NEW YORK, NY – How do cyclists resemble the stars of popular music? Consider a racer in skintight, multicolored outfits, who might correspond to 80s hair-bands like Poison or any bands with “white” in their name. A triathlete or recumbent rider obsessed with the newest, lightest technology could stand in for the electronic sounds of a Kraftwerk or a Gary Numan. But the commuter sporting jeans and bracing for every weather condition? That’s pure rock and roll.
That fits Albert Bouchard. He’s a music teacher in Manhattan, and has commuted by bicycle for 16 years. His current daily ride takes him 5.8 miles from his home in Washington Heights to his school at 102nd street. But in another life, he was a rock star. “I was the drummer in Blue Oyster Cult,” he reported.
That’s right, Will Ferrell fans, that means Bouchard played the cowbell (and the drums) on the famous 1976 track “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” For those who missed it, “Saturday Night Live” showed a skit in 2000 parodying “Reaper’s” recording session, with Farrell performing the role of a hapless percussionist repeatedly asked by producer Christopher Walken to crank up the cowbell sound.
“More cowbell” has become something of a cult rallying cry. “It’s almost more famous than the group,” said Bouchard. His view of the skit? “It’s pretty funny and holds up after repeated viewings.”
A lifelong biker, Bouchard started out on a tricycle in Thousand Islands, N.Y, on the St. Lawrence River between New York State and Ontario, Canada. He moved up to a two-wheeler when his family moved to the country at age seven. Later, he rode motorbikes during and shortly after college, but now his main transportation comes with a long English heritage: Raleigh.
Bouchard has three models, one from 1976 and two others made in the new millenium. While he hasn’t made a practice of counting his commuting miles, he approximates that he rides about 140 days a year, accumulating more than 1,600 miles traveled.
When he reaches his destination, this 57-year-old stores his bike in the instrument storeroom. Like many schools that discourage or even ban the use of bicycles to get to school, Bouchard’s workplace offers “no places to keep bikes for students in the school,” he said. “It’s a pity.”
He knows what non-cyclists are missing. “Every day I ride under the George Washington bridge each way and the Hudson River is always different and cool whether it’s dry, damp, still or windy,” he narrated. “Sometimes I take pictures with my digital camera.
“One day a couple years ago I had a tailwind and I did my morning commute in 18 minutes. I was passing cars on the West Side Highway. That was fun.”
Except for some rides around in the Thousand Islands in the summertime, Bouchard sticks to riding on the Manhattan streets, until inclement conditions force him off. Ice is his worst cycling enemy.