Bert Cebular—NYCeWheels Owner—Dead at 47.
I normally get great joy and satisfaction reporting on the happenings in the bike world, today is not one of those days. My friend Bert Cebular is no longer with us, taken too soon from our mortal society. As I sit to write this post of his celebration of life, his memorial services are just starting to take place in Manhattan, New York. I wish I could attend, but do hope posting this will fill his and my needs alike.
Although I really didn’t know Bert (Rupert Cebular) all that well, I finally met him in person last October. He came to San Diego to pursue his latest passions, paragliding and powered-paragliding. Ultimately, this new activity would prove to be the cause of his passing. A powered-paragliding accident in New York on Dec 3rd of this year was the last thrill of his life. I can only hope his death was quick and painless.
I first met Bert online from my interest in electric bikes. His shop (NYCeWheels) has a great presence there with social media and videos. A new journey in my life was started as Bert and I communicated through Facebook and email. He urged me to put my thoughts and experiences with bikes into words and share them with his followers and fans. Reluctant at first, Bert’s passion and persistence brought to life my first series of articles titled “Boy Meets Brompton”.
Bert’s shop was just one of his interests, but his main one. Coming to America from Austria in 1989, his cabinet making skills were in high demand in the New York area. It was during this time that he discovered that electric scooters not only helped him get the jobs done, but were fun, green and money savers. He decided to put this new interest in efficient transportation into the hands of many, launching NYCeWheels in 2001. Not the best time for a new business venture, especially in the wake of the tragedy in New York that year, he found right away that the locals needed and loved E-bikes, folding bikes and scooters.
It wasn’t long before the shop became a local, nationwide and international hit. Bert’s warmness, attention to detail and the ability to man his shop with the best people started to pay off in the ways he had hoped. The need for convenient, low-cost and green transportation continues to rise and the shop rose with them. Bert’s fun-loving ways and a decision to post the best bike related sales videos were a couple more factors in his success.
He was a major advocate for bikes and electric bikes. An early adopter for the E-bike industry, he made many friends as he helped to make them (E-bikes) more main-stream in America and world-wide. His knowledge of the product was immense. Working from a fairly small shop in the shadow of Central Park, he made a huge difference for so many. I would think there are few in the folding and E-bike industry that haven’t heard of, or spoken to him at some point in time. These people too will remember him fondly.
While Bert was in town (San Diego) last October, we spent quite a bit of time together. I had planned to make the trip to New York the year before but it just didn’t happen. I was so pleased to hear he was coming, partially because with all the invites I had penned, he claimed commercial jet travel was something he avoided when at all possible. I always thought that was funny because much of our conversions had to do with planes (real and model R/C planes). Bert would joke of his lack of success with them (R/C models) back in Austria, while I would boast of my total mastery of them since the 70’s.
You might know that Bert did master R/C flying with his awesome quad-copters. With a gyroscopically stabilized high-def digital video camera on-board, the images he captured for shop videos are praised world-wide as some of the best you will see. Add to that the expert editing done by his right hand man Peter, and you can count the views in the millions. Bert would fly the quad-copter with vision goggles, seeing only what the copter saw, quite a feat in my book.
Bert and I had other common interests, which lead us on long-distant relationship I still cherish. One that we didn’t share (until after he started it for me) was his love for folding bikes. My first experiences with them were disappointing to say the least. Bert’s offer to send me a raw lacquer M3L Brompton to spur my writing for his website sounded very tempting so I jumped at it. He was so very right about that bike (and other modern folding bikes), as now both my wife and I ride them often and even have one in our stable (that I bought from him).
He has sent me other bikes to test since then and not only do I have several dozen articles posted on his sites, he made me an administrator on the NYCeWheels Facebook page. I always thought that was a risky move on his part, but has been great for the both of us. As the west coast connection for his shop, much fun, interest and sales have been the result. I have felt like one of the crew for so long, just one more reason his passing is leaving me a bit on the empty side.
Listed as the sole owner of the shop, I have no clue what will become of it. I am hoping that whoever inherits his worldly belongings can find the passion he had and keep the shop alive and full of the fire it has generated. Only time will tell, yet my wishes are strong for the continuance of this fine folding and E-bike shop. My hopes of peace and contentment go out to his family, employees, friends and customers. These are tough times and Bert’s passing makes them just a little tougher.
There are many ironic things about all this. When Bert was in town to savor our world-class paragliding venue (Torrey Pines Gliderport), I went along to learn more. I took many photos of him flying along the coastline. He even made sure I took a tandem flight with one of the instructors. We spent much time talking about the risks and ways to minimize them. His knowledge and recent learning about paragliding was impressive. He didn’t jump into this without some serious time at the books and trainer’s table. About the same exact time of Bert’s fatal accident, I was talking to a friend about him and his incredible in-depth thoughts about the dangers and avoiding them.
While in San Diego he took over 80 paragliding flights and many powered-paragliding flights. The conditions and fields for flying were to his liking. His accident was at a place in New York called Wallkill River. He apparently was doing touch and goes on the icy surface and broke through the ice during one. He knew the dangers and enjoyed the risks, yet this one took him by surprise.
His services are today, Dec 13th from 2 pm – 4 pm. Tomorrow, the 14th, there is a group ride in his memory. If you can go to either, I do hope you can forward my deep condolences to family and friends. Bert, you will be missed, and will live on in my life forever. I have so much more to say about Bert and his life, but for now I will just think in silence.
Bert, RIP—a good person taken too soon, Turbo Bob.
“Bicycles may change, but cycling is timeless”—Zapata Espinoza.