(I originally had this titled “Brain Trauma” but it might as well be called “Young and Dumb.”)
I was young, naive, i was trying these forward rolling backyard glides. I was sitting backwards on the bike, the bars were behind me, my hands were on them and I was trying in earnest to pull the front of the bike up so I could balance on the back pegs while standing backwards and rolling forward.
It wasn’t working and I was five miles from home without a car. At the time, my bike was pretty heavy. This was the accepted truth about BMX bikes. If they weren’t heavy, they weren’t strong, and you risked your life if it broke in the wrong circumstance. On the converse though, when you did go down with the ship, all 40 – 45 pounds of that bike came down with you. And I was stuck trying something and not coming close.
I just really couldn’t pull the front of the bike up like I wanted to. My brain started to wonder: How could I make it happen? I put two and two together, stared down at my pedals and had a random thought: What if I kicked the pedal forward, power wheelie style, and used that momentum to achieve the angle I needed for the “wheelie” while propelling the wheelie forward.
I kicked it a few times, and damn, wouldn’t you know the front of the bike popped right up as I expected. I kicked it a few more times, pulled my foot off of the pedal and placed it on the back peg, and damn, I made it a few feet. I rolled in another circle, turned my body into the desired position, kicked the pedal again, this time too hard, and catapulted forward face first onto my head with my arms still behind me.
My forehead made the first connection with the pavement. To this day, over 15 years later, I still do not know how long I was knocked out for. It could’ve been seconds, it could’ve been minutes, I really don’t know. When I did come to, it was to this trance-like state free of sounds and comprehension, compromised by exhaustion.
Again, I was five miles from home, I had ridden my bike to the location I was at, and this was before mobile phones. I was really confused as to what I should do. I couldn’t even remember my home phone number and I had no money on me or health insurance for that matter. I look back now and think that I maybe should have called 911. Instead, I packed up my things and decided I could ride my bike back home.
I don’t remember much of that ride home except that I extremely tired. And I eventually made it back. I trudged upstairs, told my girlfriend April what happened, probably had a glass of Carlo Rossi jug wine and went to bed without ever seeing a doctor. Next day, I pretended like all was okay, went about my routine and continued riding and drinking cheap jug wine without a second thought of head trauma or lasting effects.
I have a few of these stories and mine are far from the worst. Invariably, I was pretty close to the ground and not falling down stairs or going into convulsions. Am I worried about myself? Well, I don’t know if there’s a fair answer for me in the present tense. When I look back at these instances, yes, it does worry me and my irresponsible ways because at the time, hitting your head was this weird sort of badge of honor. I don’t get that now. And I can’t really say how it might affect me in the future. There’s just not enough research into the subject, and the overall notion seems to be that each person handles brain trauma differently.
I just worry about my friends that have a lot more hits to the head than me, and I hope that we can all find a middle ground between moving forward and not forgetting what’s already happened to all of us.
(I did go back years later and land that trick. It’s at the 1:01 mark in the above video.)