At the start of the summer my old roommate and friend, Monica, emailed me telling me to sign up for the New York City Century like she had just done. I had not really heard too many good things about the long rides in the city. They tend to be really congested with a lot of stopping and that was what the Tour de Bronx was like when I did it four or five years ago. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really fun ride. K and I did the 50 mile ride together. Now that I’ve become a seasoned city rider with a desire for a bit of speed in my distance rides, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be corralled in at rest stops until they were ready to let us go and things like that. But it wasn’t expensive and I did really want to do one of the rides around the city, so I signed up and got my friend Christian to sign up too.
We were able to start in Prospect Park at 6:30AM instead of having to be at Central Park at 6AM and headed south towards Brooklyn waterfront and Coney Island then over to Rockaway. After that, I can’t really tell you where I was to be honest. I was just following the street markings and the group of guys I was riding with since Christian was late (I thought he wasn’t coming since his phone went straight to voice mail) and Monica and her friend are not as experienced riders and didn’t want to go as fast. The route basically outlines Brooklyn and Queens before heading over to Randall’s Island and up to the Bronx before coming straight down into Manhattan and ending in the north end of Central Park. Somewhere between Rockaway and the second rest stop, one of the guys got a flat tire on his fancy smancy tubeless tire and while it was taking them forever to fix it, Christian caught up and we headed on together. We were making good time except I got a flat on the way to the second rest stop and didn’t realize it until we were leaving it, so we wasted another half hour changing the tire and trying to pry the little piece of metal stuck in my tire out so it didn’t immediately pop the new tube.
After that it was a pretty slow ride for awhile dodging traffic, (they don’t close any streets for the ride) and riding single file slowly through park areas where the trails were covered in water and debris from the thunderstorm with a tornado that rolled through the day before. Every now and then through some of the parks, it seemed like having a mountain bike or at least more substantial tires than road tires, would have been a good idea, but it wasn’t too terrible and I assume when a huge storm hasn’t just blown through, it’s not so bad. There were other points where we were able to pick up the pace in parks and low traffic areas in Queens but we were slowed down going over the bridge to Randall’s Island because you had to go up and down a few flights of stairs and there was a music festival or something going on in the Bronx, so traffic was ridiculous in parts. Overall it wasn’t as congested as I thought it would be and it took about as long as I thought it would take, not including time to deal with the flat tires, about 9- 9 1/2 hours including stops, about 7 hours riding. The end was kind of anti-climatic. At previous rides I’ve done, there is typically unlimited food and beer and a massage waiting at the end. All there was here was a pick up point for your t-shirt and a free Italian Ice before biking it back to Brooklyn. Then again, it was cheaper, I did get a t-shirt out of it, didn’t have to travel anywhere, and rode my bike over 105 miles in New York City in one day.
There were some pretty sweet parks to go through that I will have to look at the map and try and figure out where I was actually at . We went through and around a massive cemetery in Queens. The ride along the northern edge of Queens with all the bridges was pretty sweet. There is a velodrome up there, we didn’t go ride on it, but we know it exist now. Randall’s Island was awesome. I didn’t realize how much work they had done there. They have a ton of different fields for sports and nice park spaces. I want to schedule a trip back to explore it more. Up in the Bronx, once we got out of traffic, we headed into Van Courtlandt Park which was super nice. I didn’t know that you could actually get to these places via bike or walking over bridges. Some of the entrances are not exactly well marked or obvious. Even though its not the smoothest path, there is a wide path along the Harlem River on the Manhattan side that had beautiful views.
If you get the chance, I highly recommend doing this ride, you don’t have to do 100 miles, you can do less, and you see some parts of the city that you never knew existed. They have photographers out along the way taking pictures. I only saw them once and only found one photo of me (I’m in the lime green at the back) and one of Christian, in black. They didn’t have an obvious one of Monica. Most of the pictures I took while biking so sorry they are a bit blurry!