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  1. #1
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    Getting Older and Learning New Skills.

    So I'm 41. My first bike was (after the hand-me-downs) was a Huffy BMX. After I out grew that, my parents mistakenly bought me 12 speed because I said they were cool (but didn't mean they were cooler than a BMX!), and my days of jumping milkcrates came to an end. Basically, I didn't teach myself the basic bunnyhops and stuff that most kids learn after getting this 12 speed early in my childhood.

    Fast forward to now, and here I am starting fresh. Cannot bunnyhop to save my life. So I figure, I'll start with the wheelie, then manual, then learn the bunnyhop. That order seems like the most logical progression to me. Maybe one day I'll start jumping. We'll see. lol

    Boy does training take a toll on the joints at my age! A few wheelie attempts on my full rigid OM-Duro rattled my joints like never before. I've since upgraded to a proper mountain bike, and the front suspension has been a life saver for training.

    Last week I started to seriously put some wheelie practice in. My arms want to push forward, when I'm supposed to lean back. Convincing my subconscious to just let me lean back has been challenging. But I am slowly getting to where I'm learning the balance point. I figure once I find that balance, progress should quickly ramp up after that.

    What are your experiences, advice, downfalls, or victories while learning these bikes skills? Would love to hear them.

  2. #2
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    Welcome back to the fold. Most important advice I can give you is to have fun and enjoy the ride.

    Regarding learning new skills; I can wheelie and sort of manual. However, the amount of times I use these skills on the trail amounts to less than 1%. I do "loft" or lift my front wheel up, over and onto obstacles. Not a lot of circumstances requiring a wheelie in my neck of the woods.

    Bunny hopping, now that I do almost every ride to clear a rock, root, or gap. Start small by practicing hopping a stick or soda can in a flat grassy field or your yard. There are lots of how-to articles on the web, in magazines and on YouTube.

    Advice-if you're head is not confident of riding an obstacle/drop/jump/whatever, walk it. The trail will still be there tomorrow, next week and next year. Injuries suck and the worst part is waiting to heal and missing saddle time. There will always be someone faster than you, more skilled than you, and SO WHAT! Enjoy your ride-thats all that matters.

  3. #3
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    I'm sort of in the same boat, and I also have the benefit of trying to teach my son a lot of these same skills. One thing that has helped me that I can't get him comfortable with is being comfortable "looping out" when practicing your wheelie (meaning that you have to hop off your bike because you go too far back). I know that you should be able to feather the back brake and bring yourself back down, but to learn the good balance point, you're going to have to loop out quite a few times as well.

    My son is scared to loop out, and that's holding him back from really settling comfortably into a wheelie because he think he's going to fall backwards.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogfly View Post
    I'm sort of in the same boat, and I also have the benefit of trying to teach my son a lot of these same skills. One thing that has helped me that I can't get him comfortable with is being comfortable "looping out" when practicing your wheelie (meaning that you have to hop off your bike because you go too far back). I know that you should be able to feather the back brake and bring yourself back down, but to learn the good balance point, you're going to have to loop out quite a few times as well.

    My son is scared to loop out, and that's holding him back from really settling comfortably into a wheelie because he think he's going to fall backwards.
    Yea, I moved to the lawn yesterday exactly for that reason. It made me a lot more confident, falling on grass doesn't scare me in the least. I did loop out a couple times, and landed on my feet.

    I also practiced the loop out before I even started, based on advice from some youtube videos. Helps a lot.

  5. #5
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    I learned at 45. My thoughts captured here...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIpw8Vf3Jz4

  6. #6
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    Problem is you thought you couldn't jump, bunnyhop, wheelie your 12 speed... fun times were had as a youngster doing that.

    Not that I could ever wheelie, manual or jump that well in the first place, but I have found over the years i have lost any real ability to bunnyhop, I think FS makes it worse for me, I can still a bit on my HT and even better on my road bike (well my old one I had fun on, but I didn't mind braking that one, new one not so much). It something I should work on, but meh, having too much fun just riding crappily to work on that.
    All the gear and no idea.

  7. #7
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    I am too old to learn new tricks. my bones are more brittle

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scpage View Post
    I learned at 45. My thoughts captured here...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIpw8Vf3Jz4
    Nice video man ! You mentioned a few things I have never thought about in the wheelie learning process. Feeling any level of comfort at the 'balance point' has eluded me... scary place to be . Also being able to use the brake in a way that will keep you from looping out, yet not slam the tire to the ground is a delicate process... some day

  9. #9
    Nat
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    Quote Originally Posted by GKelley View Post
    So I figure, I'll start with the wheelie, then manual, then learn the bunnyhop. That order seems like the most logical progression to me.
    I think a bunny hop is easier than a manual.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nat View Post
    I think a bunny hop is easier than a manual.
    Yup, you can skip the manual, although i wish i could do it. I used to be able to wheelie extended distances and even steer, bunny hop a mtb bike box, but cant do a proper manual. You dont really need to be able to wheelie to bunny hop either, but the higher you can get the front, the higher you can bunny hop.
    One advice esp as you get older, wear protection. Shin gloves and helmet at minimum.

  11. #11
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    The best part of learning wheelies is the entertainment value your neighbors get from watching you wheeling up and down the street every day. Not that I do that, but I've heard it happens.

    I am pretty good at wheelies on my primary bike on pavement. I got a new bike a few weeks ago and started practicing on the new bike.

    I was foolish and stuck the gopro in the driveway and recorded my attempts on both bikes then overlaid the videos. In doing the practices, both bikes were about in a tie for distance. And I'm pretty consistent, difficult to see any separation in the video until I strayed side to side.

    The goal for videos was to check changes in body position between the two bikes. and for humor for the family members to watch.

    I can't manual. Not sure if I care. But I do like wheelies. When it goes right it feels so good. And any skills practice you can do, the better prepared you will be for trail conditions.

    I like to practice endos, or at least a harsh front brake grab, just so I know how to balance in those forward situations. Sometimes attempting a fakie (rolling backward) after an abrupt stop.

    Now get off the internet and get back out there for your neighbors' entertainment.

  12. #12
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    For me, bunny hopping is easier if I am bunny hopping a log or something on the trail, and I just commit and don't overthink it. Even just set up a 4 x 4 and just do it. Make mistakes, adjust and improve. If you crash into it modern suspension will shrug it off .
    Wheelies and the full manuals where they ride down the trail on the rear wheel are cool, but less practical, so I'd say by all means practice that if you enjoy it, but also just get out there and commit to getting over a log, approach with the right speed and confidence and get over it however you can at first.
    Like has been already said, you really just need to get your front wheel over an obstacle, and the rear will tend to follow if you are committed and with some experience of course. You don't need the full youtube one handed manuals just get the front wheel over the obstacle and you'll improve and learn.

  13. #13
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    I ride 3X/week which at 59 is plenty...the trails have always been the best way to work on my riding skills. There's plenty to challenge me around here and I have learned the hard way more than once (I call that experience). I don't spend any time 'practicing' on off days, I 'recuperate'!
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scpage View Post
    I learned at 45. My thoughts captured here...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIpw8Vf3Jz4
    Nice video, I believe your thoughts and techniques may help me improve my wheelies which I will put into practice on my next ride.

    Sent from my HTC One M9 using Tapatalk

  15. #15
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    I'll be 69 this year. (How the hell did that happen?) The skill I've been working on lately is getting my ass out to the trail.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by hogfly View Post
    I'm sort of in the same boat, and I also have the benefit of trying to teach my son a lot of these same skills. One thing that has helped me that I can't get him comfortable with is being comfortable "looping out" when practicing your wheelie (meaning that you have to hop off your bike because you go too far back). I know that you should be able to feather the back brake and bring yourself back down, but to learn the good balance point, you're going to have to loop out quite a few times as well.

    My son is scared to loop out, and that's holding him back from really settling comfortably into a wheelie because he think he's going to fall backwards.
    What might help is while standing off the bike holding onto the bars stand the bike vertically on the rear wheel then have him practice getting on the bike by stepping on the pedals and setting the front down then pedaling away...it's a loop out in reverse basically. It helps get the feel of the bike in that orientation.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturge View Post
    I ride 3X/week which at 59 is plenty...the trails have always been the best way to work on my riding skills. There's plenty to challenge me around here and I have learned the hard way more than once (I call that experience). I don't spend any time 'practicing' on off days, I 'recuperate'!
    I have issues with 'practicing' too. If I have 2hrs to spend, I would rather ride than practice wheelies in a field. But I am coming to the conclusion that if you really want to learn a skill like wheelies, it probably will take those practice sessions. My rides just don't afford me enough opportunities to practice those skills on the trails. I have tried the practice sessions, probably just not enough. For all you wheelie guys, I'm curious .. did the ability to ride the sustained wheelie come very slowly/gradually (distance wise), or did something just click one day, like a light bulb going off, and you then felt at home in the balance point ?

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by splitendz View Post
    I have issues with 'practicing' too. If I have 2hrs to spend, I would rather ride than practice wheelies in a field. But I am coming to the conclusion that if you really want to learn a skill like wheelies, it probably will take those practice sessions. My rides just don't afford me enough opportunities to practice those skills on the trails. I have tried the practice sessions, probably just not enough. For all you wheelie guys, I'm curious .. did the ability to ride the sustained wheelie come very slowly/gradually (distance wise), or did something just click one day, like a light bulb going off, and you then felt at home in the balance point ?


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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gasp4Air View Post
    I'll be 69 this year. (How the hell did that happen?) The skill I've been working on lately is getting my ass out to the trail.
    I hear ya!

    Regarding wheelies...I could wheelie pretty good as a kid but to be honest, the ability to wheelie down the street does not correlate much to the trails I ride. The skill required to QUICKLY lift front wheel to clear obstacles then get it back on the ground followed by balance and weight shift to get the rear over is much more valuable in tight technical terrain.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by splitendz View Post
    For all you wheelie guys, I'm curious .. did the ability to ride the sustained wheelie come very slowly/gradually (distance wise), or did something just click one day, like a light bulb going off, and you then felt at home in the balance point ?
    Very gradually, first I was just pedaling hard and distance could be 5-20m, then (during long time of doing bad wheelies) I found the sweetspot and how much nicer it feels but my wheelies shortened rapidly because I didn't want to just by pedaling hard and from that it took long time of practice to gradually increase the distance to where I am now, far from perfect but can do couple hundred meters (340m seems to be my record )
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by nya View Post
    Very gradually, first I was just pedaling hard and distance could be 5-20m, then (during long time of doing bad wheelies) I found the sweetspot and how much nicer it feels but my wheelies shortened rapidly because I didn't want to just by pedaling hard and from that it took long time of practice to gradually increase the distance to where I am now, far from perfect but can do couple hundred meters (340m seems to be my record )
    Curious.. once you become familiar and comfortable with the balance point, seems to me you would be able to wheelie as far and long as you want. Once you are comfortable at that point, what are your limiting factors?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by nya View Post
    Very gradually, first I was just pedaling hard and distance could be 5-20m, then (during long time of doing bad wheelies) I found the sweetspot and how much nicer it feels but my wheelies shortened rapidly because I didn't want to just by pedaling hard and from that it took long time of practice to gradually increase the distance to where I am now, far from perfect but can do couple hundred meters (340m seems to be my record )
    There is kind of a clicking point. Usually when you start youre lofting the front but not getting to the balance point. You end up keeping the front up by giving some more acceleration into the pedals. You can only do that so long. Once you get to the balance point and learn to modulate to maintain it, youre pretty golden. The issue then becomes sidewards directional control and maintaining the concentration to keep the balance.
    For learning specific skills, nothing beats sessioning. You have to repeat the actions to learn them. Just riding a trail often doesnt get enough repetition to efficiently learn.
    I can think of at least one trail feature where good wheeling skills pay off, uphill switchbacks. You could try crawling through the switch back, or hopping the front wheel over, but nothing beats the slickness of riding up to it and as the front rises and youre starting to lean into the turn pull it into a wheelie and pivot the front around and put it back down pointed perfectly up the exit!

  23. #23
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    I'm 48 and trying not to fall asleep on sanitized flow trails. Yawn...
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by splitendz View Post
    Curious.. once you become familiar and comfortable with the balance point, seems to me you would be able to wheelie as far and long as you want. Once you are comfortable at that point, what are your limiting factors?
    That is like juggling, you can juggle quite well for decent time yet lose it often. Balancing is very complex activity with a lot of random inputs.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by nya View Post
    That is like juggling, you can juggle quite well for decent time yet lose it often. Balancing is very complex activity with a lot of random inputs.
    That is a really good analogy.

    I found wheeling (like Juggling) is something that is "relatively" easy to learn but really hard to get good at.
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  26. #26
    Nat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    I'm 48 and trying not to fall asleep on sanitized flow trails. Yawn...
    Elderly people do need naps. Shhhh! Grandpa is sleeping!

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by splitendz View Post
    Curious.. once you become familiar and comfortable with the balance point, seems to me you would be able to wheelie as far and long as you want. Once you are comfortable at that point, what are your limiting factors?
    Not me, because I can't wheelie for crap, but for guys that are really good at it, only running out of room or energy seem to be the limiting factors.

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  28. #28
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    I'm mid-40s and have been riding about 10 yrs. Started out riding XC, but have been really loving technical riding the last few years. My line picking and power have always been good, but my cornering and jumping skills were lacking. (I still can't wheelie. I'm convinced I don't have the gene.)

    My local trails started getting more and more jumps put in. I became the master of absorbing jumps and doing anything to keep my tires on the ground. Dead Sailor was my only jumping trick. It got to the point though that it was killing my flow, slowing me down, and getting frustrating.

    Then a local bike park opened that, due to their trail designs, really encouraged progression. I started hitting small table tops. And when I got comfortable with those, I moved on to bigger tables. I started being able to correct the bike attitude in the air and not freezing up. Then came doubles. Total mind game. I cased a few, got frustrated with myself, and just told myself "no brake checking!" The feeling of hitting the backside of a double cleanly is euphoric. Jumping became fun. Little doubles became big doubles.

    Adding this one skill made my local trails so much more fun. I started picking off mastering doubles one by one, adding a 1 or 2 each ride. I still haven't mastered them all. The mind game is tough to overcome. The bigger ones I have to mentally force myself to try. Most I end up laughing at how easy they really were, but some aren't so easy. Some bite back. Then it's back to the mental game of forcing myself to try again. At the end of the day chasing that feeling of a clean backside landing keeps me trying.

    At 46 yo I still feel like I'm improving as a rider. I'm not looking forward to that day when I remember how good I used to be.

  29. #29
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    I can wheelie... not as good as when I was a kid.

    But, when you're 8-9 you practice it all day ^^

    My riding time is precious & not as regular as I would like. So, I spend the time I have on steep, tight, twisty, technical trails. Where wheelies aren't actually that useful.

    Can't manual for sh1t o_0

    I can do what I call mini-manuals i.e. enough to clear holes/small streams on trails. If time weren't a factor, I'm sure I could manual better...

    Like practising my huckin. Prefer distance over height... steep take offs for some reason do my head in. A good old fashion ramp & I'll happily get into double digits.

    Practice what's important for you & you'll get better at it ^^

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  30. #30
    Nat
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    A good old fashion ramp & I'll happily get into double digits.
    Double digits of what?

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vader View Post
    I'm 48 and trying not to fall asleep on sanitized flow trails. Yawn...
    I got some flow trails you won't fall asleep on.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    Like practising my huckin. Prefer distance over height... (Blah... blah). A good old fashion ramp & I'll happily get into double digits.

    'Born to ride!'


    Quote Originally Posted by Nat View Post
    Double digits of what?
    Think he meant distance...

    mm, cm, m, inch, ft, yd...??

    Not sure on unit(s) though ;-P


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