On the inside of the back flap of “Ride With Me, NYC“, there’s an aquarel painting of Manhattan. In it, smiling cyclists and yellow taxi’s ride alongside each other – in equal numbers. In the center of the painting, a tree with a face smiles up at the skyscrapers. To the right, a girl with a pink hat and a take away coffee – her back towards us – overlooks the scene. Above the girl’s head, someone with high school handwriting has written: ‘I am elegant free and a little bit crazy: I am a NYC Bike Princess and I would like to take you on a ride’.
The back flap painting is artwork by Roos Stallinga. Roos is also the author, photographer, illustrator and publisher of Ride With Me NYC; a book with cycling routes, inside stories, and scenic highlights of New York. Roos was initially inspired to write the book by her student days at New York University. In New York, Roos continued her Dutch habit of cycling everywhere. Soon, fellow students would know Roos was close if they spotted her blue Panasonic racing bike locked against Washington Square’s gates. However, the idea to write a book really took hold of Roos after the numerous visits from her Dutch friends. Roos always took those Dutch friends on cycling tours from West Manhattan, through Chelsea, over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn, and finally back to Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge. Those trips would last a full day; with frequent stops for coffee, sandwiches and conversations. Roos would time the return trip to Manhattan to coincide with sunset, so that her friends could take pictures of the skyline from the foot of the Manhattan Bridge. While they were taking pictures, food smells would drift up from Chinatown below – promising a deserved dinner after a day of cycling.Ride With Me NYC makes you feel as if you are visiting Roos yourself. It sets out 10 cycling trips that take you through Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Coney Island. The routes have been marked with a ball point pen on old-fashioned maps, and Roos gives a personal introduction to each trip. For the trip to Red Hook – for example – she writes: “Biking to Red Hook feels (…) like biking to the end of the world. This section of Brooklyn was once a little Dutch town called Roode Hoek, or Red Corner (…)”. Roos has interviewed locals, and lets them recommend stops on the way. The stops on the DUMBO to Bushwick route, for example, are tips from Molly Surno – a Brooklyn photographer and curator of Cinema Sixteen who appears to know every vintage dealer and weekend market on the east side of the Brooklyn Bridge. If you never intend to actually cycle through New York yourself, this is the closest you will get.
Roos is currently working on her next book: a cycling guide for Amsterdam. Having asked her if Amsterdam isn’t a crowded arena for a cycling guide, Roos draws the bigger picture: hers will not be a guide for tourists, nor will it merely be a cycling guide. Like her book on New York, her Amsterdam guide will focus on real Amsterdam life. No routes with Rembrandt or Windmill themes, but routes that touch the whole spectrum of life in Amsterdam: with tips on cheese, herring, and cafe’s for borrels and bitterballen. Furthermore, her art work and stories will make the book worth reading even if you don’t want to cycle. In other words: the Amsterdam guide could just as well sell in New York. After all: didn’t I just buy her New York guide in Amsterdam?