New York–Jan. 7, 2012
A bicycle club that has been in existence since at least 28 years ago celebrated another year this past weekend.
Based in New York City, the Five Borough Bicycle Club is composed mostly of bicycle riders who like to ride together to various destinations outside the city. But socializing with other cyclists is a big part of the picture too.
The party came back to the 103rd Street and Amsterdam Ave. location that is home to one of the biggest hostels in New York.
But the location is important for other reasons. Until a number of years ago, it was also once home for Bike New York which was sheparded for years by the late Paul Sullivan.
For one reason or another, I can never come to the 103rd St. hostel without thinking about Sullivan whose spirit will live forever in that small little dark room on the first floor where he used to plan the massive bicycle tour that took place every year across the city.
One of the last few times I feted in this grand hall, I remember it was for the more
somber remembrance of Sullivan right after his death from Diabetes at the age of 44. Daniel Lieberman, a longtime member who rarely misses an event, (and did not miss this night) was there that night too, and I think he was in charge of giving away Sullivan’s cycling gear.
This past Saturday most of the faces were the same ones we saw those few years ago, all a few years older (including myself). Food was plentiful, the atmosphere delightful. No one was ready for a bad time, and they showed it.
The president of the club, Ed Ravin, introduced the raffle giveaway, perhaps the highlight of the evening because it elicited antics and loud-mouthed jokes by raffle winners and losers.
Among the prizes, a free entry to the Montauk Century, which also brought to mind an historical incident, the split of the Montauk ride between a former member, Glen Goldstein, and the 5BBC executive committee who later revoked Goldstein’s membership.
A sad affair that was referred to in a letter by Henry Chin to the editor in the club’s newsletter back in 2007. Now both the club and Goldstein have their separate rides out to the last town on the end of the South fork of Long Island. Mention of it awoke my second sense that maybe this year I should actually try it.
Needless to say, times change. It would be naive to think that things could always be the same, and maybe even they shouldn’t.
In fact, those old days were the times when I could still afford an apartment in the local neighborhood, and attending the 5BBC shindigs was nothing but a short walk away: no longer. And I thought this last economic downturn would allow me to return to my childhood hood for good, but instead it’s had the reverse effect, skyrocketing rents to the highest they have even been.
Even Bike New York is no longer the same: It is now being run by the previous city’s Sports Commissioner, Ken Podziba who has grown the event to an unprecedented 32,000 participants.
As a side note, this year in May, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour adds three days of Bike Expo New York, an event that will draw thousands of riders to a pier on the Lower East Side to look at bicycles, cycling accessories and clothiing, and participate in training, events and fashion shows.
No one went away without something, as helmets, bicycle lights, tool packs,
a pump, water bottles and bottles of wine, made their way to raffle holders who screamed with delight. Some threw their arms up in the air as if they were crossing the finish line at the Tour de France when they heard their number being called.
Ravin reveled in the number calling, enunciating each numeral with rolling gravity as he approached the final digit.
“Seven…Six…Five…..Ohhhh…..Threeeeeee….TWO!” he shouted.
All of the goods had been donated by local bike shops, such as Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee, NJ, Bicycle Habitat in Manhattan, and others in Brooklyn and Westchester.
Speaking over the din of the crowd, Ravin tried to tell everyone that the club would be seeking 150 new members, hopefully many of them from the younger generation he said looking around at some of the 40-something plus group.
Two members I spoke two had joined only the day before. Rich Previte of the Lower East Side said he had never done any of the club’s rides, but has already done more than three centuries with his $10 steel bicycle.
When Liz Baum took away the only bicycle lock that had been won on behalf of Steve Taylor, Previte was disappointed. “I really wanted that lock,” he said. But five minutes later, Previte won a bottle of wine, good enough to trade for the lock: Baum called Taylor on the phone who said he already had one, and okayed the trade.
Club awards were also given and the Member of the Year honor went to Bob Castro who was described as not easy to get along with anybody, yet one of the best guys in the world.
Well, that kind of describes just about any New Yorker, let alone any New York cyclist. Castro was giddy and resplendent in his graphic tee-shirt: he’ll have a lifetime membership now to the Five Borough Bicycle Club.
Bill Mastro (yes, the names are confusing,) led the most rides for a newbie last year–in all 21, and received an award for his enthusiastic participation in the club.
If you want to be a part of the fun, membership is inexpensive and easy. Just sign up at http://www.5bbc.org/join5bbc.shtml.