Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'One' love: Unicyclists roll into town

By Meredith Deliso

One isn’t the loneliest number.

During the first New York City Unicycle Festival, one-wheel enthusiasts will be out and about en masse, starting with a 13-mile ride from the Brooklyn Bridge to Coney Island on Sept. 3.

The festival is the brainchild of Keith Nelson (pictured above in DUMBO), better known as the ringleader of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus. A circus arts man adept at fire eating and juggling, he started getting “totally obsessed” with unicycling about two years ago, organizing trips across all the bridges in the city and even doing this year’s Five Boro Bike Tour — all 42 miles of it — by unicycle.

“There’s a lot more of us out there than you could have ever imagined,” said Nelson, a Williamsburg resident who rides his unicycle all over town for both transportation and recreation. “I think it’s the perfect tool to health and happiness. Get America riding unicycles, and you’d see the obesity levels go down. People will be happier.”

The unicycle is without a doubt a more challenging and physical ride than a two-wheeler — you’re always pedaling, and there’s every direction at which to fall — but it certainly does have its fans. Nelson is expecting upwards of 40 committed riders to participate in the festival’s long-distance ride on Sept. 3. Starting at the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, the intrepid will pedal their way to Grand Army Plaza and then to Coney Island, where some will perform BMX-style tricks.

The three-day festival also includes events on Governor’s Island on Sept. 4 and at Grant’s Tomb in Manhattan on Sept. 5, but the highlight is sure to be the ride. Kyle Petersen, an avid cyclist since he was 12, will be there. The redhead may be a familiar face to Cyclones regulars — he’s the vendor who juggles atop a unicycle during late-inning breaks. And when he’s not cheering on the Cyclones and selling peanuts, you can still find him on his wheel — he rides it to home games from his Prospect Heights apartment.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all my fellow mono-wheeling brethren,” said Petersen, who, true to form, will be working the Cyclones game against the Tri-City Valley Cats after the ride. “It’s a great activity for a lot of reasons: it keeps you sharp mentally, it’s a challenging skill, and it’s an excellent aerobic exercise. There are no fat unicyclists.”

The one-wheelers tend to do good for non-riders, too.

“It brings a smile to just about anybody’s face that sees it,” said Nelson. “How many things in the city can say that?”

New York City Unicycle Festival Brooklyn ride, beginning on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge [the East side of City Hall Park on Park Row, (877) 246-3537], and ending in Coney Island, Sept. 3 from 2-8 pm. For info, visit

Photo by Stefano Giovannini


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