I rode the five-boro bike ride yesterday. 40-some miles and tens of thousands of bikes. This is the ride that the close off the streets for. That’s why I wanted to do it. You get to bike on the FDR and BQE (freeways), the upper level of the Queensboro Bridge, and over the Verrazano Bridge.
The ride starts in lower Manhattan at 8AM and ends in Staten Island. I left my house around 8:15 and met the ride at the southern entrance of Central Park. It is always impressive to see bikes as far as the eye can see in both directions.
There was a bike hold up at Astoria Park, the first rest area, till they let ride go again at 10:00 AM. Had I known that… I could have gotten another half hour of sleep.
As a bike ride, it’s a little frustrating. It’s great to ride without cars. I wish I could pay $45 to have that every day.
Bu there should be more of a race atmosphere in front, and a party atmosphere in the rear. Instead, it all has a very clean, weekend warrior feel. Helmets are mandatory. I didn’t wear mine. I mean, come on, if you’re going to close the road off to traffic, then we don’t need helmets. I’ll take my chances with other bicyclists.
And then on every downhill they have people with bullhorns telling you to slow down. I mean, I understand how thousands of bicyclists, many not too experienced, could get into a horrible mob-colliding mess. But after riding up a hill, I’m not about to use my brakes going down the other side. Stop telling me to slow down and stop treating me like a kid.
And the pace cars go too slow (15mph) so there’s this crowd and mob of bikes at the front. Kind of dangerous. But spirits are high in the lead mob, with every turn an adventure. If the pace cars just went 20mph, there would be no problem. And it would be safer. A lot of people can bike 15mph. Very few can keep a pace of 20mph.
Dropping back a bit (after eating some very delicious oranges at a rest area), the mob thins out a bit. The BQE was very fun to ride on. More space. Smooth pavement. Fast riding. I got over the Verrazano Bridge and to the finish at about 11:30. I was on a noon ferry back to the City and home around 1:15pm, about the time I’d normally be having my first frappé.
There were surprisingly few spectators cheering us on. But the ones that were there were heartwarming. Old people sticking heads out windows. And a woman in East Harlem at 110th St and the FDR who was ringing a Tour de France style cow bell! That was great.
All in all, the ride is a little over 50 miles. That part wasn’t hard. Even not in great shape I can bike 50 miles pretty easily. The “other” city bike ride, where they don’t close off streets, is 100 miles. That’s tiring.
I’m happy to have done it. And it’s great to bike places you normally can’t. But I don’t know if I’ll do again. This time I wanted to do it alone so I could keep my own pace.
Maybe next year I’ll do it with friends.
For another account of this ride, see this.