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Thursday, December 13 , 2018, 5:49 pm | Fair 62º


Danny Tyree: Are Bike Stunts Safe for Your Teen?

Even before I read the May 4 Wall Street Journal, I knew a little something about adventurous bicycle-related activities.

When I was a teenager, a neighbor kid (one of my brother’s classmates) rode over to the house for a visit. Before saying goodbye, he confided that he had always wondered what it would feel like to ride with a flat tire; so he plunged his pocket knife into his tires and went THUMP THUMP THUMP back home.

(Thankfully, the school librarian kept his curiosity away from books about pirate eye patches, blimps and eunuchs.)

Back to The Journal: the aforementioned article says that after decades of U.S. decline for bike riding in general, a specific kind of BMX (bicycle motocross) riding is catching fire with children, teens and young adults.

In a style many call “bikelife,” participants pop wheelies, perform other daring stunts and ride in and sometimes against traffic, usually without a helmet.

Bikelife originated with inner-city youths, but it is spreading to other parts of the country. Many upscale neighborhoods now offer “valet knee-scraping” and rural enthusiasts utter things like, “The videos make it look so easy to run into a guardrail, but I can’t even hit a dadgum possum.”

I miss the simpler Leave It To Beaver era when a kid could be cool just by putting a baseball card in his bike spokes. Social media have escalated things to the point that a rider might try to top everyone else by strapping Alex Rodriguez to the spokes.

Even the most experienced stunt riders can suffer bruises, scrapes and broken bones. The BIGGEST threat is to their eyelid muscles, as they issue disclaimers in their videos. (“Do as I say and not as I do. Wink, wink.”)

I must admit that my opinions are skewed by sour grapes. Side effects from chickenpox messed up my sense of balance during my formative years, so I never really became proficient at riding a bike.

But I’ll make an effort to emphasize the positive side of bikelife.

Friends and acquaintances embarking on a group bikelife excursion can make memories that will last a lifetime — or at least until one concussion too many comes along. (“Did we really ride to the south side of Philly? I could have sworn it was Oz ... and Lance Armstrong was a winged monkey.”)

Riding in groups can help riders become braver, more outgoing and more confident. (“I am CONFIDENT that I can sign all these ER forms by myself!”)

More travel by bike helps the environment. I just hope that in reducing their carbon footprint, riders don’t start leaving a carbon FACEPRINT.

Savvy riders can monetize their hobby by soliciting SPONSORSHIPS. (Yes, companies actually promote open-minded ways of using relatively boring products. (“Say, I’d love to sink half our PR budget into tutorials of that guy using a hair dryer in the swimming pool.”)

Schools have slashed Physical Education time and video games are a temptation, so biking is a good way to let youngsters get some fresh air and exercise. Kids have always thought the world revolved around them; but now it’s true, because of the couch potatoes’ GRAVITATIONAL PULL.

Parents, trust but verify if your children express an interest in bikelife activities. I recommend ... wait, here comes ol’ “Lefty” riding up to reminisce about what the neighborhood was like in the 1970s ...

— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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