Being a bike messenger in New York is not for the faint of heart. Dodging cabs, car doors, and pedestrians, all while making a speedy delivery, forces you to become a hustler on two wheels. Kym “NonStop” Perfetto learned to do just that before becoming a SoulCycle master instructor and celebrity personal trainer. The former competitive cyclist practically lives on a bike, so no one knows how to navigate the streets of New York better than she does.
“Treat yourself like a car,” Perfetto advises cyclists. “Especially in Manhattan; none of the cars go faster than 40 miles per hour. Don’t be afraid to take up space. Ten years ago this city was like an urban jungle, but now there are bike lanes everywhere, so you have a safety spot wherever you go.” However, Perfetto warns to keep an eye out for pedestrians, especially when riding in a bike lane right next to the sidewalk. “Pedestrians do not look before they step out, so always be mindful that you could hit someone at any minute because of the way those bike lanes are designed,” she says. “And car doors are the number-one thing. Always ride an arm’s length away from a car if you can, and if you can’t, then just be very vigilant about noticing whether or not it’s a taxi. Is the light on on the top of the taxi? Are they going to turn off? You learn as you go and, of course, you learn as you make mistakes.” The biking expert also encourages riders to invest in a good bike lock and carry a patch kit in case of a flat tire.
All bicycle shops in New York have a bike map, so Perfetto recommends picking one up. The solid green bike paths signify that they’re car-free, while the dotted lines mean you’re sharing the road with cars. Google Maps also has bike directions. Don’t have your own set of wheels? Perfetto is a fan of the Citi Bike program. “Even though I ride my own bike—and I own many—I still have a Citi Bike annual membership because it’s so cheap,” she says. “Whenever I have friends in town, they can ride a non–race bike, and they’re great.” Now for the fun part: where to go.
Route #1: The West Side Highway
“It is amazing simply for riding,” Perfetto says. For a guilty pleasure, start at the Shake Shack downtown and work your way up. Stop at the parks along the way, or explore the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a collection of ships at Pier 86. Without even crossing the street, you can ride the West Side Highway up to the Bronx to The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that’s housed in a castle and dedicated to European medieval art. Overlooking the Hudson River in Fort Tryon Park, it’s the perfect escape from the bustle of Manhattan. “It’s mind-blowingly beautiful,” Perfetto raves. “Once you get up toward the George Washington Bridge, it’s like, Where am I?”
Route #2: Bleecker Street
Looking for a casual spin with a touristy vibe? Bleecker’s bike path is for you. The street runs west to east in downtown Manhattan and became famous as the thoroughfare for the bohemian scene back in the day. “If you start in the West Village, it will take you past a billion cupcake shops, through New York University, and almost all the way to Tompkins Square Park,” Perfetto explains. “That’s a good slice of downtown life right there.”
Route #3: Red Hook to Long Island City
“This is the better version of the West Side Highway, if you ask me, because it’s in Brooklyn and I’m a Brooklynite,” Perfetto says. The bike path in Red Hook boasts one of the best views of the city. “When you do it at night, it’s phenomenal. There’s this amazing soccer pitch down there, and at night it looks like a pro soccer field. It’s amazing. If you like playing intramural sports, it’s great and superpopular for running,” she explains. One of her go-to spots in Red Hook is Fort Defiance, a restaurant that serves American food and classic cocktails. There’s also Pioneer Works, a nonprofit center that offers lectures, concerts, and other events in a cool space. Pedal on through DUMBO and Williamsburg, then take a snack break in Greenpoint at Glasserie, a former glass factory–turned–restaurant with a focus on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eats. Next door is the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, serving up local scoops. Cross the Pulaski Bridge to Queens, where you’ll find two climbing gyms: Brooklyn Boulders Queensbridge and The Cliffs at LIC. “They’re big, spacious places to go indoor rock climbing, and they’re beautiful,” says Perfetto. Finish in Long Island City at Socrates Sculpture Park, a garden on the water with public art and perfect views of the Manhattan skyline.