Thursday, March 29, 2012

Astoria to Fort Washington Park (16.28 miles)

My original plan for today was to cross the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and head South along Route 9.

Once I arrived in Harlem I found myself working my way up to 157th Street, before cutting the rest of the way across town, and luckily running into the entrance to Fort Washington Park. Halfway to the foot of the George Washington bridge 2 road bike cyclists passed me a bit too close for my liking, and I proceed to follow them as far as the foot of the George Washington Bridge. Though the temperature was in the mid 50's, 25-30 mph winds made it feel much cooler, which likely kept some people away from the waterfront.

Heading back was mostly downhill with a tailwind, making for an easy and quick ride home. I'm glad I came upon this stretch of Greenway, and Fort Washington Park, as I believe it is a good way to get to the George Washington Bridge. I may take this route tomorrow if I decide to go the rest of the way to New Jersey, and South on route 9.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Astoria to Hicksville (43.65 miles)

Most of my riding has been in an Westerly direction, so I decided to try to ride to a friends house in Nassau County Long Island, in the Town of Hicksville.

Maps show a distance of approx 26 miles using the Brooklyn Queens Greenway to get to the midway point near the border between Queens, and Nassau County. From that point the directions I found had me weaving through side streets that ran parallel to Jericho Turnpike. This proved to be challenging as my familiarity with the neighborhoods involved was very limited, so stopping to check directions every few blocks became tedious at times. After making a couple of wrong turns, and losing my route I decided that I would stop where I found myself (about 3 miles from my destination and ask my friend to pick me up.

After a sandwich and a few hours of good conversation it was decided that I would be dropped off near the entrance to Alley Pond Park and the Brooklyn Queens Greenway and ride home from there (approx 13miles) as I was very familiar with the route form that point. Gliding through the dark and quiet Greenway Trails nearing midnight was thrilling and beautiful. Flushing and Roosevelt Avenue were quite subdued, and I rolled through without incident.

Arriving home at 12:30 a.m. I took a shower and laid down for the night.

I'm hoping to take what I learned from this experience and make another attempt to ride the entire way to my friends house. I believe I might be better off mapping out my directions, and try to come up with a more direct route that involves less weaving between back roads.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Astoria to the Worlds Fair Marina (13.92 miles)

Sometimes life can get between myself and my bicycle, and last week I had many things to attend to that kept me from riding.

Also, this was a much needed break from riding as my legs and body were nearing their limits.

Today it was more chilly than it had been recently with temperatures in the high 40's and wind's between 25-35 mph.

These are not ideal riding conditions so I decided to ride to a nearby stretch of MUP near LaGuardia Airport, running between the Worlds Fair Marina, and Flushing Bay. This short path offers some beautiful views of the bay, and the planes as they glide in over the bay towards the runways at the Airport. As you might imagine, winds near the waterfront were especially intense making for slow going when I turned back around, and into the wind, to return to Astoria.

Tomorrows forecast is much more favorable, and I hope for a good long ride in the morning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Astoria to High Bridge Park, and the Hudson River Greenway (26.07 miles)

When I set out for my ride this afternoon I had initially planned to ride over the George Washington Bridge and then head South along River Road.

Arriving at 155th Street I decided to follow the Manhattan Greenway further north rather than head West to the George Washington Bridge.

At first I marveled at how deserted this path was, but then quickly realized that it was likely due to the fact that all of these paths were in terrible disrepair. This is a real shame as the views this path offers are fantastic. Soon I found myself where Harlem River Drive meets Dykman , and I found myself at the foot of High Bridge Park. I decided to enter High Bridge Park and start the steep climb up. At one point, I dismounted and walked, not interested in dumping too much energy into one harsh climb. Now at the top of the hill I descended through the winding path with beautiful panoramic views of the river below. I did not want to go as fast as possible as I had never rode in this park. This proved to be smart when I quickly came upon some stairs and was able to barely skid to a stop.

Walking as far South as I could I found that this park did not continue any further in this direction, and that I would have to either go back the the Manhattan Greenway (the way I came) or try to head West from here. Seeing how the descent back to the entrance to the Manhattan Greenway looked fairly scenic, with jagged cliffs rising on my Left, and the river rolling on my right I decided to head back the way I had come from. I rode fast down this hill, but should have held back as at one point there were severe potholes I had to dodge, followed by 2 treacherous gaps I had to double hop at a decent speed, rattling myself, and my bike a bit.

When I once again reached the pedestrian bridge back into the Bronx, I crossed paths with a middle aged Canadian couple asking for some directions. I pointed them where they wanted to go, and climbed back up to 155th Street. Heading West on 155th Street I cut across town to the small parks along Riverside Drive, above the Hudson River Greenway. I passed the entrance I knew about down to the Greenway, but quickly realized my mistake and turned around, dropping down onto the paths. Far less wind here than on my last trip, I was able to have a much more pleasant Southerly ride. Many riders, runners, and some skaters, on this path as usual. I carefully picked my way down the path until I reached the Intrepid, where I patronized her terribly overpriced vending machines for a granola bar, and some iced tea. After some shots of the Intrepid and a few other vessels nearby I got back on the path heading back the way I had come from until I reached 51st Street. I used 51st Street to cut across town once more, this time heading East, shooting clips at Broadway near Times Square, passing Radio City and Rockfeller Center, and St. Patricks Cathedral, before turning on 1st Avenue towards the 59th Street Bridge, and home.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Astoria, Manhattan, and Long Island City Twice (26.9 miles)

I had discovered that work on the East River Esplanade had been completed up to 59th street a few weeks ago, and realized that this now created a long stretch of MUP connecting the 125th Street Bridge with the 59th Street Bridge leaving only Long Island City to contend with to make a full circuit back to the entry to the Triboro bridge to start the route over.

Today I used this route to make 2 laps totaling 26.9 miles. This included 1,178 feet of climb according to GPS (6 bridge crossings).

The weather was fine, a little moderate headwind on the East River Esplanade, and tons of foot traffic (as expected by day of week + weather). I believe this route would be better for laps on a weekday, and it's still a safe way to get to midtown from Astoria any day.

This is my first daytime shoot with the HD Hero 2, and I can see a marked improvement in the image quality already.

Taking a cue from a picture of a GoPro helmet I found, I placed another mount on the right side of my helmet, horizontally. As shown in the picture, I created a 45 degree angle arm with the joints supplied with the original Moto Edition, and my new Outdoor Edition accessories. This way the camera can be turned upside down so it rests near the eye level of the helmet wearer. The good people at Gopro included a setting built into the camera that allows it to shoot upside down, as well as making the LCD display upside down. Here is a picture of the latest mount, you can also see where the first mount is placed. I'm not sure which I like better, but I am sure that I like having the camera centered on my helmet rather than always pushing down on the right side. I could probably add some padding inside my helmet that might make it more comfortable to wear.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

As far as the new viewing angle is concerned, I'm not sure it adds much to the footage, and likely detracts from it due to the fact that my face obscures the left side of the frame. Either way, it was worth trying. I will likely be purchasing, and testing, the GoPro chest mount at some point, as I like that camera perspective as well.

Some highlights of the ride were the young skateboarders shenanigans on the 59th Street Bridge. You can see them nearly run into a tricky gap at 1:10 of 3-17-2012 Part 12, after dodging the skateboarders I had a bit of luck though, when I finally got a nice shot of the Q/N trains as I came down the bridge. I was able to follow one train as it left Queensboro Plaza, and watch it turn towards Astoria to disappear behind a building. On Randall's Island I shot a purposefully cinematic clip rolling off a grassy hill following a DEP boat as it passed under the Hellgate and Triboro Bridges, this video is found under 3-17-2012 Part 5. The second time I reached the foot of the Triboro Bridge, I crossed paths with a cyclist who I had spoke to before near the same spot some weeks ago, when I was riding with my girlfriend. He is a more knowledgeable cyclist who offered good advice regarding what to eat during rides, and where to meet other cyclists on 9W. After maybe a twenty minute chat, we parted ways, and I started my second lap of this route. Nothing more of note transpired, and it was a very enjoyable ride as a whole. I feel that this route will make a good addition to my usual rides.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Astoria to Wards Island (7.84 miles)

GoPro claimed that the latest camera had improved low light capabilities, and I was excited to put it to the test.

Wards Island, just over the Triboro Bridge, offers gorgeous views of the New York City skyline, and can be a wonderfully peaceful place to ride at night. I felt I wanted to keep my ride short today, and started for home after only a few miles. As I'm climbing the Triboro Bridge towards Astoria, I realize that my left crank arm is starting to feel wobbly. Soon the crank arm goes from wobbly, to almost completely loose, and I realize something is seriously wrong. I was able to pedal with mostly my right pedal to get over the bridge, and scooted my bike home the last half mile. Just as I approached my block, a motorcycle club passed me and I was able to shoot a clip of them. Tomorrow I will bring my bike to my LBS, and hopefully they can just tighten the crank arm, and I won't need to pay out of pocket to get my bike back on the road.

Anyway, some of the videos I shot were a bit darker than I had hoped, and were not worth keeping. In the darkest areas with little to no residual light the picture will go to almost pitch black, but in most areas where there is some nearby direct lighting, or a fair amount of ambient lighting I thought the GoPro HD Hero 2 performed well.

Check it out!

GoPro HD Hero 2 Camera Upgrade - New Possibilities

Today I rode to some nearby wholesale stores with my girlfriend to do a little shopping.

The 5.5 mile round trip was very nice as the incredible Winter of 2012 continues to warm up.

When we returned to my apartment I found a package in my entryway.

My new camera had arrived!

After a quick lunch, a shower, and seeing my girlfriend off, I unwrapped my new camera on my balcony while filming with my original camera.

One of the exciting features of the Hero 2 is greatly improved low light video quality. This opens up a new world of possibilities for filming in the city.

Look for some night ride videos soon!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Astoria to Corona Park and Meadow Lake (18.79 miles)

This is a ride I have done more than a few times now, and has become a personal favorite destination.

Corona Park is huge, and has many great features for all kinds of sports and leisure.

For cycling you can choose to simply tool around the major arteries, or ride laps on Meadow Lake, or Industry Pond.

Meadow Lake is undergoing renovations and the paths around it are old, and in disrepair. It's o.k. for 1 or 2 laps but not much more until they finish the renovation. Industry Pond if more well maintained, and is a decent location for some laps.

After such a long ride yesterday I wanted to take it easy, and ride slowly. I took a lap around the lake and then traced some of the major arteries in the park. Some of my sights include the Worlds Fair Observation decks, the Worlds Fair Globe, Freedom of the Human Spirit statue, Billy Jean King Tennis Center (with shots of court 9), the scenic lookout at the top of Meadow Lake, the Rocket Thrower statue, the Queens Zoo, and Citifield.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Astoria to New Jersey and The Palisades/Tallman Mountain (46.23 miles)

In my quest to traverse all of the bridges within my range I took a long hard look at the George Washington Bridge and saw how, connecting to Henry Hudson Drive, one could reach Tallman Mountain (apparently this is a very popular route).

Starting out it was cool, but I felt some measure of comfort knowing the temperatures were only supposed to rise. The trip over the Triboro Bridge was uneventful, and making my way up and crosstown presented no real challenges. As I approached the George Washington Bridge I was struck by the instant presence of many other cyclists, all traveling to and from the bridge.

Upon stopping for some water on the far side of the bridge I decided to ask a fellow solo cyclist if he could point me towards Henry Hudson Drive. He explained that he was heading in that direction, and would be happy to show me the way. I told him I appreciated the help, and would try to keep up. As we entered Henry Hudson Drive I was delighted to find that it began with a long downhill that wound under the Tapanzee Bridge offering breathtaking views of the Hudson River. When we came to the beginning of the steep hills heading North I said goodbye to Scott as I knew he would fairly glide up these huge hills, where I had to spin slowly up them. After spinning up these prutal hills in agony for longer than I would like to remember, I finally cresting the last of the large hills and find Scott sitting in front of what I think is a park rangers station just about where Henry Hudson Drive meets 9W. He tells me I've done well and that there are bathrooms, water, and a soda machine inside. When I asked him how much further it was to Tallman Mountain he said that I should only attempt the rest of the trip if I felt strong enough. I assured him that I was o.k., and took off in the direction he had indicated earlier, up 9W.

Arriving at Tallman Mountain on 9W, I entered it's hard packed dirt trails, and find myself surrounded by complete wilderness. Only a couple of miles into the trail, and I arrive at a small restroom building with picnic tables, and a water fountain. Here I rested, shot a short video and ate the nuts and raisins I had brought along.

My return route would follow 9W/New York State Bicycle Route 9. Heading South, into the wind, I had a stroke of luck when 2 cyclists (one with a blue jersey and one with a grey jersey) passed me trading drafts, and were traveling at just the right speed so I could catch a conservative draft behind the ever rotating second rider. I had never had the opportunity to draft for such a long stretch (maybe 7 or 8 miles worth of drafting), and I could really feel the difference, especially when climbing. After following them for a stretch I asked the blue rider how much further to the George Washington Bridge, and he said we were nearby to it already and to follow them the rest of the way, which I did. After crossing the George Washington Bridge to New York City I found my way down to the 125th Street Bridge for the last leg of my journey. Apparently this is a very popular ride, and I can see why. The views are breathtaking, and the hills are good/brutal training. I will definitely be riding this route again.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Astoria to The World Trade Center via the Hudson River Greenway (32.01 miles)

Today was another unseasonably warm, clear, and beautiful day in old New York.

Having never rode the Hudson River Greenway I felt I was long overdue.

I thought I would try to pace myself a bit, and decided that mapping a route to the West side was unnecessary. I used the Triboro Bridge for a path Uptown and rode the East River Esplanade to 89th street cutting halfway crosstown to enter Central Park and use the loop as a way further West. Shamelessly avoiding Cat Hill in Central Park, I exited at 7th Avenue traveling even further uptown as far as 144th Street Riverbank State Park.

Finding the entrance to the Hudson River Greenway from that point was a little challenging, and my instincts were on track, but then I second guessed myself, climb back up to the path, and asked a gentleman how to find the Greenway.He confirmed that the narrow, steep, little hill I had just climbed back up was indeed the way to the Greenway.

Finally on the paths, face into the intense winds, I was struck by how well maintained, modern, and busy these paths are compared to the East River Esplanade. Still trying to pace myself a bit, I was stopping more than usual, for water, and checking my camera. During one of these pit stops on the Greenway a woman approached me with her 2 tiny girls, possibly twins, of maybe 2 years old. They were both pushing strollers, and followed their mother over to me when she approached and asked if I could explain to them that they need to be careful not to push strollers into the path of bicycles. They seemed so young, I used very basic language to explain that myself, and the bike are large, and they are small, and that the bike moves very fast and can be dangerous. I then bid the mother and children farewell, and ground back into the wind.

After passing the piers, and the Intrepid, I arrived near the Southwestern tip of Manhattan, where I could gaze up at the Freedom Tower as it's being built.

The Greenway abruptly ends here due to construction, so I felt it was time to turn my back to the wind and glide North, turning East at 51st Street. I then used 51st Street to cut crosstown to First Ave, and climb the 59th Street Bridge for my trip home.At some point heading North, the battery in my camera died. The only things I would have liked to have shot were the 6 policemen I saw escorting a man at the foot of the 59th Street bridge in handcuffs, and my descent down the Queens side of the bridge. Both of those are pretty unimportant to today's ride as a whole, so I feel it's no great loss.

My mileage for the month so far is much higher than my usual average, and today I was feeling it. I likely will not ride tomorrow, or Saturday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bensonhurst to Astoria (super scenic route, 31.18 miles)

Last night while inspecting the route back to Queens from Bensonhurst I noticed the Crossbay Vietnam Memorial Bridge (spanning over a wildlife preserve) on the Map.

Personally, I love bridges as the climbs are good training, the views are awe inspiring, and the roll down the far side is always fun.

Combined with my desire to ride the Shore Pkwy/Belt Pkwy bike paths, explore the Rockaway Peninsula, and the seemingly straight forward route back North from Crossbay I thought this would be the perfect day (weather wise) to check it out.

My average speed was good, regardless of all the stops made to check my map. Most of this trip was fairly flat, with only about 500 feet of total climb over the entire ride. Thanks to a strong tailwind, combined with the slight downhill grade of Crossbay Blvd, I was able to average over 19 MPH for approximately 2.5 miles. That's a very high average speed for me, maybe the highest I have ever been clocked at over such a long stretch. It's nice when you see a path you think might be enjoyable on a map, and it actually turns out to be so.

The worst leg of the trip was certainly Woodhaven Blvd. The directions I was using wanted me to zig-zag around Woodhaven on back streets quite a bit (possibly to avoid some of the more dangerous sections), and I decided that even though it is a busy, tightly packed, and fairly dangerous road to cycle on, that I would likely make better time and greatly lessen the chances of getting lost by staying on Woodhaven. This proved to be an o.k. strategy as long as I was super vigilant of other vehicles as well as avoiding riding through some of the bad spots by riding on sidewalk briefly (Don't do it unless you 100% have to!). This allowed me to hook-up to the more familiar roads further North, eventually connecting to 34th Avenue which is an East/West avenue I use often.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Astoria to Bensonhurst (15.55 miles)

Today's ride was my first trip to my girlfriends apartment, by bike. Her place is (geographically) a straight shot South from mine, but I had to contend with unfamiliar roads and neighborhoods for most of the trip. My knowledge of Brooklyn is very limited compared to Manhattan and Queens, so I think this was a good experience. It will be nice when I know the route by heart, so I won't have to check a map. I think in a couple of trips I should have it down.

The general combination of Vernon Blvd, Pulaski Bridge, Kent Ave, Prospect Park, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, and 17th Ave worked well, and keeps you in bike lanes for more than half of the ride. Traffic wise, 17th Ave had some of the more belligerent drivers, and is fairly narrow. I won't likely change much from this route, and should be able to use a similar return route.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kissena Velodrome and the Brooklyn Queens Greenway (29.14 miles)

It had been some months since I had made the trip to the Brooklyn Queens Greenway, so I decided to make the trip through Flushing via Roosevelt Ave (not for the novice urban cyclist), to enter the Greenway at Kissena Park.

I had been through Kissena Park more than a few times but never made a point to locate, or try to use the Velodrome. The Kissena Park Velodrome is a recently refurbished 400 meter cycling track with a storied history linking it to numerous Olympic champions.

Upon reaching my usual entry point at Kissena, I took a brief glance at a map on my phone, and pointed myself in the general direction of where I thought the Velodrome might be. As I approached the end of a lane I saw what I thought might be a fenced circular area beyond some brush.

Video 3-5-2012 Part 1 shows my trip around the brush along some sports fields, arriving for the first time at the Kissena Velodrome. Some laps had to be done of course, 3-5-2012 Part 2, 3-5-2012 Part 3, 3-5-2012 Part 4. But, I did not want to stay there too long as my destination and turn around point (Alley Pond Park), was still more than a few miles away.

After a short pit stop at a relatives house in Queens Village for some fluids and snacks, I made my way back through the Brooklyn Queens Greenway, and Flushing, into Astoria once more. All in all, a beautifully sunny and fun (albeit chilly), ride in March.

Friday, March 2, 2012

3 bridges, the Museum Mile, and some laps in Central Park (31.78 miles)

I decided today was a good day for laps in Central Park.

As I exited my apartment I heard a metallic rattle come from my rear wheel when I set the bike down.

Apparently the loud twang I heard while riding yesterday was a spoke shearing where it meets the hub (I had thought it may have been a cable breaking, and stopped to check my bike, but did not find the source of the sound when it happened). I unscrewed the spoke from it's nipple and rode to my LBS for a replacement, and an earful about custom built wheels (I was told I likely did not need custom wheels).

20 minutes later, I'm on the road.

Still cool today (mid to high 30's), and overcast. Triboro bridge, 125th street bridge, East River Esplanade to 89th street, and then cut across town to Central Park. I used the 59th street bridge for my return trip, exiting the park near Columbus Circle. Some highlights include, following a fixed gear rider down the Museum Mile. Kids staging a photo in an unsafe location (followed by a slow climb). Asian girl likes to shoot pictures on the go. And my descent down the 59th street bridge back into the borough of Queens.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Air Force One (?) and the East River Esplanade (17.01 miles)

Police on foot, in Helicopters, and Boats; and the East River Esplanade opens below 80th street once more.

Making my way to the East River Esplanade via the 125th street bridge I encountered heightened police presence on land, in the river, and in the air. One officer I had encountered had initially turned me away (from crossing the pedestrian overpass connecting to the East River Esplanade at 125th street), but as I turned around, he must have got the "ok" to let me through, and did.

Upon reaching the newly opened stretch of the East River Esplanade (below 80th street) I overheard a police officer telling a pedestrian that President Obama was arriving in New York and that was the reason for extra security (see video 3-1-2012 Part 10).

The newly refurbished stretch of Greenway on the East River is breathtaking, ending with a sculpture park made of what look like roller coaster tracks, and other random industrial parts nestled in the stunning shadow of the Queensboro bridge.