By Josh Moody
Have you ever noticed how many bikes there are at the Project? Ever been to a Smart Partner Picnic and rode down to the piers with the whole group, looking like a weird, kid invasion stage of the Tour de France? Have you ever gone into George’s shop in the back, looked around and thought, “Hold the foam core phone! There are as many bike tools in here as there are carpentry tools!”? Ever joined a Project kid for a spin on our tandem bike, The Watermelon? Or even if you’ve only been to our shows, I’m sure you’ve looked to the right as you enter our building, seen a half dozen bicycles hanging on the wall and thought to yourself, “Are there even enough staff members to ride all these things? What is the DEAL?” Well, I know how you feel. Let me tell you the story of my introduction to the biking culture of The 52nd Street Project.
I used to hate bikes. Honestly, hate them. When I was in college, my best friend was an aspiring pro cyclist. He took it very seriously: owned three bikes; trained constantly; wore the extremely uncomfortable (for him and anyone who saw him bike by) spandex onesies, and as a result, naturally, I mocked him mercilessly. “Dude,” I’d say, “Your car’s missing wheels, motors, tail pipes, headlights, efficiency, modern science, coolness, and you’re dressed like you’re coming from some sort of super intense modern dance class that requires a helmet and a butt pad… also you’re too skinny, eat something.” But try as I might to crush his passion, my friend kept right on riding, and loving every minute of it. I just didn’t get it.
Upon graduating from college, I decided to move to New York City, and by some strange and magical stroke of luck, I got myself a job working at the coolest place on this or any other planet, The 52nd Street Project. And to my amazement, despite living in a city with one of the oldest and most extensive (and yeah fine, also gross, weird, stinky, sticky, ratty, annoying, and on some routes almost non-existent, yeah, I’m looking at you G train) public transportation systems ANYWHERE, several of my new coworkers biked to work. Every day! Biked I tell you! Rain or shine! On BIKES! And I’m not even talking motorbikes here, I’m talking man-powered, leg pumping, basically running but with wheels, bicycles.
I was shocked, but also more than a little humbled. Here were respectable, successful and happy adults, STILL choosing the prehistoric vehicle preferred by my silly friend from college. “What am I missing?” I thought to myself. Well, more than ready to read my mind and answer that question was the Project’s resident bike guru: George “The Cogfather” Babiak. You see, George has been biking pretty much his whole life, spent twenty years working at a bike shop, and tries to convince everyone he can that bicycles are, and always will be, the perfect mode of transportation. And after so many years of blindly hating those two wheeled menaces, for whatever reason (Age? Maturity? Weakness? Subway rage?) I was finally ready to hear him out and see what this biking thing was all about. But rather than just explaining it to me, George did one better. One day, out of nowhere, George brought in an old bike, fixed it up, tied a bow around it, and handed me the keys (minus the keys… and the bow, sadly). And while I still resented the bike for, you know, being a bike, I was so touched by the gesture that I had to humor George and give the old half-car a spin. So I did.
And I’m sure you could see this coming… I fell in love with that bike! Madly, deeply, passionately in love! I named it Street Stomper and I asked it to marry me! And we’re still married to this day! Okay that last part is a SLIGHT exaggeration, but you get the point! After years of unabated bike bashing, I have now become an avid biker. And I’m talking WICKED avid (I am from Rhode Island, after all). I bike to and from work, and everywhere else I go, all year round, rain or shine, freezing cold or stupid hot (safely of course, wear your helmets please).
I never shut up about the things. I pedal in my sleep. Heck, when asked to write a blog entry on the new Project site about ANYTHING, guess what I chose? I’ll give you one guess. (Oh come on, you don’t need to guess. Stop being silly.) And I’m not alone. You might be surprised just how many of us roll our way around this city. Aside from George and I there’s Carol and her shiny, new, bright yellow bike: the Yellow Fever (just now named IN THIS BLOG ENTRY); John and his bike, Admiral Hopkinton Weatherbury; and the newest member of our clan, Liz “Bell Bike Helmets” Bell and her lovely pink ride: Wendy. Heck, even our founder, Willie Reale, rolls in from time to time to visit us on his sweet new set of wheels. And it’s not just about going to and from work for the Project Staff (though seriously, try it. You’ll save $1,000 a year in subway fare, get free and awesome exercise, no longer need coffee in the morning, and see the city from a whole different perspective), we even take our bikes on the One-on-Ones and instantly become our traveling bike crew: The Road Tamers. Can you guess what we do to the road? I’ll give you one guess. Tame it you say? Wrong, we ride on it. No one can tame the road. It’s made of concrete. You were led astray by our hyperbolic name. Shame on you.
The point is, we love bikes here at the Project, and hey, maybe you should too. Ride your bike over to the next show, park it on the wall near the entryway in our little bicycle parking lot, take it up stairs and have George tell you what’s wrong with it, or show it to me, and even after years and years of knee jerk mocking, I promise, I won’t hiss at it. I’ll probably say, “Sweet wheels,” and then challenge you to a race. And I’ll probably win.
You heard me.
Josh Moody & Street Stomper