I bounced down the stairs, my just barely covered feet soundlessly skipping down the smooth stone stairs, shoes in one hand, the other alternately hovering over the banister and pinning the Rapha bonk bag, borrowed from Mike, to my hip. A thought occurred to me that I might very well crash head first into one of Mike’s neighbors given that I was stealthily flying down the stairs but I arrived on the first floor without so much as a self-conscious hello. On the first floor, one shoe in each hand, I hopped on one foot, then the other, securing shoes onto feet. One last look and sigh at the bonk bag - it obviously didn’t match - and I pushed open the door to the windy yet humid night.
Once outside, I teetered down three final steps, feeling slightly awkward and embarrassed. I paused for a moment, pretending to look inside the borrowed bag, and fixing my hair. I was in black, three-inch stilettos, a short, black pencil skirt, which, I’d discover by the end of the block, was a size too big, and a blue and pink patterned silky shirt. I had earrings on, and it was the first time in forever that I’d cleaned up, dressed up, and put on lipstick.
But given the occasion, I felt it was appropriate. It was Thursday night, the last day of the month of September, and we were all saying goodbye to the Rapha Cycle Club.
For the past few weeks, Mike had informed me of possible plans for the closing party, but it had always seemed somewhat surreal. Like my denial that summer was over about three weeks ago, it seemed like the Rapha Cycle Club would still be there, even after September 30, 2010. I would be able to just drop in, say hello to regulars like Ben [of the babelicious BH-Garneau team]and Fritz, get some killer Americanos made by RJ, and make fun of Cassidy. It was a place I occasionally ate lunch, watched the Vuelta, parked my bike before weekend rides, and met up with Mike after I got out of work. But in the last few weeks of September, it seemed much more than the collection of my admittedly shallow experiences. It had been a place that, within its short life span, had simultaneously drawn in seasoned cyclists and converted others into cycling fans. It was a place that elicited exclamations of disappointment by more than a handful of people that they hadn’t discovered it sooner, as well as hopeful suggestions by regulars that maybe Rapha could keep it open for just a few more months. On paper, it was a large pop-up shop with a coffee shop and two huge flat screen TVs. But in that huge space, at that large, glass-topped table or in the spaces between the racks of jerseys and shorts, we all seemed to find exactly what we had been looking for.
And too soon, it was 7pm on Thursday, September 30th. I strode down the block [it’s impossibly to simply walk in stilettos], across the street, and over two doors to the glow of the Rapha Cycle Club. Half the table had been pushed against the wall, Bryce was DJing near the cash register, and the broom wagon had been converted into the bar, the kegs tucked neatly inside and served in appropriately pink cups. Bikes were stacked two rows deep against the wall, and familiar faces swum among unfamiliar ones, all bordered by white t-shirts [hand-screened by Mike] stating “R <3 NY.”
Judging by the attendance, it seemed like NY loved Rapha too. The cyclists that you’d want to show up to your event to legitimize its authenticity were all in attendance, including Ben, Bravo, Sam, and CJ. [Kyle] Peppo showed up a little time later along with DS and Andy, while a fair number of girls balanced out the Y chromosomes in the room. Skull Krusher regaled us with hilarious stories, as always, and people kept seeping into the room. We talked about injuries, recent crashes, racing, when I’m going to get that road bike, and, sometimes, what was going to happen after the party - and the NYC Rapha Cycle Club - was over.
Maybe we all didn’t believe it, or maybe we wanted to be part of a really good send-off, because I’m pretty sure all of us had a lot of fun that night. The fact that we were losing a safe haven where we could watch the Tour and the Vuelta, watch movies on Wednesday nights, and sip coffee before taking off for a mid-week group ride, was put off until Friday morning. For the moment, we sipped beer out of plastic cups, laughed with friends, and swung hips to the beat streaming out of Bryce’s speakers.
When the beer ran out, people drifted outside and then to the after party, mostly by bike, some on foot. I sat on one of the stools, resting legs that weren’t used to walking and standing in such high heels, watching Derrick - the new directeur sportif for Rapha Racing - and Mike make plans for organizing inventory the following morning. I watched, as usual, Mike lock the door and pull down the shutter. We hailed a cab for Bryce, helped load his equipment into the back, then slowly walked home, Mike verbally unwinding the day’s events, sounding relieved that the weather had held, and that so many people had showed up. I nodded, trotting to keep up with Mike’s flat-soled stride, the reality of the closing not sinking in. Not yet, anyway.
A day or so later, I passed the space after work, the shutters down as Mike had finished with inventory for the day. “Glory Through Suffering,” it still said, and I remembered when Mike had gotten the vinyl decals made and rubbed them onto the gray metal. It made me sad, even if it was a little embarrassing to admit such a fact. It wasn’t as if Rapha was gone forever, but I couldn’t resist hoping that I could break in, drag that table to the middle of the room, and make everyone come hang out again. I glanced up quickly, just to make sure that the sign was still hanging outside the space, despite knowing that it would eventually be taken down.
I looked for that sign again, the following day, on the way back from a ride. It was still there, and I held back a sigh, harboring a selfish hope, however distant and unlikely, that maybe they’ll do it again here next year. That maybe Rapha might come back to NYC, and maybe even stay for a little bit longer, with Brett around for the entire thing, this time, so that we can repeat our memories. It was a silly thought [given that chances that it would happen were slim to none], but it seemed something worth hoping for.