Monday 19 May 2008

Escape to New York

The First Emperor, by Tan Dun, at the Met
Placido Domingo in the title role

(photo by davajan)

After a lengthy drive, with some slow traffic in Pennsylvania due to I-81 construction, followed by pouring rain and a big back-up at the Lincoln Tunnel, we arrived in New York City just after 5:30 pm on Friday. We found our excellent hotel, the Michelangelo, although I had accidentally written down it was on West 52nd when in fact it was on West 51st, quite easily and the valet parking man took away the car.

Free to wander the Streets of New York at last! Driving in New York is pretty exciting, to say the least, as pedestrians use their force of numbers to cross on red lights but I learned that you just keep driving and beep your horn as you approach the intersection. I guess this adds a frisson of danger to daily life, but I would not own a car in the city if I lived there.

We were in town as I had purchased some tickets to the Metropolitan Opera from a colleague who was unable to attend. The hotel was within walking distance of Lincoln Center, and Times Square. Unfortunately, the rain got worse and it became much colder so the evening was spent relaxing in the hotel, where we had received a gorgeous upgraded one bedroom suite, with no less than three televisions in it.

Early the next morning, after having an excellent cappuccino and some biscotti (after all, the Michelangelo is part of an Italian chain!), I walked over to 50th and 7th Avenue in what was now glorious morning sunshine and took the subway downtown. Public transit in New York is another reason I would not bother with a car and the express train took me down to 14th Street very quickly. I then transferred for a few stops and got out in the up-and-coming Tribeca area. Many of the old buildings are being renovated and they look terrific: Olde New Yorke. Bricks and cobblestones everywhere, and I even saw a building with a sign promoting whalebone on the facade.

My goal was Cadence Cycling & Multisport on Hudson Street, the second location (after Philadelphia) of this upmarket bicycle store. I had been very impressed by the Philadelphia shop, on Main Street in Manayunk, and in New York I wanted to see an exhibition of cycling photos from Rouleur magazine that were only going to be on display until May 18th.

The Cadence store is in a gorgeous light yellow brick building, with lots of windows. From the street you could see several nice bikes on display, including a Colnago CLX in Italian tricolori and a new Cervelo. I went inside and was again impressed with how much effort went into finishing the store, with beautiful hardwood floors and excellent lighting. As you enter, there is a small café to the left, while on the right there are a number of frames–Cervelo, BMC, Wilier and Colnago–on display. Cadence also sells Cyfacs, but I think that they are all custom-built and I only saw some customer bikes.

Walking forward there is a large counter, and a range of small items, such as Clif Bars. There is a nice display of shoes, mainly Northwave and Sidi, and then quite a few items of cycling clothes, including an entire display of gear from Rapha. I even saw the special Andy Hampsten Giro commemorative jersey for sale.

The first floor also has the maintenance area, which is very open and quite spotless, where two mechanics were working. Next to them was a room with a window where a bike fitting was taking place. Beside this was an open door and I walked in to a large, high-ceilinged room to see perhaps 30 bikes set up on wind trainers and two huge screens, one showing a bike race. There were two people working out, including a woman who looked astonishingly fit, with truly terrifying calf muscles. All the bikes were different, so it is clear that people leave their bikes at Cadence and come to train in a group or individually. It appears that the system is the CompuTrainer one and it would have been nice to see how this worked.

Although I did not take the stairs I could see that downstairs there was an endless pool and probably there were showers and a locker room, although I am not sure. Cadence offers an impressive range of services, including VO2 max/LT tests and medical consultations. Of course, none of this–the hardwood floors, the coaching, the Tribeca location, the cafe–comes cheap. The cheapest frame that I saw was a Cervelo P2C, which went US$1850, and even the Clif Bars were US$ 1.75 each.

A few months ago I wrote about cruising bicycles, an attempt by manufacturers to get non-cyclists out for a ride using the kind of equipment that needs only the most minimal of effort of cost. What Cadence is trying to do seems to be the diametric opposite–a club-like location for serious athletes, or wannabes, with plenty of cash to indulge their favourite hobby. This kind of establishment is not for pros but needs a bigger market.

Unlike my experience in Philadelphia, the staff in New York was not very enthusiastic about coming out from behind the counter, although one of them did politely ask me not to take any photographs after I took a picture of the rack of frames. I guess if you look hard you can see some of the photos from Rouleur on the wall (you can see these from the street in any case) but otherwise it all just looks like what you would see on the Colnago or Cervelo website. Although I don’t like to be harassed by salespeople in shops, I was a bit surprised that after I spent nearly forty minutes looking at pretty well absolutely everything in the place and was clearly very interested–enough to take photos-- nobody approached me. Perhaps it was my apparent lack of terrifying calf muscles or the fact that I was not wearing Spandex in the store, as the handful of the other customers were doing, or my general simpleton vibe of Canadian cheapness that held them back rather than some kind of inherent snobbery, the sort of thing that prevents other roadies from waving at you on a ride as they pass you on the opposite side of the road. In any event, I was impressed with what Cadence is trying to do, and I enjoyed looking at the photos from Rouleur as well.

Monument to the Spanish-American War near Columbus Circle

I then took the subway uptown to look at Lincoln Center before returning to the hotel after walking a bit through Central Park and watching the cyclists there for a bit. The afternoon was spent watching an excellent performance of “the First Emperor,” with Placido Domingo in the title role, at the Met, followed by a wonderful dinner at the vegan gourmet restaurant, Candle 79, on the Upper East Side, where I enjoyed: grilled artichokes, with blue-cornmeal crusted onion rings; a wild mushroom salad with cippolini (!) onions; a Moroccan spiced chickpea cake with spring vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry and apricot-date chutney, accompanied by a dry Riesling. Then for dessert I could not resist the strawberry-rhubarb tart with dulce de leche ice cream. I think I will need to try a bit harder once I am back in Ottawa...


Will said...

Sounds lie a fun trip (and a posh bike store!)

They probably thought you were and industrial spy!

Manayunk? Wow, before it was gentrified I spent many a night in a couple of pubs there (University days)

Sprocketboy said...

Manayunk is very much gentrifried. And I was very impressed with the Wall, which I found hard to walk up, let alone ride it a dozen times like the pros used to.

I hate it when I give off those industrial spy vibes.

Judi said...

Posh bike store = snobby sales associates. That's one thing I hate in NY or SF.

NYC is a cool city but you are right, easier to just ride a bike there.