In preparation for my first trail ride, my mentor, Joanie, gave me a bicycle riding homework assignment. She was kind enough to mention that I should practice on the grass (see field to the right - also noticethe long pants in the event that I fell).
Those of you who know me know that I take things like homework very seriously. I was the only kid who would do my homework twice each night to make sure that I not only had all of the right answers, but that my penmanship looked perfect.
I invited my brother over to "play bikes" like when we were little kids, and to be my adjudicator and assesor for my homework assignment. My brother road a fixed bike in Boston, so he's very good with bike tricks, though he's never offroaded. Still he was a great judge. As Joanie said, "I'd rather run with the bulls in Pamplona than ride a fixy in Boston!"
Here's my assignment and assessment:
Prelim assessment - pre homework that my brother required:
- I need to be able to get on my bike with one foot and ride it comfortably before swinging my leg over. I cannot tell you how much time I spent looking at my foot and the peddle and saying "no, I can't even imagine it". I've seen people do this for entire parking lots. Currently I can do it for about two inches, but it's progress. At least now I feel comfortable with my extended hand being on the handlebar and not the seat. I plan on practicing this for 10 minutes before every ride.
- I also need to practice standing up on my bike to start, move, go uphills, and downhills (is there anything else?) I did feel more comfortable with this by the end of my first homework practice.
For the actual homework my brother gave me these grades -he's much more generous than I am, counting level of effort and improvement, where I look at current level vs. the elites. :)
Figure 8's - B+
I used a basketball court by my house, and did my figure 8's around the free throw circles and the middle of the court as my pivot point. I tried to do them completely standing up. Need to improve speed, and get deeper in turn, but overall I could do it with a fair amount of control. Really confidence is the key for me in all of these, but especially this one.
No Hands - A
They say you never forget how to ride a bike - I could disagree with that, but I guess you really don't forget how to ride no hands - this one was a piece of cake. I rode my entire street no hands (it's like .2 miles, but it's better than the 2 inches riding on one pedal) and made sure to move my arms in different positions, no issues. I love riding no hands!
Water Bottle Pick-up - N/A (F)
For this trick, I was supposed to be able to bend down while riding, and pick up a water bottle from the ground. I even cheated and used really tall water bottles. No dice. I wasn't able to do it, nor was my brother, although he tried this funky trick where he went one pedal, and then used the wrong foot on one pedal, squatted down, all while the bike was coasting by the way, but he still couldn't get the water bottle. It was like a walk-the-duck ice skating move on a moving bike. However, when I asked Joanie for clarification, she said that she had only ever done it on a road bike, and to skip this one since mountain bikes are a little bit taller.
Stick Wheelies - C
Score One for the HOA, I couldn't find a stick anywhere at the park in my neighborhood. My brother grabbed a boulder, but I baulked, so we used an "imaginary" stick. This was not a natural trick for me (and I'm not even mentioning that I actually read a "how to do a wheelie" article on line to prep for this - I take my homework seriously!) I tried to move my body forward, and then rock back and pull, no such luck. After a while, I'm certain that my brother was lying that I was getting off the ground because he wanted to go swimming (it was hot), but I wanted to get at least one good one before turning in. At one point he told me to try a bunny hop, which actually somehow produced a fairly good front wheelie on the first try (at least 3 inches, which would have gotten over the imaginary stick). Needs some serious work, and we'll have to figure something else out when I really need to do a bunny hop, but for now I have a plan of action.
Overall: I did better than I expected, but there's still plenty of room for growth. Starting at the bottom is always a lot of fun because you get to see huge improvements in the beginning - like wow, I can get on my bike without looking like a tard now! And best of all - I didn't fall down one time, which means I also didn't break anything. I did bail a couple of times, but I think that's par for the course. How else can you learn your boundaries?
I can't wait to get back out there and do more practice!