By a completely bizarre and random series of events, I found myself stranded in the greater Philadelphia area for the month of August. What could’ve been four weeks of desperate uncertainty sitting on a couch in Lindenwold, New Jersey turned into some of the best times I’ve had on bike this year. Whether it was walking around with my camera or pedaling for miles on end, just being out in the streets offered a kind of therapy I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else. And for that, I’ll be eternally grateful to this place.
Nothing beats the feeling of pedaling the streets of a new city. The sights, the smells, the spots; there’s so much to take in. I really do love the feeling of pedaling into the unknown, because in moments like that you become more appreciative of where you are instead of where you’re going. When I’m out with a good crew, the hundred degree temps, ten mile pedals or the 50lb backpack don’t matter because I’m exactly where I want to be.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit paranoid about pedaling around some of Philly’s lesser areas with $10k on my back. But for the most part, we didn’t get into any sketchy situations and riders get a lot of love in the streets. From 12 o’clock boys and local celebrities to packs of random kids, everyone was eager to see you, “do a trick”. Come to think of it, the only people I saw get upset about us riding were drug dealers and residents with cellar door setups in front of their houses.
I’d been to New York a few times but never gotten the full street riding experience until now. If you would’ve told me at age 15 that the first time I pedaled through the streets of New York City it would be with Ralph Sinisi, I never would have believed it. With every wrong way street we pedaled down, every iconic spot we passed by and every brew we drank, I shook my head, wide-eyed like, “this is really happening”. That first night out, especially, is an experience I’ll never forget.
My stay on the East Coast just so happened to coincide with Johnny Raekes being out there working on his “No Sleep Out East” video for Animal. After spending a week riding and shooting with him, I can tell that this kid is the future. More than the tricks, it’s the mindset of progression and a genuine humility that sets him apart. Johnny is fiercely driven by pushing the limits of his capability and will never sell himself short if he knows something is possible. At the ripe age of 18, he’s still got his best years ahead of him and it will be eye opening to see just how far he pushes himself and subsequently, the game.
A trip to New York City wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the newly accessible and again-ridable Brooklyn Banks. I’ve been to my share of iconic spots over the years, but this one just might take the cake. After seeing this spot in videos and photos for half my life, it was nothing short of surreal to finally be standing in the cavernous confines of one of BMX’s most hallowed grounds.
As if the entire month hadn’t been random enough, on my last day in town I made a stop by FDR on my way to the airport and ran into Tony Malouf and Van Homan. They’d finished up Van’s new 2018 Fit complete promo the day before and were just having a chill session. Again, if you would’ve told a young Malouf that one day he’d be riding FDR and Van Homan would be filming him, he probably never would have believed it. Seeing these dudes on a complete whim was somehow the perfect way to end this trip.
Josh Babu for holding me down when I needed it most, Brett Tocco, Justin Benthien and Kevin Vannauker for their hospitality, Ralph, Robert and Jeff at Animal for giving me the opportunity to shoot for them, Mike Osso for letting me borrow his bike, Johnny Raekes for going in at every spot, the whole Chocolate Truck fam for being good riders and even better homies, the PATCO and SEPTA trains for getting me out of New Jersey and into the city, Fishtown Market & Liberty Choice for good food in the neighborhood, Buzz Cafe and Milk Crate for dialed iced coffee and every person I rode and hung out with, you guys made this time everything it needed to be and more. Thank you.