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  1. #1
    Neil_B
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    Goal for 2008 - learn to ride a bicycle

    As odd as it may seem for me to state that I don't know how to ride a bicycle, it's pretty clear that there's an element of truth to the subject line of this thread. Far more important than a mileage goal is improving my balance and coordination on a bike. The two major problem areas are:

    1 Mounting and push-off. I never learned to ride a bike before age 40, and so I mounted my first bike as I mounted a stationary exercise bike. And I've still continued to mount a bike that way. I swing a leg over the saddle, steady myself on tiptoe, press down with the left foot on the pedal in the 9:00 o'clock position, and swing my right leg up onto the right pedal as I move. While it helped me ride more than 3000 miles last year, it's hardly ideal. It's awkward, it's slow, I don't get any power push-off doing it this way, it stretches the right hamstring, and puts an awful lot of weight on the left side of my, ahem, butt. And mounting this way scares people. Neil F. became upset with me on Saturday, since he was afraid I was going to tip over on more than one occasion. The question is, can I learn the proper way to mount without tipping over and hurting myself?

    2. removing a hand from the handlebars. I did pass a LAB course on "street skills", but it was a nightmare, and I barely made it through. Being able to take my hands from the handlebars would allow me to adjust my glasses, signal, swat bugs, eat, drink, or any of a hundred things "real" cyclists do.

    So those are my goals. Now to get them done. :-)

  2. #2
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
    2. removing a hand from the handlebars. I did pass a LAB course on "street skills", but it was a nightmare, and I barely made it through. Being able to take my hands from the handlebars would allow me to adjust my glasses, signal, swat bugs, eat, drink, or any of a hundred things "real" cyclists do.
    Have someone hold the bike or put it on a trainer. Get into your riding position and remove one hand from the bars, then repeat with the other. Do you have to shift your weight and/or move your torso to do so? If so, you need to adjust your riding position. When you have your weight better distributed between your hands/arms, legs and butt, you'll find your balance improving right off the bat and things like riding one-handed, no-handed, out of the saddle, with one leg only, etc. come much easier.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Not safe for work cyclokitty's Avatar
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    I totally understand your predicament, Historian.

    I learned to ride as a kid, but I don't recall how I clambered onto my bike. Somehow I swooped onto the seat and made for the hills. When I bought my bike 3 years ago I walked around it trying to remember how to get on the thing. I pretended I was admiring my new bike, and watched a more experienced looking cyclist (ie. his bike needed a good cleaning and his right pant leg was rolled up). He kept his left foot on the ground, leaned his bike a little to the left, and easily swung his right leg over. With his right foot on the pedal he simultaneously pushed off the ground with his left and pushed down on the pedal with his right, and somehow planted his backside on the saddle. And that's how I get on my bike. Albeit with a lot less grace (a real point of frustration for my mother!).

    The hand thing I'm still working on. I'm quite capable with my freeing my left hand. But, and this is a biggie, I have to be cycling pretty quickly. I can signal but it's still pretty awkward (and fast). My right hand I'm definitely working on utilizing off the handlebars. Controlling the bike with my left hand only is not pretty. It amazes when I see people riding bikes with BOTH hands tucked in the pockets. Takes my breath away!

    My problem is stopping at stoplights. I angle my bike down to the left and land my left foot on the ground, but my right leg always flies ungainly off the pedal and swings out parallel to the ground. Not a pretty picture.

    All I can say is practice practice, forever practice.


  4. #4
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    Have someone hold the bike or put it on a trainer. Get into your riding position and remove one hand from the bars, then repeat with the other. Do you have to shift your weight and/or move your torso to do so? If so, you need to adjust your riding position. When you have your weight better distributed between your hands/arms, legs and butt, you'll find your balance improving right off the bat and things like riding one-handed, no-handed, out of the saddle, with one leg only, etc. come much easier.
    Yes, this will come with practice. At the moment I can make "flashing" hand signals, if needed. In most cases, I haven't needed to, since lane positioning indicates my intentions. Also, traffic is so light in my area that oftentimes I don't see more than ten cars an hour.

  5. #5
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclokitty View Post
    I totally understand your predicament, Historian.

    I learned to ride as a kid, but I don't recall how I clambered onto my bike. Somehow I swooped onto the seat and made for the hills. When I bought my bike 3 years ago I walked around it trying to remember how to get on the thing. I pretended I was admiring my new bike, and watched a more experienced looking cyclist (ie. his bike needed a good cleaning and his right pant leg was rolled up). He kept his left foot on the ground, leaned his bike a little to the left, and easily swung his right leg over. With his right foot on the pedal he simultaneously pushed off the ground with his left and pushed down on the pedal with his right, and somehow planted his backside on the saddle. And that's how I get on my bike.
    Yes, I've been observing "real" cyclists do this, including Neil F. when we have been riding together. It's a matter of getting coordination. And balance. I stagger when I walk, and I bump into things frequently. Now is there a safe way of learning to get on the bike, or must I risk breaking an arm or collarbone a few times by falling?

  6. #6
    Disgruntled grad student beingtxstate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
    <SNIP>Now is there a safe way of learning to get on the bike, or must I risk breaking an arm or collarbone a few times by falling?
    Try getting on next to a park bench or picnic table. The 'seat' of the table is at just about the right height to let you brace yourself so you can practice mounting/unmounting. Then you can hold on to the table top with one hand to get use to both one-handing it and pushing off.

    Hope that helps!

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  7. #7
    circus bear ban guzzi's Avatar
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    can you practice in your back yard? Just starts so you dont really need more than maybe 6 feet per attempt?

    Hands free is nice. Not sure how smooth your pedaling is. Even with my sloppy flailing I can do hands off. I have to be smooooth on the pedals tho'. Practice in a straight line and tighten, not flex, your core muscles and start by just easing up on your grip on the bars. Don't! be staring at your hands, front wheel or anything like that. Look where you want to go..Look forward. Work up to having your hands *just* above the bar, hovering so to speak. You can be pedaling or not, whatever your comfortable with. When you get to pedaling hands off, you want to be spinning when you try it out. If you need to crank it won't work and feels really unstable. Makes you weave. Keep your weight centered over the crank. Leaning back unweigths the front end leading to head shake. Too forward and the front wheel wants to plow rather than go with the roughness of the surface.
    I learned how on a suspended MTB. I do it on all my bikes now.

    Not sure if any of this was helpful...Hope so!
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  8. #8
    Not safe for work cyclokitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
    Yes, I've been observing "real" cyclists do this, including Neil F. when we have been riding together. It's a matter of getting coordination. And balance. I stagger when I walk, and I bump into things frequently. Now is there a safe way of learning to get on the bike, or must I risk breaking an arm or collarbone a few times by falling?
    I worried about catching my foot on my bike when climbing on it. But leaning your bike towards you shortens the height a little so there is less chance of catching your foot on anything (wheel, rack). Also, to make sure the bike stands still while I get on it I hold down both brake levers.

    So, with both of my hands on the handlebars holding the brake levers down and my left foot on the ground helps to stabilize the right side of my body. Putting my left foot on the pedal means that the bike is shifting away from me and is one more thing to balance. Try it with your left foot on the ground, not on the pedal.

    Your right pedal should be at about 10 or 11 o'clock, then you can settle your backside comfortably on the saddle, with your left foot on the ground (maybe flexed, I don't know your set-up. Mine is flexed, but easily) and your brake levers still pressed. Once you are set, let go of the brakes, push down on the right pedal, and your left foot lands on the left pedal. Off you go!


  9. #9
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
    Yes, I've been observing "real" cyclists do this, including Neil F. when we have been riding together.
    Neil F was an inspiration to us all when he demonstrated his mounting/dismounting skills for us at Lancaster.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    NJS my life! roughrider504's Avatar
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    You can mount your bicycle like tall bikers mount theirs, except without all the climbing. I do this on my bikes with freewheels. Demonstrated in this video.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=__Tnradg-CA

  11. #11
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Whether you can ride with no hands depends on the bike- it was easy on the bikes I had as a kid, they just steered themselves, but the ones I've had in the last couple of years have less rake and are more unstable (more responsive, too).

    "I swing a leg over the saddle, steady myself on tiptoe, press down with the left foot on the pedal in the 9:00 o'clock position, and swing my right leg up onto the right pedal as I move."

    Boy, I feel stupid. I just had to take my bike out front to see how I do it! Anyway, with the right pedal a bit forward of top dead center, I stand on the left side, swing my right leg over the seat onto the pedal, which puts me on the saddle and push off in one smooth motion. This is a cruiser-type bike, may vary with other styles. If I stop and restart, I normally sit on the saddle and support myself with tippy toes, or straddle the top bar until I start again. (Edit: This is platform pedals, too).

    Seems like I've seen people push the bike off with their left foot on the left pedal, and then swing a leg over after the bike is moving. But this might have been on bikes where the center bar was too high to straddle, too.
    Last edited by StephenH; 01-09-08 at 08:48 PM.

  12. #12
    Triathlon in my future??? flip18436572's Avatar
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    I do like roughrider504 says and shows in the video. I clip my foot in and then push off then swing a leg over while the bike is moving. Then I clip in with the right foot. If I am on my slow bike (comfort to ride with the wife) I do the same thing, but I don't clip in.

    As far as hands free, I can ride for blocks or longer with my comfort bike without any problems, but with my road bike with very skinny tires, I usually keep one hand on the bars to do what I need to do. I can ride without, but not as well with the skinny tires and the I am sure the rake is different ration which will change the way the bike handles also.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
    As odd as it may seem for me to state that I don't know how to ride a bicycle, it's pretty clear that there's an element of truth to the subject line of this thread. Far more important than a mileage goal is improving my balance and coordination on a bike. The two major problem areas are:

    1 Mounting and push-off. I never learned to ride a bike before age 40, and so I mounted my first bike as I mounted a stationary exercise bike. And I've still continued to mount a bike that way. I swing a leg over the saddle, steady myself on tiptoe, press down with the left foot on the pedal in the 9:00 o'clock position, and swing my right leg up onto the right pedal as I move. While it helped me ride more than 3000 miles last year, it's hardly ideal. It's awkward, it's slow, I don't get any power push-off doing it this way, it stretches the right hamstring, and puts an awful lot of weight on the left side of my, ahem, butt. And mounting this way scares people. Neil F. became upset with me on Saturday, since he was afraid I was going to tip over on more than one occasion. The question is, can I learn the proper way to mount without tipping over and hurting myself?

    2. removing a hand from the handlebars. I did pass a LAB course on "street skills", but it was a nightmare, and I barely made it through. Being able to take my hands from the handlebars would allow me to adjust my glasses, signal, swat bugs, eat, drink, or any of a hundred things "real" cyclists do.

    So those are my goals. Now to get them done. :-)
    Mounting is easy, with the right sized frame, put your leg over, straddle the frame in front of the saddle, put one foot on the pedal, and push down with your foot, this raises your butt which you scoot back onto the saddle, your other foot raises with your butt, point your toes on your second foot down, so that your foot catches the pedal coming from behind, so you can start pedaling. After a few pedal strokes lift your butt slightly and readjust for comfort. If you have clips or clipless pedals, now you can clip in.

    The hand thing, steering actually is about 1% of making a bicycle go where you want it to, the rest is balance, this is why bicycles, like motorcycles have round tires. A bicycle will go in a straight line, if the rider is at a 90 degree angle to the level plane of the ground (when viewed from the front or back). A 90.000001 degree or greater angle and your moving to the right, 89.999999 degrees or less, and your moving left, this applies even if the surface of the ground is not level. The typical rider is NOT at 90 degrees most of the time, and the first technique most riders learn is to steer to shift to the opposite angle. However you can also shift your weight to do the same thing. Here is how you do it:

    When riding on a relatively smooth and level road, remove one hand slightly, but keep it near the bar, see how the bicycle reacts, and think about how you need to shift your weight to compensate. First thing, this is incredibly difficult to do at very low speeds, at 1km/h it's probably impossible, at 10km/h it's doable, but hard, and 20km/h and higher it's fairly easy, although faster then 40km/h or so I would not recommend it, as a small miscalculation can result in an unplanned dismount, and 40 somethings do not bounce as 20 somethings do, we often break something, and it takes a while to heal. However the nice thing is, the more you do it, the better you get.

    Keep doing this, until you can move your hand away from the bars, now comes the hard part, you remove BOTH hands, again keep them close, your trying to see how the bicycle reacts. Before long, you find yourself able to ride NO handed, handy when the back starts to cramp up, and you are behind schedule, and can't stop, just ride no handed for a minute and stretch things out. The first time you do it for longer then a few seconds, you will see the bars shifting as if your steering. Nice thing about the human computer, it will automate a lot of this stuff after a while, and you will find your not even thinking about doing it. Actually it makes steering at speed much easier, because you start to shift off balance to help steer, also without thinking about it.

  14. #14
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Also, practice this in grass and if you are going to go down, don't try to catch yourself with the arm, as that's a great way to break the arm or blow the rotator cull in your shoulder Tuck it in tight , and curl to protect your arm, shoulder and head. A low speed tipover won't be likely to hurt anything more than your pride that way
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  15. #15
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    Neil F was an inspiration to us all when he demonstrated his mounting/dismounting skills for us at Lancaster.
    There's a reason Neil F. has "klutz" under his avatar.

  16. #16
    Senior Member donheff's Avatar
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    Interesting thread. I have no problem riding no hands or getting on or off the bike, but I don't really know what the "proper" way to mount and dismount is. When I took up riding last year after a lonh hiatus I just used the technique I used as a kid - put the left foot on the pedal push off and swing the right leg over the seat while moving. I reversed that for dismounting. But a few people have told me mounting while in motion is a no-no. I can get my right leg over the saddle while standing but it is awkward. Is there a "preferred" method? Are we supposed to lean the bike a little to the left per the suggestion above? I wanna look like I know what I'm doing.
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  17. #17
    Getting Less Chunky ChunkyB's Avatar
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    That's my goal too. I bought some rollers a few months ago, and I can really see a difference. I am getting good at taking one hand off, on the rollers, to get a drink or to mess with the volume on my movie, but I'm still way too scared to try no hands. I can't even go no hands on the road, but I'm going to learn this year.

    I think that hands free riding doesn't have a ton to do with pedaling smoothness though. There are tons of people that ride their bikes to school here in Provo, and when it's freezing, a lot of them just put their hands in their pockets instead of getting gloves. I'm always amazed at how wobbly they are, or how much they sway with every pedal stroke, but they still seem to be in control.

    I think a lot of it is just getting the courage to sit straight up. I've tried to just kind of take my hands off the bars, but keep them right over the bars, and it doesn't work. I think you just need to sit straight up to have any chance of staying up.

  18. #18
    Downtown Spanky Brown bautieri's Avatar
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    I mount just like you would on a motorcycle. Approach from the left hand side, squeeze the front brake, swing the right leg over and push off with it. We practiced this one in Stony Creek remember? I would say that this came with years of practice but way back when I was learning to ride a bike it had nifty training wheels. Mounting a bike might be a bit of a trick due to your physical limitations, but I have confidence in you. You'll over come it. Do you notice a difference in mounting your Navigator vs your FX? I think your FX is a bit on the tall side, might have something to do with your troubles.

    You know, those of us who have rode bikes as children did not start out on big mountain and road bikes. We started on children's bikes then single speed pseudo BMX style bikes with frames far to small for a proper fit by big bike standards. These smaller framed bikes are where we got the practice mounting and dismounting. It might be worth your while to pick up a cheap BMX style bike from wal mart to practice your mounting and dismounting. The smaller frame will make it harder to get hung up on while still allowing you to practice the take off down stroke. Then you can practice your wheelies, track stands, bunny hops, and stoppies .

    Bau

  19. #19
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    Neil F was an inspiration to us all when he demonstrated his mounting/dismounting skills for us at Lancaster.
    Thank you, thank you. [Bows.]
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  20. #20
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
    Thank you, thank you. [Bows.]
    You do many interesting things on a bike these days, Neil. :-)

  21. #21
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by bautieri View Post
    I mount just like you would on a motorcycle. Approach from the left hand side, squeeze the front brake, swing the right leg over and push off with it. We practiced this one in Stony Creek remember?
    Yes, and we shelved it because I couldn't manage to coordinate getting onto the saddle and pushing off.

    My previous attempt to learn this was with my (mercifully former) self-described "bike mentor", an embarrassing experience in which I spent two or three minutes trying to lift myself backwards onto the saddle of a road bike of the wrong frame size. We both gave up.

    Quote Originally Posted by bautieri View Post
    I would say that this came with years of practice but way back when I was learning to ride a bike it had nifty training wheels. Mounting a bike might be a bit of a trick due to your physical limitations, but I have confidence in you. You'll over come it.
    "Attitude is the only disability."

    Quote Originally Posted by bautieri View Post
    Do you notice a difference in mounting your Navigator vs your FX? I think your FX is a bit on the tall side, might have something to do with your troubles.
    Actually, I mount the same way on both bikes. The FX is a larger frame, but other than that the bikes are more or less equally tall.

    Quote Originally Posted by bautieri View Post
    You know, those of us who have rode bikes as children did not start out on big mountain and road bikes. We started on children's bikes then single speed pseudo BMX style bikes with frames far to small for a proper fit by big bike standards. These smaller framed bikes are where we got the practice mounting and dismounting. It might be worth your while to pick up a cheap BMX style bike from wal mart to practice your mounting and dismounting. The smaller frame will make it harder to get hung up on while still allowing you to practice the take off down stroke. Then you can practice your wheelies, track stands, bunny hops, and stoppies .

    Bau
    Thanks. I hate to increase sales of Wal-mart bikes, but I may follow that suggestion.

  22. #22
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Depending on what I'm carrying with me, I mount/dismount differently.
    On my typical commute, where I've got my rack trunk on back, I stand to the left of the bike and carefully swing my right leg over the back of everything as I tip the bike toward myself. Then I get myself mostly situated and start moving with a push down on the right pedal and a light push-off from the left foot. I get worried that if I try the left-foot-clipped-in push-off-and-swing-the-leg-over that I'll catch my right leg on my rack trunk and send myself tumbling; so I only do that if I'm empty on the rear rack.
    Dismounts are usually more graceful, and I'll swing my right leg around while still rolling (or hike it up over the top tube) and roll the last few meters standing only on the left pedal. If I've really been in the saddle for a long time (2 hours w/o a break or more) then I dismount more gingerly to re-acclimate my legs to supporting my weight. I'll unclip, roll to my stop, and lightly tilt to my left until I dab my foot down. From there, it's a reverse of my "commuter mount" and I swing my right leg over the back end of the bike.
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  23. #23
    Mega Clyde bigwies's Avatar
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    Here is Sheldon Brown's take on the subject.

    http://sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

    I hope this helps.
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  24. #24
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigwies View Post
    Here is Sheldon Brown's take on the subject.

    http://sheldonbrown.com/starting.html

    I hope this helps.
    It does.

    *******
    3. Put your foot on the high pedal, then press down hard. This will simultaneously:

    * Let you use the pedal as a step to lift yourself high enough to get onto the saddle...and:

    * Apply driving force to the chain, causing the bike to pick up speed.
    *****

    I think the problem is lifting myself onto the saddle with the pedal. It needs to be done in a single motion with the downstroke. I think it would be best to use the spin bikes at my gym to practice this. While it won't be ideal, it's better than nothing. The long-suffering Neil F. has offered to help with 'field practice' next time he's out here.

  25. #25
    Senior Member yeamac's Avatar
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    2013 Marin Pioneer Trail MTB; 2012 Marin Verona T3; 2012 Marin Bridgeway; 2008 Cannondale Touring 2; 1996 Cannondale MT1000 tandem
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    Once you get used to mounting/dismounting as Sheldon Brown's website indicates, it will be second nature and you don't even think about it. At least that's how it works for me. Or like getting up out of a chair. I just do it and don't think about the steps involved.

    Of Sheldon's 3 incorrect ways to mount a bike:

    The Cowboy Mount
    The Shuffle Mount
    The Flying Leap

    He says of the The Flying Leap: a less common, but equally poor technique, consising of running alongside the bicycle then jumping up onto the saddle. This is sometimes done by riders in a hurry, but it is dangerous and inelegant. He should have said "This is often done by riders stealing a bike that does not belong to them!"

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