Ali Roman has been riding around Park Slope on his vintage Schwinn for 20 years, he says.
But it is no regular Schwinn, it is the 1960 Panther, a cruiser model that is he has spent over $1,000 to make it unique.
Although Schwinn still makes the Panther, Roman’s is of a different time and his style. And his attitude and lone-wolf mode of operation is something that he lets everyone he passes by on Seventh Avenue know with just one look at him.
He installed speakers on the frame, which connect to an iPod on his handlebars. On Monday, he was cruising past pedestrians on Seventh Avenue blasting Tito Puente and Selena while his Puerto Rican flags on his handlebars waved in the wind.
His hand-pump air horn, which has a chrome skull on top, blares with each pump of his arm. He also has a pair of headlights and side view mirrors.
“I just ride around all day, since 1974 I have been riding around,” Roman said after he stopped along the sidewalk to take a breather. “It's been a lot of years of riding, I'm tired.”
He said he lives in Red Hook, but comes to Park Slope because he likes the action on Seventh Avenue, the shops, Prospect Park and, most of all, “the people are friendly.”
He said he also takes his wheels to Coney Island, or to Manhattan to see the Intrepid, and other days he takes a ride way past the Intrepid and up to 117th Street. He said he takes long rides in solitude so he “doesn’t get bored.”
He gets his bicycle accessories at a bike shop on Grand Street in Manhattan owned by a “Spanish guy.”
Roman also has two raccoon-like tails attached to his handlebars. He said he picked them up while in Puerto Rico, where he was born.
“Decorating this bike costs me a lot of money, but it’s worth it,” said Roman, who is 65 years old, retired and has spent a grand to chrome out his ride. “But all the chrome makes this bike mine, so it’s worth it.”
He said his cruiser has gained some attention, especially from a Schwinn riding club in the Bronx, but he said he is not in to clubs or groups, or even friends.
“In bike clubs people want to drink and hang out, and if I do that I’ll get in trouble,” Roman said after he blew his powerful horn. “I’m always by myself. I am a loner by nature; it’s better for me. I just go out and ride by myself and I don’t get in trouble.”
And with that, he took his iPod in his hand, changed from playing Merengue to a Salsa song and rode off down Berkeley Place towards Sixth Avenue.
“Riding makes me feel good and riding with music makes me feel even better,” he said as he put his feet on the pedals and started towards the traffic light. “I love riding to music in Park Slope, it makes my day.”