Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My eleven hour bike ride

On Sunday, I rode my bike 86 miles around Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Far Rockaways, Queens and then back into Manhattan. I started at 6:30am and finished at 5:00pm. It was fun and challenging!

One of my friends casually mentioned this bike tour, the NYC Century, and I perked up. Since getting a bike back in June, I've taken to riding it a lot around town and to various places. When I started working at my last job, many of my coworkers commuted to work so my fear of riding in the city started to wear off. The question then turned to what kind of bike I wanted. I just wanted a bike I could cruise around in, all relaxed and stuff. I loved vintage bikes and the whole image of the girl in a skirt riding her bike in the countryside with a baguette in her basket. I wanted to be That Girl.

So, I bought an authentic Dutch bike. My bike is single speed, has coaster breaks, and weighs a ton (about 42lbs). It's super comfortable to sit and ride because instead of leaning forward to hold the handlebars you're upright. I didn't get a basket, but I have a cute bag that I attach to the back rack. Yes, I wear skirts when I ride, and yes, I do look like That Girl!

So, back to this bike tour. When my friend mentioned it, I knew immediately that I wanted to participate. I can easily ride my bike for long distances for hours on end so I was in. There were several options: a 15, 35, 55, 75 or the full 100 mile ride. The only concern going the full 100 miles was the supposed hills in the Bronx that the tour warned about. As the Bronx was the last leg of the tour, I figured I'd do the 75 mile ride instead considering my equipment.

4am I get up and take my bike on the subway to Central Park (no skirt, proper leggings). The train was full of other people participating in the tour and it was fun to talk with people about their experiences. People were asking me how far I intended to go on my bike and were surprised I was doing the 75, which, due to rerouting, became 86 miles.

6:30am I started and made my way from the park down to the Brooklyn Bridge. I gt into a good pace and take in the scenery while I go through parts of Manhattan and over the Brooklyn Bridge towards my neck of the woods, Prospect Park. After that, we head over to the Far Rockaways and then towards Queens.

Now, I've always gotten a lot of comments on my bike, because it's different and incredibly cute, but the amount of comments I've received on this ride was astonishing. People would ride next to me or pass and yell, "Nice bike!" but all were dumbfounded that I was going the distance on a bike like mine, told me I was amazing and cheering me on. People took pictures of me on the bike, and took pictures of the bike itself. I didn't understand at first but comparing my bike to everyone else's, I was taking a harder ride. And, NYC isn't as "relatively flat" as claimed. I worked my ass off climbing hills!

There were so many interesting parts to this ride like seeing bridges up close and going through neighborhoods I've never been in. I rode through Howard Beach which just from the streets you could see was such an Italian-American nabe. I got a "how you doin'" from a big burly guy in front of a diner. Rode by the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Rescue. Rode through Flushing Meadow Park. I especially loved the trails around Kissena Park, it was like riding in a forest. I passed houses that were built over the water (I should have stopped and taken photographs of that as it was truly unexpected) and just rode through such unique neighborhoods both architecturally and ethnically. Also, it was sweet to have children and old men with their grandchilden wave at me.

The hardest part of my ride was the last six miles of it. The Triboro bridge had a bunch of stairs and that meant carrying my bike. I carried it up and down a few flights until I gave in to repeated offers of help. That's when I realized exactly how tough my ride was and why all who spoke to me were dumbfounded and amazed. When another rider carried my bike, I carried his - and I easily tossed it onto my shoulder! It weighed 19lbs! It almost made me cry! This ride would be nothing to me on a bike like that!

When I got to the finish line I laid on the grass for a very long time. I was sweaty, smelly beyond belief, and achy. But I was really happy. This was soooo much fun and such a unique experience! If you get the chance to do a tour like this, go for it. It's not a race, you go your own pace and get to talk to interesting people, and you come away with a different perspective on where you live and what you're capable of.

I heard that the Bronx was relatively flat and that I could have done it. Next time I will, but on a completely different bike!