Wheelies? Evel Knievel Had Nothing on Me and My Deluxe Renegade Stingray




The bike I got for Christmas when I was about 10 was a rocket.

I could pedal that sucker so fast that my feet were a blur.

It gave me enormous pleasure to outrun a high school kid’s Volkswagen, because I loved speed, and because it drove him crazy.

But it wasn’t enough to be a certified speed merchant, at least on Nebraska Street.

You also needed elevation.

And, for what seemed like an eternity, probably at least two weeks after getting my bike, I could not pop a wheelie. Not even a little one.

That was as bad as being a girl and wearing a frilly dress, or so the older boys mocked.

Try though I might, I simply could not get my front wheel off the ground.

And it was killing me.

But I was not a quitter, so I practiced relentlessly, trying to jerk wheelies for hours and hours every single day, actually tearing the flesh on my palm in the process.

Then, finally, one day I discovered I could get the front wheel four or five inches off the ground.

I had to jerked back as hard as I could on the gooseneck handlebars exactly when my front tire hit the buckled pavement in front of our house.

That three-quarter-inch bump gave me just enough lift to break free from gravity, if only slightly, but slightly was enough to give me hope.

I bet I rode across that bump 10 million times a day, recklessly hurling myself backwards, trying with all my might to get a swear-to-goodness wheelie.

Meanwhile, the bigger boys were riding up and down the whole street, easily popping wheelies just to rub it in. Man, I hated them.


One day it happened. I have no idea why, or what I had done differently, but it happened.

Probably, I finally synchronized everything – jerking back on the handlebars, hurling my body backwards, and stomping my right foot down on the pedal, all at the exact same time.

And when it happened, boy, did it happen.

I brought the front tire up. And then up some more. Way up.

It literally flipped the bike right onto top of me.

Thankfully, my head broke the fall and there was no damage to my new bike.

It must’ve hurt a lot. There was probably blood involved, and maybe a few stitches.

But what I remember is that I had experienced flight — a real wheelie.

I had become a man. Like Evel Knievel.

And life on Nebraska Street was good. At least for a time.

But, as in all things with boys, pretty soon just popping wheelies was not enough.

There was a need to ride wheelies for distance.

At first, my goal was one section of pavement – from one tar line until the next, maybe 20 feet or so.

I hit that distance pretty quickly, and, man, wasn’t I a rompin’, stompin’ stud?

Problem was, I couldn’t get an inch further. I hit the wall.

I’m not sure if it was a mental barrier, or that traveling one section on one wheel was the limit of my physical ability.

So 10 million times a day, I popped one-section wheelies. Up and down the street. Non-stop. Until dark. Wanting more.

One day, out of the blue, I sailed past the first tar line, and I was nowhere near finished.

I wheelied past the second tar line, and I was rocketing down the road.

Blurred Vision

When I hit the third tar line, I was going so fast that the street was becoming a blur.

I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breath, and I did not know what to do.

It was like I’d taken off in a jet plane, without ever having learned to land the thing.

Part of me wanted to just keep going on one wheel until the end of the street.

I’d ride right onto busy Berry Road, where I would get run over by a car and instantly become a legend.

But part of me wanted it to all just stop.

The second part won.

I hit the brakes, which slammed the front wheel down on to the street so hard it knocked the spit right out of my mouth.

I bounced out of control for a fair bit, but finally got it stopped.

I pulled over to the curb and just sat there, on my Deluxe Renegade Stingray, in shock, and smiling like an idiot.

An idiot who had just wheelied 70 feet or more.

The fact that I had jumped from a one-section wheelie boy to a three-and-a-half-section wheelie man, in one shot, sent my stock soaring on Nebraska Street.

Two years later, I was watching the 1968 Olympics when Bob Beamon bettered the world record in the long jump by 21 3/4 inches!

When I saw him do it, I just shook my head and smiled.

Because I knew that Bob and I were members of a pretty exclusive club, where records were not just broken, they were obliterated.

(Note: my bike was blue, like the bike at the top.)

2 Responses to “Wheelies? Evel Knievel Had Nothing on Me and My Deluxe Renegade Stingray”

  1. Pearl says:

    That was great fun!! Nice writing. 🙂


    p.s. Any bike with a banana seat is cool. But a STINGRAY? Wow.

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