Start spreading the news…

22 05 2010

Back from a week away in New York City.

And while we were doing Broadway, soaking up the energy of Times Square, shivering at Letterman, gorging on Junior’s cheesecake and paying our respects at Ground Zero, the call of the bike was never far away.

Getting ready to enter the Ed Sullivan Theater for a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman.

With its crazy traffic congestion, pollution, careening yellow cabs, and jay-walking pedestrians, it’s hard to imagine a more bike-unfriendly city than Manhattan. But the city has a thriving cycling culture; manic couriers in the financial district, hipsters on fixies in the Lower East Side, four or five run bikes leaning outside a daycare in the Upper East Side, poseurs riding morning crits around Central Park.

On Tuesday, a buddy and I took shelter from the miserably cold, rainy and windy weather at the Museum of Art and Design, where one of the featured exhibits was a collection of handbuilt bicycles. Certainly the meticulous paint jobs on Dario Pegoretti’s frames, the detailed lug-work of Vanilla bikes, the old-school elegance of Richard Sachs‘ frames, the swooping beefy curves of Jeff Jones mountain bikes and the vintage charm of Peter Weigle‘s classic rides are worthy of being called rolling art. Beautiful bikes.

Thursday, As Katie enjoyed an 8km run through the park, I cooled my heels on a bench along the western leg of Park Drive, marveling at the equipment rolling by, Colnagos, Pinarellos, Marionis, Cannondales, Williers, Cervelos, De Rosas aplenty. Clearly in this most expensive city, there’s still plenty of disposable income to spend on high end rides. Whether doing laps around Central Park is a worthy destiny for such bikes is a question best answered by their accountants or investment managers I suppose, but it was kind of funny watching some of them huff and puff up the gentle inclines in the park as if they were conquering the steep switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez.

A turtle basks in the sun at Central Park.

That afternoon, we had a great time in Brooklyn, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, took in the views of the Manhattan sky line from the Promenade, shook our heads sadly at the line of tourists eager to lunch at Grimaldi’s Pizza, enjoyed a great meal of our own at The Heights CafĂ©, then desert at the very first Haagen Dazs just down the street.

With our seven-day Metro cards burning holes in our pockets, I convinced Katie we should venture further up Flatbush towards Park Slope to visit the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Cycle Store,” R&A Cycles. Every roadie has likely spent time and expended considerable drool looking at their website; they sell pretty much every high-end brand of bike out there, plus exotic wheels and top accessories.

Looking at their site, I always imagined a glistening expansive shop with a polished concrete floor and rows of glossy carbon frames hung along exposed brick walls, mechanics in crisp, clean overalls speaking in hushed tones as they build up the latest order for a De Rosa or Kuota or Look, a kind of Ferrari dealership for bikes. In reality, it’s a warren of three little crowded old storefronts beside R&A True Value Hardware in a gentrifying neighborhood where women’s boutiques and baby shops are starting to crowd out the green grocer and OTB shops. Pinarello, Willier and Scott frames hang in haphazard rows from the low ceiling just inside the narrow entrance, built-up bikes are jammed into a corner of the second annex fighting for space with a nice selection of clothing from Capoforme, while the third annex is dedicated to kids’, commuter and hybrid bikes.

Eyes wide, I drooled over a De Rosa Merak and a Look 566 built up with Ultegra components for a nice price while Katie swooned for a pretty Felt ZW6 and a couple of Bianchis.

Ahhh, our own American dream…