In early summer of my senior year of high school in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, I cycled from Eemnes to my school (about a 45-minute bike ride) when the weather was nice. Otherwise I would take the bus and the train.
I had an old bike with no speeds, but what was great about it was that it handled really well with no hands. On the way back from school I often battled a head wind so I didn’t cycle without hands much. But on the way to school I did it a lot.
So at one point I decided to see if I could make it all the way from home to school without using my hands except to get on at home and to get off at school. It required a lot of luck with traffic lights and there was one particularly sharp little bend in the bike path about halfway, just past the palace at Soestdijk, that I hardly ever managed completely.
Then one day I had good luck at traffic lights—either because they were green when I approached or because no cars were coming and I could run them—and I got the sharp bend right. I felt that this was my lucky day. It was now or never. It was still going to be tricky, because traffic in Bilthoven would be heavy, but I had a good feeling about it.
I probably ran another light or two because no cars were coming, but then came the crossing at school. It was super-busy of course, with cyclists and cars driving every which way, and I had to make it across that street for it to really count. I approached, having had luck all the way, but a car was coming. To hell with it, I thought. I’m never going to get this close again. So I kept going, gambling that the car would slam on its breaks rather than have a mess on the front bumper.
It did. So no mess. And I made it from Eemnes to Bilthoven with no hands. I was euphoric! I even wrote about it as my final Dutch exam essay a few weeks later. The assignment was to write about a challenge. I got a good grade. I still grin inwardly when I think about it, more than thirty years later. But don’t ever try this.