No Handlebars

October 20, 2008
If you’ve ever tried riding a bike with no hands, you would know that it takes practice. Doing so, is no simple matter as well, especially the first time. Occasionally, you see people riding their bike down the street, just cruising along with their arms crossed or at their sides. They don’t even have their hands touching the bars, and they ride confidently. Those bicyclers make it look so easy to just keeping pedaling.


I always wondered how they did it. You needed to have your bike at such an angle so it didn’t turn and cause you to careen and crash. Next is knowing your ability and skill as well as your balance. Then there’s practice. Lastly, you got to have the courage to actually let go of your handlebars, and not just an ”Oh, look at me!” moment.

My bike, it seemed, was never made for such a feat. An aging black mountain bike flecked with purple and spotted with dots of dried water. It wasn’t “new” by anyone’s standards. I had had it for at least a few years and in that time, I just had to adjust the height of the seat to accommodate my growth. I took a liking to the rusting metal, with its added gel seat pad and trusting frame. It had never let me down. The left gear switch on the handlebar had long since snapped, a gray wire protruding out and a black piece of plastic dangling there annoyingly. The other gearshift was starting to jam, clicking lately when turned and jerking my chain, which would call a sense of panic at first. I was sure that would come clean off and that would be the end of my bike. Another oddity was that the handlebars of my bike were not aligned corrected with my front tire. If I held the bars straight, I would turn slightly to the right. I knew my dad would have no patience to fix it such things, considering his own sliver bike (a younger, sleeker looking version of my own) sat upside down pitifully in the back corner of the garage, tucked behind various of my father’s “toys”.

I had come to cope with the jerking chain and the broken shifts, as well as the crooked handlebars. It had come to be the unique features of my bike. All that matter was that I could pedal and stop myself.

I tested the brakes experimentally after I had climbed over the seat, waiting impatiently for my sister. I slowly inched forward, pushing myself with my feet out of the garage and into the sloped driveway, grinning at the road.

The neighborhood, which my dad lived in, was considerably new, all the houses built within the decade. That meant the streets were equally as new. The smooth dark blacktop beckoned, calling for me to put my wheels to it. I was more than happy to oblige, but of course, I had to wait for my sister.

“Nina!” I heard her say as she pulled up next to me, ready on her lower-set orange bike-Perfect for her 11-year-old size.

“C’mon,” I returned happily, giving one last push before putting my feet on the pedals and gliding down the driveway. Holli followed after me.

We flew past the houses. The whipping wind felt great, bringing with it, the smell of cut grass. The sun was welcoming and warm, better than the chilling temperature inside our dad’s house. My sister and I continued to ride, playing word games and tossing “What ifs” back and forth. After a while, I tested my breaks as we rolled to the stop sign. It was rather unneeded, considering that rarely any cars came down this country road but nonetheless, I loved using my brakes. As soon as we paused, up ahead was another person on bike coming toward and past us. I couldn’t see his face although he looked to be about my age, with a mess of brown hair. I looked at my sister, utterly amazed. There were more kids on the street other than Holli and myself?

Honestly, I was excited by this thought. Being so far from my friends, I was very open to make new ones here in North Carolina. I didn’t care who they were. Sharing this with my sister as we moved forward up the street and then back down she laughed, “I dare you to say ‘hi’ to him, Nina.”

Of course, I agreed. Holli and I watched him pass us a few times. All the while, I was trying to find the right opportunity to say hello to the boy, as well as build what little confidence I had for talking to a male peer whom I didn’t even know.

We biked for another 15 minutes and my sister and I chatted, going along at an easy and comfortable speed down the street, when that same boy zoomed past us on his bike. Instantly, I sat straight up, feeling insulted. How dare he do such a thing? That was almost a direct challenge on my part. Did he want to race or something?

“What was that?” I said harshly watching him disappear up the road. I almost was going to take back the greeting I was planning on giving him, but I was determined to at least try a make some friends here.

It was a while before I had let it go; about six minutes and we hadn’t crossed paths with that brunet boy during that time for whatever reason. It was when we went back up the street toward the main road when we spotted him again. He was in the process of turning around.
I seized my chance. This was a nice and friendly opportunity to get my greeting in, and perhaps—just perhaps—get a conversation going.

Much to my surprise, that’s easier said than done.

I drew my speed to a near stop, coming toward him. He was a teenager, like myself. That meant I had to be decent and promote myself calmly, as any other teenager would do so to another. Instead of a cool and collect, “Hey” with a simple wave, I got choked up. I stood up on my pedals and put my hand in the air, as if wanting a high-five, and happily said, “Hey!”

In return, he had a rather blank look on his face and that teenaged boy gave me no response whatsoever. I felt incredibly ridiculous, sitting back down. I forced a smile as he passed my bike, hoping that I could better ease the painful awkwardness. As if a simple smile could save me from being terribly embarrassed!

As soon as he was out of sight and earshot, my sister started laughing as where I could only pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh miserably.

I had tried riding my bike without keeping my hands on the handlebars, and ultimately, fell on my face.

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ValkyrieMissle said...
Nov. 22, 2008 at 4:47 am
Aw... that must have really stunk, not having any friends in North Carolina... You never told me you published something >< W/e. Great story. I've never been to coordinated on bikes myself -///-
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