Part One barely scratched the surface. As Francisco Colon approaches his 5th year living in NYC, he is still pedaling hard and pushing things to the next level for his fellow cyclists. There is more to the California native than Bike Stop Astoria. Cisco is, also, all about bringing the cycling community together alongside Edouard Hall with Drop Crank Society. In Part Two of Cisco's Spoke & Word, he fills us in on East vs. West Coast bike culture, how he got involved in DCS's mission, and what people need to do to live a better life.
When did you first start riding?
As far as getting into biking and doing tricks? Around 7th or 8th grade, when the first X-Games appeared and watching people do flatland. I got all into it.
So do you identity yourself as a BMXer?
Not anymore. Most people who work in the bike shop industry, like myself, end up owning and changing multiple bikes all the time. I have about six or seven bikes. You just identify yourself as a cyclist. Even though, I still ride BMX a bunch.
Which bike do you use to get around?
It depends how far I'm going. Lately, I've been riding an old Bottecchia converted to a single-speed. It has been the jam. As we know, single-speeds in NYC go hand-in-hand because of the flat terrain. You don't really have to worry about hills, maintenance, so on and so forth.
You're originally from the Bay Area in California. Since moving to NYC, how do you feel about riding here?
It's fun! I really enjoy riding with traffic in the city. It's my favorite place to ride. I remember when I first went back home and talked to friends who had never been here, I told them that it reminded me of riding in Market Street in San Francisco, but every single street in NY is like Market Street.
What are some of the cultural differences (bike-wise) between San Francisco and New York?
To live in SF and be a cyclist, you really have to negotiate your travel plans and route to accommodate the changes. The terrain is ridiculous! As opposed to a sidewalk, you have stairs on the side of the street! I guess our bridges here would be the equivalent to hills. Then, there are the drivers. SF doesn’t have cab drivers like we have in NY. In general, motorists are much more polite. You pull up to a stop sign and a motorist alongside you will usually wave you on and let you go. Here - it’s pretty much dog eat dog, especially with motorists and cabs. There is no mercy. They don’t care about cyclists whatsoever.
That being said, would you consider NYC a dangerous place to ride a bike?
It’s as dangerous as you make it to be. If you cruise while being alert of what’s going on around you and mindful of the rules, then you’ll be fine. But if you’re the guy who just bought a fixed-gear and rides it with no brakes and decide to go 40 mph trying to race people through traffic, then you’re probably not going to do so well at the end of the day.
How often do you ride?
Now, much less. I usually ride about 2-3 times a week. I don't have to commute anymore, so it's more about exercise. When I need to get out and pedal, I'll go out and pedal. My history in cycling and background has been BMX. It's always a cornerstone. I'll usually wake up and go down to skate park under the bridge in Astoria Park. That's kind of why I moved to Astoria, so that I would have a local skate park.
How do you feel about NYC becoming more bike-friendly?
I love it! First of all, I love New York! It's freakin' awesome for many reasons. If you look up at this poster [points above the counter], it was here before I started working at Bike Stop. It was one of the most impactful images I've seen. I owned vehicles in the past, but I don't like cars. I don't see a need for them really, you know? I find that people who cycle are genuinely happier. You're relaxed. You exercised. With the internet tying into the world and becoming such a dominant part of our lives now, why you would want to disconnect from one another further? Cycling is awesome! You go riding with people, you bond, you get something, you're tired, yet relaxed, you have lunch, drink some water, and etc. I love that the city is moving towards a more cycling oriented existence. It's good to see like-minded individuals out pedaling.
Is there anything NYC can improve on?
I think the city is doing fine. It's more the Trifecta between vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Everybody hates each other. It's the worst relationship ever. In addition, you have police, electric scooter delivery dudes, and people on vespas. It's really bad. If the Trifecta could get it together and respect one another, then this city would be rocking! I just don't know what to do or offer as any sort of recourse.
Let’s talk about Drop Crank Society. I’m curious to know more on how it got started.
Drop Crank Society is the brain child of Edouard Hall, who is my partner in that endeavor. It started out as a sneaker, house dancing, party jump-off where they would put together events with really popular house DJ’s. It was bikes, beats, and kicks. When I moved out here, I had a customer come in and ask if knew Ed Hall. After I answered no, she said that I should. It was random. About a year later when I took over Bike Stop, a guy comes in to get a flat fixed. I asked 'is your name Ed Hall?' He answered yes and then it got awkward for a second. I told him how Mandy said I should know him. Immediately, we became friends. Then, I found out about Drop Crank. Through negotiation, I go to Ed and say 'hey man, are you serious about this? Because I would really love to get behind something and push it to the next level.' Being also the manager of this shop, it really gave me an alternative outlet. While the shop is more business, DCS is all extracurricular.
What would you say is Drop Crank Society's mission statement?
An attempt to elevate the urban cycling experience through social events. There is always music. There is always dancing. It's not like a contest, even though there are always prizes and sometimes trophies. But it is more than just having a winner. It's more like a gathering where everyone gets to meet old friends, make new friends, and just bring the community together. It's all inclusive and aimed at anyone who rides a bike in an urban environment.
What is the significance behind the name?
My rendition of dropping crank is when I come off the 59th street bridge. I get onto 2nd Avenue going south, it's mayhem, and I have to go as fast as the cars. That's when it's time to drop crank! Just make it happen. Obviously, I'm wearing a helmet and not riding like a maniac, but it's Go-Time! I'm not the guy on the CitBike pointing at the Chrysler Building saying 'oh, look at that' while there are cars honking behind me. It's time to make moves. It's business.
How many events a year do you guys throw?
Depends on the year. It’s a gray area as far as a number goes. When 5-Pointz was around, we worked a lot with Meres and them. We did Bike For Pointz, which consisted of five events: a slalom race, longest-skid, longest track-stand, bunny hop, and wheelie contest. Cyclists got points for higher finishing (like top three, etc) and at the end of the event whoever had the most points would be the winner. Since 5-Pointz is no more, we've been trying to figure out a way to still have the event. DCS and Bike Stop still team up for a lot of other events, such as Gold Sprints, throughout the year.
Between DCS and Bike Stop, you get to mingle and interact with a lot of people in the NYC cycling community. How do they feel about the city's direction?
We have a couple of things going on here. You have the messengers, who are on bicycles all day. They're basically the 'bad-asses' of the cycling community. These guys ride bikes all day long! A lot of them ride fixed gear bikes with no brakes, ride in traffic, and don't use the bike lanes. In the end, I don't think they care at all because they're busy working. Then, you have the guys with track bikes because messengers made them popular and they love the aesethetic or whatever other reason for really liking the bikes. Those guys, too, I don't think any of them have animosity against the growing number of commuters. In fact, I think they dislike CitiBikes more than anything. [And why is that?] Because of the people who ride them. They're out-of-towners stargazing and don't know how to ride a bike in New York. They're all making us all look bad by endangering pedestrians and themselves. They're probably public enemy #1. There should be designated bike paths for tourists.
What would be your sales pitch to get people on bikes?
There are so many. You'll get there faster! That's number one! From the second you get on a bicycle, you're saving money, exercising, getting there faster, the list goes on and on. You'll live a better life. Simply put.