Every year on the first Sunday in May NYC closes its streets and some of the major highways and bridges to let bicyclists take charge of the road. On May 7th, 2017 hubs and I took on that challenge again. The 1st time we participated in this event was in 2006, way before kids. Back then the fee was way cheaper and we never actually “finished” the race. We lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn so it just made sense for us to finish there and not go over the Verrazano bridge. Oh we were so young back then… We had so much fun the 1st time that a week later we biked from our apartment in Bay Ridge all thru B’kly and Brooklyn Bridge across to West side of Manhattan all the way up the bike path just pass the GW bridge and back. We stopped to have lunch at our fave place Holy Chow (a vegan joint in SOHO). It was roughly 60 mile journey that was an all day affair. Wish we had that luxury of time now, but we’ll take what we can get.
It turned out to be a beautiful day, 2 days before was a ridiculous rain storm that flooded half of Staten Island and the rest of NYC. We woke up with sunshine and eager to go. The race (it’s not really a race unless you want to make it one. Hubs and I don’t race but we don’t dilly dally either. We enjoy the city but we try to make a workout out of it as well) started in lower Manhattan just above Battery Park. There were 4 waves; the earliest wave started 1st, then 2nd, then 3rd and lastly 4th. The waves also lined up accordingly with the earliest wave closest to start line. We took the ferry to Manhattan, hopped on our bikes and rode about 2 miles to start line. We were in the 3rd wave and our start was 8:45 (crossing the start line @ 9am).
There were several rest stops where you can get some food, water and stretch your legs. We decided to get some food at the rest stop in Astoria Park, Queens. It is such a beautiful park which is right under the RFK Bridge. The views are spectacular. You can clearly see Manhattan and Wards Island. We didn’t want to hang around too long cause we had a time limit. At this point the wind started to really pick up but we didn’t feel it that much until we got to B’klyn and onto the BQE. When else are you going to get an opportunity like this, to ride down the infamous, pot-hole ridden BQE? Oh man, we had to climb that hill right pass the Hamilton Ave exit. You know which one I’m talking about-the one that’s over Red Hook. That was pure hell. By this time our legs were tired but going up that hill just killed us. Phew, oh goody what goes up must come down. Down a huge hill. Weeeee! We are going so fast, but alas that didn’t last long. As soon as we leveled off it became obvious how strong the wind had actually gotten. It felt like an eternity pedaling on that flat but heinous part of BQE.
Last rest stop was in Bay Ridge by 86st exit right before Verrazano bridge. At his point I was done but we had 2 more miles of bridge and 1of those miles is uphill and into the wind. Ugh! I’m achy, hungry and tired. I want to go home! The climb up the Bridge was pathetic. We just had to laugh at our speed (it was about 2mph) but we had to keep going. The downhill part of the bridge wasn’t any faster cause of the wind but we could hear the music and the festivities. Finally, finish line! We did it! Ouch! Ok I’m hungry now, give me food!
The bike tour was fun and very well organized but there were things that I didn’t like and they were annoying to say the least.
Things I liked: -Being able to ride on closed off streets, bridges and highways. -To tour the NYC more easily and to see so many neighborhoods that I usually don’t go to. -To ride next to my hubby. -To be surrounded with people who have same passion for biking. -Getting a medal at the end (even though it’s not really a race which would not necessitate a medal but I think it was more for the 40th anniversary). -The after party which included great food variety, merchandise, bike repair and a photo op. -Going back to the ferry some parts of Bay and Front streets were closed specifically for bikers-that was nice since we didn’t have to compete with traffic
Things I disliked: -Having to stop due to congestion especially on the bridges (we had two really bad bottlenecks: on FDR and on the 59th st bridge approach where we spent 30 min standing). So I think I figured out a solution to that issue: going out in the 1st wave before the crowds-this was major a major issue for me.
-Not enough food variety at the rest stops (in 2006 we had a diverse selection of snacks).
-The course was shortened from 2006 which I think was over 42 miles (we rode on BQE until the Belt Pkwy split and we took Belt Pkwy until Bay Ridge where we got off and had refreshments in the Cannonball Park). That picturesque part was unfortunately cut from the course.