Monday, May 05, 2008

Bike 02 : 5 Boro Bike Tour : 04.05.2008

I did it.

Of course, so did thousands of others, from kiddies on fairy-cycles to guys on unicycles.

The morning started grey and threatening. I emerged from MiL's brownstone on Upper West Side and wondered if I really had to do it. It was cold, it was mizzling, had I put enough miles in? Was that puncture stuff really any good?

Well, I was committed now, so I pumped up the tyres hard and headed for the 1 & 9 subway station at 86th. New York really is the city that never sleeps - or was that Chicago? Anyway, the trains were packed. No chance of getting a bike on one.

I emerged onto Broadway and spotted a few cyclists in event bibs and started to follow them down towards Battery Park. It was actually very easy that time in the morning. New York's finest waved cyclists through red lights and there was very little traffic so I ended up nice and warm, yet still behind thousands of other cyclists at the start line on Church Street ... or rather about half a mile from the start line ... with thousands more lined up behind me.

The event pushed off at about 8.20, so it meant we had spent at least an hour standing around in the cold and damp. It wasn't even possible to see the top of the taller buildings in the fog, so as I clicked my feet into the pedals my hands and feet were freezing.

It takes a mass of 30,000 cyclists a few false starts to get going, but after a few minutes we were heading up The Avenue of the Americas at walking pace, which meant there were a lot of wobbles and a few crashes, but nothing too serious.

Unfortunately, by the time I was starting to get some warmth back into my feet and hands, we were pulled up just short of Central Park, so that cross-town traffic could pass. It took about forty minutes to go the last two blocks into the park, so once again, cold feet, cold hands ...

Many of the joggers in Central Park were clearly not aware there was a bike event going on. Some seemed intent on jogging against the flow no matter how hazardous ... oh well.

There was a brief excursion into The Bronx via Harlem, then a twenty minute wait to get on the Queensborough Bridge into Queens because of riders having to push up the ramp onto the bridge. Naturally pushers spread themselves all over the road, so everyone had to get off and join in.

We then did a circuit up to the first rest station at Astoria Park, just under half way around the course. I had possibly the finest bananas in the world in that park, possibly because they were the best bananas in the world, or maybe 20 miles of bike riding had sharpened my appetite for bananas. However, they were really good.

Then it was south, back down through Queens and into Brooklyn, often through areas which were charming, although terribly run down, but full of potential if people used their imaginations.

From Brooklyn we went up the ramp onto the Brooklyn Expressway, a motorway type road which was closed for the day, for the leg down to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. There were a couple of bad tumbles here, probably because riders were getting tired. This caused a wait of about 20 minutes before we could get going again.

Everybody has probably driven or ridden in a car over a big bridge and not realised that from a bicycle point of view it's like a climb over an Alpine col. And the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is a BIG bridge; the biggest in the world at the time it was built. So it was a 228ft climb from sea level to the centre of the span. Once again there was a lot of pushing, but I managed to thread my way through and then enjoy the drop into Wadsworth Fort National Park for the Expo and a well-deserved drink and a sandwich.

While I was waiting for Linda to pick me up, I pedaled down to the Staten Island Ferry. I had considered going across just to truly close the loop, but there was a 40 minute wait at that point so I rode back up to Fort Wadsworth and waited for my lift home.

All in all it was a great day, a real chance to enjoy New York and some of its not so well known corners on motor traffic free streets.

How some of the riders got around on their big old wrecks of clunkers I'll never know. And the number of children who managed on their toy bikes was amazing. There were a few sights; a really small guy with the most perfect, serious, miniature Italian racing bike I've ever seen; a family on a 2.5 triplet towing a kiddy half-bike, towing an infant's trailer; guys on big-wheel unicycles.

A great day - I really enjoyed it.

My number : 38495
Read the tour guide here.
5 Boro Bike Tour.

* see my Bike Index here