the group portrait

Bikers Across the Bridges

A three-borough Sunday “ride out.”

Emmanuel De La Rosa (popping wheelie) and friends crossing the Williamsburg Bridge on March 6. Photo: Brian Finke
Emmanuel De La Rosa (popping wheelie) and friends crossing the Williamsburg Bridge on March 6. Photo: Brian Finke

On the first Sunday in March, Emmanuel De La Rosa was speeding across the Williamsburg Bridge. It was the first leg of a 20-mile “ride out” — from a skate park on the Lower East Side into Brooklyn, up to Queens and then back across the Manhattan Bridge — with 300 or so others. This particular ride out was in celebration of three birthdays, and unlike De La Rosa’s own seven-degree birthday outing in January, people actually showed up: “They looked a little rusty on the bikes, but it was good to see them back out,” he says.

Organized over Instagram and by knowing who’s who on the scene, the rides have been happening in the city on various scales for years now. These two-wheeled herds used to stress out the cops, who would chase and harass them, he says. But in the last year, the police and the bikers met up and worked out a truce: “Now they help us. They help us with the traffic. The cars respect us more because they see the cops with us.” Group biking was a pandemic-friendly stress reliever, too. “While you’re riding, your mind is free from whatever’s going on,” he says. All you have to do is focus on traffic and maybe out-tricking the biker next to you. “You don’t know if you can do a trick until you’ve actually tried it.”

De La Rosa was a plumber by trade when he got into the scene back in 2018, buying his friend’s used baby-blue “Big Ripper” from SE Bikes. “I started riding on my days off and fell in love with it. Then I requested a year off from work just to simply ride,” he says. He never went back. Now he’s something of a biker influencer, with sponsorships. Still, despite a semi-official thumbs up from the city, De La Rosa says drivers and pedestrians still have a “love-hate relationship” with the bikers. “People see us two ways. Either Oh, wow, these talented guys wheelie-ing! Or Fuck these guys … Come on, asshole, get out of the way!”

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