Previous Page
Urban Velo
Next Page

before they watch the next unfortunate soul.

He doesn’t, and I’m through, the lone salmon that has jumped the last of the falls and eyes smoother waters ahead. I sit back, taking my left hand off the bars. Now holding on with just my right forefinger, still just sitting back part way. I need to let go, take both hands off, sit straight up and conquer no-handed riding. I’ve wanted to do it since I was three years old, watching badass Baltimore playground boys popping tricks on white-wheeled BMX bikes. I didn’t think about sex until age ten so one could argue this as a greater attainment of a life goal.

Carpe diem, hike the Appalachian Trail, build a jungle shelter with natives in Laos, hunt bears in Siberia with an unhinged man named Fedor who has the Kremlin tattooed on his chest. Fedor tells me the text below the tattoo translates to “Fate plays with man, but man never plays with fate.” All these adventures hinge on no-hand riding. Without mastering this, I fear I may just grow old pondering logistics of the travels I hope to one day have.

Now, here, no travel planning required, New York City riding itself is an adventure. Everywhere I go, I want to travel by bicycle, moped, motorcycle, rickshaw. Life is better viewed from two wheels: all the speed without the steel and airbag protection heightens the sensation; the zoo without cages. Immersed in the ebb and flow of universal living, you become an insider.

I raise my right arm and whip down Eighteenth Street, the cars blockaded behind me. Watching my front wheel spin over the blacktop, my back is straight, shoulders free from tension. Look, Mom, no hands!

Picture your arms outstretched, welcoming the sky, the fading light and scurrying clouds corralled into a narrow corridor by the glass canyon walls of the city. The breeze of momentum tugs your cheeks. Close your eyes for a second. One Mississippi. There, skimming over that aforementioned pavement at twenty-five miles an hour on tiny rubber tubes built in some Far East factory by nine year olds. “Divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.”

The thing about no hand riding is it can’t happen just barely hovering your hands over the bars. You have to lean back and sit up straight to obtain the balance. The instant you release the bars causes that jangle of nerves so many memorable moments demand. The classic lesson of letting go to grasp your desires rings loudly. The exhilaration is addictive, like a new flame licking the tiny kindling of the soul, a calf tongue on a salt lick, demanding more and more. Freeing in the ability to now create it, a secret unlocked.

The light is changing up ahead, and I break my rule. I


Banjo Brothers