Maggie and I had a terrific time at the 5 Boro Bike Tour yesterday. After all my
worrying preparation, I woke up feeling eager and energetic. The feeling lasted throughout the day.
We waited for the downtown train at 72nd St., nodding at other cyclists doing the same. (The helmet covers were distinctive.)
I arrived early and waited with thousands of other red riders for our 8:30 am start.
I struck up a conversation with a nice couple from Virginia who were doing their fourth 5 Boro, and a guy from NJ who, like me, was doing his first. Maggie was admired, and some mutual photo-snapping occurred.
Dominic Chianese sang the national anthem (slightly off-key but with feeling) and we were off. Despite the crush of people at the start, the pack opened up immediately and we raced up 6th Avenue. Before I knew it, we were through Central Park and Harlem, crossing our first bridge into the Bronx. Then back to Manhattan, down the FDR Drive and over the Queensboro Bridge to Astoria, where we stopped for a short break and a snack. (Bananas were on offer. The rest of the tour was littered with squashed peels, a bad joke in the making.)
From Queens to Brooklyn, and along the waterfront.
Next, a looooong stretch of the BQE, and finally the climb up the Verrazano Bridge. I made it about halfway, buffeted by strong winds, before dismounting. It was the only part of the tour that proved too much for me (and/or for Maggie’s three speeds). I had lots of company for the walk!
The descent into Staten Island was pure pleasure. We finished in just over 4 hours.
As I was heading for the ferry home, I heard my name and turned around to find a good friend. I had seen him Friday evening as I was leaving work; he marveled at Maggie and we talked bikes for a bit, but he never mentioned that he was doing the 5 Boro too. One of his companions captured the moment.
Maggie and I relaxed on the ferry back to Manhattan. We both worked hard, and I’m proud of us.
Helmets off to the organizers of this huge event – they did a great job. I spotted a few spills and blowouts, but most everyone looked like they were having a fine time. A few riders sang out “Brompton!” as they passed me, and twice I rode briefly next to another B owner.
Some notes on how I prepared:
- For two weeks before, I got to bed early, ate well, drank gallons of water and showed up regularly at exercise class.
- The morning of, I had a filling breakfast (whole wheat pita, melted cheese, a fistful of arugula, coffee) and a lot of water.
- Maggie’s tires were pumped to 100 psi, which made a big difference. There were potholes, manhole covers and bridge seams galore, but none of them bothered me.
- All my clothing choices turned out well: Club Ride capris with padded briefs underneath, short-sleeved jersey, light polyester rain shell, Merrell sneakers with SmartWool socks, cycling gloves. Tifosi Dolomite photochromic sunglasses were perfect for a windy, partly cloudy day.
- The Carradice saddlebag and a small Green Guru handlebar bag were more than adequate. If not for the extra bottle of water, I would have been fine with the Carradice alone.
- Bag restrictions forced me to leave my beloved Ortlieb Mini O at home, but it was with me in spirit. I felt I had to have polished toes for the 5 Boro even though no one was going to see them!
What I carried:
- Spare tube and patch kit
- Rear tire removal directions
- Snack (not needed)
- Aleve (not needed)
- Metro card
- Credit card
- Tour credentials
- House key
Would I do anything differently? Fret less. All my anxieties (what if I fall? crash into someone? have a flat? run out of steam?) were for naught. The best part of the day was the way I felt: strong, in control, thoroughly enjoying myself despite occasionally numb hands and a few knee twinges. Maggie and I have a new understanding of each other’s capabilities as well.
I’d like to do more long rides. And I’m already looking forward to next year’s 5 Boro.