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After venturing west and north in our New York City cycling adventure with Giant’s revolutionary Revolt gravel bike, we opt to finish our visit with a ride to the southeast, to one of the city’s undeniable cycling meccas: Red Hook. Barely a decade ago, this neighborhood on the Brooklyn shore was little known to cyclists, save those looking for cheap rentals. Once home to a pivotal fort during the American Revolution and later a thriving port, the neighborhood had fallen into ignominious states of disrepair.
That all changed in a positive way with the advent of the Red Hook Criterium. First held in 2008, the bike race redefined the sport’s potential with an urban fixie criterium. Not sanctioned by USA Cycling, the event’s unofficial status soon became a blessing in disguise, because it quickly spawned a new style of racing that has been featured in cities around the world. In doing so, the event’s founders put this sleepy New York neighborhood on cycling’s world map—not to mention providing us with an ideal final destination for our four days of great riding in and around New York City.
Meeting up at the summit of the Williamsburg Bridge as the sun gently rises over the city, Austin Horse and Giovanni Jimenez, two of our Giant ambassadors, roll down to Williamsburg to meet Maurice “Moe” Adams, the third or our Revolt riders. “You know, if you are not from New York, and actually even if you are from New York, the first thing you think about when it comes to cycling in the city is Red Hook,” says Adams, a fixie specialist and popular figure on the New York cycling scene.
Joining up in Domino Park, just under the bridge in Brooklyn, the three riders catch the spectacular views of Manhattan’s Eastside skyline before heading to Sun and Air Bike and Coffee Shop—where Jimenez sometimes works—to make a quick adjustment and grab the morning’s first cup of java. “This place is like my second home,” Jimenez says. “I’m pretty busy as a bike messenger, but I still like to come here and give a hand. It’s a great shop and it’s a great space.”
Making their way south, the threesome trace the banks of the East River into Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights, navigating this quintessential urban jungle as only true New Yorkers can. Meanwhile they’re finding plenty of opportunities to put their Giant machines to work. “The Revolt may be gravel bike, but it is great for attacking the city in general,” Jimenez says. “Bad roads, potholes, you name it, the Revolt handles it with ease. It’s a natural-born city bike!”
Arriving in Red Hook mid-morning, the neighborhood is uncannily quiet, especially for anyone familiar with the day when the criterium brings in thousands of fans. But while our Revolt riders are all veterans of this legendary local criterium, they’re only too happy to ride Red Hook on their own terms.
“It’s amazing how the Red Hook Crit has given the neighborhood this international identity,” says Horse, a frequent Red Hook participant, not to mention a bike messenger world champion. “But if you are from New York, you just think of it as a neighborhood. That said, it is amazing what the crit has done for cycling and the area. They have created something totally special here. But while its prestige has grown and it has attracted high-class talent, it has very much remained its own thing!”
Our Revolt trio enjoys shifting into crit mode as they sprint around neighborhood corners and over the raw city streets. Floating over cobbles fit for Paris–Roubaix appears effortless on their respective Revolts. And they clearly do not miss the fixies they traditionally ride here on crit night. “This bike can just do so many things,” says Jimenez. “It’s comfortable. It’s fast. And it responds well to anything!”
Inevitably, their ride takes them down to the waterfront where they enjoy one of Red Hook’s best kept secrets—its unequalled views across the bay to the Statue of Liberty. Red Hook, in fact, offers some of the only frontal views of Miss Liberty, as the statue looks away from the city toward France, the country that gifted it to the U.S. as a symbol of affinity and appreciation. And while the streets of Red Hook are quiet, traffic on New York’s harbor flows incessantly on this cool winter’s morning, as cargo ships, tugboats and ferries make their way past Liberty’s imposing figure.
“It is always special to ride down here. I mean, these views are just incredible,” says Adams. “And the coffee is pretty good too! Let’s go grab a cup. It’s getting cold out here!”