A Bridge, Some Bike Lanes, and Hal

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An end-of-the-year cycling recap, that’s mostly about about my metric ride with the Great Hal from Bicycle Habitat because I was too lazy to sit down and write about my experience back in October… *yikes*

I must confess (mostly to myself) of my laziness in the “bike everywhere” lifestyle mode. I haven’t been very good about keeping my own pseudo-promise of making biking around NYC (part of) my life. And everyday that I swiped that stupid plasticky-Metro card was a sad, disappointing reminder of Rocinanté hanging in the dank, cold bike storage in the apartment building.

Sorry, beautiful steed.

I really have no excuse for my lack of riding around the great city and enjoying both the excitement and perils of being a NYC cyclist. The perils and fear of the ruthless streets and the possibility of getting pulled over for no bloody reason by cops has weighed heavily in my daily decision struggles to ride, or not to ride.

But maybe it’s just the first-time jitters all over again. It’s a new city, with new hazards to navigate, and new accommodations to figure out (i.e. no indoor bike storage).

When I first started biking to and from Bethesda for work, it took me some time before the act of waking up at an ungodly hour to pack my bike for the ride in became a regular thing. It took a while before all of that was something to look forward to, the adrenaline rush to be desired every day, twice a day.

Now I’m in a completely different environment, and the first-time jitters is most definitely playing its part.

Where I only had to worry about trees blocking the trail and random young bucks (maybe a murderer in the woods?), I find my worries in the city are much more. It’s not just whether the trail will be too mucky for my road tires anymore. It’s “what kind of crazies are out in their 2-ton vehicles today?” “Will a cop pull me over?” “Should I try a new route?” “Will my bike still be outside the school building when I’m done with classes?”

And by the time I’m done running these questions through my head, I’m on the M train, staring glass-eyed out the window at the bridges.

Gosh, why are you so lame?!

I’m renewing my commitment this coming year guys. Give me your good cycling vibes. As long as there’s no snow or ice on the ground, I’ll be going to class and doing other errands by bike. (Fingers crossed)

This lack of riding regularly doesn’t mean I didn’t ride at all though.

I did get a couple of good rides. My first ride over the Williamsburg Bridge was a trek. Wasn’t quite expecting the inclines on either end when you first go to cross over the river. Despite the energy that goes into pushing my body, the view from the bridge is really nice. I just need to tackle the other bridges now.

I also took some random exploration trips out to some flea markets. Even tried to go grocery shopping with my bike. (Some tweaks are needed).

The two longest rides I undertook since moving to NYC was the little Taco Ride, and my most-accomplished ride: the Hal-loween Ride to Sleepy Hollow with Hal from Bicycle Habitat.

Look, here’s a fun video on how to lock your bike!

The ride to Sleepy Hollow was advertised as an all-levels, no-drop ride so I figured I’d try it out.

The wind was bitingly cold, and at times it felt lonely—just me, the bike, and the road. My left knee started to hurt on the way home but everything was well worth the ride, hunger pains and all.

The Hudson River Greenway was a nice stretch of riding. Didn’t care much for the tourists who kept getting in our way in the bikeway, but ignoring that, the Greenway is beautiful. Following up the river, we made our way towards the Bronx. Surviving two of the shortest, yet steepest hills ever, carrying our bikes up some steps to cross train tracks, and then crossing the bridge out of Manhattan (I think we were supposed to walk our bikes across this bridge…), it was an all-intense ride on different levels.

I really hate steep hills.

We were a small group, the number no doubt affected by the cold temperatures for the day. Hal said the last Halloween ride, there were easily three times the number we had. This year there were about nine of us. It was a very intimately small group of varying levels.

Continuing along the river, you can see the leaves across the way turning. It was beautiful, but also ugly. The leaves were mostly still green, with uneven splotches of red and rusty orange glowing in pockets of sunlight. The wind off the river had a nasty bite to it.

Pit stop in Yonkers. And a mural that reminds me of the mural in Parks and Recreation. It has a weirdly comical look to it.

Then Tarrytown. A quaint little town. On our first past through to Sleepy Hollow, the kids were painting things on the windows of the businesses lined up along the main street. On our way back towards Manhattan, the street was closed off to cars and they were doing an early trick-or-treating bit. The window decorations were adorable. Everything was quaint, cute, and unreal on this little strip of road, in this tiny town by the river.

And finally: Sleepy Hollow.

There were a lot of cars going in and out of this place. We made a stop at the park, ate some food to refuel ourselves for the journey back. By this point, we rode about 30-ish miles. I felt good. Up until this point, this was the longest I’ve biked. I was relaxed. Enjoying my beef jerky bits and other food stuffs I can cram down my throat. Then I realized I had to ride the 30-ish miles back!

I was a little nervous. I really didn’t want to jump ship at Yonkers or some other train station before getting back to the bike shop in SoHo. If I was going to bail, I wanted it to be after we got back to the shop. Because then, at least, I did the ride from start to end. Or at least that’s how the logic played out in my head.

By the time we made it back to SoHo I knew I wouldn’t be able to bike home to Bushwick. The pain in my knee was too much. After an escort to the Broadway-Lafayette train station from Hal, I said my goodbyes, dragged my bike onto the train and slogged home.

bikeparking It was a very satisfying day. I rode just over 65 miles that day. Now I just need to get a century ride under my belt and it’s all good.

The amazing thing about the ride was how personable Hal was, and how he stayed true to the “no drop” aspect of the ride.

Having only nine people no doubt helped, but he dropped back to ride with the rear of the group when they fell slightly behind. He rode ahead at points to give cues to the front of the pack. He rode with us in the middle just to chat and see how we were doing.

It was great, and I’m looking forward to more rides with him and others like him.

Here’s to another year of adventuresome biking everyone.

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