One month ago today (yes, I’m that far behind on blog posts!), Basil and I went to New York City to ride with other Brompton cyclists in memory of NYCeWheels‘ founder, Bert Cebular, who died unexpectedly last December. We caught an early train. I loved the light, especially over the industrial areas, but it was pretty nice everywhere, even as the sun rose and washed away the early, deepest, hues.
Morning shades are never exactly like those of the late afternoon, even if the scenery is similar. That makes sense, I suppose, since the direction of the rays would inevitably affect the tones perceived. I rarely see these landscapes tinted in this particular way; it was a pleasure to experience it on this day.
This was a one-day trip, so Basil and I had no real luggage. Without a T bag, or other passengers’ luggage to keep him upright, Basil lay decoratively on his side in the baggage area.
Our car was virtually empty. Basil could have had a seat of his own, or stretched across two, if he’d wanted to.
We arrived at Penn Station in good shape; Basil is carrying his Mini O bag, and my helmet.
We were a little early, so we spent a few minutes enjoying Riverside park before meeting up with Cathy, of UnfoldedNYC. We had a delicious breakfast and a lovely visit with Cathy and family (including two beautiful Maine Coon cats — feline fix, first thing in the morning, oh yeah!).
We all gathered at NYCeWheels, where Bromptons Basil and Maggie had a chance to continue getting acquainted. Maggie is a M3L Brompton; she’s sporting her own blue and black Mini O bag. Cathy’s helmet is a strong red; Maggie is all-black. The red, black, and cobalt color combination manages to be striking, chic, and bold all at once!
You can see Basil’s custom Brompton yellow chain guard in the image above this one; Maggie was sporting her own brand new polished Tiller chain guard. Some of us are working on Peter, managing director of NYCeWheels, hoping he’ll be able to stock these in the USA.
The store wasn’t open for commerce, but Peter and crew served pizza and a Bert favorite, coconut water, to the crowd before we started out. It’s always interesting to see what’s stocked on those vibrant green walls!
NYCeWheels regularly offers free Brompton tours in NYC, and has a fleet of yellow Bromptons that riders can use if they don’t have their own yet. These were set out for cyclists who wanted to borrow one for the ride.
The sidewalk in front of NYCeWheels was covered with Bromptons. The H model in the foreground is an unusual (and rather nice) color combination: That’s a claret frame with cobalt blue extremities. (Basil and I remembered it from our first encounter with it at the 5 Boro Tour, earlier in the month.)
Peter set the tone for the ride: Like the best of tributes, this memorial event focused on affectionate recollections of the unique avocations and eccentricities of the one who was no longer with us. Bert, it seems, had more than a few quirks, and a fine a sense of playfulness.
Peter has a few eccentricities of his own. His raw lacquer Brompton has golden cables (!). There’s no mistaking this B for any other:
That golden glow complements the lacquer finish perfectly.
It became immediately obvious that herding Brompton riders is a lot like herding, well, for example, Maine Coon cats, but eventually everyone was rolling, and we took to the streets.
Sometimes these group rides become social in unexpected ways: When we all pulled up at a traffic light, one of our party had a friendly exchange with a small dog who was in the vehicle beside him.
We were soon in Central Park. Peter stopped at various points to let us re-group, and to regale us with tales of exploring there with Bert, and stories about the videos they filmed there.
The surprise of the day, though, was a hidden gem that Peter described as a favorite spot of Bert: a waterfall in a small wood where Bert often went with Mr. Bailey, his canine companion.
Amusingly (or at least ironically), we had to walk our Bromptons through trees and a bit of meadow next to the site. One could feel the astonishment and — dare I say it? — concern, when Peter announced that we’d be briefly on foot.
I heard more than New York city denizen exclaim once the sylvan surprise appeared; apparently this pretty locale wasn’t familiar to at least a few people who know the rest of the park well.
We crossed a field beside a stand of trees and gathered by the road that runs through the park. Summer had finally arrived, and the day was incredibly beautiful and almost too warm — not that anyone was complaining.
In Central Park, “share the road” can mean something a little unexpected. Fortunately, neither Bromptons nor horses were at all disturbed by each others’ presence.
Equine creatures are just fine, but there’s really nothing like a Brompton (or a fold of them) is there? Just look at all those small wheels, and the elegant curve of those distinctive frames!
Once we left the park, we stopped for ice cream. Parking such a large number of Bromptons was a mad and fun activity, and the line-up a fitting tribute to Bert, who did more than anyone else to bring Bromptons to New York.
There were Bromptons all over the place; Peter and his crew kept an eye on things while the rest of us went in and ordered our treats. Then we returned to NYCeWheels and said our farewells with a nod of thanks to Peter, his crew, and the memory of Bert, whose enterprise and eccentric vision was largely responsible for the current, easy availability of the best little folding bike on these city streets (and elsewhere, too!). Small wheels and unexpected discoveries: that’s not a bad legacy at all.