NYC Century Bike Tour 2011
Last Sunday I participated in the 22nd annual NYC Century Bike Tour. It is a 100 mile tour of New York City, including Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Manhattan. The one hundred milers (the group myself and my two friends Jon [middle] and Sean [right] were in) started at 6.30 am Sunday morning. Regarding that last statement and the description of this event that follows, I should probably remind you this is all for fun, I was not forced to do this, even paid a small fee to do so.
Hopped up on coffee and cutting through the (super) brisk darkness towards the start line at Prospect Park (2 blocks from my apartment and my home base for all things cycling and outdoor leisure), the day seemed ripe for some long distance riding. The goal was a touch over my previous longest 90 miles completed across Long Island earlier this summer - so it seemed ‘feasible-challenging’. Upon arrival at the start, we quickly realized our visual preparedness ranked in the lowest of categories. These people were ready to ride, in all ways. Sweet spandex, jerseys, sleek helmets and cycling shoes as far as the eye could see. We got our race bibs and affixed them to our woefully heavy cotton thermals and sweatshirts and mounted up.
Once on the road, things fell into place pretty easily. I was quite surprised at the level of camaraderie amongst the group, and in fact, it seemed many of the hundreds of riders knew each other, asking if the other was ‘going next Saturday’ - ‘Ah, no, but next next Saturday, yes’. Riders ahead would signal when a turn was coming up, or point down to a pothole. This was a pleasant surprise, as riding in NYC is typically a You VS Everyone Ever situation. They even broke the law together. Alright, I run red lights occasionally, especially those above dual one-way intersections, but this was something else. They rode through with such entitled energy it took a while to even understand my distaste for it. All in all, riding with so many people was disconcerting, containing more bravado than I’m comfortable with.
I won’t bore any casual readers with an in-depth breakdown of my bicycle issues, but I can say it was falling apart often and with great success. Until, that is, a mechanic at one of the rest stops not only fixed my loose bottom bracket, overly tight cups and spindle, but also learned me how many other errors I’d committed when putting this bicycle together. As humbly as I think I’ve ever taken criticism, I tried to soak up everything this Man of Bicycles was telling me. You see, I rode the newest addition to my stable, an Italian touring bike with a racing spirit. Sorry, it’s just, I really like this bicycle, and it’s about the nicest thing I could have ever hoped for or afforded; so the Man of Bicycles was speaking of things I really wanted to hear.
About 15 miles in, my ankle started acting funny. Writing this now, 3 days later, it is still quite swollen and a stiffly stifferson. There was something about how I was riding and the shoes/pedals I was riding with that created a perfect storm of anti-ankledness. My pals faired pretty well, Jon suffering from a similar ankle-hurt and Sean getting understandably ragged by mile 70. There were so many excellent things to see, things I’d never have seen otherwise, despite having lived in the city for 2 years now.
TOP THREE THINGS THAT HAPPENED (by time):
1. A large black woman crossing the street yelled “Oh God, more cyclists! OH I SEE!” She was very animated and excellent.
2. We turned onto a street called Force Tube Ave. I think I was the only one to find this very excellent, because when I commented out loud ‘Yeah, a right on FORCE TUBE AVENUE’, no response was forthcoming.
3. We rode directly passed the World’s Fair grounds in Queens. The globe and whatever that decrepit mess of metal and disks on towers is, were both excellent.
The Brooklyn and Queens leg was fantastic, with much riding along the shore. As you might expect, it all turned a bit sour when we hit the Bronx. I’ve cycled up the west side and into the Bronx a few times now, and have never really had a bad time, and am always amazed by Van Cortlandt Park, but this was just plain awful. I’ll risk sounding like an awful snob by saying the roads are a touch ‘not smooth at all’. This does bring demographics into the discussion however. I’d say the average age of rider was a touch over 40. Cycling, in this capacity, is typically a middle-upper class affair; explaining all the rather pricey bicycles. I’m still not quite sure whether it’s the sport or the kind of event that accounted for the age of rider.
A long story made slightly shorter, we weaved our way through Manhattan traffic at rush hour after having bicycled 90+ miles, went over the tourist filled (I held back there, because I always refer to the Brooklyn bridge as Euro-filled, but that is a bit insensitive, as many Asians are also clogging up the bridge that would be beautiful if it weren’t for Everyone Ever being on it Always) Brooklyn Bridge, and made it into Prospect Park as the sun was doing that excellent but saddening diagonal ray thing it does in early fall. We gathered up our sweet free shirts and less sweet free waterbottles and headed home to eat copious amounts of food and talk of how much more tired we were than the other and how badly we’d feel in the morning. What ended up being 107 miles was most excellent. I’m looking forward to my 2nd annual century ride next September.