Sunday, May 27, 2012

Astoria to Bensonhurst and Jacob Riis Park (50 miles)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding with a new friend I met through a cycling forum. It turns out Jim, who had been looking for someone to ride with, lives in Bensonhurst near where my girlfriend lives. This made planning rides between us simpler for me as I could use my girlfriends apartment as a way point of sorts, and I was already quite familiar with the route between us. When we had planned the ride over the phone, I told him of my idea to ride over the Marine Park bridge, along Beach Channel Drive, over Broad Channel to Crossbay Blvd, (stopping in Howard Beach for pizza) and through Queens via Woodhaven Blvd to return to Astoria. Jim said that he liked this idea, and would likely tack on more mileage by returning to Bensonhurst via Manhattan. So the ride was set for 1pm Saturday, starting from Bensonhurst. Leaving my apartment and entering into the relatively bright and mild late morning sunshine, I started toward Bensonhurst along my usual route. When I reach the first entrance to the Waterfront route, I encounter construction and attempt to make my way around using my sense of direction. While trying to find my way back to the Waterfront route I passed groups of runners either running in a club or in a seemingly small charity event. After having little success finding an alternate neighborhood route I found myself back near the entrance to the Waterfront route, but this time I found an alternate entrance and was able to resume my usual route. As the morning progressed the temperature steadily rose along with an ever thickening layer of gray cloud cover. When I reached Prospect Park I witnessed a small but bustling farmers market at the top of the park, then baring right to follow park traffic, I rode through the interior of the park South to where I could then reenter the Brooklyn streets and find Dahill Road, which will connect me to the last stretch before reaching my destination.

Rapid Descent to 1st Street.

Community garden in Astoria, graffiti.

Doubling back past the other side of the community garden on Astoria Blvd.

Waterfront route around projects and through Goodwill Park, riding through Socrates sculpture park.

Queensbridge park and passing under the Queensboro Bridge.

Pulaski Bridge to Freeman, Franklin, Kent, and the Manhattan Bridge.

Decorated bike path along service road to Navy St.

Double decker bike made from three bike frames?

Open air market at the top of Prospect Park.

Riding South through Prospect Park, following a road bike rider before exiting.

Horse back riders at the Southern end of Prospect Park.

Arriving at my girlfriends apartment I took a shower and we went for a walk to get a light snack, and some bubble tea. After helping her with a few light chores around her apartment I heard from Jim and soon I was outside awaiting the arrival of my new cycling friend. We took a moment for salutations and I introduced my girlfriend before we left and made our way down 86th Street. I left navigation to the Marine Park bridge up to Jim as I trusted his local knowledge of the streets. He opted for a route on Avenue T and U, connecting to Flatbush Ave which leads to the bridge. Once at the bridge I followed behind Jim, into intense headwinds as we made our way over, landing in Jacob Riis Park. Jim is a much lighter rider than I, and it seemed the temperature and humidity combination was not taking quite the same toll on his endurance. I tried my best to put a strong effort forth but I felt I was reaching into a dry well as my usual afterburners were not present. On top of that at about the 30 mile mark, I found that when I tried to stand and pedal, my thighs wanted to cramp.

Riding down 86th Street in Brooklyn with Jim.

Floyd Bennett Field to the foot of the Marine Park Bridge.

Following Jim over the Marine Park Bridge into intense headwinds.

Riding along Beach Channel Drive traffic was light, and we rode over Vietnam Memorial Bridge. By now, the skies were an ominous shade of gray, more hinting than threatening rain at this time, but still something worth noting. Now with the wind at my back, I set my gearing high on the third chain ring and spun comfortably into that smooth "torquey" acceleration. According to GPS results, we averaged nearly 20mph for a 4,000 yard stretch here. All the while I could tell things were not improving with my thigh muscles, any attempt to stand and pedal resulted the beginnings of cramps. So I resigned myself to spinning more and basically dialing back my overall speed just to be 100% sure I could complete the ride home. Entering Howard Beach, we made our way down Woodhaven Blvd to New Park Pizza for a couple of slices and beverages. Most of the conversation Jim and I had was centered around cycling, such as our strategies regarding training, gear, and safety. We shared many of the same ideas but of course, differed in a few.

Making our way further North, I was now leading the way along Woodhaven to make our way through Corona Park, and finally hooking up with my usual route via 34th Ave and past the airport into Astoria. I had hoped to follow him over the Triboro Bridge before sending him on his way to Manhattan, and Jim had even urged me to just go home as it was apparent my condition was not improving. I had even made it as far as the first staircase on the Triboro before my legs just began twitching terribly, and the only way to allow them to relax was to sit on the bike and hold the fence, standing even made my legs cramp. At this point it was obvious that to follow him to Wards Island would not be wise, so I said my goodbyes, Jim suggesting a banana before riding to avoid potassium deficiency (which I rarely have experienced). Turning around, I rolled back down to Astoria, and just made it under the awning in front of my door in time to avoid the torrential downpour that I had hoped Jim might have avoided somehow as well.

Following Jim over the Vietnam Memorial Bridge.

Cruising North on Crossbay Blvd with Jim, crossing the final bridges approaching Howard Beach.

Crossing Corona Park with Jim, through the Zoo to the Science Museum.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Astoria to Roosevelt Island and Wards Island (21.59 miles)

Roosevelt Island is mostly unfamiliar to many New Yorkers, including myself. Having only recently realized that a bridge (Welfare Island Bridge) connected Long Island City to Roosevelt Island, off of Vernon Blvd, I followed the Waterfront Route along Vernon passing through Socrates Sculpture Park, and crossed the small bridge to Roosevelt Island. This bridge is narrow, and offers a small mostly unprotected shoulder for cyclists to cross in. The blacktop surface of the bridge gives way to a metal grate which I did not feel comfortable riding on with my thinner tires. Once over the bridge you descend a twisting ramp not unlike a parking garage ramp, and spill out onto Main Street where I quickly picked up East Rd and headed toward the lighthouse. Though it was warm, humid, and hazy, only a few cool drops fell once in a while, and I was never concerned that I would get soaked trusting in the forecast which called for rain in the late evening.

Vernon Blvd and Socrates Sculpture Park.

Crossing Welfare Island Bridge to Roosevelt Island.

More than a few times, I had viewed this miniature lighthouse from a distance and I was glad to have a chance to get close to it. Once I was on the West side of the Island I was able to chase a Seastreak boat along the East River all the way until it approached the U.N.. Having gone as far South as my path permitted, I found myself inside a small park under construction, slated for completion in 2013. Inside this park a crumbling building sat overgrown with strategically placed spot lights at it's feet, to provide what would be a chilling sight, lit up at night. Riding along a small stone wall, I found a nice fairly clean and modern public restroom and water fountain; and the bathroom was even big enough for me to bring my bike in with me, and lock the door. Once I exited this park the way I had come in, I cut across to the East side of the island again and completed my first lap around. On google maps it shows a complete circuit of bike lane around Roosevelt Island, this is not truly accurate. There is poorly maintained MUP, quite dangerous and somewhat narrow in some sections. There are sections on the East and West side where there is no MUP at all and you must ride in the road. Yet another example of maps showing what is planned for an area rather than what is actually there. The island has nearly 80% of it's perimeter traced with MUP which looks as if it has not been maintained in decades. Cracked walkways leave jagged sections too dangerous to ride over, the edges of steel plates jut out between where cement and grass meet, and the path makes equally treacherous and awkward "U" shapes around the man made shoring structures that line the island. All of this made for fairly slow and somewhat hazardous riding, and after a few laps around the island I decided to leave and make my way over the Triboro Bridge to try to get some decent climbing in and a few miles around Wards Island.

Traveling the West side of Roosevelt Island, chasing the Seastreak to the 59th Street Bridge.

A crumbling building inside a park under construction, slated to open in 2013.

Riding a small stone wall to find a bathroom

Leaving the Park a Seastreak boat passes, I then cross over to the East side of the Island and arrive back at the Welfare Island Bridge completing my first full circuit of Roosevelt Island.

Nearly half of a full lap around Roosevelt Island, including the Lighthouse to the 59th Street Bridge.

The 59th Street Bridge to the Welfare Island bridge.

Stopping at the lighthouse I view the water and Manhattan as well as the plaque honoring Vicki Holland at the foot of the lighthouse.

Bow shaped structure on the West side of Roosevelt Island.

Walking across Welfare Island Bridge to Long Island City.

Following Vernon Blvd back through Long Island City, I made my way to 27th Street and Hoyt Avenue to enter the Triboro Bridge path and cross over to Wards Island. Enjoying the rapid descent down the bridge, I continued to film as I glide through a wooded area and crest the rise near the 103rd Street bridge. Riding into the wind I find myself pacing a DEP boat as it approaches the Triboro Bridge. Quickly climbing the last small but steep hill, I stop in the shadow of the Hellgate Bridge to finish filming the boat until it passes.

Descending the Triboro Bridge, following a DEP boat to Hellgate Bridge.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Astoria to The Ride of Silence - 5-16-2012 (30 miles)

Last year 21 cyclists were killed on the streets of New York City, and only 2 drivers had charges against them as a result. More often than not, the cyclist is blamed, and society lessens the culpability of a motorist under the guise of protecting people from being too harshly punished for what is perceived as a minor traffic infraction. These sentiments sometimes carry over to the road where malicious motorists, unwilling to share the road, bully cyclists from the relative safety of their cars. While most inner city motorists understand the "dance" between car and bike (I give you 6 inches here, you give me 3 inches there), that keeps everybody flowing smoothly through the streets; a fair amount of animosity still exists on both sides of the shoulder. One small ray of hope in all of this for those of us who prefer to pedal, is the expanding network of bike lanes, our new bike share program, and the greater publicity of cycling concerns in our media; all hopefully serve to keep bikes on the minds of motorists.

With ridership doubling in the last 4 years it's more important than ever to teach riders and drivers how we can all cruise together safely. Bikes are most dangerous to the person riding one. Cars are down right deadly to everyone on the road. Some people have taken this to mean that cars would then be at the top of some food chain, to be feared. When the reverse should be the prevailing logic; because you are deadly, you carry the greater responsibility.

The Ride of Silence attempts to bring this point home to motorists, where they live and drive. From their website,"WHY DOES THIS ORGANIZATION EXIST? To HONOR those who have been injured or killed - To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here - To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD". This ride is performed all around the world on this day; I would describe it as part organized non-violent civil obedience and cooperation, and part memorial for the injured and killed cyclists around the world. This ride was specially dedicated to a cyclist killed in March of this year, David Ortiz, (another surreal example of how in early reports the authorities jumped to shift blame away from the driver, and onto the cyclist), killed when struck by 3 vehicles while on his morning bike commute to work.

The ride is at sundown, so I made sure all of my lights were in working order, and set out with plenty of time to try to arrive a little early, even if rush hour held me up. After crossing into Manhattan I took 2nd Avenue South following a young guy on a fixie (proclaiming his discomfort with Manhattan riding), who nearly runs into an elderly woman who stepped into the bike lane. I used 9th Street (which becomes Christopher Street) to cut across to the West side bike path where I could find the starting point for the Ride of Silence at Pier 40.

Descending the 59th Street Bridge to Manhattan.

Following a fixie rider South on 2nd Avenue.

Fixie rider almost runs over grandma.

Traveling South on 2nd Avenue, I stop for a light, and the fixie rider catches up.

Traveling in a pack of riders on Christopher Street in the East Village.

Traveling in a pack of riders on Christopher Street in the East Village, cont.

Arriving at Pier 40 for the Ride of Silence.

Once you sign in for the ride, you receive a black arm band and are given a flyer with a cue sheet and information regarding the rules of the ride, this also included a small paragraph written by Michael Ortiz, the brother of the cyclist this ride was dedicated to.

There was a photo-op with the ride organizers, and Marshalls. Then a brief speech from the ride leader, and president of the 5 Borough Bike Club Ed Ravin to the ride Marshalls and to the riders. Michael Ortiz spoke of his brother and offered his appreciation to the riders. Soon after, we started the quiet ride South, led by Ed Ravin and Ed DeFreitas (whom I recently rode with along the Old Put and Croton Aqueduct trails). The ride began on a stretch of the West side bike path, and I stop in the path to film the riders silently passing. Riding around 10 mph, using a combination of Warren and Church Street to emerge on 6th Avenue, we commanded the 2 left lanes at our stately pace all the way through the heart of midtown, during a high traffic time of day. Most riders were quiet, and though Ed and I spoke once or twice, I mostly tried to observe the solemn purpose of the ride. A few pedestrians and motorists inquired about the ride and were silently given flyers by the ride Marshalls.

At Radio City I took the opportunity to stop and film the pack of riders I was in, before following them further uptown. Turning on 57th Street we began to head West, back to the West side bike path for the last few remaining miles of the ride. By now, it was almost full dark and the ghostly silent procession appeared as will-o-wisp's following in the breeze, gliding past the West side waterfront landmarks. I paused near a center dividing post in the path, and filmed as the 2 packs of cyclists in the ride pass me. Once the last ride Marshalls pass I sped back up to the front to finish with the leaders, and film the packs of riders as they finish.

Organizers and Marshalls pose with the sign for the Ride of Silence.

The ride begins. I pause to film the riders passing.

Approaching the Freedom Tower on the West Side bike path.

Riding East on Warren Street.

Waiting for riders to catch up, I film their approach on 6th Avenue.

Riders gather on 6th Avenue.

6th Avenue passing West 4th Street.

6th Avenue passing 8th Street.

6th Avenue past 10th Street.

Riding 6th past 17th Street.

6th Avenue through Chelsea, approaching the Empire State Building.

Approaching Radio City, allowing the first pack to pass to be filmed.

Turning on to 57th Street, now traveling West.

Arriving at the far West end of 57th Street to return to the West side bike path.

Starting out on the West Side bike path from 57th Street.

Filming the first pack of cyclists pass on the West side bike path.

Filming the second pack of cyclists as they pass, sprinting to catch back up to the front, reaching Chelsea Piers.

The final stretch of the Ride of Silence on the West side bike path, filming the first pack of cyclists as they finish.

The second pack of riders arrive at the finish.

After a few final words from Ed Ravin thanking us for our participation and suggesting a meeting place after the ride (for those interested), many riders slowly disbursed to their separate destinations. I took a chance to say my goodbyes to Ed, & Ed, and made my way back up to 10th Street and followed a few cyclists headed in the same direction. Upon arriving on 1st Avenue I encountered a fixie rider who set off from a light near the U.N. to bomb down the hill and up towards the 59th Street Bridge. Knowing the area well, and seeing only a few cars, I attempt to follow him but am wary of a sedan to my right, and think I've lost him. When I arrive at the second to last light with another rider (who rode mostly no-hands), I find I've caught up to the fixie rider who then runs the light with no-hands man.... Soon I am cresting the bridge, and found few other people were on the bridge at this time, and no other cyclists in my direction were seen. Home again, I settled in for the rest of the late evening, reflecting on the unique significance of the ride I had just partook in.

Following cyclists down 10th Street on my way home.

Chasing a fixie rider down First Avenue past the U.N., towards the 59th Street Bridge.

Descending the 59th Street Bridge back to Queens.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Astoria to the Old Put Rail Trail, and the Old Croton Aqueduct (62 miles)

Still in the early stages of my foray into the cycling community, I felt an encounter with the members of the Five Borough Bike Club, would be the next logical step. I had approached the president of the 5BBC at Bike Expo New York, and told him of my idea to ride with, and film, the 5BBC if possible. I explained that I was interested in riding the Old Put Rail Trail, and the Old Croton Aqueduct on Mothers Day, and gave him a card so he could reach out to the ride leader, and other involved parties, to get the o.k. to film.

In the past while scouring the map for places to explore by bike, I had viewed some of these trails, but thought that navigation would be difficult without a guide. When I read the description of this ride I felt it would be the perfect way to see these trails for the first time, and decided that this would be a great first ride with the 5BBC as well. The Putnam Division Line, and the Croton Aqueduct were integral to the development of our fair city. For 99 years the New York and Putnam Railroad connected city dwellers to points North, for a reprieve from the hustle, and bustle, of big city living. The Croton Aqueducts construction was partly inspired by the Great Fire of 1776, which by some estimates leveled as much as 25% of the city, and by the urgent need for safer, and more abundant drinking water, for a city growing well beyond its means. The architects planning this aqueduct were wise enough to rely on the time tested designs the Romans used, and created pipes of brick aided by ventilators, and enormous looming arches spanning waterways, all flowing together from the Croton River 41 miles North, to New York City assisted by only a single steam pump located near Highbridge Park.

Riding from Astoria to 242nd Street and Broadway (the meeting point for the ride), would be a new route for me, so I left extra early to be sure that I would be on time. Crossing the bridge from Randalls Island to 132nd street, I made my way North on St Ann Avenue, and used 163rd Street to connect to Brook Avenue, which becomes Park Avenue. Once I reached East Fordham Road, I connected to Webster Avenue, and followed that to Mosholu Parkway until I reached Van Cortlandt Park South, where I carefully made my way down to Broadway, and finally the rides meeting point, 242nd street.

Descent down the Triboro Bridge to Wards Island, Icahn Stadium, and the foot of the 125th Street Bridge.

Walking up the 132nd Street Bridge.

Park Avenue in the Bronx, a commuter train passes; approaching 187th Street.

The sign for the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, the corner of Dickinson Avenue, and Van Cortlandt Park South.

Not long after arriving, Juan, a cyclist I had recently met through the web, arrived riding his mountain bike, and we chatted for awhile until Jose and Kevin came along, two friends with nice modern mountain bikes. Soon our ride leader Ed DeFreitas showed up also riding a mountain bike (I was the only rider on a hybrid), and he stated that we should give other prospective riders extra time to get to the start location, as construction was taking place on the nearest subway line. We all signed in for the ride, and made our introductions, and I explained a little about filming the ride, and my blog. Just when we were all getting a bit restless to begin the ride, our final participant Kelly arrived, riding his well equipped "lefty" fork mountain bike. After a 2 minute bike check guided by Ed, we set out through Mosholu Park.

Our ride started out North, along mostly hard packed dirt trails, with many patches of rail roads ties, a few small muddy areas, and various small bridges, and underpasses. Though the forecast called for cloudy conditions, the sun burned through, providing bright green views, warm sunshine, and occasional cool breezes. My exposure to off-road riding is somewhat limited, and I was careful to watch the terrain closely. At times along the route we had to skip over streets to continue along the trail, always being wary of traffic when we did. Ed made sure to signal often, and call out with cues about people, and cyclists on the path as well, and I tried my best to do the same. It was apparent that the ride leaders role was taken seriously by the leader, as well as the riders, and that anyone that was willing to follow the rules of the ride, was welcome along. We kept a purposefully easy pace, slowly making our way through trails of the Old Put/South County Trailway which had various other cyclists, and pedestrians taking advantage of the fine weather. At times during the ride, Ed would offer information on the old rail systems, sometimes as conversation during the ride, and sometimes at stops where he liked to highlight the significance of an area. Personally, I have an interest in most types of history, and enjoyed hearing about the railroads construction, and contributions. Once we reached Ardsley, we stopped at a deli for those people that did not pack lunch, and followed Ed past a waterfall to Woodlands Lake where we ate lunch, and viewed a monument in memory of the people who died during the potato famine.

***My microphone is mounted on my left shoulder, I apologize for any inaudible speech when filming a rider on my right. I am working on ideas for alternative microphone mounting that will provide better speech from other riders, during rides.

The ride begins. Ride leader Ed DeFreitas points out the durability of structures from a bygone age. He explains the 3% grade rule for single engine trains, and how helper engines were employed where the grade was more steep.

Talking illumination, and audible signals, with Kelly.

Talking about night riding.

Ed explains the 3% grade rule for single engine trains, and how helper engines were employed where the grade was more steep.

Quietly following behind the pack.

Ed talks of how the rail lines were privately constructed, and shows us a small scale reproduction of a station built by a railroad buff.

Say, "Hi mom!".

Looking back on the pack.

Crossing a bridge near a waterfall, riding into Ardsley.

The Hunger Memorial in Ardsley.

Leaving the park, we continued on the Old Put North, rolling through some beautiful woodland areas tucked in between residential areas. When the trail approaches the Cross Westchester Expressway, we used a few paved roads to re-enter the trail at Warehouse Lane, in Elmsford. Once back on the trail we rode to our furthest point North, near the Eastern tip of the Tarrytown Reservoir on the North County Trailway. Here is a favorite photo-op location, near a rare section of exposed rail that still exists. Climbing a steep hill, now moving West, we rode along the Tarrytown Reservoir, before turning South into residential streets, to enter the Old Croton Trailway at South Broadway, to make our next stop at the Lyndhurst Museum. Once a wealthy families estate, this is now a state run park, and museum. After that brief stop we were back on the trail again, still heading South, large brick ventilators that once helped to introduce air into the aqueduct stood every mile or so, to remind you that this path once carried the water for a booming New York, thirsty to expand. We rode this trail for 10 or more miles before we came upon what was described to me by Ed, as an old carriage house. Completely engulfed by the woods around us, the structure struggles to be seen behind the growth and a large fallen tree. Continuing South, we wove our way through neighborhoods built close to the trail, and passed through Lenoir Nature Preserve, and Untemeyer Park, before reconnecting with the South County Trailway and arriving back where we started.

We said our goodbyes to Kevin and Ed; and Juan, Jose, Kelly, and I, rode to the West Side bike path to make our way further downtown. Juan left us shortly before Fort Washington Park, and Jose and Kelly accompanied me to 125th Street where I could ride across town to take the 125th Street Bridge to Randalls Island, the Triboro Bridge, and home to Astoria. My first experience with the 5BBC was great, so I became a member, for 20$ you get a years membership, and I felt it was a great way to show my appreciation, and a good bargain for all of the services, and resources they offer.

Geese gliding over the water as we exit the park.

Returning to the trail from the park where we stopped for lunch. Discussing tracking yearly miles, and "bonking" with Kelly.

Two underpasses, and two bridges.

Ed talks of how much the trail has improved since he first rode along it. Ed shares more about railroad culture, including how a pipe fitter from a railroad once replaced a hose on his Volkswagon, with pipe.

Crossing 2 bridges, to arrive at a photo op spot.

Photo-op at the Northern tip of our route.

Riding next to the Tarrytown reservoir.

A chimney to aerate the aqueduct still stands.

More illumination talk with Kelly, and discussing chain problems.

Passing another aqueduct chimney, and some nice houses. Discussing tread, and tube folding inside rims with Kelly.

The spooky carriage house on the Old Croton Trail.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Astoria to Pulaski Bridge (11.17 miles)

This afternoon I had the pleasure of taking a short scenic ride along the waterfront route on Vernon Blvd with my special lady. I wanted to show her part of the ride I take to get to her apartment, while also showing her some of the unique parks, and paths, along this route. Though it had rained in the morning, the roads were fairly dry, and there weren't many puddles. Slowly tooling down Vernon, the Boulevard was busy, but bike lanes on both sides make this a decent road to ride on day, or night. As we made our way through Long Island City we came upon the first of a few scenic locations, the waterfront leading to Goodwill Park. This is a short bend around some housing projects starting at 21st Avenue and 1st street, that offers some beautiful views of uptown Manhattan, the tip of Roosevelt Island, and the Queensboro Bridge.

Once you exit at Goodwill Park, you are now riding on Vernon Blvd, and soon arrived at the Socrates Sculpture Park. A small but beautiful space, this park had some quirky statues, and some projects that looked as if they were being installed for an upcoming exhibit. Signs in and around this park touted the many events they host, including being the starting point for the LIC Bike Parade June 9th. A small community event that hosts free bike repair, and free helmets, as well as a short ride to Queensbridge Park for a waterfront celebration. Riding along Vernon Blvd again, we come upon Rainey Park, which was unfortunately closed for renovation. Which left the last park along Vernon Blvd before you approach Pulaski Bridge, Queensbridge Park. This park had recently under gone a renovation of it's own, and featured slick new bike lanes and pedestrian paths. The view of the bridge from this park is quite awe inspiring, and it seems that they still plan to do more work to help bring the park back up to it's potential. After exiting Queensbridge Park, we rode down Vernon Blvd until we came upon Pulaski Bridge. I thought it would be fun for my girlfriend to at least set foot in Brooklyn for a moment so we proceeded to cross. Views of the skyline from the bridge were interesting, as thick gray clouds hung just over the tips of the tallest buildings. Now standing in Brooklyn I decided it was time to turn around. and after crossing the Pulaski Bridge back to Queens again, we stopped at a small park in the median of Vernon Blvd, and shared a protein bar. Heading home, we made a small detour cutting directly through Astoria Park, which then left us near my doorstep.

Waterfront Route leading to Goodwill Park. NYC skyline, and Roosevelt Island are seen.

Socrates Sculpture Park.

Queensbridge Park.

Pulaski Bridge to Brooklyn.

Pulaski Bridge to Queens.

Vernon Blvd, approaching the Queensboro Bridge.

Graffiti on Vernon Blvd.

Astoria Park.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Astoria to the Five Boro Bike Tour (May 6th - 60.6 miles)

After all this talk about cycling at Bike Expo New York, it was time for a serious ride. The Five Boro Bike Tour was to be my first organized ride, and I was sure it would not disappoint. Unheard of car-less Manhattan streets, effortlessly passing through many unique, and iconic neighborhoods, traveling over roadways, and bridges usually off limits to cyclists, to make it possible to ride all five boroughs in just 40 miles.

As I ride down Crescent Avenue in the predawn darkness, I (in hindsight) ironically comment on how my bike should be in perfect running order. Little did I know, my rear tire was worn down to the Kevlar lining, and was a flat tire waiting to happen. Oblivious to this fact, I hauled myself over the Queensboro Bridge for what would be my first of three crossings over that bridge that day. Gliding downtown along Second Avenue, the city is quiet, and the avenue, nearly empty. After waiting at Broadway, and Park Place for a little while, I was told that the start was around the corner, and made my way there to find, that I was still very early. I found a spot, one person back from the starting line, and tried to stay warm and comfortable, for the hour and a half before the tour started. At one point a small Japanese media crew was filming a Japanese cyclist, and taking pictures of the crowd, asking us to wave, and yell "hi". Slowly the start time approached, and a ride Marshall came out in front of the barrier to give last minute instructions. Even though I was in the front, I believe that there are between 1,000 and 2,000 VIP's ahead of the group I am in. These people had a corporate connection to the tour, or raised money for a charity, to earn a spot to ride the tour. From the sound of the starting horn, to actually passing the first gate to begin riding, took about 5 minutes

Starting out early for the Five Boro Bike Tour, I comment on the fact that I think my bike is in perfect working order (famous last words).

Descending to Manhattan on the Queensboro Bridge in the predawn darkness, my first time over the Queensboro Bridge that day.

Arriving at the start for the Five Boro Bike Tour, I film a recumbent tandem bike that looks comfy.

Japanese media commentate, and pose at the starting line while taking pictures, and video, of the crowd, and a Japanese cyclist.

Shortly before the start, instructions regarding the fork in the road ahead, are given.

2nd crowd shot.

The long, slow start of the Five Boro Bike Tour; 4 minutes of slowly walking your bike down church street to reach the starting line where you can ride.

Giddy with prospect of 40 miles of unhindered NYC riding, I start out strong, using my well honed traffic weaving abilities to try to safely make headway into the crowd in front of me, as we glide uptown. The East Village gives way to Chelsea, and soon I'm passing Herald Square, and Radio City, before entering Central Park. So far, all of these streets are familiar to me, each conjuring different memories of the people I associate them with. Looking around me, I feel as if I'm taking the world on a bike ride with me through my neighborhoods.

Inside Central Park, I had hoped my familiarity with the loop would be more of an advantage, but found myself frustrated by the lack of passing room, and the density of the slow moving packs. I made good time after the first curve by carrying some good speed into the incline before the straightaway, and bigger curve, but I was tied up trying to bomb through, and did not enter Harlem with as much speed as I had hoped. As you enter Harlem, you pass a live gospel choir, serenading you from a stage by the roadside. It had seemed to me that most of the trip uptown was through some headwinds, and when we hit the open avenue in Harlem it began to become significant.

The Five Boro Bike Tour being the largest cycling event in the world (35,000 riders), I find myself speculating as to who could possibly be pedaling beside me; from athletes to zen masters, I think I saw almost every type of person, on any type of bike you could imagine, yesterday. I would say the percentage of road bikes on the tour seemed pretty high, maybe as high as 75%. I saw many more mountain bikes than I had expected, including mountain bikes with knobby tires. Many tandem, recumbent, and other unconventional bikes were seen, including a Father who had a tandem with a trailer bike attached to create a three person bike for him, and his daughters.

Climbing the Madison Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, the tour merely touches the borough before turning South, over the Third Avenue Bridge, and burning straight down the FDR to the Queensboro Bridge, and Long Island City. When I'm nearing the last stretch of the FDR before the Queensboro Bridge, I realize that my rear tire is now gradually going flat. Almost as soon a I realize this, I begin to see signs for the first rest area. I resigned myself to standing while pedaling the last mile to try to preserve my new rear rim, and rode into the first rest area grabbing a snack, and walking straight to the mechanics tent. Here they change my tube, and pointed out that my tire was worn down to the protective lining, but then told me I should be able to finish the ride with it as well, and sent me on my way. This would be my second time over the Queensboro bridge today, but this time, I was able to ride the upper deck, which is usually only open to automobile traffic. Climbing to this level of the bridge was significantly more difficult than the usual pedestrian, and bike path level. After arriving in Long Island City, I had the most pleasant experience riding down 21st Street. This road is usually a nightmare for cyclists at anytime of day, with taxis, garbage trucks, buses, and all types of vehicles trying to drive through as quickly as possible; my normal route from the bridge goes more than a half mile out of my way just to avoid riding there. Today, 21st Street was the perfect option to reach Astoria from the Queensboro Bridge. I rode happily up to Astoria Park, under the Triboro Bridge, and greeted my friends from Tonys Bike Shop, explaining that I had just had a flat tire before the bridge. Here I grabbed more food, and a sports drink, before heading to my apartment only blocks away to use my own bathroom, and drop off some gear from the morning that I no longer had need for.

Leaving my apartment I joke to the officers on my corner about how nice it is to live near the tour, and proceed to ride back to reenter the route. Almost as soon as I start out along Shore Blvd leaving Astoria Park, I see 2 riders dressed up as super heroes, one as Captain America, and the other as the Green Lantern. As I accelerate to catch up to them I hear a loud hiss, and discover that I've now punctured a second tube. Completely beside myself having this awful turn of events, I immediately turn back into Astoria Park, and head straight for Tonys booth, where Dino, one of their mechanics, swaps the tire and tube out with pit crew like efficiency, and waves me off when I tell him to charge me later. Very grateful to have had such speedy service, I find myself re-entering the route again, headed toward Brooklyn along Vernon Blvd, and Kent Avenue, a route similar to one that I take to my girlfriends apartment. Not long after crossing the Pulaski Bridge to Brooklyn, I once again find myself on unobstructed highway, riding down the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and merging onto the Gowanus Expressway for a long grueling stretch into persistent headwinds. At this point I was getting hungry again, and saw signs for the last water, and toilet stop, before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. I had hoped they would have some food on offer but since there was none, I resigned myself to drinking the water, and catching my breath before the final huge push over the last bridge.

Traveling 6th Avenue, through Chelsea.

From Radio City, to Central Park, on 6th Avenue.

Traveling through one of my favorite sections of the Central Park loop, I comment on how quiet it is.

Arriving in Harlem.

Stopping to fix a flat at the first rest stop, I film a tandem fitted with a trailer bike.

The FDR to Asphalt Green.

My 2nd time over the Queensboro Bridge that day, but this time on the upper level which is usually car only.

I stop to say hi to my friends at the local bike shop, Tonys Bicycles in Astoria, and tell them how I just had a flat.

Finally rolling again, I try to catch up to some riders dressed as super heroes, and get my 2nd flat tire!

Long Island City, Vernon Blvd.

Greenpoint Ave, and Kent Ave in Brooklyn.

Tandem bike, Furman Street, approaching the BQE.

BQE Part 2. (Grinding up the BQE)

Slowly ascending the Gowanus Expressway, pulling into the last stop before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Climbing the entrance to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge is only open to cyclists this one time a year. At 6,690 feet, this bridge presents the last challenge before the finish line festival in Fort Wadsworth Staten Island. The grind up the Verrezano Bridge was near mile 50 on the day for me, and all of the extra power in my legs had been drained. I found myself slowly spinning over the bridge with the other heavy weights, and slower riders. After what seemed like a small eternity of climbing, I'm sailing down into Fort Wadsworth, greeted by music, and cheerful congratulations from the volunteers (who have been cheering us on the whole time). The lines for hot food were far too long for my liking, so I decided some free snacks would have to do, and munched some granola bars, and drank some sports drinks. After only resting less than a half an hour, I walked my bike down to New York Avenue to ride the last 3 miles of the route to St George Station, to ride the Staten Island Ferry back to lower Manhattan, so I could finish the last 10 miles of my ride for the day, the ride home.

The slow grind up the enormous Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and the rapid descent down to the Fort Wadsworth finish line festival.

Entering the Fort Wadsworth Finish line festival.

Walking to New York Avenue, riding the last 3 miles of the Five Boro Bike Tour, ending at the Staten Island Ferry.

Boarding the Staten Island Ferry.

Using almost the same route home as I had used leaving Bike Expo New York, I rode along the East River Esplanade, and then past the U.N. on First Avenue, and wove through traffic up towards 59th Street. Once I reached the foot of the Queensboro Bridge for the third time, I knew I had only this one last mountain to climb before the few miles of Long Island City that separated me from my shower, and my comfortable bed to nap in as I had had only 1 hour of sleep the night before. It's hard to imagine having more fun on an organized bike tour in New York than I had on the Five Boro Bike Tour, I'm hoping the century Ride to Montauk in June will be just as enjoyable.

The Five Boro Bike Tour now complete, I begin my return ride home on the East River Esplanade, passing under the Manhattan Bridge.

Riding the East River Esplanade towards Midtown.

My 3rd time over the Queensboro Bridge that day, descending to Queens, for the last few miles to home.

Astoria to Bike Expo New York (May 3rd & 4th - 48 miles)

May is bike month, and New York knows it. Bike Expo New York, and the Five Boro Bike Tour start things off with a bang. I wanted to be fully prepared, and knew it was high time I upgraded my audio, so I purchased a lavalier microphone, and wind screen.

This year the Five Boro Bike Tour made some significant changes across all aspects of the tour. Not the least of which being; a rider number had to be won via lottery, rider packet pick-up took place in a centralized location (Bike Expo New York), and they instituted staggered start times to help keep the traffic flowing more smoothly.

I chose to cover Bike Expo Thursday, and Friday, riding to both; and Saturday, I decided on staying close to home, resting, and preparing for Sunday (the Five Boro Bike Tour). I left my apartment a little later than I had hoped on Thursday, and actually had trouble finding the place. I intentionally passed through Times Square looking for a UFC event I thought was taking place, and did not see one. Rolling up to Times Square the default giant Elmo stands waiting for photo opportunities. A man walks up, and inquires about my camera, referring to it's recording as "scan-o-vision".

After getting turned around in China town a little I finally arrive at the Expo around 3:30. I shot a few pictures, filmed a few booths, and then made my way to the "solutions" desk where i could get the form I needed if I didn't have my confirmation email printed out. No lines to speak of at that time, I waited a few moments to be helped at the solutions desk, and was helped immediately in the section handing out packets for my number range. Considering I live 10 miles from the pick up location, I probably have a much more generally convenient experience than the average.

Riding down Crescent Ave on my way to the 59th Street Bridge.

Climbing the 59th Street Bridge, a Q train passes overhead.

Cresting, and descending the 59th Street Bridge to Manhattan.

43rd Street to Times Square, standing next to Elmo, a man asks about my camera, and uses the term, "Scano-vision" to describe what the camera is doing while recording.

Significant headwinds put my new microphone, and wind screen, to the test.

The Freedom Tower scrapes the clouds as I follow a cyclist with a backpack down the West side bike path.

Canal Street, Chinatown.

Riding along the East River from the Manhattan Bridge, past the Brooklyn Bridge, Pier 17, and Fulton Fish Market.

The sign at the entrance to Bike Expo New York.

A panoramic shot taken just inside the entrance to Bike Expo New York.

Another panoramic shot, this time take from the opposite side, near the stage.

Bella Helmets, Light Motion, Eastern Mountain Sports booths.

Eastern Mountain Sports booth cont.

5 Borough Bike Tour Jerseys and, Nutcase, Stinger, Polar Bottles, Aerotech, and Trail Rail, booths.

Various charities, SRAM rep discuss turning their cassette up to 11, and the King of New York booth.

Picking up my packet for the 5 Borough Bike Tour.

Satisfied with the ease of which I was able to acquire my tour packet, I then set out to cover more of the booths. Many of the companies were repeat vendors from the New Amsterdam Bike Show last week. The main difference that I could see between New Amsterdam Bike Show, and Bike Expo New York, was the vibe. New Amsterdam Bike Show represents more of the small independent bike and gear manufacturers; and Bike Expo New York featured more of the larger corporate brands, and high end health, and tech companies. Both shows were great, and are worth attending; I feel as if going to both really gave me a well rounded view of the state of cycling in New York. I found good information, and friendly reps at many booths, and made my rounds trying to cover a little of everything that was on offer.

When I came to a free beginners course on touring being given by Eastern Mountain Sports, I decided that I should sit for the hour, and try to pick up some pointers for the trip I hope to make in September, to Albany from Astoria, 2 days, 80 miles a day. Below you will find the one hour course broken into five clips. The course was given by two Eastern Mountain Sports employees, Forest, and Dolly. Both seemed to have plenty of fairly advanced touring experience, and packed quite a bit of useful information, into a pretty short format. Questions were taken from the crowd before we all broke off in our own directions. I bought, and consumed a turkey wrap by the stage that I thought was supposed to contain bacon, but did not. An hour after the touring course, the amateur fastest fix-a-flat contest was set to take place. I took a spot at the front of the stage and filmed some of the frantic shenanigans. Now full dark outside, I packed my gear and made my way along the East River to Midtown, and crossed the Queensboro Bridge to head home for the night.

Square Built Bicycles, and a "signed" Zipcar.

Black Bottoms, and Worksman booths.

Zen Bicycles booth.

Montecci folding bikes, Owl 360, and Cleverhood.

Beacon, and Shimano booths.

Bandbox Helmets, and Dance 4 Life, booths.

Globe booth, and Dance 4 Life rep displays features for a customer.

Bobbin rep mentions the infamous South American downhill youtube video.

FRS rep speaks it's praises. Discussing a recipe, "The Wheel" with a parmigiana regiano rep.

Timbuk 2 has a funky display, Kent booth, and the friendly Thule rep discusses the 5 Borough Bike Tour.

Eastern Mountain Sports Bicycle Touring Class Part 1.

Eastern Mountain Sports Bicycle Touring Class Part 2.

Eastern Mountain Sports Bicycle Touring Class Part 3.

Eastern Mountain Sports Bicycle Touring Class Part 4.

Eastern Mountain Sports Bicycle Touring Class Part 5.

A contestant in the Amateur Fix-a-Flat contest does a flip to take the stage.

Heat 1 of the Amateur Fix-a-Flat contest.

Heat 4 of the Amateur Fix-a-Flat contest.

The final round of the Amateur Fix-a-Flat contest.

Riding the East River Esplanade uptown during Sundown.

Descending the 59th Street Bridge towards Queens, mist fills the air.

Friday I return to Bike Expo New York with a new friend of mine, a long time rider of the Five Boro Bike Tour who I had been chatting about the tour with on facebook. We met in midtown, and took a scenic route down to pier 36. Most of what I found at the Expo was the same as the day before, except today when I approached the Eastern Mountain Sports booth, they were busy setting up a custom fitting demonstration. I felt this was a perfect opportunity to ask some questions regarding fitting in general, and Brian of Eastern Mountain Sports gave a great run down of the different types of fitting and who he has typically seen paying for this service. Later on I found myself at the Zen Bicycles booth again, talking with the owner of the shop, John about flat tires, and the benefits of keeping tire pressure high for every ride you take.

There was one thing going on Friday that was not featured Thursday, which I was interested in seeing. King of New York BMX was holding a BMX Freestyle Street Exhibition at different times out in the lot outside of the Expo. I kept checking to see when I could possibly watch the riders pull off some tricks, and finally walked up to find the Pro's who ride for King of New York BMX showing off some of their moves. Bikes, flipped, turned, twisted, glided, hopped, grinded, whipped, and wheelied, under riders such as, Roy DeGuzman, "Black Rob" Deveaux, Danny DeJesus, and Ivan Avilez. An impressive display of talent, for a small Friday afternoon crowd, was not completely unappreciated. Having enjoyed quite a bit of two days at Bike Expo New York, I decided to point myself towards midtown along the East River Esplanade, and over the Queensboro Bridge back to Queens, and home. *Five Boro Bike Tour coverage, coming soon!

Descending the 59th Street Bridge to Manhattan.

A rep from Eastern Mountain Sports is being set-up for an advanced bicycle fitting. Brian, explains the different types of fitting generally available.

Brian, from Eastern Mountain Sports, goes more in depth about bicycle fitting, and the kinds of people he has seen that have come to him about needing a better fit on their bikes.

John, the owner of Zen Bicycles talks about the benefits of tire pressure, in regards to avoiding flat tires.

Roy DeGuzman of King of New York BMX.

Danny DeJesus King of New York BMX, pulls off a 360, and a manual.

Ivan Avilez of King of New York BMX, does some Cherry Picking.

“Black Rob” Deveaux of King of New York BMX, pulls a 360, a 180 feeble, and a rail ride.

Danny DeJesus of King of New York BMX, pulls off a back flip.

Danny DeJesus of King of New York BMX pulls off a jumping Turn Down.

"Black Rob" Deveaux pulls off a 360, and a Tailwhip.

Roy DeGuzman pulls off the Hang Nuthin.

"Black Rob" Deveaux of King of New York BMX, pulls off a 180 feeble, 180, and jumps the manual pad. Ivan Avilez rides the frame, and handle bars.

Ivan Avilez of King of New York BMX, shows off his superior balance.

King of New York BMX riders; Danny DeJesus pulls a suicide air, and Roy DeGuzman has skills on pegs.

Ivan Avilez of King of New York BMX, shows incredible balance Surfing around standing on his seat, and handlebars.

Riding the East River Esplanade uptown during Sundown.

Descending the 59th Street Bridge back to Queens.