseated stop is much easier than an unseated start. Try simply coasting standing up, with the dominant foot at the bottom of the pedal stroke, and the other foot off the pedal. Do that for a bit, then try braking, and put the foot that is in the air down on the ground. Then try slowing down while seated, stand up, again one foot at the the bottom, one off, brake, and put your foot down. I learned to ride a bike as an adult, it took me 6 months to just lift my bum off the saddle, and the above is how I finally was able to dismount out of the saddle. At first it will be jerky, but with practice, it will become much smoother. I still remember the thrill I felt when my foot touched the ground this way for the first time. I think, like a lot of things in life, the issue is in your head - you think you can't to it - so you can't.

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  2. I'm a 'native speaker' but I seem to have lost the knack of the older method: Place foot on nearest pedal and scoot off. Swing leg over and start pedalling before speed drops. Reverse to dismount.

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  3. I don't recall what I used to do for mounting and dismounting, but I doubt it was very elegant. I then learned the Sheldon Brown method as an adult, and it's very easy: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

    Getting into the saddle from straddling the top tube is simple if you're in the correct gear and start with the pedal at 3 o'clock. It took me a good bit of practice for it to become fluid, but the basic technique was pretty easy.

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  4. I can't do the "proper" mount either, and I'm a lifelong rider. I've tried to learn, but I can't figure it out -- it feels like I'd need way, way more upper body strength than I have to do it, since you have to push yourself from the ground to standing on the pedals with only your hands and your foot well behind you on one pedal, which can take almost no weight. I can do the related dismount, but then to get back on I have to get off the bike (swinging a leg over the back or stepping through as the frame warrants) and then re-mount.

    I know I must have been able to do something like it briefly as a kid, because the bike camp I went to required us to have flags. (The number of times I hooked a leg on the flag trying to mount by swinging a leg over: high, but I was able to get on somehow. But I may have had the saddle way too low at that point.)

    I'd really like to learn, because I'm trying to convince my husband to come try a tandem, and we're close enough in height that we'd be able to swap captaining, but from what I gather you MUST be able to start from off the saddle as a tandem captain. Plus my around-town beater is an old MTB, and the BB is high enough that I sometimes have trouble with the lean-and-toe method, especially when tired or sore and lacking in my usual hip flexibility.

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    1. And I can't speak for V, but this is the "Sheldon" mount the person above me is talking about -- I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to do it. And I'm not the only one I've talked to who can't figure out how this is easy for everyone else. People bleating on and on (I realize this was just one comment above -- am talking about conversations elsewhere) about how it's trivially simple and the only reason people aren't doing it is because they haven't been shown this thirty-second video on Sheldon's site are not, in fact, helpful.

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    2. Ha yes the video!

      I think most "natives" genuinely don't understand that it's a physical balance problem, not a problem with grasping what needs to be done. I can explain step by step how to do the Sheldon (i.e. standard) method, but cannot execute it myself if you paid me with a gazillion handmade bikes.

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  5. Too long ago to remember but we must have leaned with training wheels. Have you tried that? ;) Really, what does it matter? Don't know what a 'real cyclist' is anyway or why anyone would try to pass as one. Seems to go against what this blog is about.

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  6. I learned how to ride a bike at the age of twenty, less than six years ago. I remember the first time I mounted a bike (a used mountain bike destroyed several months later on a bollard) at the local park. I was rather skittish, but I just pushed myself upward with all my might (one foot on the pedal, one on the ground), then clung to the bike like straddling a beam before cautiously pedaling to gain momentum.

    While I'm more confident now, my technique is still largely the same, even landing on both feet every time I stop when using platform pedals, rather than with one (I use only one with clipless pedals, though). After reading this article, I feel lucky in how I was able to start off this way despite never having done it as a child. These days, I really wish I could master the 'cyclocross mount' to speed up 'takeoff,' but I still haven't been able to.

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  7. Out of curiosity, can you 'scull' (scoot your bike along with one foot on a pedal, and one foot on the ground, and your bum not in the saddle)? I often end up doing two or three sculls before I actually get in the saddle and start pedalling, which isn't very elegant but gets me going. It's also sometimes useful when scooting along a nominally pedestrianised area (as in 'ah but officer I wasn't actually riding the bike, I was just pushing it along'...).

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    1. Nope. And that is the crux of my problem: I can't keep my balance with a foot off a pedal unless my butt is in the saddle. It's funny, because I can do a fairly complicated dismount that involves jumping off the bicycle sideways while it is still in motion, then continuing to roll it along by the handlebars (i.e. riding seamlessly transitions into walking next to it). But scoot I cannot.

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  8. Here's an interesting experiment/exercise if you have a fixie. I find people have a preferred side, if when you're on the bus and its more comfortable to sit looking left, that's your preferred side. Start on that side. Hold the handlebars and put your left foot on the pedal with your right on the ground behind you. Push off on the pedal and lift your right foot. See if you can do a full 360 degree rotation? If you can't, keep trying til you can. Don't try swinging your right leg over, just pedal one side. Once you've mastered that a similar start on a freewheel bike should be easier. Having said that, my wife has never mastered it, despite my excellent tutelage :) We are looking at a custom step through light tourer with disc brakes.

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly! Even pushing the bike when I'm on its right side is really awkward for me, let alone mounting.

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  9. I too used to be a "butt-in-the-saddle and lean" mounter, but eventually learned the "push off and hoist" method when i took a bike skills class (the instructor wouldn't let me mount with my butt on the saddle). I also know someone who learned that method by 'scooting" as mentioned above by townhouse. Her saddle couldn't be lowered to where her toes touch the ground, so she was forced to 'scoot' and sit. Sometimes she would scoot for a good 20feet before sitting.

    One thing i can't do is pedal with my butt off the saddle although i think i was able to as a teenager but can't do it anymore now that i'm older. So i always pedal seated when i'm going uphill.

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  10. Townmouse is spot on. Learn to scoot fluently, i.e. like a Kickbike and you will soon feel confident to just "throw the leg over". Of course with the advancing years you may, like me, find that declining flexibility starts to cramp your style. I have a friend who learnt to ride only as an adult and she has developed a more graceful "supplesse" than most of her "lifer" friends . Or do a bit of cyclocross.

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  11. As one ages the mount becomes a slowly less "acrobatic," shall we say. I used to be able to stand next to my bike and throw my leg over the handlebars easily. Ditto with a very high seat. Now, well into SS, I find that tipping the bike slightly to throw my leg over the seat is helpful. I do still start off in the pedals, but not on the seat, just habit.

    When I was a kid, I would set off on one pedal and throw my leg over while moving, a skill that toe clips, and later cleats removed from my repertoire.

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  12. I've been reading this and try to understand what this is all about. But I guess that comes from being 'native'. You just don't think about these things, just get on and ride. When I start to think of it there's probably hundreds of different ways to get going depending on the situation, the way the pedals are and the clothes you wear. I think the elegance comes from not thinking and just doing from a natural balance.

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  13. The only thing that makes sense to me (well, if you really feel a need to learn this mounting method in order to feel like a real cyclist, whatever the heck that means) is to put your bike on a slight downhill, straddle the bike with one foot on the pedal, which is at six-o'clock, and the other foot on the ground. Simply place your weight on the pedal foot and lift the other. The bike should be moving, you should be balanced, and now it's just a matter of placing your other foot on the pedal and sliding your bum on the saddle. I wouldn't exactly call it 'a glorious, elongated, foward-striving force of muscular elegance' but then you do have a way of going for the drama. Didn't you say it took you forever to learn to ride out of the saddle? Why would this be different? When you're out of the saddle, both feet on the pedals, you've got to get you bum back on the seat somehow! Anyway, it doesn't matter whether you can or cannot. I've a friend who is a awkward but earnest klutz who has always been shaky on her bike. Nowadays she rides a unicycle everywhere along with her kids and husband, it's a sight to behold!

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  14. I am now feeling like the spider complemented on the fluid ability to orchestrate its legs! I get started without thinking but now I shall be thinking and probably make a mess of it. One of my bikes is a step through folder which lives in the van much of the time. It is a joy to mount, scoot with left foot on pedal then right foot steps through and a quarter of a second later I am on the saddle and sailing away. Time to get rid of those pesky high crossbars.

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  15. I learned that method as a kid due to my parents buying bikes that I had to grow into. There were also blocks strapped to the pedals to help with the leg reach. Either you learned how to do a "running" start, or you had to start and stop at porches and high curbs.

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  16. Funny you should ask; as it happens, one of my other favorite bike blogs has the answer -- it is the arbiter elegantiarum for any question of cycling style.

    http://www.velominati.com/etiquette/a-study-in-casually-deliberate-start-properly/

    As always, such ineffably, inscrutably, ethereally, beyond-refined cycling good taste and style -- and with such a large tongue in the cheek!

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  17. I thought you said you rode bikes all the time as a kid or a teenager?? Didn't you proudly show off that bike? When one learns something has nothing to do with whether one can 'pass' as a real this or that. Seems like good advice, above, if you're set on this one particular skill. Hope you make it to the club.

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    1. I am kind of an unusual case. In the first place, I taught myself how to ride a bike at age 11, which is a late start in itself. And by “taught myself" I mean that I figured out how to keep a bicycle balanced whilst pedaling around a small neighborhood park at low speeds. This happened on a borrowed bike. After that one-off experience I didn't ride again till maybe age 14, when I finally got my own machine.

      It was that bike (a Murray MTB-esque stepthrough) that I rode as a teenager and have at some point featured here. I rode it awkwardly, never really having learned how to cycle properly. I had the saddle about a foot too low, wobbled at the slightest provocation, did not know how to turn other than by using the handlebars, and never even figured out how to switch gears (later I learned the bike shop had assembled the shifter improperly, so that it was stuck). This way of riding a bike worked well enough for me for the very short distances it took to get to friends’ houses in our quiet neighbourhood, but it wasn’t cycling as I know it today (I did not even have sufficient control over the handling to venture onto roads with traffic).

      After the age of 17 or so, I did not touch a bicycle again till I was 30. And by then it really felt like starting from scratch, because although I’d learned to keep the thing upright while it rolled all those years earlier, that was really the apex of my previous skill set and it wasn’t enough to ride safely in urban traffic. I remember that at first, it was a struggle just to control the bike well enough to keep my line of travel, as well as not to wobble wildly on starts and stops. Turning via leaning was a new concept as well. Pretty much everything about cycling was new and took deliberate learning, and it’s only now - some six years later - most of it has finally become intuitive for me.

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    2. I'm not so sure your case is all that unusual. I didn't have a bike till college and that was a borrowed bike which just sat and rusted As a small kid there were neighbor friends who had bikes and would play at our house so I learned with theirs. Then we moved and no more bikes. My late twenties is when I began again. As you and others have said, it seems more like a balance issue that some have and some don't, which is reasonable. I don't know, there was never an'anxiety about it at all and with so many varieties of cyclists these days I also don't know what a 'real cyclist' is….That said, I know with ice skating there are regrets that I didn't learn at a young age to fly around the ice b/c picking it up as an adult is, indeed, anxiety producing. I'm afraid of falling! When my kids started the first thing they were taught was how to fall and it worked ;) Now they're trying to teach me slack lining and it's the same deal -- balance and trust and letting go -- isn't it fun to strive for new things? Oh yes, dancing, too! And btw none of the 'real' slack liners or skaters or dancers seem to judge me but instead welcome me. Cyclists can be a bit snobbish at times. Keep at it, good luck!

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    3. I can't imagine general cyclists would judge anyone by the way they mount/dismount a bike but in certain 'roadie' groups it's a possibility - I don't know how snobbery found its way into cycling but if I came across it I would just ride the other way and find other companions or ride alone.

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    4. (In the spirit of Neil Hodges at 1:44,) I learned to ride a bike when I was 17, slightly less than 54 years ago. I discovered the Sheldon mount on my own back then and have never thought about the question since. It simply felt like the logical way to go about things. The "proper" mount has always seemed at best awkward, at worst a form of showing off.

      I like V.'s comparison with language learning. I too learned another language as an adult (Finnish), and I started it out 43 years ago. I am equally fluent in both cycling and Finnish. I have an accent in Finnish, the sort where people ask where I am from, but they can't pinpoint a specific accent. I suppose my cycling is something of the same, all 8-9000 kilometers a year. With regard to the language, my attitude crystallized long ago: if somebody is more interested in my accent than what I am talking about, I really don't need to talk to them. Those who began cycling as adults should adopt the same attitude: "native rider, can you keep up with me, go where I go?"

      I notice Sheldon mentions the "proper" mount, but refers to it as the "Cowboy Mount", lists it among "wrong ways", and points out that that that mount puts unwanted lateral stress on wheels and is very hard on them. He says it is most often found among riders who learned to ride on bikes that were too big. It would be interesting to see how people who learned as a child to ride on properly fitted bikes mount.

      Leo

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    5. Roadies don't as much judge me, as - in a good natured sort of way - find it fascinating that I can do XYZ (stuff they consider advanced), but not the more elementary ABC.

      The only judgy reactions I've had have been from super-commuter types. But none since having moved to Ireland.

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    6. Now I'm gonna be self conscious about mounting and dismounting. I've ridden in traffic since I was a kid and never gave it much thought.

      But I'm definitely a sit-in-the-saddle type, left leg extended for support, right foot on the pedal twitching for takeoff. I suppose that's a carryover habit from having cycle commuted in the 1970s, wearing cleated Detto Pietros and toe clips. I usually cinched the strap down on the right foot but kept the left loose. The only time I touch down the right foot is when I'm out of heavy traffic and resting the right foot on a curb. On wet or slick roads I might put down both feet and leave the saddle, but that's so rare I can't remember the last time I did that.

      Even though I resumed cycling only a few months ago, riding a comfort/hybrid with platform pedals, I immediately resumed the same habits. Never seemed to cause any problems so I wasn't motivated to change anything.

      "The only judgy reactions I've had have been from super-commuter types. But none since having moved to Ireland."

      I've noticed that too, although it seems to be an interwebs conceit. Years ago when I commuted daily, mostly in Southern California, it was decidedly unsexy and functional. The only times I saw any arch attitudes were around roadie wannabes, mostly local crits and time trials.

      Nowadays I see forum chatter about cycle commuting as if it were an underground sport played by freebooters and scofflaws on two wheeled corsairs. They boast about bikes that seem decidedly less than optimal for practical commuting in exchange for a bit more speed, with far more chest thumping than men in tights should indulge themselves in, brag-griping about giving inconsiderate motor vehicularists what-for over every slight. I suspect that (barring video recordings) the absence of witnesses and verifiable evidence lends itself to fish stories in general.

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  18. Still can't figure out how to hold that track stand on my fixie for more than 2.3 seconds. Grrr.

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  19. Ah, yes, mounting and dismounting . . . Townmouse is right. Scoot twice or thrice, get up modest momentum, rise on the six o'clock pedal, push your pelvis forward as if stretching, plop yer bum on the saddle. Job's a good'un. As for the dismount, I learned from a C of E curate in full fig who dismounted by kicking his right leg up and swinging said leg gracefully over the 'bars. Keeps the cassock out of the chain . . . must have been a chorus girl in a former life.

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  20. There is a related version of this manoeuvre where you underestimate the box you have strapped to the rear rack, catch your leg and you and the bike tumble together in an ungraceful heap.

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  21. When you just do something without even thinking it's hard to imagine this can be difficult for someone else - I wouldn't even know how to explain the 'technique' involved because I just do it automatically so to speak. Provided you can get on and off your bike, I don't really think it matters except to say that I think the 'standard' method would be easier than the one you employ :) In any case, if this is something you would like to do, don't give up, the fact that you learnt to ride as an adult is testament to your determination.

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  22. I use a slight modification of Mr. Brown's technique. Straddle with weak foot on ground. Set the strong-foot pedal to 45 degrees. Mash down on the strong foot. That gives plenty of thrust to both start the bike and boost my ample butt into the saddle.

    Chip V.

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  23. Another benefit of folders =). Just ride your brompton more, easy on and off.

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  24. I'd rather see photos of your method of mounting and dismounting. Seems far more complicated!

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    1. Lots of pictures of it here. I simply have my butt in the saddle when starting. Like so.

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    2. I'm not sure how you would get rolling by starting from that position unless you're in a really low gear. Definitely looks harder without that starting kick to get the momentum going before sitting down. I must be a "native" because I never really thought about till you mentioned it, but I seem to do it like you've explained.

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    3. I've tried the sit down method but at stop lights my calf cramps up -- seriously! So now I just straddle the bike with one pedal at 3 o'clock and when the light changes just push down on the pedal and I'm off.

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    4. I do tend to start in a low-isn gear, but not crazy low. But then it's generally recommended that you start in a lower gear, is it not?

      For what it's worth, this is not an uncommon method of starting if you visit a place with well established utility cycling culture. It's just usually done due to preference/laziness, as opposed to lack choice.

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  25. Havginjg recently passed 60 and inherited the "paternal hips" I now find that I can no longer mount my road bike by throwing either leg over the saddle.So to maximise my cycling I have purchased a 20" wheel folder as my utility bike. Step through frame ,modified Biologic racks, and away I go .Shops Library and Coffee trips near and far. My weekend road rids are accomplished by leaning the bike right over and mounting from stationary. Much amusement and the odd comment (jibe) soon rewarded by my dust or road spray as I can leave most in my wake.I learned to cycle as a very young child,and have done so all my life. Never worry about "normal" or "proper" in cycling. What works for you is what matters. Follow the lessons learned in life, consider the feelings of others, and ride on...

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  26. As an adult I got into regular cycling again with the same kind of bike I rode as a kid - a slightly-too small-for-me mountain bike - so I was able to still 'cheat' and stop and go with my butt never leaving the saddle and my tip toes able to push me along. After continually raising my seat throughout my first year of bike commuting I got better at leaning a bit to one side to work up momentum. Deciding I wanted a bit of a classier ride, I pondered the Dutch upright bicycle option but decided that with local hills, a vintage diamond frame touring bike was the way I wanted to go. This put me in the awkward position of only being able to reach the ground if I slid my hips half off the saddle on one side. And so, I started practicing the 'Sheldon' mount and dismount. I got fairly good at it, but still often slide half off and let it fall to the side more than I step fully forward and off the saddle.

    Gotta say though, trying to 'mount' again and get going after stopping at at intersection facing a steep down-hill road... not so easy. Leaning forward to hold the breaks at maximum power in the hooks while trying to stay stationary/slow while also boosting up twice as high as usual to reach the saddle uphill behind me... nearly wobbled off and/or smacked my crotch on the saddle nose more than once! I can dismount from my ladies-styled mountain bike by sliding off sideways while still in motion and moving right into a brisk walk, but I cannot mount or dismount in the 'swing your leg over' horse riding style that some manage on diamond frames. I often see other cyclists coasting with both legs on one side of the bike after half dismounting. I'm pretty sure I'd just fall over...

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  27. Somebody said that on the Dirty Dozen (annual bike ride in Pittsburgh where you climb the 13 steepest hills; a very challenging ride) some of the riders were mounting the "wrong" way. But I don't see the problem so long as you get and stay moving.

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  28. Nothing to Fret about I learned by leaning the bike & stepping over, I can do it the way ou are talking about, but I rarely do.
    What's tough is to do it like when I was a kid and we would grab the bike start running and literally jump on! Our butt landing squarely on the saddle before our feet ever got close to the pedals, yelling & laughing the whole time, unaware of the ridiculousness of what we were doing! But, those were Stingrays with Banana seats! ;-)
    -masmojo

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  29. wonderful post! exactly the kind that started my love for this blog a couple of years ago. LB's musings can bring the most mundane aspects of cycling alive and can make them super inserting. honestly i never thought about the way i mount my bike. until after reading the blog. and today i did it consciously - and a bit dumper than usually i guess - landing me in my brooks team pro and - clack! - breaking the saddle's rails.
    serious fun.
    i grew up on a bike. as children we were acrobats even, standing straight on the top tube hands stretched out into the air. i actually half tried to do this recently again, stepping onto the top tube of my faithful old Ingegnere in full speed but did not really dare to stand up.
    those were the days. very funny.
    so how do i usually mount a bike? i became aware of this today: i push it one step forward and then i throw both legs backwards with feet flying high in the air and then i land - ass on saddle first and feet on pedals second on me horse.
    i guess that is the way young boys do it. i still love it. my default way of mounting a bike. can break the saddle rails though if you are thinkingf too much about it.
    -
    lovely pictures btw of your poor photo-model. he is not afraid of making the clown for you. that is true love. great seeing that.

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  30. Wish I were a pro at using the computer and internet in order to share a video I just saw which sorta relates to balance and bikes and confidence. This guy must be a real cyclist. All I can say is the video can be found on The Path Less Pedaled FB page….That's the best I can do with regard to linking but it's something I would not be able to do but he makes it look simple (picking up a dropped coat while pedaling) !!

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  31. It's surprising how much is instinctive. I bought a cheap folder with a coaster rear brake. At which point I discovered that I had a long ingrained habit of back pedaling to put my right pedal down and my left pedal up when coasting. I sold the folder again rather than break the habit.

    In town last week I got a rear wheel skid. I corrected it within a second or two then realised I had subconsciously released the pressure on the rear brake before I consciously thought "my back wheel is skidding."

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  32. If all those gyrations are required to start, how do you stop? I can't see how a moving bicycle is likely to come to rest leaned sharply to one side, the rider grasping a toehold on the pavement. Never having found myself in such a predicament I can't imagine what you do.

    Myself I am completely native. I got my first bike for my seventh birthday and have never looked back. Fifty seven years of riding now. I can do and have done all the mounts mentioned here and a few more. What I use everyday is the simplest mount, the same one you do. Butt on saddle, one foot on pedal. The difference is my bike is vertical, the foot not on a pedal is flat on the ground. When I stop I put a foot down. Solidly. When the intersection clears or the signal changes I'm in position to resume.

    Very few riders have perfect form. When perfect form appears it's notable. Merely good form, or good enough form, can always be improved. By your own testimony you are not an athletic "natural". Whoever is granting you blanket approval of your form has little to say because they can't see much and don't know much. One of the sure signs of form is that riding the bike becomes simple and easy. When the bike is hard to ride you are certainly doing it wrong.

    Learning anything is easier if you make it easier. Put your saddle down. Way down. Tell yourself it's only to learn the mounts. They'll all be easier. Myself I sit probably three inches lower than is the current fashion. I've been around long enough to have seen a few cycles of fashion. As for the notion that sitting low is going to make you slow - this old man has always been better than most riding into the wind. Just a particularism. Earlier this morning in a strong headwind I had two working professionals hanging onto my wheel, unable to pull through. When we turned around and had a tailwind, well I've never been so good at that. Also I just couldn't do better than 30mph in my 48x20 fixed.

    Until you have this all figured out I'd suggest keeping your speed well under control while descending. You wouldn't want a sudden stop to become a launch.

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  33. So much apparent angst over something as simple as mounting a bicycle. Here's a test: if, after mounting a bicycle, can you get moving forward? If so, then congrats! You're a real cyclist! Anyone who tries to enforce a One True Method for mounting a bike is just holding on to the tribalism in biking from years past.

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  34. So, what happens when you attempt a difficult or new way of mounting your bike? Do you fall down? Do you panic and stop? Really, I've no issues with how anyone starts out with this thing of moving forward on a bicycle but you brought it up.

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    1. I guess it feels as if I will topple, and in some unimaginably horrific way at that - upon sensing which I panic and stop. It's not logical; I have done much more dangerous, riskier things in my life then this maneuver. But something in my sensory/perceptual mechanism must be off, tricking my brain into interpreting this as harder/scarier than it actually is.

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    2. This is very interesting and curious. I don't doubt your fear and I also don't understand the brain. Perhaps it's true that we all have issues which make us feel slightly less than the 'real' anything and thus envy those who navigate a situation as if it were as easy as breathing. While riding around town today I was thinking of this mounting thing and how I do it in various circumstances. It was weird in the sense that it made me slow down and observe my every moment. Sorta like watching myself bring a spoon to my mouth and marvel that I rarely miss. Can you stand on one foot w/o losing your balance? Leaning forward and backward? If you straddle your bike with one foot on the ground and the other on the pedal do you feel out of whack? If that foot on the ground became a foot on it's tiptoes would you get nervous? If that foot, now on it's tiptoe, pushed off and the bike was moving, is that the point you feel horrified and likely to injure yourself? It's such a small space. I'm reasonable sure that if one did fall at that moment no harm will occur but I don't know for sure. As I was going about this exercise today it occurred to me that my speed was much less than a pedestrian, no more than two mph. I was scooting along behind stalled traffic with one foot on the pedal and the other simply pushing forward like a skateboard then that small space happened where I stood on the pedal and my rear was in the saddle. Just like finding my mouth with the spoon. That said, I get fears, truly I do.

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  35. I always stand over the top tube, and "preload" my left crank arm so that the motion to get into the saddle is the same one that starts the acceleration. I put literally all of my weight on the left pedal. I don't "push off". And I've only thought about it any way because you mentioned it. I don't think many of us think about or notice mounting styles.

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  36. Real cyclists use a bicycle and don't care about much else, much less about how they're perceived. Figure out a way to sit on the seat and pedal and you're good to go. Enjoy!!

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  37. Don't you have problems mounting your bike when you have a lot of luggage or when you are cycling uphill?

    I am a 'native' so I had to think first how I mount my bike. I guess I do something like shown in the photo or the 'Brown' method, depending on the situation. In this way you can keep your bike upright and that should certainly be an advantage when you have a lot of luggage on the back of your bike (even more so when you have a child on the bike). When I have to start uphill I use something like the Sheldon-Brown method. If you just push off with your feet you will stand still immediately. With the Brown method one can quickly reach a stable speed.

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