September 24th, 2010

 The day has finally arrived, the day of my first High Wheeler lesson.
 I had wanted to buy a High Wheel bike for a long time but was never sure if I would be able to learn to ride one. It always looked difficult. Last year I joined The Wheelmen, the club that rides and collects these late 19th Century machines. Dave Toppin, the Massachusetts chapter president of the club invited me to learn to ride on one of his bikes. I was now taking him up on his offer. On this sunny Friday Morning my friend John and I drove up to Daves shop in Gardner Mass.
 The first thing to do when learning to ride one of these bikes is get one to fit. Dave had several around his shop and we started with a 50" 1884 Columbia Expert. After showing me how to mount while he held the bike we did a few laps around the parking lot, all the while Dave holding on to the bike. It felt uncomfortable and my legs were hitting the handle bars. 
 After helping me off that bike he decided to try a 52" Columbia Expert. I was not sure I would even be able to mount this bike but the footpeg was lower than on the 50" and I was able to mount it, again with Dave holding the bike. We were off to lap around the parking lot again and before I knew it Dave and my friend John were on the other side of the parking lot! I was riding by myself. If you remember when you were a kid and your dad let go of your first 2 wheeler and you were on your own....that was the feeling.
 I was actually able to ride for some time around the parking lot. Now it was time to dismount. It was what is called a side dismount and of course the bike was held just in case. Not too bad but could be better. Dave was going to teach me the rear dismount but my leg was just not long enough to reach the peg. I guess it will be side dismounts for me. Some more practice and riding around the parking lot and now time to learn to mount the bike on my own. I did not fare so well on this endevour. I called it quits for the day but I will be at it again in the future.
 This is what I can say about riding one of these High Wheel bikes...it's a natural high. I ride motorcycles and the same can be said for them but one cannot compare the grace that these old bikes have. The front wheel is of a large diameter so you don't have to go fast to stay up.
 Now I just have to learn to stop! (next time)

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