June 16, 2014

The Five Boro Bike Tour: AKA The Day I Almost Died by Bike

By Stephon Boatwright In On the Road

I love bike riding; I just do!  I may have been born to run and hike, but given biking’s ease on my body and high speed with minimal effort, there’s nothing like riding.  Besides, it’s a bit thrilling to ride in the streets and tick off cars that don’t understand I’m legally required to do so when making a left turn at an intersection.  There’s bike riding, racing and this year I was introduced to touring.  Touring normally involves a long, yet self-paced ride around somewhere picturesque.  Allie skipped picturesque and opted for a 46 mile tour of New York City.  She started riding in the famed Five Boro Bike Tour three years ago and has been a die hard rider every year since.  This year she invited Brian and I to tag along.  Brian opted to sit the ride out given the effort required, but I was more than game.

Typically, before a race one loads up on carbs.   We did that, but probably with the wrong types of carbs.  Or maybe stouts do count?  If so….we were LOADED.  Our night was filled with the sounds of gay piano bars in Greenich Village and the luscious glory of a high powered stout we had far too much of.  In fact, we loved it so much we decided to keep the glasses it was served in.  After covertly passing a glass to Allie underneath the bar (this was her idea keep in mind), she promptly put it back on the bar top without realizing what she had done; this was a real Ocean’s 11 style job.  After a completely hilarious subway ride/walk back to the hotel, we got the Dr. Guinness prescribed 3 hours of sleep.  The next morning it became apparent we were consuming the wrong types of carbs.

The tour starts at about 7am in Lower Manhattan, right in the shadow of the newly constructed World Trade Center Tower I.  It was chilly, we were already exhausted, but the mood was electrifying.  The ride gathers some 30 thousand participants, all enthusiastic as could be.  As I peered around waiting for the start signal I noticed all types of bikes.  Unicycles, tandem bikes, three person bikes, people with their kids and dogs in carts behind or on their bikes.  My favorites were fat bikes, those are bikes with extra wide tires made for getting extra friction on ice, snow or sand; those were the real inspirational riders of the tour.  However, most folks were on beautiful top of the line road bikes by Cannondale, Trek, and Specialized.  I, of course, was on my rad and classic 90’s Nishiki mountain bike; beat your hearts out $5,000 bikes.

With a blast of a horn and some early morning techno jams we were on our way.  We road up Sixth Ave in the Manhattan morning sun, passing food carts just opening their gates for workers looking for a bagel and coffee before starting their grind.  The ride was leisurely and gorgeous in Manhattan.  We passed within a block of The Empire State Building, Times Square, and wound through the heart of Central Park.  On 58th street we were treated to the sounds of Adele and to live reggae in Harlem.  The Bronx portion of the ride was kind of what happens when you throw a cat in water, slight touch and screaming out.  The Bronx gets an undeservedly tough rap sometimes, but the organizers seemed to believe all of it; we simply rode through the Bronx to say that we did.

A few minutes later we were back in Manhattan and barreling towards the Queensboro Bridge.  The bridge is one of my favorites in the city because of its Gothic and skeletal structure.  Riding on the bridge was tremendous, but coming off the bridge leads the riders through a spiraling set of roadways that felt like riding down a drain; it was easily one of my favorite parts of the tour.  Queens is a vibrant city of over a million inhabitants, but the tour took us through one of the quieter parts of the borough.  It was about then I decided to snap a moving pic of Allie and I that nearly ended our ride.  Right as I went to snap the photo I leaned a bit too hard to my left and nearly wiped both of us out.  Moral of the story, selfies kill.  Somehow we managed to both stay up and keep a smile on our faces, the pic even came out pretty well!

Brooklyn is one of my favorite places in the world, but this is where I hit the biker wall.  After the riveting night of eating yogurt and not much else,  I skipped breakfast given the dubious state of my stomach.  My legs were exhausted without a doubt, but after 24 miles of biking I ran out of all my stout carbs and was at a loss of energy in general.  Every revolution became a serious effort, breathing was like sucking air through a coffee stirrer when pedaling up hills, and the fact I was on a mountain bike sure wasn’t helping.  I felt awful most of all because Allie stilled seemed bright eyed and bushy tailed; I hate slowing people down.  The ride through the Greenpoint and DUMBO neighborhoods gave way to a rest stop where I ate 5 bananas, 2 tacos, and guzzled some water.  I felt half human until the next major bridge, where I went back to feeling like a mix of being shot and choked.  The miles seemed like they would never end, until finally we came up to the last and biggest obstacle of the day, the Verrazano Narrows bridge.  The bridge connects Brooklyn with my former home of Staten Island.  Allie thought it would be a good idea to lie to me and say we had another 4 miles to go once we crossed the bridge. I never felt so relieved to find out the bridge marked the end of the race; thanks for the lie Brown Bear.

 The end was marked by a party, popsicles, and a picture that Allie and I awesomed up as always.  After being in such great shape for an obstacle race I ran just the week before, I figured the tour would be a breeze; I had biked well over 46 miles before.  The combination of poor carb loading, a heavy bike, three hours of sleep, and making the mistake of assuming running = biking were all costly mistakes.  It was a lesson well learned that I’ll keep in mind for next year, although I have a feeling I’ll still be drinking car bombs at 3am the night before…


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