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Monthly Archives: October 2011

In August 1999, John S. Allen visited St. Louis at my invitation to conduct the first-ever St. Louis Bicycle Transportation Symposium. Allen is a leading expert on the subject of bicycle transportation and has written extensively on the subject, including the comprehensive and highly recommended booklet “Street Smarts“, available from Rubel BikeMaps. (You can learn more about it directly from John Allen’s bicycling website at

While here, Allen demonstrated some of his fundamental teaching techniques, including the correct way to start a bicycle, called the Stand-over Mount. He also demonstrated three others – the Cowboy Mount, The Shuffle Mount, and The Flying Leap – that are not recommended. Evidently many who bicycle or give advice on bicycling lack knowledge on the preferred way to start and stop a bicycle.

Electra Townie comfort bike

For example, the “Your Time” section of TIME magazine of July 26, 2004, recommends the Electra Townie bicycle shown at right, which features an unusually low saddle, for ‘rusty or neophyte adult riders.’ The article concludes:
‘The Townie’s innovative design also lets you place both feet on the ground when stopped, so you don’t have to wobble on your tippy-toes at traffic lights. This should lessen your chances (and your fear, if you have it) of falling.’

The author of this comment clearly doesn’t know the correct way to start and stop a regular bicycle, and believes you remain seated on the saddle when stopped, which is something I frequently observe, even among experienced cyclists.

Starting and stopping a bicycle are such fundamental operations – after learning to balance – that it’s surprising that they are not taught routinely. Theresa James, aged 13 at the time I shot this, demonstrates the preferred start/stop technique on the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Ferguson, Missouri, in July, 2004. The video is posted on YouTube:

NOTE: Theresa’s bike is not equipped with mini-toe clips, which I use and recommend and which just grip the front of the shoe (see photo below). The lack of such toe clips leads to three problems:

Strapless mini-toe clip

1) Theresa’s foot slips forward on the pedal so the ball of the foot is not centered over the pedal axle, which is the optimum position. Consequently, she is losing important leverage.

2) Instead of being able to use the toe clip to lift the pedal back up to the start position she has to remove her foot and lift the pedal from underneath and then place it back on the pedal.

3) Her foot is more likely to slip off the pedal, especially when pressing hard, which can lead to loss of control and a fall either onto the top tube (not likely with this frame) or the road.

I also recommend that those just starting to learn this technique lower their saddle so they can place both feet firmly on the ground until they acquire the confidence and skill they need, and then raise the saddle to the optimum height where the knee is slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Below is a detailed written description of the above technique.


N.B. Whichever pedal is the one used to start is referred to as the “Power pedal.” For control, keep the brake(s) applied until you’re ready to start.

Step 1. Lift the Power pedal to the 2 o’clock start position. (In the absence of toe-clips, this must be done by placing the foot under the Power pedal to lift it to the start position.)

Step 2. Press down firmly on the Power pedal to start, at the same time lifting yourself up onto the saddle.

Step 3. Press down on the non-power pedal and continue pedaling.

Step 4. As you speed up, change to progressively higher gears by using the rear derailleur to move the chain from the large rear sprocket to smaller sprockets.

Note: For a faster start, e.g. if starting off to cross an intersection from a stop light, keep pedaling without immediately sitting on the saddle.


Step 1. Change down to low gear by using the rear derailleur to move the chain to the largest rear sprocket. (If you’re going to be starting on an incline, consider also moving the chain to a smaller chainring using the front derailleur.)

Step 2. Stop pedaling, with the Power pedal in the 6 o’clock position.

Step 3. Start braking to slow down, using both front and back brakes together, or just the front brake if braking gently.

Step 4. Just before braking to a stop, swing yourself off the saddle, supporting your weight on your Power pedal, and place the other foot on the ground to stop from falling.

Step 5. Raise the Power pedal to the 2 o’clock position ready to start again.

The late Sheldon Brown wrote on this subject extensively, and included the video of Theresa James posted above for illustration. He details the four ways to start and the drawbacks with each apart from the Stand-over Mount recommended here. Please click on:

Please feel free to use or distribute this page provided attribution is made to: Martin Pion, “Think Bicycling!”