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.
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)