You’d think that the start of the 2010 Five Boro Bike Tour with it’s 32,000 entrants would look grandiose and wonderous. And you’d be mostly correct. But in actuality, for those of us who worked as marshalls (the helpful folks who line and ride the course) it actually looked like this:
But I’ve already gotten ahead of myself. The day really started the night before, maybe not technically, but for me it certainly is the “night before” when I have to get up at 4:15am. And waking would’ve been harder if I ever fell asleep in the first place. But I got into one of those obsession cycles about various details of my planning and never got there.
No matter, I got up 15 minutes earlier than I had planned when I went to sleep, and everything promptly took longer than I expected and I wound up leaving 15 minutes later than I planned. I hate that.
I did my standard commute, dragged the bike out of the car, threw my little bag over my shoulder and headed toward Times Square which of course, was recovering from an attempted bombing. I rode down 7th, caught a little pave down by Varick, salmoned past the riders on Church getting to their fixed positions along the course and made my way to the castle in Battery Park. Signed in and found a quiet corner to begin waiting, the key element of the start of any large ride.
After briefings were given and materials handed out, our group headed out to a small park near the start to… wait for it… wait some more. We gave the waiting our full attention. Jamieson disappeared on some marshall related chore, only to reappear just before we started out. That was cool, although it set a pattern that was to repeat the entire day. One second he’d be ridin’ with us, and the next second he’d be gone. After a long disappearance it turned out that he worked on two “medic” stops. He caught up with us as we worked with a Westpoint cadet on a flat tire after she crashed. She called me “Sir”. I suggested she not call me that (“They tell us to”) and added “Cadet, drop and give me 20…” Fortunately she laughed, because had she even begun the process, I would have been embarrassed beyond belief. Shortly after that he disappeared for the final time this ride…
Anyway after waiting so long that folks began to get know each other, the show got on the road. A stripper on a pole biked by and so did the the hoards of cyclists of every kind and stripe. The folks reflected the City—there was a bit of everything.
Two things stood out as bad amidst an extraordinary ride (for someone born and raised here, riding a bike on the FDR Drive, BQE, Gawanus Expr., Verrazano etc. is more than a little strange, and disheartening in that I rode many of the sections faster than I would traverse them in a car on the average trip…). One was the walking of Central Park. Too much congestion led to almost walking the entire park. It was not a pleasant stroll, though Jenni ran into a student from a recent bike class (unfortunately in need of help with a flat which we could not exactly provide due to equipment failures). The second was that onramp inclines led to large backups because people seemed intimidated by the ramps. Without even trying they would bounce off their bikes and start pushing as if there was no other choice. I think some encouragement might help.
Since I rode down from midtown and Jenni decided to join me for the trip home, we chose the West side cycle path to get back to the car. With that and other minor detours I rode a bit over 60 miles including the distance to the ferry in Staten Island. I can’t comment on general food and services as I we didn’t venture into the rest stops, this was not a particularly long ride for us and the sheer number of people at the stops was intimidating (Do you really want to wait that long for a banana?). We also didn’t have to wait for a ferry—there was one there loading up when we got there.
A lot of folks asked me if I would do it again… and the answer is sure, if you give me a reason to do so. The ride is nice, the number of people involved stunning, but there’s nothing so incredible that I would look to do it again. But if the right person asked, or Lisa wanted to do it, I’d happily go again. I’d hope for cooler weather (a decent chance most years) but other than that things were nice.
As you’ll note from the back of this guy’s shirt, traveling with a medium sized parrot has a downside on a trip like this. But he did get style points… I first saw him just before we stopped for a nature call, and then over and over again throughout the day. This happened with a few folks which I didn’t expect because we did stop quite a few times to help folks. I would have thought that we’d be “off the back” of any particular group, but nope. We saw folks over and over again. Fun!
So I talked about waiting? Here’s what it looked like…
And then the start looked like this from the back… that’s looking north toward the park…
I left my camera home because there was a party planned for Noah, but there was amazing juxtapositions of cyclists and the NYC skyline… and the oddness of seeing bikes where there’s usually cars as in this view from off ramp of the Queensboro Bridge…
For those of you who asked… I rode the MootoX, with 27c Challenge Parigi Roubaix tires, its YBB, and pedals for walkable mountain shoes. The walkable shoes were an especially good choice. Early in the morning while it was humid, it was cool and I wore arm warmers (Smartwool), knee warmers and a rain cape (both Rapha) over my jersey (Swobo). All of them were packed into the Carousel Design Works Escape Pod seat bag before we started riding (along with extra rubber gloves, plastic bags, and other “assistive” technology. I love that thing… I carried a tiny messenger style bag as well which was part pain and part joy. Yeah, I had to sling it around quite a bit, but it made access to paperwork, maps, food, etc. organized and easy. I would have preferred a frame bag… but I haven’t ordered one yet, and it might have been overkill (I didn’t have that much to carry) but it would have put it where I wouldn’t have to fuss as much. Toss up. I thought about finding a document bag and clipping it to the Pod, but I couldn’t find anything lying around the house… but it would be something to consider for the next ride where I have that much stuff to carry.