This article originally appeared in 'Hypebeast Magazine Issue 32: The Fever Issue.' Please visit HBX to grab your copy.
Ding! It’s a blazing hot July afternoon in the Bronx, and Jerome Peel rings the bell on his 45-pound bright blue Citi Bike as he flies around the edge of a handball court, charges up the 45-degree-angle embankment that borders it, and sails through the air. Thwap! He slaps both tires on the wall above the embankment. Thud! He touches down with the grace of a figure skater after a brief, physics-defying wall cruise, vertical to the sizzling concrete below. Ding! He hits the bell on his Citi Bike once more, an exuberant acknowledgment of victory.
Tricks like these have brought Peel a unique brand of notoriety. He’s the founder of Citi Bike Boyz, an Instagram account-turned- lifestyle-brand dedicated to shredding the streets of New York on the huge, heavy, pay-per-ride commuter bikes that are about as far away from a modern BMX bike as you can imagine. Assuming that Peel grew up BMXing would be sensible but misinformed. In fact, he’s an avid skateboarder and a clothing designer who makes a wide array of Citi Bike Boyz merchandise while also running Peels, his own label known for customized workshirts and jumpsuits, plus collaborations with brands like Vans and X-girl.
The genesis of both Citi Bike Boyz and Peels can be traced to the founder’s love of skateboarding and the DIY mentality it imbued him with. “There were so many things I wanted to do on a skateboard, but I just couldn’t,” he says, sitting on the couch of his sixth-floor walkup apartment in Chinatown, clad in a Peels shirt that was originally made for Bill Murray (it’s quite a story), and speaking with our crew of slightly-winded videographers. (It’s worth mentioning that between the extreme physical exertion of repeatedly jumping Citi Bikes and having to walk twelve flights of stairs in total just to get the mail, Peel is in excellent shape.) “Because I come from a skate back- ground and now have access to this bike, with its bigger wheels and the higher speeds it provides, I look at spots from more of a skater’s mindset than a traditional BMX perspective.”
Peel has spent plenty of time in flight at New York City’s most famous skate spots. His first-ever Citi Bike Boyz stunt was jumping the behemoth double stair set at the LES skatepark on Thanksgiving Day in 2017. “Nobody said anything, nobody yelled, nobody clapped,” he reminisces with a chuckle. “Everyone just looked at me like, ‘What the fuck is this guy doing?’” Since then, he’s hit everything from ledges on Roosevelt Island’s monuments to dirt jumps in Harlem, and, most recently, the famous 145th Street subway gap.
If you don’t know 145th Street by name, you likely know the underground subway station gap by sight. Nigel Sylvester hoisted his bike across it in a famous 2013 photo, and Tyshawn Jones kickflipped it for his Thrasher cover in 2022. Jumping a gap of that nature requires a matador’s level of fearlessness—if you mistime the jump when a train is pulling into the station, you’re a splat on its windshield. And if you come up short on your jump, you risk electrocution on the track’s “third rail,” not to mention the other misfortunes that could befall you from failing to clear the gaping maw between the safety of the platforms. On top of all of that, a rider or skater can’t jump it straight: they have to do so diagonally to build up speed before taking off.
“I'll be riding as long as I possibly can, no question."
Anyone who’s willing to jump the gap has to have a bit of Evil Knievel in them. Maybe unsurprisingly, Peel once hoodwinked a NY Fox News affiliate into believing he was related to the legendary stuntman. Peel thought through every inch of the jump before he tried it, from his above-ground practice tests to the exact spot where he took off. “I knew I had about 75 feet of run- up, plus a turn,” he said of the trick. “I even took off from the exact spot Tyshawn did—I saw where he put Quikrete down to smooth the takeoff.”
“As I was pedaling at the jump, I was like, ‘Oh, I got this,’” Peel continues, a bemused grin spreading over his face. “I could see the landing, so I felt good, but then when I took off I was like, ‘Holy fuck, this is so far.’ I pulled the bike up as much as I could, and held on for dear life. I’m glad I don’t believe in manifestation, because if I did I’d be dead—I thought I was gonna die and there would be a New York Post headline the next day saying, ‘This idiot got electrocuted and shit his pants trying to jump the subway tracks.’”
Though Peel has a skater’s nonchalance and easygoing attitude, he’s deeply thoughtful about his future and his preferred methods of self-expression. He’s recovering from ACL surgery and pauses for a moment when asked if he thinks he’ll ever get to the point where the juice from jumping Citi Bikes isn’t worth the squeeze.
“I’ll be riding as long as I possibly can, no question,” he says. “But my mindset has changed. I used to be like the bike version of Jaws [pro skater Aaron Homoki], riding as fast and jumping as far as I possibly could. I’d get one shot at everything I did, and if I didn’t stick it, I’d be fucked. Now, I want to be more like [pro skater] Cyrus Bennett, doing real technical, smooth, and creative stuff...instead of risking my life.”
On the clothing front, Peel has adopted the same mindset. Associating his Peels brand with Citi Bike Boyz would give it an instant infusion of notoriety akin to clearing a gnarly gap. (After all, the BMX account has more than twice the Instagram following of the clothing line.) But he wants to keep the two endeavors as separate as possible. The brand’s founding was both serendipitous and heartfelt. Jerome made the first Peels workshirt for his beloved father—who owns a painting business in Florida—then for his friends, who began demanding their own custom-embroidered shirts after seeing his early creations. A fun side project became a full-fledged business, with workwear produced by a hundred-year-old, family-owned factory in Mississippi and a small Peels team under Jerome, who still heads up the brand’s designs and operations.
Despite Peels’ success, Jerome is in no hurry to put the pedal all the way to the metal. “I’m proud of the meaning and the heart behind what I do with Peels, from the storytelling to the factories I work with,” he says. “It’s a slow-growing thing that I want to be around forever, whereas the Citi Bike Boyz merchandise is much more playful and satirical. They both have their purpose and their own lane.”
“Let's just say I'm an unofficial Citi Bike spokesperson."
As our conversation winds down, Peel notes that he’s aware of the misconceptions around what he does on Citi Bikes, adding that one of the most common is that he’s (somehow) being “disrespectful.” “I’ve never destroyed a bike on purpose...I’ve even fixed Citi Bikes,” he says. “I love hopping on these bikes, showing how accessible they are, and showing that you don’t need to spend $4,000 on a [BMX] bike to get the job done, no matter if you’re riding around or trying to hit a jump.”
Does he have any professional relationship with Citi Bike corporate? Peel’s near-omnipresent grin grows even wider. “They know I exist. Let’s just say I’m an unofficial Citi Bike spokesperson.”