Monday, May 07, 2007

The bike ride that would not end

So the movie was midnight Saturday night (or technically Sunday morning whatever). I did not get much sleep because I had to be up by 6am the next morning for a very very very long bike ride. Again with the theme of trying to explore the city and all it has to offer, I participated in the 30th Annual Bike the Five Boroughs Ride. The recreational bike ride starts in Manhattan and continues through the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn before ending in Staten Island. In total (counting the ride to and from the starting point) I put in 50miles. Now do not be impressed because anyone could do 50miles as long as the pace was slow enough, and boy was the pace slooooow. My average was 8mph! You could almost push a bike faster than that! We lined up at 7:30am for the 8am start at ground zero. The bad thing is we did not move from that position until 9:30am! Yeah it was that congested. Even then, we barely moved at a crawl pace with numerous stops and waits. In total (if you count all of the time we were standing still or walking our bikes on the route and the 2 hour wait for a ferry back to Manhattan) I was on or near by bike for a total of 10 hours! Yep 7:30am to 5:30pm….ten very long hours! Normally a slow pace 50 mile ride would take between 3 and 4 hours only. Imagine my frustration. The great thing was my friendly and humorous riding companions Paul, his fiancée, and her friend (I am horrible with names). Those three had signed up in advance. By the time I found out about the ride, registration was closed. No worries since I have ghost road or run in many Chicago races. Plus with a crowd of 40,000+ people, I figured I could blend in. Well I guessed wrong. Everyone was required to wear this red riding vest so it was easy to tell who was trying to sneak in. Shoot! Plus everyone had a matching sticker number on their helmet so could tell even if they were wearing a jacket. Luckily I hit the wardrobe jackpot. I wore a short sleeved jersey and two pairs of padded bike shorts (trust me if you have not built up the riding callous, you will need extra padding in the rear since the bike seats are unforgiving over a long period of time….frankly I am surprised Lance Armstrong can walk straight)….and a red long sleeve jersey. I would have normally have worn just a short sleeve jersey and shorts due to the weather and length of ride, but last minute I decided to throw on the long sleeve shirt because the early morning was chilly. Thankfully my only clean long sleeve was red and thus making it easier to blend with the other red vests. We came up with the plan to have Paul’s fiancée give me the helmet sticker so I could claim that my vest was under the shirt if they looked closely at my vest free shirt. The plan worked (well the plan and me hiding in a pack of riders while riding fast past the ride marshals) thru the three scary check points where they would literally pull non registered riders off the path. These guys looked like bouncers or ex NFL linebackers.

Speaking of Paul’s fiancée, she had the most unfortunate ride. She had just gotten clip pedals for her bike. This enabled her to “clip in” to her bike pedal with special shoes for a smoother ride. Well getting used to the pedals takes a while and I would have never recommended trying them out for the first time on a very long start/stop ride. Every time you stop, you have to unlock your feet from the pedal before you fall over. It is really hard at first because you are not used to being fully attached to the bike. Poor girl would stop and tip over while frantically trying to release her foot to break the fall. Needless to say she went down several times. She had a great sense of humor (and a high tolerance of pain since her knees were all open wounds) and laughed them all off. The best wipeout was in front of a cop. We decided to get out of the grid lock that was 6th Ave by sidestepping one street over to 5th Ave thus bypassing a very long standstill. The cops on 5th Ave had seen plenty of bikers attempting to do the same thing as use so they let us stay on the sidewalk (as opposed to riding on the street against oncoming traffic) as long as we just walked our bikes. Well when the cop stopped her to have her dismount, she stopped and in slow motion tipped to the side in a glorious mass of bike and woman carnage. The cop immediately bent down to help her and all sorts of other cops came over to help. Poor guy he kept apologizing to her thinking he was the one who caused her to fall over. The highlights were me visiting the Bronx and Staten Island for the first time ever. The parks in Queens were fantastic and even the part of Harlem we rode through was full of old money brownstones. Oh and riding on the FDR (which is equivalent to riding on the main hwy or interstate in Chicago) was fun and exciting. All sorts of people (see picture of the guy in the Mexican wrestler mask) were riding making it truly a tour of what all NYC is composed of.


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