When I was younger everyone had a bicycle. They were all the rage. One of the coolest I ever had was one with an awesome green metal-flake banana seat with a sissy bar. The grips actually had tassels! It was really cool back then. We would take playing cards and place them on the back wheel with a clothespin and make awesome sounds!
Well as I got older a new bike came on the scene. We called them English Racers. Or otherwise, known as 10 speeds with the handlebars that curled under. I still remember going to what I remember as Lovemonds department store in the Normandale Shopping Center. It would be a gift from my parents. Oddly enough I remember showing my other side when I saw the bike for the first time – it was an ugly brown. I wanted another color – was not to be. Looking back it was odd that this store actually sold bikes as they were predominantly a clothing store!
In the end I was glad to get it and ended up loving that bike.
But I couldn’t just ride it! I had to try goofy things WHILE riding it. How fast would it go? How fast could I go downhill? Then we began to have contests on how far we could ride on the back wheel. I mastered that trick which was the precursor for doing the same on my motorcycle.
But one of my favorite things was to see how far I could ride with no hands. It was always a combination of speed and balance. I would get it geared just right, then i’d take my right hand and slowly hold the front of my seat then with precision I’d remove my left hand from the bars. I’d use my left hand for balance much the same way a tight rope walker uses a bar to keep their balance. Things always started out well but sometimes did not end well. First I’d like to see how slow I could do it. Then, you guessed it – how fast. Everything is better with speed. Then once I’d mastered a straight line I had to know could it be done going around a corner. No hands while turning. After a few failed attempts I actually accomplished the feat. I was in love with riding my 10 speed with no hands!
Fast forward about 30 plus years (I use plus loosely) which would be last weekend. I was about to run a 31 mile endurance race the next day so I needed to loosen my legs up without running. About a year ago I had purchased a K2 mountain bike like the one in this post. While riding around, sweet memories of “no hands” riding drifted back into my mind. Could it still be possible some 30 plus years later? I mean I’m older and this bike has way more than 10 speeds. But I have a race tomorrow and I don’t need to get hurt. Ummmm, that’s never stopped me before.
I get the bike geared where I wanted it. I slowly take off my right hand then slowly take off my left – the bike starts to wildly wobble. Now I’m second guessing if this is possible. Must be the bike. No way it’s a lack of skill. Must try it again, sit up straighter and quicker. I give it a try – viola. Look ma, I’m riding with no hands – and I’m only 53 years old as though I have no responsibilities to anyone! Then it hits me. If I can still do it on pavement what about dirt, I mean it is a mountain bike. So I decide to go off road. Slowly take a hand off then another – viola, I’m doing it again. Wobbly but I accomplish the experiment.
Then i feel like everything is better with speed. So I get back on the pavement, get it geared just right, one hand then the other – things go well for a moment but then the wobbles. This time they’re really fast wobbles – I’m going faster remember. But technically I did it! So I do it several more times, then just for kicks, I slow it down and even do a few SLOW, SHORT turns with no hands! What a weekend!
Sometimes when I think about the experiments from my childhood it’s a wonder I’m alive! But for some things it’s fun to relive the moment by actually doing it again. Some moments from our childhood are better left in the past. Why? Because I’m pretty sure some of what I did has to be illegal now!