Ballet on a bike

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The sun beat down on the street outside of T-Bonz restaurant while traffic at the intersection of Boy Scout and Washington roads was at a standstill.

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Devin Clark, 15,  a BMX flatland freestyler, does a stunt on his bicycle. Devin grew up watching his father perform tricks.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Devin Clark, 15, a BMX flatland freestyler, does a stunt on his bicycle. Devin grew up watching his father perform tricks.

Devin Clark, 16, unfazed by the heat and congestion on a recent Tuesday, pedaled his dad's bike around the empty parking lot. He let it glide down the sloping pavement, switched sides, put one hand on the bike seat and the other on the handlebars and elevated himself - feet first - in the air.

"Whoa!" said a man in a silver sedan as he watched Devin ride away, extended like a gymnast upside down on the rings.

A ponytailed girl on the passenger side of a red car yelled her approval.

Minutes later, a man in a red Jeep spoke into his speaker: "Ride that bike."

Devin, a freshman at Westside High School, was oblivious to it all.

Ear buds in while listening to rap, acts such as DMX or Pov City (anything except Lil Boosie, whom he just doesn't like), Devin went about his tricks.

He said he doesn't mind the onlookers who watch in awe as he does handstands or bounces pogo-style on his bike. He is unbothered by passers-by who wince when his foot misses or his hand slips, and he struggles to keep from falling on his face.

"If I fall, I fall," he said. "If they (the onlookers) yell something (bad) at me, then I tell them to come do it."

A boy and his bike

It's not easy.

A BMX flatland freestyler, Devin began riding four years ago.

Originally from Harlem, N.Y., Devin came to Augusta in December after living for about a year in Florida.

His father, Wendell, whom he lives with, can also be seen in the T-Bonz parking lot doing tricks on his bike. Mr. Clark started freestyling when he was 18. He's made it a part of his life for years.

Devin grew up watching his dad and picked up the activity, which requires a rider to perfect stunts and tricks on a special (and expensive) bike that includes pegs on both sides of each wheel. There are twists and turns, flips and dips.

Devin said the goal is performing one trick after another without stopping or falling off.

It's like a dance.

"That's what my father said," Devin said. "He said act like it's (the bike) a female. You've got to love the female."

Like ballet on a bike, Devin rides with smooth motions, outstretched limbs and the agility of a dancer performing to a rhythm only he hears.

He kicks softly, rubs his feet against the wheels to move his bike while it changes directions beneath him. At times he will pull himself over the handlebars, crouch low against the wheels and pedal from the front. The trick is called the "tree hugger."

In another trick, he leans down on the front tire and makes the bike go up in the back. He then kicks the rear wheel so that it spins around before he catches it and rides off. The move is called the ''tail whip.''

In all he knows about 10 tricks, including his favorite, the "Boston Backbreaker" where he goes up in a handstand. It took him four months to learn that stunt.

"When I first started, I was like, 'This is impossible, you can't do this (on a bike).' A bike is made for one thing and one thing only - transportation - one way and back. I (had) seen my father do it and I was like, 'Oh wow, it is possible.' And he told me anything is possible if you put your mind to it. So I started doing it."

Devin practices four to six hours a day, twice a week, at T-Bonz. He also spends about two hours on most days watching videos or going online to learn more tricks and stunts.

Self-taught, he and his dad are a regular source of entertainment and athleticism in the area.

People meet them all the time and say, "Hey you're the guy who we see at T-Bonz. Who's that guy you're with?"

Despite his rising fame, Devin is a typical teen.

Practice ends when he gets hungry.

He enjoys a little adoration from girls.

He's modest about his abilities.

"I'd say for my age, I'm more than an amateur and less than a professional but I'm getting to pro," he said. "I'm not competitive. I'm not ready yet. There are kids younger than me who can do back flips on their bike."

But his dad said Devin does things on his bike that he'd never try.

Still, it's attempting the impossible that drives Devin.

"The excitement after you complete a trick - you just want to go on to the next one and you want to do another that's harder and harder," he said. "That's why I've kept doing it once I started. And it brought me females."

Hazardous ride

Shin guards and gloves are Devin's only protection when he is stunting.

Considering the odd angles and complicated tricks he does, as well as how potentially dangerous riding without a helmet can be, he has relatively few marks.

Ask him to show you his scars and he'll do it.

There's the scar on his ankle where the bike's peg went through it. He has a similar injury on his knee.

Once, when he was doing a handstand, he missed, fell on his face and had his tongue ring go through his lip.

He didn't cry, he said.

"I just got up, wiped the blood off and kept riding," Devin recalled.

Given the hazards of the stunts he tries, Devin said he concentrates on minimizing injury, particularly to the head.

"I try hardest not to hurt my face," he said. "Because then I'm not cute anymore."

Yet he remains largely fearless on his bike. It's fun to ride. Challenging. It keeps him out of trouble.

And risk or no risk, that's something he isn't ready to live without.

"I'm going to do it till I'm 72," he said. "It's an everyday, all day thing for me"

And he does it without fanfare or inhibition.

"Ride hard or ride home," Devin said. "My dad told me that."

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (3) Add comment
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KeriGrayce
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KeriGrayce 06/02/07 - 06:19 pm
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That is totally awesome. This

That is totally awesome. This kid shows he is dedicated, and he could be great at so many things! This is trully cool.

pooka112
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pooka112 06/07/07 - 06:44 pm
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Haha...GO Devin! Look at you

Haha...GO Devin! Look at you being all brave and stuff. Good job pa...keep it up! We love and miss you!

pooka112
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pooka112 06/07/07 - 06:44 pm
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Haha...GO Devin! Look at you

Haha...GO Devin! Look at you being all brave and stuff. Good job pa...keep it up! We love and miss you!

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