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Doing wheelies wasting time?

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POSTED May 16, 2010 2:00 a.m.
Austen Nunes is Manteca’s undisputed wheelie king.

The 20-year-old who broke a Guinness World Record on Saturday for covering 100 meters while doing a wheelie all the way with a time of 13.22 seconds can be seen pedaling around his East Manteca neighborhood miles at a time without the front wheel ever touching the pavement.

To some it may seem like wasting time.

But spending your time pursuing goals that no one else may understand is a way of sharpening one’s mind, skill sets, and often times physical well being.

The year I managed to log more than 10,000 miles bicycling helped sharpen my discipline and tenacity as I often rode in rain, fog and even snow as well as 110 degree heat. More than a few people thought I could make better use of my time. On the contrary, it focus my discipline and drive while teaching myself a lot about what I was capable of doing mentally. It also was a great way to put things in perspective.

It also produced some moments that I won’t forget and often call back up from my memory when I need to get back on even keel.

Hitting 64 mph on a 16-pound bicycle while descending the Mt. Rose Highway with a bit of help with a tailwind was an exhilarating experience I’ll never forget. Nor, for that matter, will I ever forget the look on the face of the driver I passed when the highway widened to two lanes in the same direction.

Gary Pogue - a fellow rider - who played center for the Lincoln High varsity football team across from players who always outweighed him by a good 30 pounds - thought it was dangerous and a bit nuts. But for me to do something like that given the fact I am anything but athletic really got me psyched in ways I had never been before.

Having said that, a few months later I was fortunate enough to get a wake-up call - as it were - about cooling it a bit on downhill rides on high Sierra highways. I had been heading up to Truckee from Roseville on Wednesday afternoons weekly for several months in the summer so I could ride a 41-mile loop that took me over Brockway Summit to Lake Tahoe and back to Truckee via Squaw Valley. It was a quick two hour ride.

I had always figured I deserved to go all out on downhill since my 195 pounds at the time assured I was always the last one to crest a climb.

A tourist bus had just passed me as I was shifting down after reaching the summit. I noticed the road construction sign ahead but gave it little heed.

In a few seconds as I picked up speed to hit 36 mph. I noticed there was loose gravel on the wide shoulder where I normally rode.

Just about that time the bus shifted down. Within a matter of seconds I literally was gaining on the bus as I was being pulled in to the slipstream. I wasn’t able to slow down as even feathering the brakes caused the bicycle to shimmy violently. I made a quick - and potentially deadly - decision.

I figured hitting the gravel at that speed was a sure recipe for disaster. I glanced at my cycle computer and noticed I was now going 45 mph. So without giving it another thought I went to pass the bus on the left into the oncoming lane.

The second I whipped to the left I realized I had made a stupid mistake. There was no way I could get back behind the bus if there was oncoming traffic as it was sucking me into the slipstream. Worse yet, the road was curving to the right which meant I didn’t know what was around the bend.

In an instant I decided to go for it I went into the best rider’s tuck I could praying I could get by the bus before any traffic came. I was able to cut in front of the bus and miss an oncoming van that was perhaps six car lengths away.

I wasn’t pedaling at that point but my heart was beating faster than it ever had before. Eventually the gravel cleared up, I moved onto the shoulder and came to a stop just short of the golf course at the base of Brockway Summit. After a few seconds I started shaking uncontrollably.

Given the fact friends I rode with thought I was too cautious of a rider, I had let myself get a bit more aggressive without realizing it. As I stood shaking and sweating at the same time, I vowed never to let riding - or anything for that matter - be about meeting somebody else’s expectations.

Rest assured Austen has learned a lot about himself doing something that most people would just shake their heads at.
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