Happy everything, my first riding mentor!
Since I was a kid, I changed my views, character, priorities and fascinations a few times. However, one thing remained unchanged till date:
Admiration for my big (4 years older) sister, an extremely clever and inventive individual, and the most fun partner in all life adventures (we've had quite a few of those...).
Lana has always been my role model and inspiration. She has also always been my foundation, my supporting pillar and a person who would give me an initial push whenever needed. Like that time when I learned how to ride a bike for the first time. She told me to hold on to the handle bar, and just close my eyes if it gets too scary. It might sound like a bad idea to you, but at that time, it worked. Maybe because I never had to close my eyes: Knowing that my big sister is there for me, I had no reason to be scared.
She also gave me (her) first bicycle. As soon as I grew out of my stroller, my parents got my sister a BMX, and I got her Kekec bicycle (you can see Lana riding it in the header picture above), a common childhood friend of kids growing up in former Yugoslavia, produced by a Slovenian company Rog. My parents attached training wheels to the back, and we were good to go, cruising the neighborhood together. If we wanted to go somewhere with sister's big friends, Kekec just couldn't catch up. That time, she'd allow me to sit on the bar of her BMX, and she'd pedal her way to the newly built bike/skate park in our city with other cool kids, bringing the baby (me). Then we'd park the BMX next to the ramp and slide on our asses or run through it. We honestly had no idea what to do with a BMX in a bike park, and neither did any of our skate-park friends. At that time basketball dominated our neighborhood, and it took a few more years before urban spaces were utilized for wheels in our country to its fullest.
We've had many bicycle riding episodes together, the last time chasing each other across Paris on rental Velib' bicycles. While she lived in France, I visited her often from Germany, staying with her for longer periods of time, being fortunate enough to work at a company that supported remote work. From Paris. Anytime.
Just as she taught me how to pick a bicycle lock as a kid (we used to 'steal' each others bicycles in school, which wasn't a theft, just some Balkan-style fun and practical skill building), she taught me how to select the right Velib', suitable for a few km ride from one drop-off place to another. She taught me how it's better to take time and choose quality vehicle, than rush into situations that might bring you into trouble and waste more time in the end. She also taught me how to handle a skirt on a bicycle the Parisian way, being attentive but not preoccupied by potentially flashing someone.
I could talk about our bike riding stories forever, but initially just wanted to share some sister wisdom from the most memorable tandem ride on her BMX. She drove me on her cool bike and reached a group of kids who started making fun of her for taking ‘the baby’ along everywhere. Me of course. It was uncool to share all your experiences with a younger sister at that time. She didn’t care at all. Not even when one of the kids pointed out that "the kid is shitty". Namely, the BMX bar was not attractive only to me, but also to the bird that flew over us at some point and dropped some poo on my head. If carrying "a baby" around everywhere was uncool, imagine how uncool it was to drag a baby with some bird poo in hair. Kids around us were of course ready for a good laugh and some mean comments, and I felt a great weight of that moment, along with pressure of other kids. In that moment, my big sister just waved her hand and rolled her eyes, and confidently announced:
"These kids don't know anything about the latest hair fashion. There's no point in playing with them, let's go!"
Really, there's something cool in my hair, not poo?
"It is poo alright. We gotta get home and clean this. But can you keep a secret? I know it brings great luck if a bird poops on your head. You're the chosen one, it's your lucky day.
I wasn't sure whether I should believe my sister or not, but surely none of the kids ever mentioned this episode again, and luckily I never got a nickname out of this. So it must have been my lucky day after all.
A few weekends ago, as we rode our motorcycles around Omaezaki cape, Kazuto told me to watch out for the seagulls, as they were shitting all over the place: "You don't want bird poo on your helmet". I immediately responded that it brings nothing but luck. He giggled and asked whether I know that from experience.
Lana taught me never to worry about some tiny shit situation that comes your way. It's just a reminder you're the lucky chosen one sometimes!
Happy birthday, my first riding mentor! Loads of love from Tokyo from both of us!
While you get wiser and teach me new things each year, I still keep your first street lessons close to my heart and mind. Thank you for growing up while taking "the baby" everywhere, tandem if necessary, however shitty it happens to be...