Friday, April 27, 2012 at 5 a.m.
For bicycle geeks, a well-executed manual is a thing of beauty. While a typical wheelie involves yanking up the front wheel and pedaling like a madman, a manual demands a thrust of the hips and flick of the wrists to get the bike coasting -- no pedaling once the front wheel lifts off.
Those with enough talent make it look like an effortless everyday stunt, but anyone who has tried to master the skill knows it's an extraordinarily difficult exercise in balance.
Plantation teenager Zach Hutelin recently set the world record for longest manual, so we decided to catch up with him to ask about what life as a world record holder in tenth grade is like.
The Pulp: So how did you know you could set a world record for longest manual?
Well, I heard that 334 feet was the original record. I realized it was far, but not that far, and at first I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it. I started working on it and beat the record [unofficially] after a day or two. Then I worked on it for a while and realized I could actually double the record.
How long was your record-setting manual?
It was 686 feet. I had done ones that were over 800 feet long before the official day.
Why didn't you hit 800 feet when the Guinness folks were around?
It was super windy that day. While I was riding, I kept jerking around. It was so gusty with the cross winds.
No offense, but 686 feet doesn't seem that long. Is it?
It has to be done on a flat road or an uphill to count as a world record. I had an official survey company come out to the road that I set the record on, and it was actually slightly uphill. It was 800 feet long or something, and it went up like three feet.
Were you nervous?
Yea, a little bit. I knew I could do it, so it wasn't a superbig deal. But I thought it was just going to be five or ten people watching, and there were like 50 people.
Did you set the record on your first try?
I did it on my 15th try. I couldn't get it in the wind. I knew I had all afternoon, but it was just one of those things. I was thinking like "What if I don't get it? It will be such a big bummer." But it worked out.
Has anyone challenged you or set out to break your record?
No, not officially. There are a bunch of people online who say how easy it is and how they could break it in their sleep. But I think a lot of people are confused and don't understand that it has to be done on flat ground.
What a bunch of jerks. If someone beats your record, will you try to beat it?
Zachary Hutelin - Longest Manual from John Hutelin on Vimeo.
What's the trick to doing a long manual?
Most people think you pull with your elbows, but you're pulling with your shoulders. You pull back with your shoulders, and you bend your knees instead of bending your elbows for balance.
Where do you go to high school?
American Heritage in Plantation. I'm in tenth grade.
Are you a bike nerd?
If that's possible, then maybe.
Do you use your status as a world record holder to impress high school girls?
I don't think I need to.
Oh, so do you have a girlfriend?
Do you race bikes, or do you just ride across flat roads on one wheel?
I race downhill and dual slalom.
Are you sponsored?
Yea, by Bicycle Generation. They're a bike shop in Deerfield Beach. And Specialized has helped me out.
Is it weird being a mountain biker in a state that has absolutely no mountains?
I don't know about weird, but I'd say it's challenging. It would be nice to have mountains, but I don't have to deal with winter, so that's a plus. There's a bunch of BMX riders I can train with.
Hutelin at a recent mountain bike race.
What's the worst injury you've sustained while riding a bike?
I've broken my collarbone, and I've broken my nose.
How do you break your nose while riding a bike?
I was wearing a half-shell helmet, and I aired out of a half pipe. I went to turn around in the air, but my front wheel clipped the deck, where it's flat. My bike stopped, and I went forward and slammed into the ground. Supposedly I didn't move for five minutes, and I didn't remember stuff for like a half hour. I remember riding my bike and then waking up in the hospital.
That sounds brutal. Were you OK?
My nose was wayyyy off to the right. It got scooted over, so I had to get it scooted back.
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