The day was perfect for riding. Not too hot, not too cold. Not too humid. I rendezvoused with my teammates Jane and Tamara at the corner of 70th Street and Columbus Avenue at 6:20 AM. After pumping up our tires and adjusting our bicycles, we headed downtown five miles to the starting line. Because we were riding for them, Noelle Ito of BronxWorks arranged for us to start near the head of the pack, enabling us to get moving soon after the starting gun (it wasn’t really a gun, but rather big jets of flame emitted from the starting gate).
The first few miles, north on Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas, for tourists) were slow, but we began to move more smoothly once we entered Central Park. We rode north along the eastern side of the Park Drive, exiting at 110th street and continuing north through Harlem to 138th Street, where we cut over to the Madison Avenue bridge and the Bronx. We didn’t spend long in the Bronx, returning to Manhattan by the Third Avenue Bridge and then south along the FDR Drive to the 59th Street Bridge.
We crossed over to Queens on the 59th Street Bridge (with me humming the famous Simon and Garfunkel song in my head) and then proceeded north up to Astoria Park where there was a mandatory rest stop. At this point we had traveled 18 of the 42 miles of the ride. After a ten minute break we headed back south through Queens and then across the Pulaski Bridge into Brooklyn.
We cruised through Williamsburg, past the Williamsburg Bridge, and then cut over towards the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. We passed through DUMBO and under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass near Brooklyn Bridge Park. We then cut over to the BQE. The BQE stretch was fast and straight, if not entirely the most visually exciting.
We paused for a final rest stop at the Fort Hamilton Park, at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge. The ride organizers had set up a stand from which they were passing out bananas to the riders. We all remarked at how perfect these bananas were … cool but not cold and exquisitely ripe … not hard and grainy and not soft and mushy … just perfect!
Finally we mounted up for the final stretch, the three or four miles that it took to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge over to Staten Island. I had been nervously anticipating the climb over the bridge all during the ride after some daunting comments from my teammates, but in the event the slope was not so steep as to make riding up it particularly challenging … it was long but not particularly difficult.
Down the other side, carefully using my brakes to avoid approaching the speed of sound, and a final rest stop at Fort Wadsworth.
In total I rode 47 miles – the 42 miles of the bike tour plus the five miles from home to the starting line. We completed the 42 miles of the tour by about 1PM after the 8AM start. Tamara’s trip computer, which recorded our speed and distance all the way, reported that we averaged 10 mph for the 42 miles.
It was a lot of fun. I neglected to put sunscreen on my exposed skin and picked up a sunburn, but that was my only mishap. Seeing the city up close on a bicycle this way is really a treat. The ride is quite level and not strenuous. And the ride organizers did a remarkable job of making it easy and safe. The route was well marked, there were repair and refreshment stations everywhere, and the riders were courteous and friendly. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday.