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!

Map of NYC with 100-mile route highlighted

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.
  • Climbing up the never-ending hills of Highland Park and Forest Park in Queens.
  • Enjoying the serene ride along the East River on bike paths in Ralph Demarco Park and Astoria Park.
  • Riding along the Harlem River Greenway (along the former site of the Harlem River Speedway!).
  • 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!?

Allie on her bike, riding along the Hudson River on Shore Parkway, with 1WTC in the background

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:



Other Necessities

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.

Freakin’ awesome day.

Do it for your knees

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:

Monday, July 22, 2014
Monday, July 22, 2014
Monday, August 4, 2014
Monday, August 4, 2014

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:


You just have to keep your eyes peeled

I cycle through my hobbies pretty regularly: I was seriously into knitting, then vegan cooking & baking, then gardening, and now biking. Each is a part of my daily life but I have periods where I FREAKIN’ LOVE [insert hobby of the month here].

With my most recent interest in biking, I decided to sign up for a metric century (100km or 62mi) with a women’s cycling group for the Rapha Women’s 100 Challenge. I was wary of the distance as the longest ride I’d done prior to this was the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, which is just around 42 miles. I’d also never ridden outside of NYC proper and this ride would take us into Long Island. I’d also never ridden long distance without Alex so I was going to be all alone.

All of the worrying was for naught! The ride was a lot of fun and I was surprised by my ability to ride almost 80 miles in one day and the seeming ease with which I was able to do it.


I ended up doing over 122km since I needed to get to the starting location from the Staten Island Ferry terminal (and back). I felt great! I was sweaty, covered head-to-toe in sunblock, and surrounded by like-minded ladies. We passed by three beaches, walked across two bridges, and biked through three counties. (I actually biked through 5, including Manhattan’s New York county and Staten Island’s Richmond county.) It was glorious!

I loved it so much that, a week later, I embarked on my own pseudo-long-distance ride. I biked along the eastern coast of Staten Island through two beaches down to the southern-most part of New York State. I then biked up to Bloomingdale Park before making my way back home. All-in-all, I rode 38.9 miles on Staten Island’s horrible roads with some heavy traffic on Hylan Boulevard. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again because, honestly, it’s hard biking on Staten Island streets. There’s debris, potholes, and psychotic motorists.


The one upside of this terrible ride was that, as a result, I needed new tires. I’ve been riding on my bike’s stock tires since I got it back in January 2012. I estimate that I’ve ridden somewhere around 4500 miles on its tires. It’s about time that I replaced them! But it wasn’t until after this Staten Island ride that I really had a reason to: the threading on the sidewalls wore down to the point where multiple bulges had developed. It was no longer safe to ride on them so I got myself a pair of Gatorskin tires—and then installed them myself, like the badass that I am.

At the same time, I also got myself a couple of Castelli cycling jerseys, a pair of Louis Garneau cycling shoes, and a set of Shimano PD-A530 combination clipless/platform pedals. I look like a serious cyclist now, ready to tackle more long distance rides!