Living on the edge with bike courier Cooper Ray and his No. 22

Cooper Ray's livelihood depends on his No. 22.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based and Manhattan-regular is a bike messenger and owns a No. 22 Little Wing and No. 22 Broken Arrow, and says he's looking at getting a Drifter later this year. You may know him as one of the adventurous stars of Terry Barentsen's HotLine series on YouTube, which showcases riders' aggressive lines in New York City. (Ray's segment has more than one million combined views between the final version and rough cuts.)

 

When asked how close his riding style mimics that of the HotLine videos, Ray says that it's "totally normal" and actually slightly "reserved." "For someone who doesn't ride that way, it may look dangerous but it's very comfortable to me," he says. Ray compares riding in Manhattan on a daily basis to a video game. "You have to be on-point all the time," he says. "You're not sure what you're going to see. There are cars, buses, trucks, people. I use my experience riding in New York City to avoid those [possible collisions] situations."

The 26-year-old is a pioneer of the fixed gear cycling scene and has been involved in the alleycat community since he was 14, back when social media was non-existent. He says he never particularly wanted to be a bike messenger but while working at a bike shop when he was younger, he was offered the job and fell in love with the "freedom of being outdoors and floating around the city."

Cooper Ray

Photo: Terry Barentsen (@terrybarentsen).

Ray rides so much as a bike messenger that he says he's convinced that his No. 22 Little Wing has at least twice as many work-hours and miles than any other Little Wing out there. And yes, even in the worst of weather conditions, he rides all winter in Manhattan. "I've ridden through a few blizzards; it's not an ideal work day but it's part of the occupation," Ray says. "It hardens you for other types of riding, being able to reflect on the messenger hardships."

Cooper Ray

Photo: Terry Barentsen (@terrybarentsen).

While his No. 22 Little Wing is his daily bike, which he calls an "extension of himself," Ray uses his No. 22 Broken Arrow as his "freedom and adventure machine." It's his tool to take him farther, and he says his Broken Arrow has allowed him to explore off-road terrain unlike any other cyclocross bike he's ever owned. "Owning a titanium bike is important for me because I treat them quite rough," he says. "I'm confident on it and I can push my limits," admitting that it's tough to get out of New York City to get to desirable terrain. Ray says his top off-road route is about 111 miles but it takes 40 "garbage miles" each way to reach his destination. "Both bikes have their own unique purposes," he says.

What are Ray's daily essentials as a bike courier? He carries a camera, basic tools and a lock, with a key he wraps around his wrist for efficiency. Instead of clips, Ray uses double leather straps on his pedals.

Cooper Ray

Photo: Terry Barentsen (@terrybarentsen).

Ray is about a seasoned a racer as they come, having been on the race scene for more than 10 years. He says he doesn't necessarily race to be competitive - which he did for many years - but rather to have fun and see something new, especially adventure and gravel racing. "The Broken Arrow has changed my head around in terms of what I like riding and racing," he says.

Cooper Ray

Photo: Cooper Ray (@coffeeandbikes)

More than anything, Ray emphasizes the importance of the global network of cyclists. "There's some many different walks of life that cyclists come from," he says. "If you ride, you're able to find mutual ground and break down barriers with other cyclists."

Cooper Ray

Photo: Cooper Ray (@coffeeandbikes)

Beyond cycling, Ray says he's an avid gardener, big into jazz music, photography and learning about the history and development of New York City and its architecture.

3 comments

  • …and Coffee.

    Bruno Costa Barreto
  • I meant “ultimate” Level Skills. And I say more! only with a Little Wing!

    Bruno Costa Barreto
  • Great! Next Level skills. @coffeeandbikes

    Bruno Costa Barreto

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