Unicycling Duo Aims to Cross All 2,078 NYC Bridges
April 27, 2010
No one has ever crossed New York City's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on a unicycle. Then again, no one has ever had to -- until now.
Unicycle enthusiasts Keith Nelson and Rob Hickman are on a mission to cross every bridge in New York City -- all 2,078 of them -- on one wheel. Next up is the Verrazano, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island and at 13,700 feet happens to be the longest suspension bridge in America.
Sunday's 42-mile Five Boro Bike Tour is the only day the bridge is legally open to cyclists.
Nelson, co-founder of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, and Hickman, a New York City artist, were welcomed by the tour's registration committee and received favorable starting positions ahead of the pack.
"I'm confident that these zany unicyclists will generate many smiles and much laughter from their two-wheeled counterparts," said Kenneth J. Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York. "It'll be like the circus is riding through town!"
The Verrazano will be their 100th bridge crossed, and quite likely the most difficult: Some 32,000 bicyclists will be heading over the bridge with them.
"The two-wheelers don't anticipate the movements of a one-wheel cycle very well," Nelson told AOL News. "We regulate speeds different than a bike can. We can't coast, we don't have gears, we have different issues on hills. I'm just hoping they give us the room that we need. If we fall, you may see a 20-bike pileup."
Of course, this is no competition, so there's no hurry. "I expect it to take forever, and I will make as many stops as I can!" said Hickman, who's already done the tour on two wheels several times.
They've been training with 15- to 20-mile rides to get used to the distance they'll need to cover.
The unicyclists began their bridge tour in October with a ride across the 7,308-foot Williamsburg Bridge, which connects the Lower East Side of Manhattan to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.
"We started this whole thing on a whim," Hickman said. "Originally the goal was just to cross the Williamsburg Bridge." But after going across and back, the duo still had energy left in their legs and kept going. At that point they decided to conquer all the bridges, thinking there would only be 70 or 80. A quick Google search later revealed a couple thousand more, which includes overpasses.
"The notion is clearly absurd, but I can rationalize it in many ways," Hickman said. "I've always had collections -- coins, stamps, beer cans. If you think about it, a collection of 2,078 isn't too daunting."
Naturally, they turn more than a few heads with every ride. Other than being asked if they juggle (they don't -- at least, not while riding) the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We get everything from, 'Awesome!' to 'Thanks, you've made my day!'" Nelson said. They get the occasional haters, too. "We get a little flack from spandex-clad bicyclists calling us freaks, but they should just look at themselves in the mirror."
Both Nelson and Hickman have only been riding for a little over a year. Other unicyclists have joined them on the first 99 bridges, and at least two or three others are expected to join them in crossing the Verrazano. Their complete tour can be followed at their Unicycle NYC Bridge Tour blog.