Yesterday NYC was host to one of the finest cycling events in the world: The Five Boro Bike Tour. This event miraculously accommodated 32,000 riders. If that number doesn’t seem like a lot to you, picture a tiny island with a lot of high-rise buildings and all those riders toting bicycles. It is nothing short of amazing that the city allows, and actually supports, an insane event like this!
The tour takes a rider through all five boroughs of New York City. Starting in the lower part of Manhattan, the ride then travels uptown through Central Park and snakes over to the Bronx, through Queens, down to Brooklyn and finally over to Staten Island. The creators of this massive event aptly decided to name it a “tour” instead of a “race” because its sheer size prevents achieving much speed for the first 5-10 miles. This is understandable given that we traveled through a sizable chunk of Manhattan (up 6th Avenue- a large car-traffic artery) and were subject to waiting for pedestrian crossings and merging of, you know, 32,000 people.
Once we hit Queens, however, the crowd separated and I found I could comfortably cruise at my preferred pace. We still had a bit of Game On/ Game Off action with pedestrian crossings, but nothing like the cluster-chaos we saw in Manhattan. The terrain was pretty enjoyable, as it was mostly flat with the exception of entrance ramps onto the various bridges that connected us to each borough. The last bridge into Staten Island seemed to be the worst. Coupled with the fact that it was at the end of the tour, the bridge had the slowest climbing grade of the entire journey, making it a gross, seemingly never-ending hill!
From a rider’s perspective, this was a spectacularly organized event. The starting chutes were easy to find and not overcrowded. I was fortunate enough to ride with my co-worker, the Mexican’t, and an amazing charitable organization, Team Hole in the Wall. Riding with a charity allows the riders to start near the front, as opposed to with the masses (where some took over an hour to cross the start line!). Also, Team Hole in the Wall raised over $31,000 between 50 riders to send kids with life-threatening diseases to summer camp! To further illustrate the comprehensive thought that went into the event, there were rest stops every 5-8 miles that included hydration, food (bananas, Larabars, granola, etc.), port-a-potties and bike repair.
For aspiring cyclists, this was probably a frustrating event given that involved so many novices and the beginning bottleneck was undesirable. On the whole, though, the crowd was a fun, high-energy bunch which helped make the ride more enjoyable. For example, one woman on my team proceeded to approach a rider in a Goldman Sachs jersey and ask him if he had a death wish given his choice of attire. (Turns out, he was a consultant and didn’t even work there so the crowd collectively decided to let him live.) I had a blast seeing all the boroughs from a new vantage point— or even for the first time. I had never been to Staten Island before!