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!

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