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Expect Delays: The Four-Boro Bike Jam - Riffs and Licks
Expect Delays: The Four-Boro Bike Jam
Expect Delays<
Today was the Five Boro Bike Tour. It was not the most enjoyable ride I've ever had, and I did not finish. The rain wasn't the worst part. Neither were the three flats I got. The worst part, which other cyclists had told me about when they turned down my invitation to do this ride, was the traffic.

One of the single best things about riding a bike is never being stuck in traffic. You glide by lines of cars stopped at red lights. You can go around anything, take another route, and enjoy yourself while the cars seethe in traffic.

Not today. Today, we sat in traffic just like the cars who were being diverted for the ride. In some spots in fact the cars were moving more quickly than we were.

And you know what? It's better to be stuck in traffic in a car, where it's warm and dry and you have a comfortable seat and a radio. It really sucks on a bike, in the rain. I stuck it out through a bunch of jams, at the 59th Street Bridge, at the Pulaski, in Dumbo, but after standing for more than 15 minutes in the rain on the Gowanus, I was finished. I've spent enough time stuck in traffic waiting to get on the Verrazano Bridge in my life. All the good momentum I'd built up coming down the expressway from the BQE was gone, I was no longer ready to hit the bridge and finish up, just cold and tired and hungry. And I'd been on the bike for more than six hours.

I zipped off at the 65th St exit on the Belt, and then had to navigate my way through that very complex interchange alongside the cars coming off the highway, but after carrying the bike over a divider and pushing it up a hill, I got out of there and took the train home.

I'm glad I did it, I suppose. It was fun in spots, especially riding down the FDR and over the bridge, or through the BQE trench and around the turn onto the Gowanus. But it was interminable. My average speed was 8.6 MPH; I've only had a lower speed than that on rides where I was taking lots of photos or where I met friends and walked through the park with them. (The bike computer only counts time when you're in motion, so the time I spent fixing flats and standing still in traffic is not counted in the average.)

Oh yes. The flats. The first one was on 6th Avenue near Radio City. I've had mixed success fixing flats on my own, so I walked it up to the park, where the good folks from NYC Velo fixed it quickly, and then fixed it again when it went flat almost immediately. (Yes, the bike tech and I both went over the inside of the tire and the rim very carefully with our fingers and found nothing.) I got a third flat, on 125th St, a loud blowout near Lenox Avenue that everyone around me heard. That one I changed myself (successfully!) with some help from another rider. Thankfully the tire behaved itself after that.

I'm not sure I'll do this ride again. Obviously the rain dampened things a bit, and perhaps it would have been better to have tried to start at the front of the pack rather than relaxing and starting in the middle (and falling almost to the back after all the flat tires). But it's just too crowded and not terribly well managed, and I was very disappointed to find that you ride over the lower level of the Verrazano. That was the main attraction of the ride for me -- being able to ride over that bridge which is normally only open to cars. But on the lower level? Not so exciting.

Anyway. Some photos are up on Flickr. I'm happy to be home with some hot coffee, and I will certainly get to bed early tonight!


12 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 3rd, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

I finished the ride

Yes. The traffic jams sucked. But... it was my first ride, and I really wanted to complete it.

The Verrazanno was perhaps the toughest portion because of the ramp. But the BQE wasn't fun either because the rain really started to come down.

I've never been so wet in my life. Or at least not for a sustained period.

There was also a long wait in S.I. for the ferry to shepherd us back to Manhattan.

With all that in mind (and with the Flat I had in Central Park), I'd do this again.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: May 3rd, 2009 11:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: I finished the ride

Congratulations on finishing! I might do it again. As you said, the rain on the BQE was intense, and having to stop and stand for 15 minutes in it did me in. That, and the thought of future traffic jams like the one you describe at the ferry.

I might do it again. I'd try to stay forward in the pack and hopefully not get so many flats. And on a nice day, I'd be able to enjoy spending some time on SI and go home after the rush. Thanks for commenting.
rednoodlealien From: rednoodlealien Date: May 4th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, I'm so sorry it was disappointing. I was looking forward to hearing about it. We had an overcast but otherwise nice day here; I had no idea what you were suffering down there.

on the lower level? Not so exciting

Living in Midland Beach, always taking the Lily Pond exit off the Verrazano, and it being only the second or third of three exits that come up IMMEDIATELY after the toll booth, we always had to take the lower level of the Verrazano. As you say, sigh, not so exciting.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: May 4th, 2009 01:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, you heard about it. :-) Just not the bridge part. I went straight to the chorus, and out.
queencallipygos From: queencallipygos Date: May 4th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
They didn't stop traffic for you? I've done the Tour de Brooklyn before and there was a police escort for that, stopping all traffic to let us through.

steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: May 4th, 2009 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Sure, the roads were closed. I'm talking about bike traffic. Thousands of bikes, standing and waiting in the rain.
mary_wroth From: mary_wroth Date: May 4th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, as per my photos on Flickr...I probably shouldn't say anything more about how my day was. Weather and otherwise. :)
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: May 4th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, good idea. ;-)
From: trash80 Date: May 4th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been getting heavily back into cycling again (Perth is a great city for such activities), and I saw the link you recently provided to the Five Boro Bike Tour. That's something I'd probably really get a kick out of doing myself, not necessarily in NYC but a similiar tour.

Sorry to see the day got washed out. I hate riding in the rain, not only becuase you get wet but because of the possible rust you can get on your bike later if it has any steel parts (which my Raleigh hybrid does).

Kind of ironic that you got stuck in the very same traffic supposed to be diverted so you such a thing wouldn't happen, huh?
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: May 4th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, a traffic jam of bicycles is just wrong. :-)
unreal_laernu From: unreal_laernu Date: May 4th, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dare I mention we had a lovely sunny day up here?
(if it makes you feel better it is supposed to rain the rest of the week....)

and *bleh* on the Verrazano :-/

and yeah...I'm still bikeless...this is getting ridiculous...
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: May 4th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
You'd be better off not mentioning that. :-) And yes you need a bike. Lots of good riding up there!
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