I am very fond of mouting bicycles this way:

  1. Stand to the left of the bike.

  2. Put the left foot on the left pedal.

  3. Push forward with the right foot to set the bike in motion.

  4. Swing the right leg over the back of the saddle, sitting on it as the move is carried out.

You can see it at 0:51 in this video.

However, Sheldon Brown advises against that technique, which he calls "the cowboy monut":

The cowboy mount places the rider's weight on the bicycle while it is leaning over at a sharp angle. This puts considerable lateral stress on the frame and the wheels. Bicycle wheels, in particular, are not designed to withstand serious sideways stresses, and this poor mounting technique is very hard on your wheels.

I don't have one tenth of Sheldon's expertise on bicycles, but that explanation seems insufficient because

  1. The angle involved in the cowboy mount is nearly perpendicular to the ground (as the video shows).

  2. On curves, bicycles are certainly subject to sharper angles than on the cowboy mount.

  3. Warning against "sideway stresses" sounds insubstantial. I can't imagine anything worse than a unbalance and subsequent fall happening.

Instead, Sheldon advises the rider to start by standing astride the frame. Indeed, this provides the most controlled start, especially in irregular or ascending terrain, but it also takes more time to set off than the cowboy mount.

Assuming regular, flat terrain, are Sheldon Brown's arguments against the cowboy mount solid and thus should the classical mount (or maybe some other mount) be preferred, or is it exaggerated?

  • 7
    Any way you can manage it is fine. Oct 5, 2020 at 12:04
  • 2
    Surprised there is no Rule to cover this.
    – mattnz
    Oct 5, 2020 at 19:52
  • 2
    Calling the most elegant way to mount a bicycle a cowboy mount either means (a) Sheldon Brown had something entirely different in mind or (b) he did not know what he was talking about in this case.
    – gschenk
    Oct 5, 2020 at 23:43
  • 3
    Frankly it doesn't matter how you get on, just that you DO get on and ride successfully. This "good way" to do something is okay, but making it a "right way" and requiring someone to do it in a specific way is called gatekeeping, and is a barrier to entry for new people.
    – Criggie
    Oct 6, 2020 at 0:45
  • 1
    I do the cowboy mount, too. On a tour one of my friends commented that I was quite graceful getting on a bike. It was the first time in my seven decades that I had been called graceful. I'll never change. Oct 6, 2020 at 2:53

5 Answers 5


I do not buy the stressing argument, any sprint out of the saddle will stress many parts of your bike much more.

I would only be concerned with your stability during that mount and the risk of a fall in harder terrain when running. And the issue of possible slip of an unclipped left foot from a clipless pedal that may not support an unclipped foot enough - that depends on the type of your shoes and pedals.

The cyclocross mount that is most often taught is similar, but from the ground straight on the saddle. Only then you clip both of your feet. But if you dismounted with the usual technique to the left before, your cranks will be in the same position as you have them so if it is easier for you, I would continue using the cowboy mount.

  • 8
    Anecdotally, I've observed that when we don't really like something, even for trivial reasons, we can often articulate some reasons why we think it might be a bad idea. Sheldon was wise, but his explanation about why the cowboy style mount is a bad idea seems like it might have been offered in that vein. I agree that I don't see how it can impose lateral loads beyond what the wheels or frame are designed for.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Oct 5, 2020 at 15:19
  • 1
    @Carel I do not think that contradicts my answer. The left crank is down after the dismount, the right up. You jump on the saddle and yes, you hit the right crank sooner, because it is up and the right leg is moving down from the jump. But whether you clip the foot sooner - maybe you are experienced enough to guarantee that, but I cannot, I start to padle and become clipped in the process. Oct 5, 2020 at 18:13
  • It doesn't stress the bike any different from pedalling out of the saddle. You push the left pedal down. If the bike is not righted at that moment the force will still push roughly in the plane of the wheels with no more side load than pushing on a pedal always does. If you want to consider cyclocross, look at the dismount, where the rider coasts on the left pedal with both legs on the left. ps.: hardly anyone rides with clipless pedals. What is more, this is a typical city bike mounting.
    – gschenk
    Oct 5, 2020 at 23:49
  • @gschenk Clipless pedals are just more in my mind when it comes to a possible slip but city bike pedals can slip too. I have slipped from a flat pedal and broken my wrist. Also, I am among those commuting on clipless. Oct 6, 2020 at 5:31
  • @VladimirF: I deleted and corrected the comment: Cyclocrossers nearly always jump onto the saddle from the left side and get the right foot clipped in first. They also mostly carry and run AT THE LEFT SIDE of their bike, it was meant to say. Jumping on, clipping in and starting to pedal simultaneously requires some training to get it right, true.
    – Carel
    Oct 6, 2020 at 7:32

You need to realize that sideway stresses do not equate to an angled bike. Instead, sideway stresses on wheels depend on the angle between the force that the road exerts on your tires and the plane of the tire.

Note that there is no "plane of the road" in this: The angle between the bike and the road is totally irrelevant. When you ride straight, your bike is vertical, and the force transmitted to your bike is vertical. When you lean into a corner, the force is not vertical anymore, it is directed towards the inner side to actually accelerate your body mass. And the direction of the force is again flush with the orientation of your bike. Otherwise, you would topple over.

The only way to put sideway stress on your wheels, is by moving your center of gravity out of the plane of your wheels. I.e., you need to go out of the saddle, and then slant your bike to one side. People pedaling hard do this all the time, rocking the bike from side to side, without moving their center of gravity along.

The extend to which out-of-saddle pedaling can stress the wheels is rather limited: You are still constrained by a) having both feet on the pedals, and b) the top tube between your legs (if you ride a diamond frame, that is).

The cowboy mount, however, does not have this restriction. On the contrary: You start with your center of gravity way out of plane. You put your entire weight only on a single pedal. If you start with your bike vertical, you are first accelerating your center of mass towards the bike (by pushing with your right foot), and rely on your tires to stop this motion (so that you can end up with the bike beneath you). And this acceleration is very much out of plane, easily putting more sideway stress on your wheels than when you are pedaling out of saddle.

That said, bikes should be able to handle the cowboy mount. At least if they are built for durability (* cough, cough *) rather than race performance.

  • When rocking the bike out of the saddle in 500 W I would really expect much more stress on the tyres than when just gently stepping on a pedal. It is also common to ride for some distance on a single pedal when dismounting and I have never heard of anything bad coming out of that. Unless one looses controle, that is. Oct 6, 2020 at 22:15
  • @VladimirF I have never heard of either a cowboy mount or cyclocross dismount breaking a wheel, nor have I heard of a wheel breaking due to out-of-saddle riding. Wheels are generally strong enough to handle these lateral stresses. - When you ride out-of-saddle, you are generally putting a lot of torque on your handle bar, and that torque counteracts a large part of the torque that you put on your pedals. The net lateral forces that remain for your wheels to handle are strictly due to the angle between your wheels and the support force from the road. And that angle remains small. Oct 7, 2020 at 6:30
  • What I mainly meant are the stresses on the tyre. They cannot be dismissed so easily. There is friction that holds the contact patch in one place. and the wheel above it rocks. However, it is all complicated by the rolling motion. I cannot claim I know the answer, but I would not dismiss it so simply. Oct 7, 2020 at 11:33
  • @VladimirF Just think a moment about what happens when the road applies a force on the tire that is not directed towards the center of gravity: Such a force will exert a torque on the bike that will make it slant to one side. You create very small such forces when steering, which allow you to lean into corners. If these forces are any more than small, you will instantly topple over. As a consequence, virtually the entire force that the road applies on the tires must be directed at your center of gravity. You are constantly steering to keep it this way, lest you topple over... Oct 7, 2020 at 12:52
  • That is not completely true you are counteracting to various of these forces by changing your centre of gravity. That's why it is possible to ride just on on one paddle or completely to he side of your saddle. That's why the force does point into the centre of gravity, but that very cog is always at a different place with respect to the wheel. We are speaking about a stress here, formed by applying forcing at the contact patch and at the rim. That is held together by elastic forces that maintain this stress. Oct 7, 2020 at 13:00

As postulated by others, this seems clearly exaggerated. While riding up a mountain hard (out of the saddle), a significant portion of the whole body weight is on each pedal all the time, and this can go on for hundreds of repetitions, depending on the endurance of the rider.

That said having only that technique for mounting your bike in your arsenal is still bad. One further point why the technique you mentioned (starting with one foot on the pedal, and then swinging up the other) is not optimal is that it is a dynamic motion. Even if it doesn't hurt the bike, it hurts your own technique. If you are in a rocky, steep nontrivial terrain, you do absolutely not want to start that way, but you want to find a technique that starts very static and controlled, possibly ending up in you doing a trail stand on your bike. It's all about control.


You are more likely to fall off that way than if you do it correctly.

Put right leg over bike and into pedal clip on right. Raise right pedal. Use left leg to push off then lift body onto seat and insert left foot in pedal on left while starting to pedal with right foot then continue with left yada yada.

  • 2
    "use left leg to push off"? Really? Just stand up on your right foot. Foot goes down, pedal goes down, bike goes forward. Pushing off left-footed means that you're already sitting on the saddle while you've got a foot on the ground, and that means your saddle is too low.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 6, 2020 at 16:15
  • I think that's why it says "Use left leg to push off then lift body onto seat ", not the other way round
    – ojs
    Oct 7, 2020 at 9:32

I would argue that any mounting technique that allows you to start riding the bike is correct.

I use primarily the technique you describe as I feel I'ts agile, stable and quick.

The argument of side load is bogus. If a bike broke during that maneuver It is unsuitable for riding. Also, it is the same as applying all of your weight on just one pedal. The angle would be the angle needed to keep the tire contact points in line with your body and bike's combined center of mass. In order to increase the angle, you'd need to perform a pretty weird mounting (or you are performing acrobatics rather than just riding).

However, there are a few situations where the cowboy mounting is less advisable or not suitable.

When riding a bike that has a loaded rear rack, the swing required may be too much to be comfortable, and depending on what you're carrying, the prospect of hitting your leg against it can be enough of a deterrent. (From experience I know it hurts a lot more on the downswing). Sometimes I've found myself carrying tall loads that would impede completely the cowboy mounting.

The other situation is when you are in a crowded space, like in a group ride or in a crowded street during a commute. It is very easy to loose track of whether you would hit somebody. You may check before, but for when you execute the movement, someone may have entered your movement path. You could also swing your leg too close for someone else's comfort. Finally, some loose matter from your shoe may fly into someones face, etc.

In those situations, for safety and for the sake of avoiding awkward situations, I mount by lifting one leg over the top tube.

Also, for starting on inclined, loose or irregular terrain, It's easier and sometimes the only way. When I need to start on a very steep uphill, on a mountain trail with loose rocks and roots I do leg over top tube, clip that foot (usually the right one) and lift the pedal near the top. At this point, I don't push on the ground with remaining foot in order to advance, I use the pedal instead. As soon as I start pushing on the pedal, lift the other foot and place it on the pedal. If done quick enough, I catch the pedal before the upstroke ends and is ready for the down stroke.

In conclusion, having more than one mounting technique is advisable and helpful, but ultimately anything that accomplishes the objective and does not hurt yourself nor others and does not damage your bike is correct.

  • 1
    Another disfavorable situation: If the rider is wearing large shorts/pants, he may not be able to complete the movement. Yeah, I'm saying that from experience :) In that scenario, certify that no one is around or use another mounting technique.
    – user39828
    Oct 6, 2020 at 17:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.