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July 12, 2012 / Brooklyn news / Park Slope / Brooklyn Is Awesome

Eddie Carmona shows adults how to bike

Brooklyn’s adult cycling instructor teaches grown-ups how to bike

The Brooklyn Paper
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They say you never forget how to ride a bike, unless you never learned in the first place.

That’s where Eddie Carmona — the borough’s only adult-focused “independent cycling instructor” — comes in.

With Prospect Park as his training ground, the bike mechanic–cum–cycling guru has taught dozens of grown-ups (so far, all of them women) to let go of their fears and grab onto the handlebars over the past five years.

Part coach, part accidental therapist, part professor of the street, Carmona uses a combination of old-fashioned pep talks, intuition and mind tricks to help his students overcome their fear of failure and embarrassment — concerns that only grow bigger with age.

“Kids are easy but it’s really mental for adults — they have a lot of fear,” said Carmona. “So I work on the mind first.”

Carmona said he often focuses on overcoming bike-related childhood scars, both literal and figurative.

In one case, a woman was desperate to learn to bike so she could keep up with her outdoorsy husband. She was in great shape physically, but her memories of learning to ride were semi-traumatic because of an incident with her dad as a kid.

“He didn’t have the patience,” Carmona said. “He told her she’d never learn, to give up and buy a car.”

So Carmona took the opposite approach: he worked with her, persistently, once a week for six months — first focusing balancing, then riding short distances, and eventually cruising around the length of the entire 3.35-mile Prospect Park roadway, he said.

According to researchers, only three percent of Americans say the main reason they don’t regularly ride bicycles in the summer is because they don’t know how — and in cycling-obsessed Brooklyn, finding an adult who can’t ride is like finding a two-headed bike helmet.

One of Carmona’s clients had managed to make it through living in the borough without biking, but she didn’t want to be the only two-wheel challenged girl in her college town.

Problem was, she had long ago smashed into a fence while learning to ride, wounding her face and her confidence.

To bust through those memories, Carmona pumped her full of positive reinforcement.

“You control the bike! You are the bike’s brain!” he’d shout — and her fear faded.

Most of his students, who pay $25 per hour, prefer to learn on low-riding bikes, such as fold-ups or BMXs, before moving to taller ones.

Carmona never uses training wheels, nor does he try the “I won’t let go” trick — used by sneaky parents around the world — saying instead that he prefers to let students find their own sense of gravity.

But he does use mind games to help students forget they’re scared.

“I’ll say, ‘Tell me about your husband.’ They start talking and all of a sudden they’ve ridden around the park and they don’t even realize it,” said Carmona, who works part-time Dixon’s Bicycle Shop, has the word “Brooklyn” tattooed on his upper arm, and is prone to passionate rants about obeying road rules.

Carmona has no website or storefront and relies instead on word of mouth and a stack of business cards to find customers, which also include kids in Park Slope.

A spokeswoman for the bike advocacy group League of American Cyclists, Carolyn Szczepanski, said Carmona isn’t the only adult-focused bike instructor in the country — but his approach is unconventional.

Many teachers take “licensed cycling instructor” courses, then register with the agency for credibility — although it’s not required, she said.

“Some people choose to take seminars; others build name recognition in their community,” she said.

For now, Carmona is happy with simple street cred.

“I always wanted to be a teacher and I’ve always loved bikes,” he said. “So this is kind of perfect.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

ty from pps says:
Why does the Brooklyn Paper website barely function?
July 12, 2012, 6:38 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Teach them what a red light means.

Teach them not to ride with both ears covered with headphones.

Teach them what lights are, and how to use them after dark.

Teach them that these things, and they have a good chance of not being a white bike.
July 12, 2012, 7:01 am
S from PPW says:
You really expose yourself as a knee-jerk anti-bike nutjob when you have something negative to say about a guy who teaches people to ride bikes.

This is a great story! No need for any negativity whatsoever, though I am looking forward to hearing Tal Barzilai's thoughts on the subject.
July 12, 2012, 10:26 am
Ben from Greenpoint says:
Or from Yellow Hook: you damn right should be a five hour class teaching and instruction how to follow rules and regulations like stopping for red flashers of school buses etc. o btw must of bikers are not following rules and regulations according fox5 news channel...

July 12, 2012, 10:54 am
Ted from Park Slope says:
Hey, Or and Ben...just get a room already!
July 12, 2012, 1:04 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Knee jerk anti bike?

Every thing I mentioned is a positive practice that will add to the safety of the bike rider.

Watch your own flailing knees there.
July 12, 2012, 1:05 pm
ty from pps says:
Or -- Come on. You know the intended tone of your dumb post. It wasn't a positive message. You were being a d*ck. It's OK. That's what you are. You're a unpleasant person. Just don't try to say you intended to be positive and supportive.
July 12, 2012, 1:42 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Ty, Ty, Ty,

Reading is so difficult for you.

You see what isn't there and you don't see what you don't like.
July 12, 2012, 2:09 pm
ty from pps says:
Please, Or. Get off it. Do you really think professional bicycle lessons don't cover road rules and safety? Ya know, especially seeing that the instructor featured in the article was described as "prone to passionate rants about obeying road rules."

You know you were just being your typical jerky self. You were trying to make a point... and it wasn't positive. It was obnoxious.
July 12, 2012, 2:16 pm
S from PPW says:
The only thing more certain than ignorant, hate-filled posts from Or are pointless responses from Ty. Where's Tal?
July 12, 2012, 2:18 pm
ty from pps says:
Thanks, S. I love you too.
July 12, 2012, 2:31 pm
Liz from WT says:
Geez, who is this Or from Yellow Hook?
Get a job!
July 12, 2012, 2:36 pm
ken from Clinton Hill says:
guys its about time to stop this non sense comments, would be a excellent idea to fix the economy by getting a real job!!!
July 12, 2012, 3:19 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Got it wrong again Brooklyn Paper. Simple rules of the English language forbid using "adult" and "cycling" in the same sentence.
July 12, 2012, 3:28 pm
Malembi from BK says:
Swamp——
July 12, 2012, 4:26 pm
ty from pps says:
Swampy,
Shouldn't you be cleaning your garage and driveway like a "real" Brooklynite?
July 12, 2012, 4:26 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Sorry, Malembi,
Should have mentioned it's OK to use "adult" and "diaper" in the same sentence too.
July 12, 2012, 5:48 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:

ty,
Back and forth from Brooklyn to the Bronx today. Just can't get to from Brooklyn to the Bronx in 25 minutes by bike or Public Transportation. just can't be done. You would like to thinks bikes are the answer but how am I supposed to get to the Bronx quickly with a laptop and 40 lb's of construction drawings? by bike? No, I am a grown up with grown up responsibilities. It's not like peddling off to a barista job. Real men with real jobs. You have no idea. now go play in the park. don't let the brown people bite
July 12, 2012, 5:52 pm
ty from pps says:
Swampy -- Really? The MILLIONS of New Yorkers that don't carry "real man" things for work don't have real jobs? For example, almost ALL of the people that work on the construction site... Do you honestly think what you wrote is intelligent?

Who ever said cars, trucks and ships weren't appropriate forms of transportation?

Do you know WHY you could actually drive from Brooklyn to the Bronx? It's because the MILLIONS of people that take the subway, the millions that take buses, the almost 20,000 people commuting by bicycles, and the MILLIONS walking... What if everyone was a "real man" like you and drove to work? Hmm?
July 12, 2012, 6:12 pm
ty from pps says:
I'm assuming the building your constructing has a parking spot for each future worker, right?
July 12, 2012, 6:13 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Ty,
about 80%. It's a 24x7 facility and the nearest subway is over a mile away. Can't have people cycling in for a midnight to 8 in January now can we? Bikes are cute but critical City Services need real infrastructure. If we rely on bikes people would die
July 12, 2012, 6:33 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
ty,
most of the folks on the construction site bring their own tools. Steel workers, carpenters, electricians. Real men, real tools, real transportation.
The simple fact remains you can not get from Brooklyn to the Bronx in 20 minutes, except by car. It just can not be done. Come on wise ass. I'm calling you on this one. tell me which subway, bus or bike lane gets you from Brooklyn to the Bronx in less than 30 minutes? Waiting on you
July 12, 2012, 6:38 pm
mike from GP says:
Ty, etc.

please, please. Know-nothings like Swampy, Or and Tal don't get it and never will. Let them stew in their own ignorance.
July 12, 2012, 6:46 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Thanks mike,
you do know this article was about adult cycling lessons, no? Must be lonely on the intellectual pinnacle of civilized thought. I guess your idea of letting me stew is by posting comments that a 6th grader would find trite. I'm truly crushed
July 12, 2012, 7:04 pm
mike from GP says:
Sounds like a great service -- props to Carmona!
July 12, 2012, 7:18 pm
ty from pps says:
Swampy --
Again, who is denying that cars, trucks and ships aren't appropriate forms of transportation for various purposes? (MOST commuting does not fall under that category. MOST people in the city don't carry hammers and riveting guns to work.)

20 mins, eh? Either you're (a) lying, (b) break all sorts of laws, (c) you have a police escort with lights and sirens, or (d) you're talking about driving from the NORTHWESTERNMOST point in Brooklyn to the SOUTHEASTERNMOST point in the Bronx at 5:00am.
July 12, 2012, 7:34 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Brooklyn Navy Yard, BQE to LIE, to Whitestone expressway, Whitestone Bridge to the hutch exit 3, East Tremont. no traffic 17 minutes. Going back, not so good. Always get hung up at the Kosciuszko Bridge
your move Einstein
July 12, 2012, 7:42 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
to be fair, it's usually closer to 30 minutes at about 10 am. Today was good. Less traffic in the summer. Coming back can be up to an hour, but the train ALWAYS is 1:45 plus
July 12, 2012, 7:45 pm
Mike says:
So because one specific person has a commute that's easier and faster by car, no one else can reasonably commute by bike?
July 12, 2012, 8:55 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
It's time for me to come clean. I don't really have a job. Or a car. Or my own house. I live in my parents' basement. It's how I'm able to post on these stories thirty times a day.
The truth is, I'm jealous of all the svelte, intelligent people--lawyers, doctors, professors, even carpenters and construction workers (after all, anyone with half a brain working on a construction site locks their tools up at night in a Jobox so they don't have to drive them back and forth every day)--who ride bicycles, while my pimply bloated ass would crush any kind of transport without a steel suspension springs.
The only thing that keeps me going is my power fantasies of driving a vehicle to an important job--ignoring the fact that the majority of New Yorkers do not own cars and use public transportation to commute, and that it has been that way for since both cars and public transportation were invented, and that the construction of major highways in New York City is universally agreed to have benefited suburbanites at the expense of city dwellers and to have contributed to the decline of New York City in the second half of the 20th Century--and that I get to act out that fantasy persona under the cloak of Internet invisibility, without the threat of anybody ever finding out the truth about me. Also, I have an extremely small penis. I need a magnifying glass to use a urinal.
July 12, 2012, 9:40 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
SwampYankee, it is impossible to get from Brooklyn to the Bronx in 20 minutes. Even without traffic in the middle of the night, even in a cop car with siren blazing. I drive that route all the time, and it is highly improbable to cover that distance in even double that time. Most days, most trips, it's an hour because there are other cars on the road.
July 13, 2012, 9:58 am
John Wasserman from Tribeca says:
Forgive me for suggesting this, but it seems to me that this "Swamp Yankee" character has personal issues with himself. He speaks of being a man, adult diapers, and "tools". He seems to have a lot of time to write postings on this website. Now, I don't want to start any trouble here today, but I find it sad that some people will live their whole lives inside of a closet. I don't think these people are being fair to themselves and, frankly, it can sometimes come of as annoying, amoung other things, to the ones he chooses to target.
July 13, 2012, 12:16 pm
Malembi from BK says:
Total closet homo bully
July 13, 2012, 12:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
That last comment from SwampYankee wasn't really him, it was nothing more than impersonation that was probably done by one these bike zealots to insult him. You guys really do sink to a new low here. Getting back to the subject, these adults should be taught how ride bicycles responsibly and NOT by trying to act as if they are holier than thou. I do suggest they stay away from groups such as Transportation Alternatives and Critical Mass let alone a blog know as Streetsblog, who will probably tell them that riding bicycles responsibly are for losers and not to be part of the system that they are trying to fight everyday. Also, they should make bicycles part of the DMV in which they must be required to have their bicycles licensed, registered, and insured just like all other vehicles are. Why should they have a right to ride on the roads when all others aren't? Are bicycles vehicles or are they not?
July 13, 2012, 4:33 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
No, Tal, it's really me. It was time for me to come out admit the truth: that I'm a sad, fat, ugly, ugly man with a negligible sex organ overcompensating by posing as a tough guy in local newspaper comment threads. Looking back at all my past posts, they're all pretty transparent: the real me shows through in every one.
Now I have to reveal another one of my secrets: I'm not really from Brooklyn. I'm from Kalamazoo, Michigan, born and raised. In fact, it's where I still live. That's why I claim to be able to travel about New York City at an impossible speeds: because I've never been to New York City, and don't know anything at all about the massive bind-ups that occur every hour on its major expressways--all of which are bicycle free. It also explains my astounding ignorance of how the introduction of major highways resulted in exploding asthma rates among New York natives, and are correlated with ever-increasing obesity rates, and that city planners constructed most of the highway system by deliberately destroying working and middle class neighborhoods. And of how people living in New York City still rely overwhelmingly on public transportation to commute. And of how many Brooklyn streets were laid out at a time when bicycle commuting was extremely common.

God, I feel so much better with all that off my chest. Though my penis is still tiny. So very, very tiny.
July 13, 2012, 9:49 pm

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