Monday, September 13, 2010

35 miles of a Century Ride

This is my bike:

I got her in July. BE called her my sweet ride. So I started out calling her MSR. But more recently in the tradition of PJS I call her "Baby Bike."

I started looking in May. It took a while. Finding a frame in my size in this area, was a challenge. She is a Terry Despatch. Georgiana Terry decided that she wanted to start a company that made bikes built for women. I got a chick bike - note the pink seat and handwraps.

She's old. She was made in the 80's. She's odd. Note that the front wheel is smaller than the rear. And there is no consistency to the sizing of her constituent parts. I guess it's fitting that we are together now.

As a kid my bike was my magical means of transport until it was supplanted by the car. Nothing was better than riding down a hill fast as possible, hair flying every which way in the wind.

This changed when I got older and was supposed to wear a helmet and the bikes suddenly had speeds and no pedal brake. Too confusing. No wind in the hair. Not as much fun.

But in recent times, the idea of bikes has come back to me. The whole commuter biker fantasy sounds thrilling, especially in the New York area. Weaving in and out of traffic. Dodging cab drivers and Jersey drivers. I got this notion in my second year here that the most terrifying things that I could consider doing are: ride a bike in New York or do stand up comedy. There are more terrifying things to do, but those are two that were almost within reach.

I figured if I am ever to be so numbed or jaded as to consider doing hard drugs, first, I should try bikes and stand up.

I am not considering doing hard drugs right now but was looking to do something ... else. Being more afraid of stand up, even though it will only kill you figuratively, I got a bike.

Plus bike people seem to be badasses. I would so love to be a badass too.

Plus I met someone I like and he rides a bike. In fact, in recent times I seem to have a particular type of person that I am drawn to and part of that type is a guy who rides a bike. To the point where when people say, "I met the perfect guy for you," I ask,"Oh. Does he ride a bike?"

After I got it, there was the buying of all the stuff that you get to go with your hobby. Helmet, lock (this is a whole story on its own), lights, bell, new yellow backpack, sunblock, new leggings, new shirts. Hobbies are a great form of economic stimulus. I think the next one should be targeted towards hobbies.

Now I've got it. I don't ride as much as I should, or I want to.

Baby Bike and I -
We've gone up to the park.
I rode with someone I like through Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. I had no idea how close or how small these neighborhoods are.
I rode down the street to the cemetery.
I rode down some bike paths to the Manhattan Bridge, across to Chinatown and then back.

I still have not ridden to work. Traffic. Terrifying.

Baby Bike talks to me. She rattles and rickets like a woman with creaky joints. But she's a sassy bitch.

She says, "This is fun, let's go faster."

She says, "Why are we stopping?"

She says, "Look at that bitch, we could totally take her."

She says, "THAT was a big pothole."

She says, "If we can't blow this light, can we stop with a skid?"

She gives a big wobble and says, "HEY! Are you listening to a word that I am saying?"

Yesterday, I did 35 miles of the NYC Century ride. Friends had advised me to train for it. I did not. By some miracle, I got up this morning and rode to the start site. And away I went. 8am - 12:35pm.

It seems that in New York, many many many bike riders take stoplights in what we used to call, the St. Louis rolling stop. You roll up to a stoplight and if the way is clear, you go. Everyone was doing it. They tell me, you'll never get anywhere if you don't. I am so not comfortable with this. But that is the culture. So Baby Bike and I would zoom up, than hang behind at busy intersections. Over and over.

The first part of the ride, from Prospect Park through to Williamsburg was beautiful and at times idyllic. The buildings, the people, the warehouses, the all of it. And then we got to Queens. That's when it got kind of industrial. We were riding by the water which was nice. My arms got chilly and I started to hear a squeak from my bike, like a squirrely thing as I pedaled and I started to feel my legs and my back. For some silly reason I had decided to pack my lock.

At the first stop, I felt pretty good. Until I found out that we had only gone 8 miles out of the 35. We continued over the RFK bridge, which was amazing. You have to carry you bike up and down stairs. And there are parts so narrow that some can ride it, and others will walk their bikes through. But at the stretch where you ride, you are elevated above the rest of the traffic with its sounds and smells and rush. You can see, everything. It feels as if you are riding in the clouds, as if slightest turn will launch you off the bridge into the air.

We landed on Randall's Island, rode around and into Manhattan to the Northern end of Central Park. This was the midpoint of the ride. I lost my bearings here and most of the people who I had been following along the route. The cue sheet for the ride had a million little directions typed out. If you didn't know the roads or have your bearings it was really helpful to follow a packleader or a marshall. At the very least it was really helpful to be wearing clothing with pockets so that you could keep the cue sheet on your person.

Some people rode through Central Park. Others were following the cue sheet. So I and EL (who I met at the start who became my ride buddy) went out with two other people and worked our thing out.

This part of the ride was terrifying. It started to rain. There was traffic. There were leisurely and clueless pedestrians. There were anxious owner with eager dogs. There were cabs, SUV's, luxury cars, New Jersey drivers, delivery guys riding in the opposite direction on your bike lane.

EL almost got hit by an SUV from NJ. They apparently didn't see her when making a right turn.

I started feeling my hip.

I almost caused an accident on Broadway. All sorts of honking. I can't tell what honking was angry and what honking was merely informative. It was pretty harrowing. And it all happened so fast. No matter how scary a moment was, you have to leave it behind and keep riding. There was no time for panic.

We got on the Brooklyn Bridge and were back. I started to feel my knees. I was still feeling my hip, my back, my ass, my hands, and then - my toes. My feet were getting wet and the right big toe crammed in a shoe crammed against a toe clip, started to feel raw.

At this point happy to be in more open traffic, I kept missing turns on the route and at one point a mother/daughter team saved me from ending up in Brownesville shouting to me that I had gone the wrong way.

I got a burger with EL and went home.

So tired I fell dead asleep and woke up feeling like I was still sitting on a bike. I am sore and my skin feels hot, like I have a fever. And I discover new and unusual discomforts by the minute.

I briefly thought to myself at the end, "Wow. I did it. I can do anything." Before collapsing intp a whimper.

After all, it was only 35 miles. Someone I like does 35 miles routinely for fun. EL and I discussed whether we wanted to try to do another ride before winter. The Tour de Bronx is coming up. Someone I like says it's not as fun and more than a little scary. Bronx has much more of a car culture as a borough, apparently.

Alternatively, there is an MS ride.

My accomplishments in this arena are not significant to anyone besides me. So I sit in sollopsistic triumph.

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