Acrobatic cyclists worthy of respect, but who must respect the rules of the road for safety reasons [Side Ways column] | Entertainment


You may have seen a team of intrepid cyclists wheeling around Lancaster. At the forefront, you’ll see a man in his twenties known to his 140,000 Instagram followers as @vibewdavid. David’s tricks go beyond the local show. He’s part of a nationwide emergence of stunt riders pedaling into legitimate sport territory.

For some, these cyclists are disturbing; for others, entertaining. Some, like me, are simply jealous of their skills.

Their bodacious behavior on the streets has earned some of them a bad name even though they don’t break any laws. I remember the bumper stickers that pushed back the public perception of concrete surfers in the 1980s: “Skateboarding isn’t a crime.”

Whatever our initial opinion of them, their growing sport deserves special attention. There are more than a few good things to say about their hobby once you get past first impressions.

These impressions are legitimate and complex. Adriana Atencio, Executive Director of The Common Wheel, has great affection for these riders and their love of cycling. She understands that most of them live in the city and that some have found themselves in situations that would be considered “at risk”.

But she is not unaware of the risks and liberties they take. She and her staff are actively trying to get these children to obey the rules of the road. For example, she recommends that instead of swerving past cars, swerve past each other in parking lots. It’s a trick that apparently still gets them more views on Instagram!

Atencio told them, “I love you guys, but I really don’t want to attend your funeral. Mikhail Zapata-Rotz agrees. He is the COO of The Common Wheel.

On a recent nighttime ride with The West End Riders, we discussed stunt performers. He told me David had been at events at their co-op space on East King Street, giving demonstrations and inspiring other kids to embrace the cycling lifestyle.

He hopes that an appreciation for people like David will help these children feel more like part of the community.

He also likes these guys and enjoys developing their skills, but he admits that their occasional quibbling isn’t cool. He laments the tarnished image that cyclists of all types receive due to the neglect and hubris of a few buckaroos.

Lawless driving could cause distractions, leading to frazzled motorists and even collisions with bikers and pedestrians. On top of that, as many readers can attest, it’s just plain boring.

The biggest risk, of course, is carried by children, not motorists protected by 2-ton gear. Hitting a car, whether moving or parked, can lead to life-changing injuries. The same goes for crossing it out on something hard like a sidewalk or street pole. Helmets help in this situation, of course, and some riders wear them, at least in town. But not always.

According to Glenn Stoltzfus, community outreach coordinator for the Lancaster City Police Department, the other concern is basic safety on the streets. Glenn respects stuntmen and says, “As long as they’re careful to operate like any other vehicle, they’re fine.”

Here’s the code: any two-wheeled vehicle must obey the same stop signs, lane markings and traffic lights that four-wheeled vehicles must obey.

Riding on sidewalks, traversing intersections, and traversing lanes of stopped cars (as thrilling as that might be for a commuter like me), are the types of maneuvers that give cyclists an Evel Knievel reputation, at best. At worst, they come out like Mad Max.

Growing up in a small town north of Harrisburg, I spent a lot of my own hours practicing my bike skills with buddies. Red clay quarries, lonely lanes and dirt roads were our playgrounds as we jumped, slid and pedaled into adulthood.

Perhaps it was my aversion to broken collarbones and hamburger kneecaps that took me from speed demon to driving refinery. I found myself drawn to the art of trials. This sport is usually exercised using a high torque motorbike going over and around obstacles. Speed ​​is not the key; finesse is. The closest thing to pedal trials is mountain biking, especially one that involves navigating rock gardens.

Stunt bikes are basically trials bikes. Imagine a big BMX frame with extra wide tires 26 to 29 inches in diameter, suitable for the pavement. The seat is low and incidental as they are rarely used. Often stunt riders are too busy positioning themselves on or through their bike frames or often riding. Or, as in David’s case, they ride an upright bike with the front tire off like it’s some sort of unicycle from the spirit of Tim Burton!

When you look at David’s vibe, you’re witnessing testing at his best, with a bit of speed. It’s less about conquering obstacles, however, and more about pushing your bike’s capabilities. The skills he developed took countless hours. He has invested handsome dollars in his many tools of the trade. What brought him?

For one, his deflection maneuver won first prize at the Crashboy Games in Chester, Pennsylvania in July of this year, taking home $750 for being the best in the country. Cash prizes and gifts of $20,000 were awarded that day. So, yeah, maybe this stuff is becoming a real sport!

Additionally, David has been recognized by Bike Life Journal and now competes in events nationwide and secures sponsors along the way, including Thruster Bikes. In addition to his social media presence, he’s a true professional athlete who trained (and trains) here on the streets of Lancaster.

Troubles and legalities aside, stuntmen need a second look. Their sport is no more a crime than skateboarding, but they have to live in the real world and watch out for the rest of us. If skateboarding has made its way from swimming bowls in California to Tony Hawk’s video games and the 2020 Olympics (21) in Tokyo, who knows where these riders will go next.

Maybe they just have a little space to practice their skills – if not always on our streets, at least in our hearts.

Tom Becker captures slice-of-life stories around Lancaster County, and sometimes beyond; he also writes regularly at He founded Row House Inc. in 2010 as a forum to “engage current culture with ancient faith.” He tells this story in his book “Good Posture” (Square Halo Books: Baltimore, 2017). Becky and Tom have five adult children and live in the West End of Lancaster where he can be seen every day walking Rue the dog or riding Frodo the gravel bike.


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