Waaaay back in October, Monty and I had a wonderful time at the 20th annual Tour de Bronx, billed as the largest free cycling event in the state. Although I’ve lived in NYC for decades, I can count the number of times I’ve visited the Bronx on one hand – and my mental image of the borough owed more to old movies like A Bronx Tale than to the current reality. There are still crime-ridden streets and abandoned buildings, I’m sure, but the Bronx also offers lush parks, stunning water views, and pretty neighborhoods.
I chose to ride 25 miles rather than 40. The longer course features punishing hills at the end, and I’d been fighting hand issues. To pad my mileage, I rode there and back, through East Harlem and past Yankee Stadium.
I arrived at the county courthouse in plenty of time to stroll around and find a cup of coffee.
A nice couple with Bromptons, both toting large front bags, were intrigued by my mini O. We chatted about accessories and city riding.
I spotted Patty Chang Anker, a writer who learned to bike just in time for last year’s 5 Boro Bike Tour. Her courage and humor helped me confront my own anxieties about that ride. (Wow, was it only seven months ago? Look how far I’ve come!) I introduced myself and told her so. She and her husband were delightful, warm and friendly and interested in Monty. Both had ridden Bromptons, but the friend with them had not, so I offered her a spin. It’s always fun to watch someone experience a B for the first time.
Monty got a lot more attention throughout the day. Two gentlemen peppered me with questions about him and his gear at the first rest stop.
Near the end, a man called out that his other bike was a Brompton. He asked how I liked the Brooks saddle and admired the Carradice bag. Then a young woman came over to say she was considering a Brompton: Did I think it was worth the price? I encouraged her to go for it.
The route was varied, a nice mix of urban and pastoral. We rode in traffic, with occasional navigational aid from police officers.
Isn’t this shore path lovely?
La Guardia Airport, and the Manhattan skyline behind it.
St. Raymond’s Cemetery has well-tended topiary and a footnote in history: per Wikipedia, Charles Lindbergh met his son’s alleged kidnapper here to deliver the ransom money.
Crossing Westchester Creek on the Bruckner Expressway
The ride’s no-cost status was a mixed blessing. Amenities were scant: food and water had to be grabbed fast, before stores disappeared, and toilet facilities were limited to a handful of public restrooms. I’d gladly pay a fee for a little more comfort. The event’s popularity has also grown a bit large for its structure; at several points, the route narrowed to essentially a single file, creating congestion and bottlenecks. It was such a pretty day, though, and the mood so convivial, that I didn’t really mind.
I’ve learned that I don’t enjoy finish festivals; too loud and crowded. I passed on the commemorative tee shirt, but claimed and devoured my slice of Domino’s pizza. As I was leaving, a man ran after me to talk about Monty’s leather handle. I told him I loved the aesthetics, but suspected the Off Yer Bike handle was more practical. He’d heard that before.
When I pulled out my cell phone to map the ride home, it was dead. I must have left the camera app open. Amazingly, I was able to find my way with only a little aimless wandering.
The best part of the day was an absence: My hands didn’t hurt! I’ve trained myself to keep them open and relaxed on the handlebars. If not for longish rides, I might not have become aware of the bad habits developed during a short commute.
That’s why I love these events. They offer fresh chances to challenge myself, explore new terrain and meet new people. I’m looking forward to more in 2015.