The group of Brompton riders loitering around the Amtrak station got bigger and more absurd looking when the rest of the NYCeWheels team showed up. Bert, Shoi, Izzy, and Michelle all rode M3L bikes in varying degrees of colors and styles. When all the Brompton riders had assembled, we took a few group shots and departed on the riverside Brompton promenade: a parade of folding bikes, ties, and a lot more mustaches than I expected.
We were welcomed to the Philly Phyler with applause. The event was a city-wide bicycle race, with most of the participants wearing Lycra and taking their race seriously. We mingled with the other Brompton participants and met riders from Philadelphia, Boston, and a surprising number from New York. In addition to suits and ties, we saw a flight attendant, a boxer, and three guys straight out of Saturday Night Fever.
The race consisted of two parts. First, we lined up our bikes in rows of ten and folded them. Then, everyone was herded behind yellow caution tape. When the whistle blew, the tape was lowered and we ran to our folded bikes. Although I unfold the Brompton bike several hundred times a week, somehow the frantic situation slowed me down at the beginning. Finally unfolded, I departed for the second phase of the race.
The course was a 6-mile closed track along the river. There were some monster hills and steep competition, but it turned out to be a great time. The winner, Aaron Ritz, was a Philadelphia native and amateur bike racer. He's headed to England for the Brompton World Championship race later this year. I had a photo finish for 13th place with Dan, another Brooklyn Brompton rider, riding an almost identical bike to mine.
After the awards ceremony, many of the riders headed back to the 30th street station for a group lunch. The Brompton folding bikes lined the pub entrance while the dapper riders indulged in a post-race drink.
I've never attended anything that was so absurd, and yet so much fun at the same time. I'll definitely be back next year.
The one thing that immediately distinguished the inaugural Brompton US National Championships was the complete acceptance of pre race trash talk. I've certainly never had my race attire so astutely critiqued. The abundance of interesting moustaches was also a clear determinant of who was serious about the race. I thoroughly expected it, but the sheer number of Brompton's in all their regal majesty was enough to bring a tear to this rider's eye. But the moment when we were all called to order and marched over to the starting line was when the real business of racing finally seemed to eclipse the 'show and tell'. The Brompton's were folded in lines of 10 and we lined up behind the tape some 50' away, 'Le Mans' style.
I got out to a slow fold, but quickly joined the chase pack. The 6.2 mile course proved very challenging and I settled in with a couple of dapper gentleman and we took it in turns at the front. We made a little head way on the lead pack of Bromptonaut's, but I had mechanical issues when my dynamo got stuck to my back wheel and forced a pit stop. I lost my group and was somewhat stranded and despite my best efforts could not catch back up. Heart break ensued when I was forced to stop again to perform the same adjustment. One of the fellows passing me uttered, 'nice lights' apparently well aware of my misfortune and schooled in the ways to verbally abuse the competition. I faded to 23rd after a dog fight 100 yards out from the finish and immediately straighten up my tie to save face.
We reconstituted back at a local pub and after a round of martinis, the good will ribbings of earlier quickly degenerated to out and out vendettas which will now have to wait patiently until next year's race to be settled. The sight of all the bikes folded outside the bar at the 30th street station was a sight I will never forget. As I arrived back in San Diego late last night, unfolded and rode the streets back to East Village, I thought about the NYC half marathon, which I ran with my young lady the following day, and the spectacle of seeing so many runners in a closed off Times Square. For a moment I imagined them all on Brompton's as I folded up my trusty steed and placed her back under the sink.