Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh, Wheelie?

I have never been able to ride a wheelie for any distance, on any two-wheeled vehicle.  I know the theory behind it:  Find the balance point and just accelerate if the wheel drops below it, and decelerate if the wheels comes up too high.

That's the theory.  The reality is that I find the balance point, then fall over backwards.

My cousin, Jeff, however is a different story.  Jeff is a few years younger than I, and has always been better at physical stuff, particularly on two wheels.

One day, when I was in my early teens, my parents, sister and I were visiting Jeff and his family.  Jeff and I were outside, knocking around, when we started talking about riding wheelies on bicycles.

"I'm no good at them," I said.  "I can't ride more than about 10 feet with the wheel in the air."

"I don't know how far I can ride one," Jeff said.  "I'd like to find out."

So, we went in and got permission for me to take one his dad's motorcycles (a Honda SL 125, as I recall) so that I could watch the odometer while Jeff rode a wheelie down the street, on his Stingray.

We went out to the street, and agreed that we would ride around the corner, then Jeff would lift his front wheel while I noted the mileage on the odometer.  I figured that there was no reason to zero out the trip-meter for a couple of tenths of a mile.

We got around the corner, Jeff pulled his wheel up, and I rode alongside him on the motorcycle.  We chatted a bit, as we rode along and, soon, we were at the corner at the far end of the block.

"Can you make the turn?"  I asked.

"I think so."

Sure enough, we turned right, rode the short side of the block, then turned again to go back toward Jeff's house.

"How you holding up?"  I yelled, as I caught up to him after the second turn.  I had backed off and let him get ahead, in case he had trouble with the turn.

"I'm fine," Jeff yelled back.

And, so it went, around and around the block.

Finally, after about 3 miles, we both agreed that clocking any more miles was pointless.  It was apparent that he could ride on his back wheel until he fell asleep.  So, we stopped at his driveway.

"Want to swap, and see how far you can go?"

"Sure,"  I said.  I'd been watching Jeff as he rode, and I thought I had figured out the secret.

So, I got on his bike, we rode around the corner, and I lifted the front wheel of the bike off the ground.  Ten seconds later, I was flat on my back in the street, and Jeff's bicycle was bouncing into the front yard of his house.

"You win,"  I said.


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