Five Boro Bike Tour

New York -- Sunday April 7, 2000

Once again the Empire Speed emailing list came through with timely information, this time about the Five Boro Bike Tour being held Sunday morning. The event is not a race, but is a fundraiser who's main goal is to get people out to participate. People start out in Battery Park at the bottom of Manhattan and make their way up streets closed to vehicular traffic (specifically for this event) through Manhattan, into the Bronx, then through a loop of Queens, down through Brooklyn to the Verrazano Narrows bridge and finally over the bridge to Staten Island. It is technically supposed to be for cyclists only, but several of us (instigated by Philippa) figured to show up and crash the party. Altogether the route is 42 miles. This gave me a lot of pause. The farthest I had skated in a single session before (albeit on rec skates) was 30 miles. I was encouraged though by the promised easy pace and also because I am kicking around doing the 100km Prospect Park Marathon this year and figured this would be a good test run to see what serious distance was about.

There were 30000 cyclists this year. Thirty thousand. That is an incredible huge mess of cyclists. About a dozen or so of us skaters met up on Wall St. and waited for the main clump of cyclists to go ahead. We were then going to meet up with a handful more skaters at 90th St. and 5th Ave. in upper Central Park. It took at least an hour for the cyclists to get organized and reasonably started off before we hooked onto the tail. Looking up 6th Avenue (the 'Avenue of the Americas') there were curb-to-curb cyclists packed in and stretching for miles, as far as could be seen. It took a long time just to progress up as far as Central Park. Every now and then the police would stop the procession to let a few people across and with people as packed in as they were, no-one was going to go very fast anyway. In Central Park (where we did meet up with the other skaters) and Harlem though, things began to spread out to a reasonable density.

The cyclists were nice and the marshals didn't give us any trouble for being on skates. The pavement in general was pretty reasonable. We did set a record high temperature for New York that day at 93F though, so staying well hydrated was a must. There were several cycling rest areas where water and bananas were available as well as bicycle repairs. Overall, the ride was pretty good, except for the bridges. The bridges often had rumbly-pavement, and the cyclists had a nasty habit of hitting the brakes at semi-random times down the hills leading away from the bridges.

The ride was long and hot. Most of the skaters took off back to 'the city' across the Brooklyn Bridge but a few of us carried on. I had no idea how LONG Brooklyn is. The Verrazano Narrows bridge was in sight for a long, long time, and not seeming to get any closer. Quite discouraging actually. Finally, about two miles from the bridge I felt heat exhaustion coming on. I pulled off the highway, took off the skates, sat in the shade, drank some water and massaged my sore feet. After about 20 minutes I felt much better and continued up over the bridge and wound up in Staten Island at the finish.

It turned out that the ferry terminal was three miles away from the finish. It would have been an easy 10 minute downhill glide on skates, but I didn't know that so I walked the whole way. When I got to the ferry, there was an enormous line of cyclists waiting. It took two hours to get on the ferry. In the meantime several people lined up in the sun passed out and had to have emergency treatment, while the Staten Island Fire Department periodically hosed down the crowd. When I finally got home, 12 hours after I originally left, I couldn't figure out if it was more important to eat or to sleep. Eating won out followed very closely by sleep. I'm glad I did this event, but next time, I'm riding a bike. :)

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