five boro bike tour 2006

The first Sunday in May seemed like a good weekend to drive down to New York City and ride 42 miles through the city streets with 35,000 of my closest friends. I’ve been hearing about this Five Boro Bike Tour for several years, and it turned out that Jee had done it several times when he was living in New York (even James, our big boss, has done it a couple of times), and when the subject came up during the winter, we decided it would be a good early season goal to give it a try. It’s not a race, just a pleasure ride through all five boroughs, the main attraction is that all the streets are closed off, so you can ride not only through midtown and Central Park, but down part of the FDR, over the Queensboro bridge, onto the BQE and over the Verrazano Bridge.

The weather was ideal, not too cold, not too hot. Jee stayed with his brother in law in Brooklyn and rode over the Brooklyn Bridge to get to the start line, I came down the day before with the family and we spent Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, hitting shrines such as the Disney Store and even spending a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first time we’d taken the kids to a real art museum. We spent the night across the Hudson in scenic Fort Lee, New Jersey, then it was up bright and early to meet up with Jee in lower Manhattan by the Wall Street bull. Beth and the kids did some more shopping at FAO Schwartz and the American Girl store, while Jee and I lined up a good 10 or 15 blocks back from the start line, with at least that many more behind us.

What’s interesting about a bike ride with 35,000 people is that there are many places, particularly at the beginning, where you have to walk. Although the starting gun was at 8:30, we didn’t cross the start line until after 9, having walked there alongside our bikes. There was a huge amount of organization involved in bike traffic control, they were throttling the entrance to Central Park because the roads are so much narrower through there. We saw a few accidents, people collapsed in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. The course was mostly flat, and they kept cautioning you to slow down on those rare downhills (mostly the far side of the bridges). There were a number of places to stop along the way and grab a free bottle of water and a banana. We were passing people left and right as we rode, but when you stopped for a break the line of people going by just kept going and going, so you had no sense whatsoever of where your spot was in the continuum of riders.

We finished by about 2:30 at the Staten Island ferry, then stood in line for the free ride across the harbor back to Battery Park, where I called Beth and she drove down and picked me up on the side of the road and we headed for home. In the final analysis, 35,000 is too many people, maybe five or 10 thousand would’ve been plenty, it was a good time, and at 42 miles shatters the old record for my longest bike ride ever, I’m not sure if I’d rush back down there to do it again. Jee was kind of ambivalent after it was over, but a few days later he was talking it up at work and telling the team we should all do it next year, there were certainly plenty of people participating who looked like they’d never been on a bike before, so for what seems like a long distance to the neophyte it is very doable. Most of the people riding were not New Yorkers. In spite of the number of cyclists around here, I doubt you could ever do anything like this in Boston. Too many hills.