Boys have tried to impress girls through feats of daring involving bicycles ever since the machines were first invented. When those attempts ended in failure and the inexorable shedding of blood followed, these same boys then used the scars that their failures produced to impress the next girl that came along. I’d like to say that I never engaged in such idiotic behavior but alas, that is not the case. While attending high school in the late 80’s and early 1990’s, one such instance of this behavior stands out in my mind.
After serving an hour of detention early in my freshman year I noticed all the jocks spread out on the front lawn waiting for their parents to pick them up after their various practices had ended. Why exactly I had detention that day, I can’t recall, but after serving my hard time, I found myself rolling past this group on my 4130 chromoly 1986 Mongoose Decade.
Among the crowd was a short, shapely blonde with a killer smile that sat by me in algebra. I quickly hatched a plan to wow her and the over-hyped popular jocks with an aerial display of BMX radness. Right in front of the lawn was a small driveway with a built-in lip I could air off of. I jumped on my bike and charged in front of the crowd with the bravado of a Spanish bullfighter. After compressing into the transition of the jump, I pulled up on the handlebars unleashing a wicked drive-side whip just after launching the little kicker. Midair, I was betrayed by my heavy backpack and footwear of choice, a pair of MacGyver-esque casual trail boots. My re-entry to earth’s atmosphere was marked by an off-axis landing coupled with a slipped pedal. I then found myself airborne again as I was immediately chucked over the handlebars by Newton’s first law. Thankfully the books in my backpack took the brunt of impact (I was sans helmet of course, as it was 1989). A dead thud reverberated off the concrete sidewalk as my books impacted and I tumbled like a clown college reject. Meanwhile the crowd of forty athletes simultaneously let out a remarkably sympathetic, “ooooohh!” It seemed that they were caught so off guard that no one even thought to laugh. Maybe the wreck appeared so heinous that no one dared to, lest they be labeled a sadistic sociopath. Whatever the case may have been, when I came to a stop I was mortified. I quickly stood up, grabbed my bike, and sprinted away. Once out of sight I stopped to see if I had sustained any serious wounds. A quick inspection revealed that I was physically whole, but the same could not be said for my ego. The two-mile ride home felt like fifty as I thought about how this blunder could haunt me when I returned to school.
Thankfully the event took place on a Friday so everyone had the weekend to forget about what they saw. To my relief the girl in my math class never brought it up and I never got heckled by any of the jocks that witnessed my clumsy display. In hindsight I wonder if it was because cycling was so far off of everyone’s radar at my school that it wasn’t even worthy of expending effort to ridicule? Naturally the whole experience taught me… absolutely nothing. I went right back to vainly attempting to impress the ladies just a few weeks later.
Daniel Slusser is a professional bicycle mechanic with over ten years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from HSU and a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly. When he is not riding, wrenching, or writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.