When I became a bike rider back in the late 1970s, the very notion of New York Bike Style — now the title of a book by Sam Polcer (Prestel, 2014) — seemed like a contradiction in terms. If you were a bicyclist, you didn’t want style. Bike thieves were so common you looked at them as part of the toll. The vast majority of my old bikes were recovered from the street, abandoned, squeaky projects that, even after being fixed up, never moved too quickly. But they were stolen, or at least vandalized, with heartbreaking speed.
Those dark days are apparently gone. It’s a veritable liberation movement for the bike-curious. Cyclists are out of the closet. It’s hip to ride a bike in the city. Photographer Sam Polcer has taken hundreds of breezy, bright, upbeat photos showing a cultural cross-section of fashionable New York bikers: mainly young, usually sexy, of all ethnicities and from all walks (or rides) of life. Under their glamorous photos, in addition to their first names and the type of bike they sport, he also adds where they are, or are going.
His book could be used as a recruitment campaign: bikers sporting the gangsta look, collegiate bikers on their way to university, aristocratic bikers in sweater vests and button-ups (one with a polo mallet!), old-school bikers, sex kitten bikers showing great legs, downtown tattooed bikers, home-customized bikes, bike repairmen plying their trade, even a couple of Citibikers, trying to keep up. The only missing details are helmets, but the last item in the book is a disclaimer, explaining that they were removed for the pictures, but adding that [they] “make sense.”
Roughly 20 years ago, after my umpteenth brush with death — and the gratuitous mutilation of my 40-something-th bike (two of them I actually recovered, only to have them re-stolen) — I gave up my wheels and became an avowed walker.
New York Bike Style makes me wish I were born years later. If you’re looking for a sporty coffee table book that glides through a catalogue of glorious and attractive New Yorkers, this is your ride.