When I was young, I had a blue and yellow BMX style bicycle of the sort that you braked by pushing the pedals backward. A friend and I once briefly swapped bicycles while riding around on some tennis courts whose nets seemed to have gone missing. We raced back and forth along the courts and then turned to cross to the other side. His bike had hand brakes and pedals that would turn freely in reverse. As we approached the midpoint of the court, we saw that while the net itself was gone, the net cord remained. We were pretty small, and it was at just about neck height for us. My friend frantically used the hand brakes that did not exist on my bicycle, and I frantically pedaled in reverse to try to brake. I recall hitting at an angle, which somehow made my impact with the cord less severe. My friend took the brunt of the impact on his wind pipe. We were both ok, but it was a memorable bike swap.

When I was ten, I got a freestyle bike with hand brakes, free-wheeling pedals, a rotor that allowed the handlebars to be turned all the way around without interference from the brake cables, and foot pegs. I loved this bike and spent loads of time riding and doing some basic tricks. I was never brave enough or good enough to do much more than a short wheelie, an indo, or sort of a halfway attempt at riding while standing on the crossbar. Pictured below you can see some of these tricks, including one of my first efforts at the standing trick (I believe these photos were taking on the Christmas day that I got the bike).

Over time, I developed this last trick a bit more. It horrifies me now to think of it. I would pedal furiously to get up to top speed and then clamp my feet around the seat post, with the seat itself between my calves. Then I’d just stand up and hold my arms out to the side and coast. This was in the olden days when we didn’t wear helmets. I can still picture the sparkly bits in the ashpalt zooming by below me like stars in the dark ribbon of my path, and I think of it pretty much every time I cringe when looking out to see my own kids, with their helmets and directives not to go too far up the hill or ride too swiftly or dangerously.

Christmas 9 1987.JPG

Christmas 1 1987.JPG

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