Upbeat music from the ‘70s was pounding from one of the off-streets at Plaza Indonesia this morning. It was, to my great delight, a city-sponsored green event. There were bikes parked helter-skelter, everyone on the street being the attendant valets. Heartwarming, in every way.
I pushed my bike through the crowds, intent on seeing what I could in a short time. Youths were writing assignments and doing interviews. From the bandstand, a remarkably tight band was singing to an appreciative audience.
It’s my life. I just want to live while I’m alive. (Bon Jovi)
There were even a few people dancing in “the pit”. After singing along with a couple of songs and interacting with people in the audience, I felt it was time to get going. Wrong. It was time to watch a bike demonstration, being set up just behind me. Kickstand down, my bike suddenly became part of the unofficially attended throng.
What was this thing, I wondered? Eager, intense young men on seatless bicycles faced the structure, giving me few clues to the purpose.
And then, one young man rode up to the structure and did simple but elegant tricks jumping up one side, across the top, and down the other.
What is this? My heart was pounding. These weren’t BMX riders because the thrill of trick riding is usually accompanied by heights of much more than three feet, and these bikes were a little heavy. After the young man descended, he twirled and leaped across the pavement, back into place. It looked like Flatlanders but they were using platforms as well as the ground. Nevertheless, it was breathtaking to watch.
These bikes are longer and a bit lower than conventional bikes. The wheels are heavier and typically there is no seat. Sometimes I thought the weight of the bike was a deterrent to climbing the structure but usually the riders succeeded, great satisfaction written on their faces. When they didn’t succeed, they shrugged off disappointment, beamed, and took their place to try again. And I know from experience that, to achieve this impression of simplicity, countless hours of practice have been logged.
To complete one rider’s presentation, a young man positioned himself prone on the pavement just where the bicycle had been landing. The boy covered his “package”, but I felt certain this was an unnecessary precaution. I was right. A couple of riders teased the crowd and the prone young man several times, but in the end, this land was as solid as all the others, perfected in a plaza somewhere in Tangerang.
Behind us, the band took a bow and thanked the crowd, which began to disperse. I looked across to my bike, thinking to do the same. Suddenly, the speakers filled with ferocious bass rhythms, making my entire frame shake. Gangam Style!
Three of the riders suddenly laid down on the pavement, side by each. A path sponaneously parted in the crowd, at the end of which was a very talented rider. On his face, the zone. Something was coming. I forgot about my bike.
“Oh Sexy ladies!” the speakers shouted, and the rider tore up the path straight at the three exposed bodies. Into the air his bike flew, missing the bodies entirely and landing magnificently on the other side. The crowd cheered. Two more young bodies presented themselves at the end of the sacrificial row.
The rider returned to his start position and waved to the crowd to back up behind the bodies, giving him more space to land his jump. Again he sped toward the waiting lambs, and again he sailed over them easily.
Another rider headed toward the row; at the last minute, he stepped off his bike, picked it up and, with hardly a hesitation, charmingly walked it across the laughing row, which again grew by two more eager bodies. The barrier grew in length until I lost count. And as the main rider took his place, another rider played Five Finger Filet with the exposed arms and legs.
Ten minutes later, I was beside these talented cyclists, begging them to contact me on Facebook. “That was such fun,” I exclaimed. “Terima kasih.”
“Sama sama,” their manager responded, pleased. As I rode away, I turned back to see the entire group of riders watching the bule. What could I do to show my appreciation? I blew them a kiss.
A couple of hours later on Facebook, the manager did indeed contact me.
“Our skills are nothing compared with others in Asia, but I believe that we have the biggest spirit to develop this sport, specially in my country,” he explained simply.
“Yes!” I enthused, “and I think that’s why I’m so smitten with Indonesia. You have a formidable spirit to develop yet a warmth to retain community and a gentleness between people. It is an outstanding lesson. The west has in some ways forgotten these things. I admire Indonesian spirit so much.”
When we signed off, I couldn’t stop myself. “I’m so pumped about this event,” I declared.
“haha ha,” he flushed. “That’s the best words I’ve ever had for the team.. :)”