You can do a lot with the two-wheeled vehicle we call the bicycle. Take it to the park for a ride, a track for a race, or even a half-pipe for a few tricks, but what do you do on the ride there? You could just ride to your destination of choice, but that wouldn’t really be adrenaline-fueled enough for us now would it? Enter, street biking.
Check out the best street bikers below. They’ll teach you a thing or two about getting the most out of your bike.
Juan Felipe Rodas
If you measure extreme by the ratio of speed to vulnerability, street biking must be high on the list of most intense sports. Riding a bike on pavement, you can pick up serious velocity, and yet the only thing that stands between you and an incredibly painful fall is catching the crack between two slates of sidwalk wrong, or accidentally brushing up against the curb. That’s what makes riders like Juan Felipe Rodas so impressive: he manages to maneuver the bike over and around obstacles like it’s attached to his body, meanwhile tweaking and manipulating the bike into tricks and flourishes that only enhance the visual appeal of the ride. He also possesses spectacular balance, particularly while hurtling down the sidewalk: navigating a surface that thin, it would be easy to veer too far to the left or right, and yet, the rider never seems to be in any danger of losing his footing.
Russ Morrell and Danny Swan
Of course, flat surfaces are one thing: stairs are an entirely different beast. To truly demonstrate your mastery over the bike, a good method is to send yourself flying down an enormous outdoor staircase, somehow keeping steady while cascading down the steps. This sort of feat requires an impressive combination of strength, to resist the constant push of the stairs against your tires, and nuance, to get the bike to move smoothly with the swell and dip of the surface your riding on. It becomes particularly wild when taking the stairs from a jump, in which case you can’t really tell at which point in the pattern of the staircase you’ll land. Just watch the crash outtakes of Russ Morrell and Danny Swan’s video above. Doing that, you need to be ready to make the most minute adjustments to keep yourself upright. Also remember: a fall on the stairs is that much worse.
Not all street-biking feats come down to speed, either. Here, Danny MacAskill shows insane control of his bike, which is why we said Danny MacAskill is a master of cycling. Watch as he balances on the front wheel and dances with it as though it were another person. Altitude becomes both an enemy and a friend when you’re trying to do tricks: it’s a friend because it makes everything seem more impressive, and it allows the accomplishment of things that you can’t do on a flat surface; and it’s an enemy because if you fall, it hurts more. For the best riders, like this one, it’s far more of a friend than an enemy. Part of the extra challenge inherent in these tricks is constantly sticking the landing, especially when you’re coming in at an angle that isn’t exactly natural for the wheels of a bike.
Zurich City Riders
Another feat that city bikers like to pull off has a lot to do with the irregular surfaces of an urban landscape — the kind you can’t quite find in nature. That’s climbing, during which riders use their bikes almost like springs, launching themselves off the tire pressure and up into high places. Climbing has two equally amazing aspects: going up, where the riders have to constantly readjust where they’re putting their weight so that, when they put a tire up on a ledge, they can get their bodies and the bike to follow; and going down, which involves the perfect placement of tires on micro-thin edges of stone and cement. Miss that placement by an inch or two, and you’ll end up plummeting into a fountain or, worse yet, putting the middle of the bike right on the edge you were trying to land on, damaging the bike — and maybe yourself — in the process.
What would commonly be referred to as a “bicycle” isn’t the only type of two-wheeled vehicle you could conceivably use in these situations, obviously. Here, a pedal bike goes up against a motorized bike. Both have their advantages and disadvantages: where the rider has to be the source of the power for a pedal bike, even as he’s preoccupied with challenges like balance and maneuvering, the motorized bike takes care of that itself. On the other hand, for the types of tricks and feats we’ve been focusing on, the pedal bike is considerably lighter and more dynamic than the motorized bike, and so it’s probably worth that power tradeoff when you’re trying primarily to get airborne.