Kip Jones rides a unicycle for a living.
The Bronx-born rider weaved back and forth between passersby along the plaza between City Hall and the mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge on his 24-inch wheel.
Still, few people bat an eye while he and some 60 or so unicyclists gathered for the sixth annual U nicycle Festival.
“That’s New York for you,” he said. “But they’ll notice when we hit the road.”
Jones and his fellow riders beamed with excitement whenever they spoke about their rare hobby, one that festival organizer Keith Nelson defended as no less serious or important than any other more traditional pastime that draws enthusiasts from around the country into their unique community.
“Unicycle riders love hanging out with other unicycle riders,” organizer Nelson said. “Everyone shares the fact they took the time to learn one of the weirder skills out there.”
The festival is the brainchild of nonprofitBindlestiff Family Cirkus founders Keith Nelson and Stephanie Monseu. Nelson only spent two years on a unicycle before he decided to bring together what he noticed was a unique and growing clique.
“Creating public events for the New York City community is the best way to lose money in this town,” Nelson joked. “And when you create a free event for New Yorkers, everybody comes out to be a part of it.”
That much is true, even for non-New Yorkers. Eleven-year old Haley Alexander said she planned to make it to Coney Island with her brother and parents. The Austin-based family managed to so last year.
Her father Marc said she was the first to convince the family to try unicycling, although the 51-year-old is more fond of two-wheeled transportation.
“I’ll be following along in my bike,” he said.
The 16-mile ride to Coney Island is only one day of a four-day event, which kicked off with a ride between Central and Battery parks, and will be capped off with two days at Governors Island.
The hundreds of riders and curious onlookers take part in events that test their unicycling prowess while flying kites, beating pints and playing basketball.
“The community has taken it to a different, more competitive level where there’s hockey and basketball, and hopefully one day an X Games sport,” said professional unicyclist Jones.
Jones said he bought his first wheel when he was 15 after he watched the Bronx’s King Charles Troupe perform a unicycle-powered basketball performance, and eventually even joined up with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
It’s Jones’ third year with the festival, and not even a torn meniscus could keep him from riding with his fellow unicyclists.
And while Jones might be an old hat when it comes to the unicycle community, Pace University student Laura Laureano said she rushed to the plaza from her dorm to finally meet other unicycle aficionados.
“I don’t know anyone who unicycles,” the 20-year-old said, adding that she randomly read about the meet up minutes before she put on whatever shoes she could — boots with a 2-inch stacked heel — and her wheel.
“I ran here with the hope that maybe I can make a friend that I can unicycle with,” Laureano said.
She explained she couldn’t do the Coney Island trek, nor even just the ride across the bridge because of class.
Even so, she quietly joined the pack of unicyclists as they crossed the street towards the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane, bringing up the rear of avid riders.