Sunday, May 2, 2010, was the New York 5 Boro Bike Tour. We drove up to NY on Saturday and we’re driving back home on Monday so it was a quick trip. And at times it felt as like it was as crazy an idea as it sounds. But it was well worth it and a lot of fun.
First good thing: No cars on the road while we’re cycling. But, that isn’t as perfect as it sounds. First, they had to allow some traffic so at times in Manhattan we were bunched up and waiting while they let traffic through a particularly busy intersection.
Plus, there are some places that just can’t handle the traffic of so many bicyclists at once, so we ended up walking. A prime example was the entrance to Central Park. We walked at least half a mile, maybe more and stood around a lot as well. We got through Manhattan and were in the Bronx before we felt like we were really riding our bicycles.
Ah, the Bronx. It is a 5 Borough ride, so we had to hit all 5 boroughs. But we weren’t eager to spend too much time in the Bronx. We looked at the map and saw that we were only there for a short bit. Actually riding it was pretty funny. As I said, coming off the Madison Ave bridge was the first time we felt we had some space and had actually started riding. They had a rest stop with some folks playing the drums but we opted to keep moving. So, we rounded the corner after the rest stop and we were headed back into Manhattan already!
In Manhattan we got to ride on the FDR down to the Queensborough bridge. That was pretty cool. We ended up walking on the exit and then slowly made our way up and over the bridge. Then braked all the way down the other side.
Coolest parts – the FDR and the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn where we hit speeds of 15 or 16 mph, passing some but mostly just being able to move. The Belt was great because the wind coming off the water was so cool if felt like air conditioning!
Worst parts – trying to maneuver between so many people and keep some momentum going up the hills as we entered the bridges. Neither of us fell or ran into anyone, but we had some close calls.
Best part of the worst part is that my weakest point is slow riding. Keeping my balance, steering in tight quarters, and starting and stopping. I got a lot of practice at that today and I saw a lot of improvement.
Downside – my upper body is much more sore than my legs. Staying forward and keeping hands on the brakes almost the entire time was tough. I also kept my left foot unclipped much of the time as it was truly stop and go traffic. My right foot went to sleep a few times but otherwise, I handled that well.
I did fall – but not until the very end. As we were entering the festival area I prepared to stop but the bike tilted to the right instead of the left and the right foot wasn’t unclipped yet. Now I have a goose egg and scrape that looks almost exactly like my injury from a ride (or two) last year. But I’m skilled at falling now. I got back up quickly and kept going (walking).
Up at 5, out of the hotel before 6, at the ferry by 6:30, waited in line and got onto the ferry by 7:00. (Port-o-san at the ferry had no paper.) Cold ride on the ferry (perhaps a jacket just for that part of the trip if we do this again.) Off the ferry and in place at the end of the crowd at the starting line by 7:30. (Port-o-san here had plenty of paper.) Still standing in line at 8:00. Still standing at the same spot in line at 8:45, talking to a guy from Fayetteville who had lived in Austin and now lived around the block from Trinity Church where we were standing. Started walking at 9:08. Walked 3 or 4 blocks and actually got on our bicycle. Somewhere about here we crossed some invisible starting line. We rode for a few block, and stopped at an intersection for pedestrians to cross. We rode a few more blocks and stopped again for more pedestrians. We eventually got to Central Park where we stopped and stood and walked for quite awhile.
We biked slowly (between 5 and 10 mph) with a few stretches of 12 mph through Central Park. We got to uptown and stood in line for quite awhile as traffic was going down 5th or 6th Avenue and we had to wait for the light. A few lights later we got through and were moving over the Madison Ave bridge into the Bronx. On the FDR we hit 16 mph and it was fun. Anthony set the pace and I was chasing him through the crowd. Much of it was in the shade which was nice as it was getting close to 90 by now.
We walked again at the exit to the Queensborough Bridge. We had gone 14 miles in 1.45 hours. We made it over the bridge (trying not to run over people on the way up, and sitting on the brakes all the way down. Rest stop here to get more water and listen to the steel drum band! Also reapplied sunscreen. Note to bike ride organizers – the best goody I’ve gotten from a bike ride is a small bandaid carrier and a single-application container of sunscreen. Both got used today. That wasn’t from the New York Ride, though, we got it at one last year.
We actually rolled well through Queens and Brooklyn, it was fun setting the pace knowing Anthony was keeping up with me. We passed a lot of people but still got to see the sights. Some cool plans for the Brooklyn Bridgeway (or whatever that place is going to be called). The Belt Parkway was pretty flat but long and sunny with no breeze for much of it. I stopped us for an upper body stretch and refuel. About here we started differing in mileage from the official posts. We said 24, they said closer to 30. Maybe they redirected us somewhere. Anyway, the stop and go had been rougher on me than a regular hilly ride in NC, so I wasn’t complaining.
Wonderful right along the short as we approached the Verazzano Bridge. Anthony almost took out a kid who rode is bike right across our paths. But we dodged successfully and kept going. The bridge was long but not as bad as some hills we’ve conquered before. I kept going, while A stopped to get a picture. That means he missed my fall as we entered the festival right at the bottom of the bridge. We caught up with each other much easier than expected and grabbed a hotdog and drink. The last 3 miles to the Staten Island Ferry were tough – the body had sort of stopped while we ate so the sit bones and legs were sore and unhappy. But we made it. We found the truck – yay! And we didn’t have a ticket – yay! (Not that we should have, but it’s been a consistent experience in NYC for me.)
Got it all packed back in and then on to showers and a rest before dinner. Having a hotel and parking on Staten Island and taking the ferry in the morning was definitely the right way to go!
General thoughts – 32,000 sounds like a lot of people but somehow I thought we’d be able to get away from some of the crowd. While I did handle the start and stop way better than I feared, we were ALWAYS in the middle of a huge crowd of people with fairly limited maneuverability. The stop and go through Manhattan was enervating, a rough way to start a ride. I am really glad we did it and learned a lot if we were to do it again, but (at least right now) I’m not excited enough to do it again.