The Friday before the 5 Boro Bike Tour dawned sunny and calm.
For Sunday, the day of the tour, winds were still predicted to be 21 mph/33.7 kph. I headed out to pick up our registration packets while watching for portents of Sunday’s weather. This did no good, of course, but I couldn’t help wondering how difficult the bridges would be in that kind of wind.
Abandoning the unforthcoming skies, I spied this Brompton — a yellow and black near-twin to Basil — as I approached the Expo entrance. The rider is wearing a marshall’s vest, and headed off, presumably, to guide confused registrants who are on unfamiliar territory at the southernmost end of Manhattan.
For various reasons having mostly to do with greed and avarice among humans, registration packets for the 5 Boro Tour must be picked up in person either by the rider-participant, or an officially deputized alternate. Dr. Diarist was still back home when I picked ours up, but the process was quick and painless — possibly because I was one of the very first in line.
There was more Brompton-spotting while I was waiting. That’s a yellow and hot pink M6L in the rear, and a claret titanium S6L in front. Three Bromptons in my sights even before entering the expo — it was a blissful start to the day!
For tour volunteers, the day was just beginning, too. This crew assembled just outside the Expo gates, preparing to guide thousands of registrants to the Expo and packet pick-up.
I was one of the first in line; a beaming official handed over clear plastic bags filled with a fat catalog, our required placards (one for human, one for bicycle) and our bonnets, with which we would obscure our helmets during the tour. I packed it all up and went to check out the Expo exhibits.
Vespertine was just setting up; they’re a New York company which makes reflective clothing and accessories, primarily for women.
I talked to several people at Red Beard Bikes, of Brooklyn, including Mark S., a Brompton representative. He’s part of the coming USA Brompton wave; we had an interesting talk about the bicycles and the future of Brompton.
Red Beard is a Brompton dealer; unlike NYCeWheels, they don’t [yet?] offer Brompton tours, but they do have a fleet for test rides, and are willing to loan Bromptons out longer-term for more serious tests.
I was apparently on a visibility kick this visit, and was intrigued by the Illuminite booth. This hood caught my eye — not initially because of its light-reflective qualities, but because it looked like a sleek and versatile under-helmet winter option. Without illumination, those dots are a neat style point; with focused light they burn brightly.
Illuminite had a huge assortment of reflective apparel, all of which looked traditional in ordinary light. The illumination patterns appear to be applied to the fabrics rather than woven-in; they look quite natural on the garments, but really shine when caught directly by vehicle beams (or a camera flash).
I have no idea how their jerseys, jackets, etc. wear, and didn’t need anything of the sort at the moment, but will keep them in mind in the future. Visibility is good; essential, even.
I didn’t take photos at the Showers Pass booth, but did try on an Elite 2.0 jacket, which I loved. There was a small stack of the previous iteration on the floor, offered at $100 USD versus its former price of $240. They’ve moved the pit zips to the torso, which I thought a huge improvement, and the jacket fit me beautifully. If it had been high vis, I’d probably have snapped it up. Several hours later — no surprise! — the sale garments had disappeared.
I was really happy to see Susan, of Cleverhood, again. I’d met her last year, and love her products — beautifully made cycling capes. I ruefully confessed that I’d just bought a cape from REI, since I’d tried a Cleverhood on at last year’s Expo and knew it was far too voluminous for me.
“You should have written me!” Susan exclaimed, and she was right: She’s experimenting with a new, smaller Cleverhood. That’s it above; like the other versions, it’s got a lot of amusing, classic personality. The pattern is a very tiny gingham check, with waterproof zippers in black, red, green, or yellow to add a little pizazz.
Susan sent me home with one of the new, smaller, versions to review. I love the look, and can’t wait to see how it functions when worn, now that I can check out a size in which I won’t be swimming. Cleverhood capes are beautifully designed, made in the USA, and feature illumination threads subtly woven into the garments.
Susan’s son was modelling a Cleverhood, and looking very Sherlockian, I thought, but none of my pictures captured the moment. Low light at these shows can put a real damper on photo quality.
After the Expo, I headed to Chinatown for lunch at Wonton Noodle Garden (crowded — it’s New York! — sullen service; see previous — but tasty, tasty vegetarian!) and thence to Penn Station, to meet Dr. Diarist and Argyll.
On the way, I spotted this tandem, and its somewhat formally dressed stoker. This does not strike me as an effective means of traversing the city — a place where nimble steering has already saved my skin more than once.
I waited for Dr. Diarist’s and Argyll’s train on the lower level. There was no one around, which was odd for Penn Station. Even odder was the concept of meeting travelers as they disembark. In New York, especially, there’s normally just a huge outpouring of a mass of humanity, and eventually everyone gets to the proper destination. A calm, quiet, welcome is just not typical.
Shockingly, Dr. Diarist had made no effort to document Argyll’s first proper trip with him, but fortunately I was able to remedy the situation. Dr. D. does not travel as lightly as I do, though admittedly he is a larger person, with larger clothing. He still managed it all with his Brompton, though.
We dropped his things back at the Manhattanites’ in Washington Heights, and returned to the Expo so that Dr. Diarist could take a look around. This mostly involved food: We shared a lovely, crisp, melted cheese sandwich (Asiago!) and admired the scenery in the beer garden, though we did not imbibe.
It was a stunningly beautiful day, and I checked out the sky again, looking for something — a text message in the clouds? — that might suggest, definitively, that the weather would hold, and Sunday would be as beautiful. The sky was sayin’ nuttin’ — but oh, those clouds!
Then we headed to REI in Soho, hoping to find a high vis hydration pack for Dr. Diarist. They aren’t allowed on the 5 Boro, but he uses one at home, and our relatively small local REI didn’t have anything suitable. We had no luck with the pack, but did see a Brompton in the store.
Then we headed back to the Manhattanites’s for a very pleasant, quiet evening. Washington Heights is nearly all the way back up the island from Soho and the points south where we’d been, so we were amused to see that one of our fellow subway riders had come down to Chinatown to do her shopping before returning, like us, to the Heights.
In our suburban world, we do exactly the same thing — it’s (at least) a forty minute drive from our home to our Chinese supermarket in Philadelphia. Gristedes grocery stores may be ubiquitous in NYC, but it’s not as if you’re going to be picking up bok choi. lotus root, or bellflower there.