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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Riding Through It
Portraits of Steven Roller, Cycle Surfer and SCC Student. Taken in field between Curtis Park and SCC Hughes Stadium. Photo by Tamara Knox [email protected]

Erin Adeyemi | Contributing Writer

In the City College quad, a man rides a yellow bicycle with black tires. Beneath a black and white skull mask his brown eyes sparkle. He wears a yellow jersey and black spandex bicycle shorts, and the outlines of tattoos show on his arms and legs.

From far away it looks as if he is just an ordinary man doing tricks on his bicycle. But the rider starts to set himself up for a wide turn, and just before he goes into it, he takes his left leg and throws it up around his handlebar neck and tips his head back.

Now that he has started this backward momentum, he takes his arms and throws them back over his head while turning into what he calls “the hip slider.” His hips move back and forth as he leans as far backwards as his body will allow him, almost touching his helmet on his back tire as his left leg goes up and over the handlebar neck.

His body and his bike ride at a sharp angle as he starts to come up and out of the turn with both feet on the peddles, then he and his bike right themselves again.

Steven Roller, 54, is a City College student who, when he isn’t in class, likes to do elegant, hands-free moves on his bicycle.

“You’ve seen figure ice skating,” says Roller. “I do elegant moves like that, like figure skaters do, and I figured out a way to do it on a bicycle… without the handlebars.”

Roller has always believed that if you can control a bicycle, you can do anything. That “if you can conquer it to the point where you don’t fall, you can do anything in the world that you set your mind to and be successful at it.” So  he prayed.

“I asked God to teach me something that nobody’s ever done, and at the age of 52 [cycle surfing] is what I started doing,” says Roller.

There are regulations for everything, Roller points out. People have to be this age or that height to get in to this sport or that activity. Not so with cycle surfing.

“Cycle surfing — you got a bicycle, you want to try it, come see me. We’ll see what we can do,” says Roller with a smile.

He would love to teach people how to do this and he feels it would inspire them.

“In Sacramento alone, they really don’t have anything for kids to do. I mean, they go to school but get mixed up in the bad crowds, on the streets doing illegal things, so they really ain’t got nothing to look forward to,” says Roller.

“I always thought that I wish I could give I could give back a little bit to the kids — maybe start teaching them something positive,” says Roller.

He developed the techniques and the name for his beloved sport. “The way I named it is that some of the moves that I do on this bicycle make me feel as if I’m a surfer,” says Roller who, as far as he knows — and he’s done a lot of research — is the only one who does this type of bicycle riding.

“I never would’ve dreamed that it would be anything like this. And once I started it, it became an obsession of mine,” says Roller.

“When I started riding a bike, I was pretty young,” says Roller. “As far as letting go of the handlebars, I wasn’t really sure about that, so I’d never really let go of the handlebars, let alone take them off .”
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But that changed as Roller began to cycle surf every day. He got more confident and let go of the handlebars,  eventually removing them completely. Sometimes when he is feeling restless or can’t sleep, he says he goes out at at night and does a couple of laps and instantly feels better.

Roller takes mixed aerobics and a weight training class at City College to help keep in shape, an important aspect of doing this type of bike riding. In his mixed aerobics class Roller — while listening to intense music — starts his workout by jogging for a couple of warm-up laps around the gym’s basketball  court.

He stretches out his body with a multitude of different lunges, quadriceps stretches, hamstring stretches, four- and three-legged bear crawls, squats and shuffles. Then he switches to cardio. Burpee suicides, squats with weights, lunges with weights and more. For a whole hour and twenty minutes.

Along with mixed aerobics and weight training classes, Roller also takes an advertising class at City College. His goal is to advertise cycle surfing so that it will become recognized as a mainstream sport.

“The response I got from the public was just amazing. Everywhere I go, they try to stop me and ask me if they can film me. What am I doing? Is this gonna be a new sport? And I just tell them, ‘You know, I’m just having a good time on my bike,’” says Roller.

He wears a helmet as he rides, but there’s another unusual touch to his appearance. “I’m not really out there to show off, so I cover my face,” he says.

“When I’m out there doing my moves, you’ll see I have my eyes shut,” says  Roller. “I close my eyes, especially when  I lean backwards or if I do a cross-over adjustment.”

A cross-over adjustment, he explains, is when he lifts his left leg up over the handlebar neck, leans backwards and runs his hand across the ground, then does a complete turn or two with his head facing sideways or facing the  ground.

“I close my eyes because I wanna feel the ride I’m doing. To me it just feels like I’m floating like a butterfly, and I know exactly what to do when my eyes are closed. I’ve gotten used to the idea of feeling my ride, more or less,” says Roller.

People also comment that they can’t believe how elegant he is on a bike. According to Roller, one woman even told him it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen done on a bicycle.

“What captures people’s attention is that I have so much control over the bike without the handlebars,” says Roller.

“The more I ride in front of them, they just can’t figure out how I’m doing it.”

Roller believes that there are all kinds of ways a bike can be ridden without the use of hands, but people are most amazed by his technique.

“Most of all people tell me I have mastered the way a bicycle can be ridden,” Roller laughs a bit. “I don’t know about that, but I have fun at it.”

Editor’s Note: this article first appeared on December 8, 2014 in the fall 2014 issue of Mainline magazine.

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