I was bummed to miss out on a group ride this morning (thanks to a sleepless night) so I took my freshly-tuned-up bike out for a quick spin through some streets on the south shore of Staten Island. Ended up stopping at three parks before powernoia set in and I called it a day.
The last time I was on my bike, my life was very different. Things are slowly becoming normal again and it was amazing being back in the saddle. My current situation doesn’t allow me to commute by bike anymore and I work on weekends (preventing me from going on long-distance rides) but I miss my bike to the point of tears sometimes so I’m making it my mission to make time for the things that are important to me.
Yesterday, I embarked on the latest biking challenge I’ve set for myself: complete a[n imperial] century. That’s 100 miles in less than 12 hours. This came on the heels of my completing a metric century (100km), which I loved. Luckily, Transportation Alternatives hosts a yearly century ride to raise awareness of bicycling in NYC and uses the proceeds to fund its advocacy efforts. In 2009, I signed up for the 15-mile ride and barely completed that, if I remember correctly. (They no longer offer a 15-mile option.) This year, I signed up for the full 100-mile ride. In the end, I had to modify the route I took because I simply couldn’t needlessly go over yet another bridge… but I still pedaled over 100 miles!
It was an amazing experience. I was surrounded by thousands of like-minded cyclists. (A group of cyclists all making the same turn around a bend is a sight to behold.) I saw so many parts of New York City that I don’t normally get to see. I climbed a ton of hills. I was cheered on by passersby. Simply, I was reminded of what a truly amazing city I live in. It’s a fantastic way to see the city and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Some of my highlights from this year’s ride:
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at 5:30 AM, before all the tourists were awake.
Getting lost in empty & quiet Prospect Park after I got bad intel about the Brooklyn starting line.
The spectacular views from the many bridges we crossed.
Being called a “roadie” by an enraged cyclist on the Hudson River Greenway on my way home. (I passed him and he got angry. Started spouting off about road cyclists and races: “Oh, of COURSE. Fucking roadies. Do you see a race here? Are you in a race? How’s your race going?”)
Does this look like a roadie to you!?
OK, fine, maybe I was decked out in my fanciest road riding gear. But I had to be safe and comfortable for the long ride that went over many types of terrains with the sun beating down on me! Here’s what all I had on this ride:
I also brought a bunch of my own food so I wouldn’t have to stand in the long lines, including Clif bars & energy gels, Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit and Seed Bars, Pure Ancient Grains bars, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and fresh fruit (apples & bananas). I burned an estimated 2,300 calories during this ride. My calculations tell me I consumed 1,350 calories during the ride. The green smoothie I had for breakfast adds another 250 calories for a grand total of 1,600 calories that I had to burn during the ride. Needless to say, I was ravenous—on top of being exhausted—by the time I got home around 5:30. And then I was out by 9:30 PM.
Today was my first “normal” ride (commute!) with my new clipless pedals and SPD shoes. After the mechanic installed the pedals and wheeled my bike back to me last week, he gushed about clipless, telling me what a world of difference it will be, how much more efficiently I’ll be riding, the new muscles I’ll be using to pedal. Yeah, yeah, I thought, I’ve heard it all before.
Boy, was he right!
I first noticed a difference when I was descending into the Staten Island Ferry parking area. At the bottom of the modest hill, there was a slight incline to get to the bike loading area. I pushed only slightly: my riding was much more fluid than previously so I didn’t have to put in as much effort. My body and my bike were a single unit, working together to move through space.
Then, on the other side of the ferry, I also felt like I was exerting less effort but moving faster. I only had to unclip once at a red light at the beginning of my ride. After that, it was smooth sailing. I compared this ride to a pre-clipless ride two weeks ago:
I went a little bit faster (up to 13.8 from 12.6 MPH) and shaved 3 minutes off my commute time! And this was me taking it easy (and trying not to mow down other commuters and pedestrians, despite their sometimes suicidal tendencies). I’m excited to see what kind of improvement I’ll see in hill-climbing!
…Having said all this, it was a little bit of an adjustment getting the hang of the pedals. It took me a while to figure out how the whole “clipping in” thing worked, though clipping out was easy enough with the multidirectional cleats I installed. I did fall during a quick lunchtime ride over the weekend, though, when I had to stop at a red light and, in a moment of panic, forgot which foot I lean on when stopped. The thing with clipless pedals? They become a part of your foot and you can’t help but feel that the pedal is “stuck” so you try to shake it off when it feels bothersome to have it under your foot. Don’t be like me, don’t try to shake off your clipless pedals. Unclip, folks, and you won’t bang up your knee.
And who knows where your adventures will take you next? My quick ride to Ft. Wadsworth had the unexpected bonus of goats (including some kids!). Alex captured this gorgeous photo of our view: