Whatever pops into your head when you first think of bike share bikes, I bet that it’s the polar opposite of what Jerome Peel thinks of.
Peel is a 33-year-old New York City resident and fashion designer who’s become the face and the force behind Citi Bike Boyz. Peel’s exploits include launching a set of stairs, bunny-hopping over subway tracks, launching over work zones — all on a 45 pound Citi Bike (or 60 when he grabs an electric one) — have earned notoriety in the NY Times, Vice, The New Yorker, and more.
With over 120,000 followers on Instagram and a merch line that’s mostly sold-out, it was no surprise that when I met up with him Tuesday afternoon, he was on his way to the post office to deliver dozens of hats and t-shirts.
“This is my bike,” Peel shared as we pedaled the streets of Lower Manhattan, “It’s hard to work with bicycle brands [who are eager to sponsor him] because I only ride one bike. I can’t ride anything but a Citi Bike. It’d be weird.”
(If you’re wondering, Peel doesn’t rent his Citi Bike. He pays for an annual Citi Bike membership, but said he found the one he rides and that it’s not no longer in the system.)
Peel grew up in South Florida and moved to New York City about six years ago. He told me much of his inspiration for Citi Bike Boyz came from the hit TV show and movie, “Jackass,” known for its star Johnny Knoxville’s high-risk pranks and stunts.
“As a kid I loved jumping curbs, making my own ramps, fixing up dirt piles and stuff,” Peel shared. “I like to pretend I’m on a skateboard sometimes. I see a lot of inspiration in skate videos.”
Peel rode motocross bikes as a kid, and when he moved to New York City he didn’t have anything to ride. “So I just took a Citi Bike. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got and be resourceful.”
And work he does. A few years later, these beastly, ubiquitous blue bikes most of us can hardly lift up a curb or pedal up a hill, have made Peel something of a legend.
For now at least, Peel seems content to impress his followers and search out that next iconic jump or trick. He doesn’t have any grand mission and mostly just wants to have fun (and use his design skills to sell a bit of merch) — although he did say he’d like to travel and get rad on bike share systems around the world (anyone from Biketown interested?).
What about Citi Bike? Are they mad? Peel said he hasn’t heard from them yet; but we both agreed it’d be funny if he ended up in one of their ads — or in a safe riding PSA.
As I pedaled back to my hotel room and filmed Peel popping-a-wheelie through chaotic, traffic-filled streets, his response to my last question bounced around my head.
“Anything else you want to say?” I asked.
“I would just say the possibilities are endless. Keep riding. And there’s no there’s nothing wrong with one of these bikes. These bikes are cool. They’re not whack! Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to everybody, but people don’t get it. It is stupid, but it’s also what I do for fun, and it entertains some people.”