If Micky Mantle rode a bike…

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I went to see a movie this weekend — Moneyball — the story of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s, and sabermetrics. Yeah, a baseball movie. I’m not a big baseball fan and don’t really know much about the sport or its history, but Moneyball received positive reviews from my friends and who doesn’t want to stare at Brad Pitt for two hours?

The film opened with a quote by Mickey Mantle:

“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”

Immediately, before even knowing the context of the quote in the sport of baseball, I felt the urge to share this quote with my cycling world. You see, that’s how I feel about my job. I teach people how to ride a bicycle. But we all know how to ride a bicycle, right? In my opinion, no. Although most of us have ridden bikes since childhood, we don’t really KNOW how to ride a bike. Of course, when I tell people that, especially cyclists who have been riding for a while, I run the risk of offending them. But by the end of a four-hour Bike Skills clinic or a two-hour one-on-one session, clients agree that they really didn’t know what they thought they knew. And they agree that NOW they know how to ride a bicycle.

As children, we’re very in touch with our environment and how we interact with it. We have a keen sense of proprioception. We listen to our body. When we hop on a bike, we intuitively know what to do. We don’t try to fix, manage, or correct the natural physics and mechanics of the bike. We let the bike do what it was designed so well to do. We don’t over-think it. We trust the technology and the science behind it. And riding a bike is easier because of this.

In the past 10 years, I’ve developed a career of teaching folks (mostly adults) how to ride a bike. More than 900 men + women participate in our various Bike Skills clinics each year. For some, this is their first experience riding in their entire lifetime. For others, they’re returning to the bike as an adult after a hiatus. And for others, they’ve been riding for a long period of time but want to really learn and understand how to ride. Some folks want to learn specific skills (like descending or group riding or racing or mountain biking). Some folks find me because they’ve experienced fear or a serious crash or simply the frustration of not being “perfect” at this sport that was so easy for them as a child. Many feel they don’t need the fundamentals. Of course, in my opinion, everyone needs the fundamentals. The fundamentals are the foundation of everything we do on the bike.

So, like Mickey Mantle and the sport of baseball, I try to enlighten cyclists about all the things they don’t know that they don’t know. We all know how to ride a bike. We’ve done it our entire lives. But it’s pretty amazing how much we don’t really know or understand about riding a bike.

Come, learn, understand, improve in our final clinics for the 2011 season:

Oct 22nd — Bike Skills 101 — Fundamental Bike Handling Skills sponsored by BicycleLawyer.com

Oct 22nd — Bike Skills 201 — Climbing + Descending sponsored by Teresa Callen of Image Arts Salon

Oh, and Mickey Mantle DID ride a bike. He’s often discussed the importance of life-long fitness and an active lifestyle. Here’s an image from a 1977 print ad by AMF.