In his bespoke Italian suit and designer dress shoes, Cyril Therien gracefully weaves in and out of street traffic like a fish in water.
As soon as he pulls up to Pergola, the Flatiron hot spot du jour, women are practically lining up to speak to the 39-year-old IT specialist as he parks his wheels.
“This thing is a chick magnet,” he says.
There is no way in hell Cyril Therien is a real person.
Anyway, unlike other bike bloggers who also ride skateboards (I'm looking at you, Stevil Kinevil), I can't do any tricks and I totally suck. However, yesterday I used my skateboard in a practical application instead of simply flailing around on it on the street outside my house, and I must say that it was something of a revelation.
Basically, I had some errands to run in my neighborhood, and then I had to go all the way to Brooklyn. And while I certainly could have done all of this by bicycle, I also had a limited amount of time, and I live far enough from Brooklyn that the only way the bike saves me time over the train is if said train derails. (Which, I should point out, is becoming increasingly common these days.) Ordinarily in a case like this I'd reach for the Brompton, but this time I figured "what the hell" and instead I grabbed the board with wheels.
Here's how it played out:
--Rode skateboard to post office and some other places, tried not to beat self to death with skateboard while suffering through postal service transaction;
--Saved myself a time-sucking inter-division transfer by skating to my destination once I arrived in Brooklyn;
--On the way home, got off the train early, picked up some Chipotle, and skated the rest of the way home.
What can I say, something about riding a skateboard makes you hungry for Chipotle.
Anyway, the revelation wasn't that the skateboard worked out well as a handy way to augment the New York City transit system. No, the revelation was how I felt while riding it--and the way I felt was deeply self-conscious.
See, as an internationally renowned bicycle blogger and author who's been riding a bike since the 1970s:
And who upgraded from training wheels to Skyway Tuff Wheel IIs:
And eventually reached the lofty heights of Category 3 road racing and "sport" level mountain biking:
I am simply no longer capable of feeling self-conscious while on the bike. Sure, there was a time when I felt naked without a matching stretchy kit and wouldn't be caught dead on a bike without clipless pedals, but thankfully these days are long behind me. Indeed, my only fear at this point is that I've become so laid back and ecumenical with regard to bikes that I might one day do the unthinkable and experiment with recumbents.
Oops, too late!
Rest assured I showered in scalding hot water afterward and have not been on one since.
The skateboard however was another story, and I found myself constantly worrying that I looked like a middle-aged hipster doofus--probably because that's exactly what I looked like. More than that, I worried that I was doing it "right." Not right in the sense of staying on it (I'm pretty capable of that), but right in the sense of not offending anybody. After all, it's been like 30 years since I've used a skateboard for transportation, and back then I was too young to give a shit about stuff like whether or not I should be on the sidewalk or what's the least loud and stupid-looking way to stop this thing. When I'm on a bike I know exactly where I should and shouldn't be, which rules to follow and which rules to bend, and so forth. On the skateboard however I was some weird not-quite-pedestrian and not-quite-cyclist, and I didn't know shit.
And that was the revelation. This is how a lot of people feel on the bike. Just as I hadn't skated since I was a teenager, many New York City cyclists haven't been on a bike since adolescents and are wobbly and insecure. And while most of them are capable of staying upright, no doubt many of them are emotionally quite fragile, and how much they worry about whether or not they're doing it "right" could be enough to decide whether they stick with the bike or simply give it up.
And while I wouldn't call riding the skateboard a form of penance (I enjoyed it too much), I would say it was humbling and lent me some much-needed empathy. Certainly it's important to encourage cyclists during this important make-or-break period in their development.
As for whether or not I'll continue using the skateboard for commuting, we shall see. But if I can ride around on a folding bike and maintain some shred of dignity, I can probably ride anything: