Katie Archibald column: ‘I’m not wheelie bad, I’m tragic’

"So you’re trying to do wheelies to impress that boy," she said to me. I was pretty embarrassed.

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On training camp last week we rode down to the supermarket one lunch
to buy sneaky snacks (I bought a Kinder Surprise and some hair dye) on our road bikes and trainers. Since we were in flats I thought it was a good time to practise wheelies. I never usually try because I’m scared I’ll fall backwards clipped in and land on my bum. This is extra funny for the fact I’m nowhere close to being able to lift my front wheel off the ground, never mind actually fall all the way backwards. Elinor Barker described my attempts as making it look like I wasn’t riding a bike, but being bucked off a horse.

I can’t do something that resembles enough of a wheelie in order to prefix it with the adjective ‘bad’. I can’t bring myself to say I’m ‘wheelie bad’ in case it makes the situation sound cute when in actuality it’s tragic.

I’m really bad.

Later that evening someone sent me a video of them doing a backflip on a bike. It was (as I expect you could gather from the description) pretty cool, so I showed Elinor. Instead of going, “oh that person went upside and then the right way up again, wow,” she just started laughing. “So you’re trying to do wheelies to impress that boy,” she said to me. I was pretty embarrassed. What she revealed was that I’m not just bad at wheelies, I’m practising with such clumsily superficial motives that I’m clearly never going to get good.

I’m already seeing that boy though, and I’ve so far not had to use any wheelies for attention. I’m typing this while he drives us back from Fort William (we’ve been watching the downhill World Cup while I’m on a recovery weekend). It was pretty good and I’m pretty recovered.

I’m doing a track race in Italy next week so starting to get a bit panicked I’m bad at riding bikes, as is the norm when competition approaches and form leaves with stage fright. Fingers crossed it will return before next week. I might be bad at riding with one wheel in the air, but I’m usually alright at riding with both wheels on the ground going fast.