There were lots of families out on the NYC Century ride this year. My annoyingly favorite family of the day is the mom, who obviously goes all out on the road racing, with her adorable family: husband, father (in-law?), and her two children. They were both clad in their own children-sized lycra.
Like I said. Annoyingly adorable.
My award for all-time awesome parent, plus a million gold star confetti goes to this one mom who was pulling her toddler son in a Sync bicycle trailer (or some similar thing to it). I didn’t take any photos for safety reasons while crossing the Triborough Bridge from Queens to Randall’s Island but this was an awesome sight to behold.
At each staircase, mom picked up her bike; and while the boy stayed in trailer, Century volunteers picked him up (with trailer) up and down the staircases.
The day started with a quiet Sunday morning. Everyone else in the apartment is still asleep. Getting your bike ready while trying not to make a lot of noise is kind of hard.
The quick ride over to my start location, at Prospect Park South, was a quiet one. The neighborhoods themselves were still slumbering, but you can feel the slow motion of the people waking up to get their day going.
I got to the park around 6:45—way too early. The 55 mile group didn’t even start until 7:30 a.m.
But whatever. I got a chance to relax, breathe in the energy, and eat a breakfast bar to fuel the first leg of the ride. The great thing about the ride though: I wasn’t “locked in” to any specific route that I initially registered for.
After I checked in, I was allowed to go on my merry way and ride whatever mileage I wanted. Just follow the yellow Cs and corresponding arrows painted on the ground.
The sky was gray. Forecast for rain looked likely, but the breaks in the clouds suggested otherwise.
At 7:20 I decided to go off on my own. Without a cue sheet. (Somehow the 55 mile cue sheet “never made it off the truck,” I was told by a Century volunteer.) With the markings all over the streets, I never needed one. And being vigilant for the yellow markings added an interesting twist to the whole experience.
I wasn’t missing out on things from trying to consult a piece of paper precariously attached to my handle bars. But I was hyper-aware of this sense of dread of what should happen if I missed any of the markings. It was a strange mix of excitement and fear. But what are adventures without those things?
Welcome to Brooklyn
From the park, the small group of us cut through Sunset Park into Bay Ridge to connect with the Shore Parkway.
The turns. The consistent pace. It felt like we’ve been riding for hours. It’s only been 40 minutes. It’s only 8 a.m. It felt like 11.
The morning sky continued to look murky. A cloudy haze covered the choppy water. You knew Staten Island was off in the distance, but you couldn’t really see it.
The spray from the water is salty. The skin on my face feels tight from the salt. My hair is going to be gross when this ride is over.
Fishing. It’s a common sight along certain stretches of Brooklyn that reminds me of the waterfront areas back home. Are the fishes from these waters any good?
We continue along the parkway. Welcome to Brooklyn, says a sign.
Totally ignoring that I was crossing the section where Staten Island “connects” with Brooklyn, this sign threw me for a loop. For a moment, I thought we had done a strange loop from Queens and were now entering Brooklyn.
Halfway through the ride—miles and miles away from the bridge and Staten Island, I realized that I was still in Brooklyn, and the sign makes total sense because it’s for the folks coming from the Island. The off-ramp of the bridge is just so long that the “welcome” sign appears that far from the actual bridge.
Fort Hamilton. Bath Beach. Gravesend. On I spun towards Coney Island.
The Asian community here is huge. Like a Chinatown 2.0 or something. I’ve never seen such a large Asian enclave outside of Manhattan.
Up ahead I see Luna Park. Is that the cyclone? Oh, a ferris wheel. Nathan’s Hot Dog!
The hot dog stand was by far the cleanest looking establishment at the park, which added to the sad and desolate feel of the entire area. An almost-ghost town, with trash blowing across the street, as if a large crowd had recently dispersed from the area.
This place is filthy.
It’s only 8:30. Or something. It’s not even 9 yet.
And all there is to do is keep pedaling. Eastward. Past the waste water treatment center on Knapp Street. Nothing gets you pedaling faster than the desire to get away from that smell.
Marine Park: Rest Stop 1
Finally. Marine Park. The first rest stop.
The sky has cleared up, and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.
Two Kind bars and half a banana later, I continue on.
My knees are killing me. My sit bones are hurting. But my stubbornness keeps me going.
This is where the 55-mile group split off from the 75- and 100-mile group. This is where the ride got very lonely, except for the occasional cyclist who “catches up” and passes me.
Up into the Flatlands we go, on Avenue T—crossing Flatbush Avenue. Up E 56th Street, then left on Avenue I—hello Flatbush Avenue. Continue up Ocean Avenue, then a right onto Foster Avenue, and lo—Flatbush again!
That was the last of that avenue we saw. Up Bedford Avenue I went, with Flatbush/Ditmas Park to the west and East Flatbush to the… well, east.
I followed Bedford Avenue for a while, coming into the familiar streetscape of Williamsburg. From here, it was the greenway along Kent Avenue, into Greenpoint.
It’s still early. The weekend flea market was only just beginning to set up their tents. Everything, for the most part, is still asleep.
After squeezing onto the Pulaski Bridge, I made my way over into Queens. It’s noticeably busier here than in Brooklyn.
At this point I wonder if I’ll tear my ACL. What a situation that will be. My knee. The pain. It’s unbearable. Somehow I bike through it.
Fast Forward to Central Park
The second rest stop was in Astoria, where lovely agents from the DEA and FBI were handing out fruit pieces. Really trying to amp that image.
From Astoria, the route took us across the Triborough Bridge, onto Randall’s Island. Another split of the 55-mile group from the 75- and 100-mile group. The latter going into the Bronx.
After a partial loop around the Island, I connected with the 103rd Street footpath that goes into Manhattan.
It’s been about 3.5 hours since I started from Prospect Park. Harlem appears to be slumbering still. Central Park is wide awake.
This, for me, was rest stop #3. (For others who started here, this would be their finish.) I took a longer break here than I should have because the ride back into Brooklyn was a slog.
I stopped at the Transportation Alternatives booth and scored some free, bright green socks. Went to another tent where I got my complimentary TA Century T-shirt and water bottle. Ate another energy bar and wild cherry-flavored ice pop (this is where the mistake was).
That ice pop was so frozen, it took me a while to eat it, which is why I ended up staying longer than I should have.
The last leg
From Central Park, I rode out with these two guys. Their pace was nice and slow at first, but after a while I split away from them. The pace wasn’t doing it for my knee. I had to keep a consistent cadence.
After pedaling along the length of Manhattan, I came to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
I have never biked across this bridge because of the tourists. Hearing and reading about other cyclists’ frustrations has kept me off this bridge until now, and only because it was part of the route. It was fun. But it was also hell. It was hard to enjoy the bridge as most of my focus was spent on not crashing into selfie-stick wielding, unaware tourists stepping into the bike lane.
After a few minutes of stop-and-go over the bridge, I finally made it across into downtown Brooklyn.
At this point it was really just a matter of getting to Prospect Park, then getting home. I was tired. My sit bones were uncomfortable. My knees were in serious pain.
The Grand Army Plaza Arch appears in the short distance. yessssss
I made it. Six total hours of pedaling. And it didn’t rain.
After eating two nectarines, a peach and a banana, I psyched myself up for the ride home. It’s only 25 more minutes.
I made it home around 2:30 p.m. Exhausted. In pain. Hungry, but not feeling hungry.
It felt so good to just sit and not do anything. M and I ordered Chinese food. An hour later we went out to this Mexican restaurant a few blocks down from the apartment. Tacos on tacos on tacos. I was really hungry.
After eating, we walked around for a bit before heading home.
Next year will require a different tactic. And next year may see a longer mileage. We’ll see.
🚲 🚲 🚲