5 Boro Tour Tours, Trails & Group Rides

5 Boro Tour, 2015 Edition

“It’s going to be a long forty miles [63.3 km] on those small wheels” smirked the guy next to me at the 5 Boro Tour.

“Don’t knock it, ” I said, “this is a great bicycle.”

“I know! I’ve got a couple of folding bikes” the twit fellow responded — but he obviously doesn’t have Bromptons.


Do we look as if we’re suffering?  Forty miles/64.3 km might, under some conditions, tax me, but they’ll never tax Basil, my Brompton.  See all those big boys in the picture?  They’re behind us!  Basil’s got the gears; no rider need supply extraordinary muscle.


Even if a Brompton weren’t an excellent bicycle, the unrealized truth about the 5 Boro Tour is that almost anyone can ride it.  Persistence is the key; not equipment–or Lycra.

The tour is a 40 mile/64.3 km ride through all five New York City boroughs.  Roads are closed, and support, in the form of lots of liquids, snack bars, other treats, bananas, and strategically-placed porta-potty stops, is plentiful.


Basil and I met up with Mme. Unfolded and her Monty at the front of Wave 2, early enough to be only about a block from the start line.  The adventure begins in the canyons of lower New York City, and always with at least a little bit of scooter-like activity:  stop-and-go.


That offers opportunities for some good-natured interaction.  See the gent behind me in bright yellow?  He and his buddy (yellow sleeve on the other side) spotted Basil’s under-seat bag motif, and cheerfully yelled “Lizard!” every time they caught up with us on the tour.  (That’s much more typical of Tour camaraderie than Mr. Snarky’s comment, by the way!)


In Central Park, while hordes of us waited for the right-of-way, another fellow mentioned that he always tells people that the 5 Boro Tour is actually a series of smaller rides:  five miles/eight km here; six miles/9.6 km there; eight miles/12.8 km; or ten miles/16 km now and then.

One stops, a lot–and everyone stops at Astoria, where we’re all required to dismount and make our way through the teeming masses.


The line Basil and I were in snaked around under the Queensboro Bridge and along the far edge of the park,wending back to us, where we stood next to a bank of essentially unusable porta-potties while we waited and I took pictures.  The sheer volume of people and bikes was stunning: 32,000 cyclists participate in total.  I think I saw them all at Astoria.


Most of the ride, though, especially in this second wave, went fast.  Basil and I nearly always whipped along between 13/20.9 kmh and over 15 mph/24 kmh, and were hitting over 25 mph/40.2 kmh on clear down hill trajectories — and close to that elsewhere, at points.

Stray water bottles and even sunglasses tend to litter the roads, so staying alert is critical, but there’s really nothing like flying down the FDR and Gowanus Expressways (no cars!!!) on a bright, sunny, day.


Which is not to say that there aren’t challenges.  The approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge goes on forever (and, or so it seems, so does the incline on the bridge itself).  We weren’t doing 15 mph/24 kmh there; it was more like 3 mph/4.8 kmh just before the peak, and (ahem) barely 6 mph/9.6 kmh at one point on the approach.  There’s no shame in walking, though, and plenty of people do.  This is a fun ride, not a contest.


Mme. Unfolded and I lost track of each other early on, but caught up at the “party” at the end, at Fort Wadsworth.  We grabbed some Greek comestibles and eventually headed out to join the wait for the ferry.   “Partying” usually consists of some super-long lines for [really tasty!) food, and a mad crush of people and bikes packed all over the terrain.

Somehow neither one of us managed to get pictures of each other on the tour — how did that happen?  No matter, I did snap Basil and Monty again before we left Fort Wadsworth.  (Priorities, right?)


The final three miles/4.8 km of the tour runs from the end zone to the Staten Island ferry.  Participants ride most of the way, then join a queue for loading onto the boat.  Sniffer dogs, like that handsome, but bored, lad (lass?) below, were required to give each bicycle  and bag a once-over.


That was dull for the canines, it seemed, but one can only be grateful that nothing discovered was worth getting excited about.


Once aboard, we were sent upstairs (or up-ramp, in the case of the uppermost level), where we, and our Bromptons, had a view out the back of the ferry.


On the sparkling water, Lady Liberty raised her torch, as always, enduring silently even in the face of changing immigration policies and the well-worn immigration arguments that endlessly percolate through the contemporary American experience.  It’s good to have ideals, and monuments to them, even if reality so often falls short.

It was late afternoon by the time we returned to Manhattan’s fabled shores.  The intrepid Mme. Unfolded and her Monty chose to ride home, but Basil and I, mindful of the hour, took the subway back to Fort Washington at the other end of the island, basking, admittedly lazily, in the glow of a day well-spent.

Mr. Snarky?  Never saw him again.  I assume we left him behind in the dust.  (Or amongst the potholes.)  If he had half the fun Basil and I enjoyed on our ride, he will have done well, even if he had to do it on a less-versatile vehicle!

5 Boro Tour Events

5 Boro Tour: Registered!

We may not be getting much cycling done around here, but we’re looking to the future.  Basil and Argyll (and Dr. Diarist and I) are registered for the 5 Boro Tour, set for May 3, 2015.5borotRegistration was an arduous process; it took nearly two hours to complete, with constant failures along the way.  (In other words, it took more than half the time it takes to ride the Tour itself!)

This will be Basil’s third 5 Boro, and Argyll’s second:  It’s an absolutely fabulous ride through all five of New York City’s boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) and across a variety of bridges.  Best of all, roads are closed to cars (though you do have to do battle with 32,000 other riders of radically varying skill levels).

Judging from the apologetic notes sent out by the registration group, we weren’t the only ones pained by the process on Day 1 of registration.  Since, though, all slots are sold out except for VIP spots, so the bugs must have been addressed before too many people gave up.

The remaining (and pricey) VIP level includes a $76  donation to Bike New York, so there’s that, if you itemize. But the experience, as they say, is priceless:  When else are you ever going to be able to fly down a NYC expressway, unimpeded by motor vehicles, and under your own (and your Brompton’s) power?

5 Boro Tour Brompton Duo

5 Boro Bike Tour 2014: Walk ‘n’ Roll

Early on Sunday we set out for Bowling Green and our designated starting point for this year’s 5 Boro Bike Tour.


A quick jaunt on the A train later, we were at Bowling Green, milling about with the multitudes who were already waiting to be sprung into the fray.

514-bgBag restrictions meant that both of our Brompton bicycles rode with their saddle bags, which were well under the 420 cubic inch limit.  We had spare tubes and various useful other pieces of kit in these bags, but not a lot of room for much in the way of discarded jackets.


In addition, I’d strapped a fanny pack onto a modified Brompton S frame.  This inelegant accommodation pained me, but there was nothing else to do this year.  If we ride the 5 Boro next year, I think I’ll make  5-Boro-legal front bags for both Basil and Argyll.  They both have Brompton Mini O bags, but sadly, those bags — perfect for this kind of tour — are twice the permitted size.

514-ogThis year we were all required to wear green bonnets on our helmets, ensuring something of a uniformity of appearance; toward what exact end, I do not know.  In hotter weather, the helmet covers would have led to heatstroke.

Last year flamboyant helmet mods were everywhere; this year’s bonnets put the kibosh on most, but these fringe-festooned cylists were not deterred from making their own statement, Boro sponsors be damned!

514-agDr. Diarist commited a little sartorial indulgence of his own; I found these argyle socks at REI, in nearly perfect colors.  (Sadly, the matching Twin Six jersey comes only in a women’s cut, and the men’s only in an entirely wrong — for our Argyll — black and gray.)


We were in the third, and last, wave of riders, and by no means near the end of the long line of cyclists waiting to head out in this last group of 10,000 or so.

514-inAs we moved forward, two priests from Trinity Church wafted fumes above the crowd.  “I’m incensed”, said Dr. Diarist, whose comment probably reflect the reality of the moment more than they did his actual religious views, which are not necesarilly catholic. Or Episcopalian, for that matter.  Generally cheering ensued, regardless.


Heading out involved a remarkable amount of stopping and starting, which, as it turned out, set the theme for quite a bit of the tour.  This nifty recumbent tandem was one of the first of many tandems we saw on the ride; stopping and starting this vehicle required some skill, but both riders were up to the challenge.


We rode a few feet, we walked a few more.  The crowd before us was smaller (amusing concept, no?) than the one behind us.

514-bhOh, the humanity!  It stretched on seemingly forever:  This was the view behind us.  Parenthetical note:  I love New York buildings.  Nearly all of them, nearly everywhere.

514-elWe finally got to ride, and keep riding.  See that standing rider in the high vis jacket on the far left?  He’s on an ElliptiGo, a device which somewhat resembles an indoor trainer, but which has wheels.  Later, we saw him with two other ElliptiGo riders, so we suspect they were a team, of sorts.

I can’t imagine riding 40 miles/64.3 km on that device, but, then, people say the same thing to us about riding our little Bromptons that distance, and their surprise couldn’t be more misplaced.  But, of course, a Brompton really is a bicycle, after all!

We were walking again only an hour or so later, an activity we were to repeat over and over at various points during the tour.  Was this an inevitable result of being in the final wave?


One thing that surprised us was the amount of carnage we saw.  We counted four cyclists down, flat on their backs, along the route — one of them wearing an inflatable cervical collar, which couldn’t have been a good thing. We also saw many, many instances of cyclists being knocked, or falling, off their bikes, most of whom, as far as we could see, remounted, and carried on.

Of course, that’s a real hazard of an event that requires, for whatever reason, many stops and starts; there are that many more opportunities to lose balance or to miscalculate a stop or a start.  It was clear that inexperienced cyclists were having the roughest time with this, and falling disproportionately.

I was in the first wave last year, and saw nothing like this quantity of injuries and collusions.  I did finish rapidly, and I did have little company on many stretches of the tour last year, so maybe that’s the difference.

514-astEveryone is required to dismount and walk through Astoria Park, which was flooded with bodies and bicycles.  We snacked and took Argyll’s and Basil’s pictures, and moved on as quickly as we could.

Someone in an official vest of some kind came along and announced that the Astoria rest stop would be closing in fifteen minutes, which surprised us.

We had been no where near the end of the third wave when we started, and had left quite a lot of the pack behind in the time we’d ridden to Astoria.  Though there was another, smaller, rest stop only two miles away, we wondered how it would accommodate the thousands of cyclists behind us.  514-bWe took pictures of each other, too, hoping that there would soon be very little opportunity to do so as the tour continued.  We wanted to move, and so did our Bromptons!


We were shortly en route again, and were able to actually cycle for a bit. Hurray!


Half an hour later, though, we resumed walking.  That didn’t happen last year, either; except for the trek through Astoria, I had ridden the whole way.


514-wkAt one point, we walked for nearly three miles.  We never learned the reason for the delays.  Were they due to an unusual amount of injuries? Or is this just inevitable when 32,000 cyclists are on the road?

The good news is that everyone seemed to take the interruptions in stride, and just forged onward as best as possible.  It isn’t ever possible to predict how an event like this will go; best to expect that, whatever happens, it will be an experience, and to enjoy it for what it is.

514-bbAt some point we found ourselves behind these brilliantly-plumed folk.  Dr. Diarist has apparently spent too much of this new spring considering the courtship rituals of our avian friends:  He commented that these riders were “apparently expending unnecessary energy to demonstrate their reproductive fitness”.  Dr. Diarist has been in academia too long; it’s good that he’s getting out more.


It wasn’t long before we were walking again.  Does it seem odd that I should point out that the tour, all this trekking by foot notwithstanding, seems very well organized?  It does, and did; managing this kind of event is no mean accomplishment, and, all in all, it went very well.

After this final hike, I took no more no pictures:  We were riding!  The winds were high and we were too eager to move after moving so slowly for so long.

Dr. Diarist and I, and our two 6-speed Bromptons, made it up the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge without stopping, despite battling winds of 15 mph/24.1 kph or so, and gusts from 19 mph/30.5 kph to over 26 mph/41.8 kph.


At mile 37/km 59.5 or so, we dismounted once again to join the festivities [nearly] at the finish line.

At this point we’d ridden though all five boroughs (Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island) and ridden over five bridges:  the Madison Avenue Bridge; the Third Avenue Bridge; the Queensboro Bridge; the Pulaski Bridge; and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  And we’d bicycled on the FDR, Brooklyn-Queens, and Gowanus espressways.  (No cars — whoo-hoo!)

514-baLast year, Basil and I had just gone on to the ferry once we’d reached this fête at Fort Wadsworth; I wasn’t really in any kind of mood to slow down!  This year, Basil and Argyll were just as sprightly as ever; I think they would have been happy to just keep going this year, too.  But the humans decided to have a bite or two to eat, so we stuck around a bit.

Just walking through the park was not without its diversions.  All in all, we saw and counted a total of 22 Brompton bicycles this year — an impressive tally, and surely not nearly as many as actually participated; hanging around meant getting to see a few more.

The route around the park included a turn past the port-a-potties, next to which we spotted this beautiful titanium Brompton.


We had a great time talking with its rider, and then circled around to the lawn, across which were despoiled quite a number of obviously fatigued cyclists.  Some of them may have ridden much faster than we did; in any case, all of us had fought some pretty serious winds in order to reach this point.

514-hmBasil and Argyll collapsed, too, but not from fatigue.  A gust of wind knocked Basil over while Dr. Diarist was off getting something to eat (satay chicken kebabs, which he reported were quite tasty), so I set both of them down in order to prevent further chaos.

514-rc.lnLater, I strolled around and did some more Brompton-spotting.  These two, and the two in the next photo, were all going along together, an impressive fold!


A “fold” of course, is a group of Bromptons.  We had heard that a whole team had flown in from the west coast (Seattle?), tossing their Brompton bicycles in the overhead bins for the flight, and had done the 5 Boro together.  (Now that’s a cross-country jaunt worth making!)


Then I spotted these two with their riders.  That white bit under the folded handlebars on the left is the back side of the 5 Boro placard.  Happily, it was possible to fold our Bromptons even with it attached.

514-b3Eventually I went in search of food, too.  I’m guessing that some of the vendors had cleared out by the time the third wave came through.  (No popsicles for us, for example.)   There were horrendous lines for nearly everything except the goodies at Chinese Mirch, which was offering dumplings of various sorts.

514-bmThey sensibly offered only a few choices, but covered both meat-eaters and vegetarians with the selection.  I was able to order my tofu dumplings immediately, but it was a twenty-five minute wait before I received them.

514-stmOwing to what was possibly the least-efficient food-delivery system imaginable, I had plenty of time to circle around and observe the process from behind the scenes.  That’s one impressive set of steamers!

The order-taker at Chinese Mirch was very nice, and worked diligently to see that we got our goodies, but this vendor could have used another table along the other side of the stall, and really needed more staff than the 1.5 persons it had assembling the ingredients.514-srhIt was so worth the wait, though!  Bunches of fresh cliantro; perfectly steamed dumplings, wonderfully done tofu (and I don’t even like tofu!).  I drowned it all in Sriracha sauce:  Pure bliss!

We picnicked under the bluest sky, and I took another walk around before we rode the final three miles to catch the ferry back to Manhattan.


While ambling about, I spied this conveyance:  It’s a bike train!

514-ktWell, no it isn’t:  It’s a Bike Friday Tandem Traveler with a Burley Kazoo trailercycle attached.  Hauling an incredibly long vehicle and a couple of kids over 40 miles/64.3 km of the 5 Boro?  Now that’s really impressive!

514-ylThen it was onward, toward the ferry.  On the way I saw a bike I’d never seen before:  it’s a Brown Cycles Kidz Tandem.  Sweet, isn’t it? 514-fAnd we were off, briefly as part of a much-less-crowded field.  One last surprise awaited us, though, and “wait” is the relevant syllable.

514-gmThis one involved less walking and more standing, but there was one more fifteen minute delay before we were able to officially finish the 5 Boro.  This, too, may have been a “last wave” problem, as well as a way to stage the loading of the ferry.

We waited again once we’d reached the dock, but for a much shorter period of time.  Then we boarded the Guy V. Molinari, carrying our Bromptons to the upper deck and settling into a far less crowded space than the one on the deck below.

514-frA tour marshall named Andrew spotted us almost immediately.  His Brompton joined Argyll and Basil, and the three Bromptons rode back to Manhattan together while their cyclists chatted.


Then we hopped back onto the subway, and returned to Washington Heights.


Dr. Diarist detoured into a local  market for something important (beer, I think).  Basil, Argyll and I waited outside, where I had a long conversation with an experienced cyclist named Melchoir, who was just about to resume riding after having been seriously injured last year by a car driven by a tourist.


Back at the Manhattanites’, Dr. Diarist handed the groceries to me and performed a final heroic act, carrying both Bromptons up to the Manhattanites’ fifth floor apartment by himself.


It was all a blur to me . . . a happy blur.  We loved the 5 Boro, and Dr. Diarist wants to do it all again next year.  Me, too!

5 Boro Tour

5 Boro Tour Packet Pick-Up and Expo 2014

The Friday before the 5 Boro Bike Tour dawned sunny and calm.


For Sunday, the day of the tour, winds were still predicted to be 21 mph/33.7 kph. I headed out to pick up our registration packets while watching for portents of Sunday’s weather. This did no good, of course, but I couldn’t help wondering how difficult the bridges would be in that kind of wind.

pp-ybAbandoning the unforthcoming skies, I spied this Brompton — a yellow and black near-twin to Basil — as I approached the Expo entrance. The rider is wearing a marshall’s vest, and headed off, presumably, to guide confused registrants who are on unfamiliar territory at the southernmost end of Manhattan.


For various reasons having mostly to do with greed and avarice among humans, registration packets for the 5 Boro Tour must be picked up in person either by the rider-participant, or an officially deputized alternate.  Dr. Diarist was still back home when I picked ours up, but the process was quick and painless — possibly because I was one of the very first in line.


There was more Brompton-spotting while I was waiting.  That’s a yellow and hot pink M6L in the rear, and a claret titanium S6L in front. Three Bromptons in my sights even before entering the expo — it was a blissful start to the day!


For tour volunteers, the day was just beginning, too.  This crew assembled just outside the Expo gates, preparing to guide thousands of registrants to the Expo and packet pick-up.

I was one of the first in line; a beaming official handed over clear plastic bags filled with a fat catalog, our required placards (one for human, one for bicycle) and our bonnets, with which we would obscure our helmets during the tour.  I packed it all up and went to check out the Expo exhibits.


Vespertine was just setting up; they’re a New York company which makes reflective clothing and accessories, primarily for women.


NYCeWheels featured BionX this year, and the SUVs of the bicycling world, but no Bromptons (!).  No obvious sign either; I walked past several times before I realized it was their booth.


I talked to several people at Red Beard Bikes, of Brooklyn, including Mark S., a Brompton representative.  He’s part of the coming USA Brompton wave; we had an interesting talk about the bicycles and the future of Brompton.

Red Beard is a Brompton dealer; unlike NYCeWheels, they don’t [yet?] offer Brompton tours, but they do have a fleet for test rides, and are willing to loan Bromptons out longer-term for more serious tests.


I was apparently on a visibility kick this visit, and was intrigued by the Illuminite booth.  This hood caught my eye — not initially because of its light-reflective qualities, but because it looked like a sleek and versatile under-helmet winter option.  Without illumination, those dots are a neat style point; with focused light they burn brightly.


Illuminite had a huge assortment of reflective apparel, all of which looked traditional in ordinary light.  The illumination patterns appear to be applied to the fabrics rather than woven-in; they look quite natural on the garments, but really shine when caught directly by vehicle beams (or a camera flash).


I have no idea how their jerseys, jackets, etc. wear, and didn’t need anything of the sort at the moment, but will keep them in mind in the future.  Visibility is good; essential, even.

I didn’t take photos at the Showers Pass booth, but did try on an Elite 2.0 jacket, which I loved.  There was a small stack of the previous iteration on the floor, offered at $100 USD versus its former price of $240.  They’ve moved the pit zips to the torso, which I thought a huge improvement, and the jacket fit me beautifully.  If it had been high vis, I’d probably have snapped it up.  Several hours later — no surprise! — the sale garments had disappeared.

I was really happy to see Susan, of Cleverhood, again.  I’d met her last year, and love her products — beautifully made cycling capes.  I ruefully confessed that I’d just bought a cape from REI, since I’d tried a Cleverhood on at last year’s Expo and knew it was far too voluminous for me.


“You should have written me!” Susan exclaimed, and she was right:  She’s experimenting with a new, smaller Cleverhood.  That’s it above; like the other versions, it’s got a lot of amusing, classic personality.  The pattern is a very tiny gingham check, with waterproof zippers in black, red, green, or yellow to add a little pizazz.

Susan sent me home with one of the new, smaller, versions to review.  I love the look, and can’t wait to see how it functions when worn, now that I can check out a size in which I won’t be swimming.  Cleverhood capes are beautifully designed, made in the USA, and feature illumination threads subtly woven into the garments.

Susan’s son was modelling a Cleverhood, and looking very Sherlockian, I thought, but none of my pictures captured the moment.  Low light at these shows can put a real damper on photo quality.

After the Expo, I headed to Chinatown for lunch at Wonton Noodle Garden (crowded — it’s New York! — sullen service; see previous — but tasty, tasty vegetarian!) and thence to Penn Station, to meet Dr. Diarist and Argyll.


On the way, I spotted this tandem, and its somewhat formally dressed stoker.  This does not strike me as an effective means of traversing the city — a place where nimble steering has already saved my skin more than once.


I waited for Dr. Diarist’s and Argyll’s train on the lower level.  There was no one around, which was odd for Penn Station.  Even odder was the concept of meeting travelers as they disembark.  In New York, especially, there’s normally just a huge outpouring of a mass of humanity, and eventually everyone gets to the proper destination.  A calm, quiet, welcome is just not typical.


Shockingly, Dr. Diarist had made no effort to document Argyll’s first proper trip with him, but fortunately I was able to remedy the situation.  Dr. D. does not travel as lightly as I do, though admittedly he is a larger person, with larger clothing.  He still managed it all with his Brompton, though.


We dropped his things back at the Manhattanites’ in Washington Heights, and returned to the Expo so that Dr. Diarist could take a look around.  This mostly involved food:  We shared a lovely, crisp, melted cheese sandwich (Asiago!) and admired the scenery in the beer garden, though we did not imbibe.


It was a stunningly beautiful day, and I checked out the sky again, looking for something — a text message in the clouds? — that might suggest, definitively, that the weather would hold, and Sunday would be as beautiful.  The sky was sayin’ nuttin’ — but oh, those clouds!

pp-clThen we headed to REI in Soho, hoping to find a high vis hydration pack for Dr. Diarist.  They aren’t allowed on the 5 Boro, but he uses one at home, and our relatively small local REI didn’t have anything suitable.  We had no luck with the pack, but did see a Brompton in the store.

p-bbThe cyclist was riding in the 5 Boro, and buying a spare inner tube.  He said he regretted buying an all-black Brompton, but I don’t know why:  That’s a very handsome bicycle!

Then we headed back to the Manhattanites’s for a very pleasant, quiet evening.  Washington Heights is nearly all the way back up the island from Soho and the points south where we’d been, so we were amused to see that one of our fellow subway riders had come down to Chinatown to do her shopping before returning, like us, to the Heights.


In our suburban world, we do exactly the same thing — it’s (at least) a forty minute drive from our home to our Chinese supermarket in Philadelphia.  Gristedes grocery stores may be ubiquitous in NYC, but it’s not as if you’re going to be picking up bok choi. lotus root, or bellflower there.

5 Boro Tour My Brompton

En Route to the 5 Boro Tour 2014

Last Thursday, Basil and I caught a train to New York City, on our way to participating in the 5 Boro Tour, the largest bicycling event in the USA.  On Sunday, we’d be joining 32,000 other riders and cycling through all five New York City boroughs:  Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.


I stuffed nearly a week’s worth of clothing and cycling gear into Basil’s T bag, and we were off. Only a Brompton can carry this amount of stuff with such panache!


Last week’s trip was with Argyll, and I’d missed seeing Basil in the luggage compartment in front of my seat.  Our early train was uncrowded, and, this year, unlike last, we saw no other bicycles.  Dr. Diarist had a couple of commitments he couldn’t switch, so he and Argyll followed on Friday, on a different train.


Like most of the northeastern USA, we had experienced torrential rains earlier in the week.  We’d had some major flooding and consequent major road closings where we live and the aftermath of the devastation was obvious all along the route to NYC.  That’s the Schuylkill River above, in Philadelphia, days later, waters still threatening the banks.


We traveled under mostly blue skies, but that was an active cloud system.  It looked untrustworthy.

p5-brPhiladelphia itself looked as if it might float away on the Schuylkill, and things didn’t seem any better the farther we went.

p5-rvWe were well outside of the city here — I don’t know where, but, as a frequent traveler on this route, I can state with confidence that these trees are usually standing on dry ground.  Not today they weren’t; the river bank had entirely disappeared.


New Jersey, too, was a wet and soggy place.

Though the worst of the rains were only just past, our rail trip was uneventful, and Basil and I arrived in the gritty city after a dry and comfortable sojourn. (That’s my rain cape bunched on top of Basil’s T bag; there was no need for it in the city.)


We dumped my T bag at the Manhattanites’, where we stay in NYC, and immediately headed across town to NYCeWheels.  I’d been meaning to make a small adjustment to Basil’s handlebars; after I read that Cathy, of Unfolded NYC, had changed hers, I finally decided to stop procrastinating and do it.

Basil sidled up next to the “bike test space” in the shop:  the smaller space, outlined in blue tape, shows the size a folded Brompton takes against a wall; the larger shows that required for a Dahon.  (Heh, heh.  I’m not saying Dahons aren’t fine bikes . . . but they’re not Bromptons!)


Jack welcomed us, and quickly made the change, assuring me that the distance required wouldn’t affect Basil’s cables at all.  I took a quick spin down the street, and was really surprised: though I’d had no complaints about the reach, this slight decrease in the distance between my torso and the handlebars felt perfectly customized to me.

On very long rides of 55 miles/88.5 km or more, I’d occasionally felt numbness in my hands.  I’d been lazy about doing anything about it, partly because I don’t ride that far in one go very often.  But I’m  glad Cathy’s post gave me the nudge; I’m expecting that this change will shift the pressure enough that this isn’t a problem any longer.

Then we headed back across town, and began the countdown to the 5 Boro Tour.  Friday was packet pick-up for the tour, and also when we’d see Dr. Diarist and Argyll again.

5 Boro Tour Gear Water Bottle Sagas

Update: Dual Water Bottle Cage

I wrote about this dual water bottle cage last year.

pd-btI finally got around to taking pictures of the mount for the rings.  It’s under my Brompton’s saddle, and stays permanently  on the bike.

bclgThe support isn’t in the way when the cages are detached, and I don’t notice it when my bicycle is in everyday use.


When attached, the cages add minimally to Basil’s length, and slightly to his weight; those premiums are not too much to pay for the convenience of having three full water bottles handy on a hot day.

pd-ov This is also a convenient way to go at an event where hydration bladders are banned, as they are at the 5 Boro.  The 5 Boro administration recommends carrying three water bottles, but does not allow packs or panniers; Basil also has a trim water bottle holder on his handlebars, which, combined with these cages, allows me to carry all three bottles directly on my Brompton.

5 Boro Tour Events

5 Boro Tour: Packet Pick-Up And Bike Expo

Oh, you reckless souls who wondered when I’d ever get around to writing about the 5 Boro — little did you know that, once begun, I’d just write and write and write about it!

In the interest of a complete record, here’s what happened on the Friday before the Tour. This year, Bike New York required that all packets be picked up in person — people who couldn’t do that on the Friday or Saturday before the Tour could prepare affidavits and deputize others to do the pick-up. Fortified with whatever documents were necessary, everyone had to show up at the Bike Expo to collect Tour vests and the identifying adhesive stickers we’d need for the ride.

Getting lost was not an option; cheerful volunteers were all over the place, displaying these lovely red arrows and pointing the way to the newly — what? established? re-named? — “Basketball City” — a cavernous building that looks just like every other cement-floored expo site I’ve seen.

I joined the line ten minutes before the Expo opened on Friday morning; these people (and I) were about two blocks from the entrance.  There was a security checkpoint to enter the Expo — no surprise, after Boston — but things moved along pretty well until we got inside.

At 10 AM the entire space below was packed with impatient people who were sure that they were going to die if they didn’t get their packets immediately.  It was a little weird; nobody seemed nearly as tense while waiting for the actual event to start the following Sunday.  I didn’t take a picture of the irritated masses; the one below was taken about noon.  Procrastination would have been the best plan on Friday morning, if one cared about such things.  Waltzing in at noon would have meant a quick pass through.

In fact, I thought the whole process of checking IDs and delivering the packets went very efficiently.  Various food vendors (Food Should Taste Good, Lara Bars, etc.) handed samples — really generous quantities of samples — to the testy line-dwellers, which probably contributed to public safety, since those who snacked appeared to mellow as they ate.

Once our ID had been checked, we were directed to tables for Blue, Red or Silver registrants.  Our data was on cards in boxes, above which were signs showing a range of registration numbers, so all we had to do was find the correct section for our individual number.  The person who helped me inexplicably tried to locate my card by name, which is a poor approach when everything’s been filed numerically, but a colleague helped her out, and soon I was on my way, toting my rider vest and a sheet of three stickers — wrapped around a can of Red Bull.

In retrospect, that was kind of clever, not just from a branding perspective, but because it made a solid package out of what otherwise would have been a very light, flimsy, and probably hard to sort, packet.  I returned the drink, though, knowing that someone else would be happy to take an extra home.

Then it was on to the Expo. Top marks goes to Timbuktu, San Francisco purveyors of nifty bags, for their ferris-wheel like contraption, crafted of old cycle parts. Timbuktu bags were hanging from the wheels, rotating thanks to human pedal-power.  Cobbling this thing together must have been fun!

Timbuktu’s wasn’t the only stationary cycle at the Expo, though. The Cabot cheese farmers were confusing people like crazy by endlessly blending bananas and yogurt together, using a fleet of electric blenders, and this amusing device:

Yep, it’s a Holstein stationary cycle — and blend-o-matic.  There were plenty of volunteers who were happy to pedal away, blending yet another banana smoothie using human energy instead of electricity.  Every time I passed the booth, I heard people asking what Cabot was doing — probably because, in spite of the amazing production line, no smoothie samples were being offered around.  (Tasty cheese samples were on offer, though.) I finally asked: The Guinness Book of World Records was stopping in, and Cabot was attempting the World’s Largest Smoothie.  Afterwards, they planned to sell off the stuff, in individual cups, and donate the proceeds to charity.

Manhattan’s Bfold, the folding bike dealer (and Brompton seller), was at the Expo, but I didn’t get a picture (probably because they didn’t have Bromptons out front!), and so was the new Red Beard Bikes, from Brooklyn, with a lot of Bromptons, which they were demonstrating enthusiastically.

I had a great conversation with Susan, of Cleverhood, whose products I’ve admired for a long time. Sadly, they are huge on me, but for people of average size or larger, they are a dashing solution to those vexing weather issues.  Susan suggested I use my flash for this shot, in which her classic and sophisticated grey tattersall cape magically turns into a marvelous reflective garment.

Outside, Citibike was offering demo rides, in advance of the imminent roll-out.  I doubt I’ll ever be a customer (but who knows?) so I was delighted to have a chance to see how these bikes handle.  The answer?  They’re not nearly as lumbering as I thought they would be.  The handlebars take some getting used to; I didn’t take a picture, but there’s so much stuff across the top that they feel a little like a cockpit.  The front luggage rack is very sturdy, but also quite small; my city bag is wedged in there — there’s barely enough space for it, even mashing it quite a bit.  Good thing it wasn’t full. The bungies used to hold it in place are so strong that anything without serious structural integrity inside the bag would have been destroyed.  But the ride is easy; the bike doesn’t feel nearly as heavy as it looks.

Naturally there were jerseys, gear, and bikes all over the place, as you’d expect.  Basil is well-outfitted (and so am I, at this point), so I only bought a couple of small things.  One was a visor for my winter helmet — the watermelon Nutcase.  I thought the visor was too small to be of any use, but the Nutcase booth (stocked with brightly-colored peanut M&Ms, by the way, which suited Nutcase’s madcap image perfectly) had one installed on a helmet to try out.  It really did seem to make a difference; I’m looking forward to using it next fall.

I was tickled to learn that Nutcase is a “prize sponsorship partner” for the Brompton World Championship this year — that seems like a natural fit to me!

5 Boro Tour Bike-Spotting

Cycles Seen on the 5 Boro Tour

Cycle-spotting was excellent on the 5 Boro Tour.  I didn’t get many pictures, though, as it naturally seemed more important to avoid collisions than to catalogue the encounters.

I can’t prove it, but I suspect this was the first interesting 5 Boro bike-spotting: It’s a full-sized folding Montague, on Amtrak, in the compartment next to the one in which Basil and I were riding. The cyclist was not in the compartment, so my suspicions remained unconfirmed; I can’t be certain that this folder was on the way, specifically, to the 5 Boro Tour.

I’m not positive this bike is a folder; it’s most distinctive feature is the single axle on the right side of the front wheel — but those look like some kind of heavy-duty shocks on the rear. Here’s a close-up of the front wheel:

The cyclist told me the name of the bike, but I had trouble understanding him.  He was very clear that this was the best bike ever! He added that they aren’t made any longer, and that he had to bring his over from England.

The logo shows a stick-like cyclist with a light dot for a head, a red or orange  dot for handlebars, and a green or blue dot for a rear wheel. The angle of the rides and cycle suggest stunt-riding.  I know I’ve seen this logo somewhere, but I can’t remember whose it is or read the text written next to it. Searching the innerwebs hasn’t solved the problem yet, so it’s driving me crazy that I don’t know who makes this critter.

This bike is definitely not a folder [I am sooo wrong — see *note below]  just a small-wheeled model. It’s really industrial-looking; the cyclist said that he had gotten it in Germany. I’d never seen this one before, either.

Folding bikes I saw, but didn’t photograph, included a Citizen in an attractive shade of darker sage green; a blue Bike Friday; a lot of Dahons; two Terns; and two different bright red Bike Friday tandems (one may even have been this one).  There were a slew of recumbents, some so low that I was afraid that I’d trip over them as they made it through the starting gate, while we were still essentially walking.  And there was a family on two tandems I didn’t recognize (the tandems may have had chrome fenders?), every member of which was fully kitted-out in this year’s 5 Boro jerseys, shorts or leggings, socks and gloves.  Quite the vision, that was!

*Commenter Thorsten (comment visible when you click on the image directly above) points out that this is most certainly a folder, a Birdy, invented by Heiko Müller and Markus Riese. Blame the mistake on a huge language barrier between your Diarist and the owner — and your Diarist’s ignorance! Thanks, Thorsten!

5 Boro Tour Events Tips

Tips and Hints for Cycling the 5 Boro Tour

. . . or maybe for any big cycling tour.  I rode the 5 Boro for the first time this year. As a relatively new cyclist, and one who had never done such a formal (or big!) event, I learned some surprising things. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of things I want to remember, and that others might find useful, too:

  • If relying on pubic transportation in NYC, make sure you check subway service for the specific day you plan to travel. Events mostly occur on weekends, and weekends are when MTA shifts schedules around to do maintenance. Changes are usually posted in advance at stations, but may not be, or you may not see them, so double check online.
  • Plan for delays, not only on the way to an event, but during the event. Stuff happens. A half-hour or so into the 5 Boro I saw a stretcher and medics to my right, and, a little further along, a cyclist lying on the roadway, in a recently blocked-off protected area. Obviously, shortly after I passed, there was going to be a break in the tour to transport the fallen man. A couple of hours later, a different man had a heart attack on the Queensboro Bridge and died; the Tour was stopped for a half hour so that aid could be rendered, and he could be transported. Expect that the way may not always be clear, nor the road your own.
  • Train before you go, not just so that you can make it for 40 miles/64.3 km, but also so that you have practiced what to do if a cyclist rides too close to you, or stops without warning. Know how you need to ride, and brake, to keep a safe distance from other riders.  Do these things enough so that they become second nature, long before the event.
  • Know your personal hydration and fuel requirements, and adjust for weather. I was lucky enough to have had an object lesson in not paying attention to hydration/temperature requirements on a ride that stretched my abilities just before the 5 Boro. What I learned from a much more experienced cyclist (thanks again, Saul!) changed my thinking and made me consider these issues more seriously.
  • Pay close attention to your hydration for at least two days before an event. I heard one speaker at the Expo say that you want to see clear urine every time you look for those two days, and during the event. (Good luck checking at an event, but you get the idea.)  This is great advice; starting out with a well-hydrated body puts you ahead of the curve, both from a comfort level and healthwise.
  • Along the same lines, eat well at least for the last few days before an event. There’s no need to protein- or carb- load before a slow, recreational event like the 5 Boro, unless you plan to cycle it as if it’s a Tour de France, but living on potato chips and ice cream in the days leading up is probably not the best idea.
  • Never try any new foods, energy bars or gels, etc., at an event.  Take what you’re used to, and what works for you, given your expectations of the ride.
  • Have enough water and food-type fuel on hand, if possible, so that if rest stops run out, you’ll still make it through.
  • Roads cleared of motorists in a city like New York are not roads clear of pedestrians. Watch for people straying into the path of the Tour. There is no pedestrian as oblivious as a New York pedestrian bent on getting somewhere.  A man being dragged by two Golden Retrievers flopped in front of Basil and me completely unexpectedly; I saw people carrying large boxes and other cargo plunge directly into the hoard of Tour cyclists. Watch for these suicidal types to ensure that their death wish doesn’t become your homicide.
  • The views along the 5 Boro Tour are often breathtaking; don’t forget to watch the road.  The streets (and expressways) were amazingly clean, but, inevitably, water bottles fall from bikes and land in the path of cyclists; bolts come loose; tires blow.  There will be debris when you least expect it. Watch the road surface as much as you would on any other ride.
  • Watch for daredevils and idiots. They will be present. Avoid them. If you can’t, forget them as fast as you can; the day is meant to be fun. I was hit by a careless cyclist who bumped me sideways as he salmoned his way at high speed horizontally across the roadway — so he could ride all the way to the left, in the putative fast lane, with both hands in the air.  (He said “sorry” as he hit me.) I wasn’t thrown, but he’d come up so fast, and from such an odd direction, that I couldn’t have done much if he’d hit me harder, or at a different angle. I saw him just before he hit my handlebar as he flew by, and was able to steady Basil.  That was the only close call I experienced all day; for the most part, the people I rode near, every mile, were considerate and focused. But I was very glad I hadn’t been daydreaming when Mr. Reckless-and-Speedy hit me.
  • In crowds this big, and geographies this large, how you progress may have little to do with your abilities. Be prepared to stop when you may not want to, and to ride more slowly than you’d like. It’s the nature of the beast.
  • Next time, I’ll be mentally prepared for the cognitive dissonance of being told to ride the wrong way on city streets, and to blow through red lights. It took me nearly a half hour to adjust to this bit of Tour peculiarity.
  • Watch for trouble, in general. Those pedestrians mentioned above; an ambulance that has to get through even if there are thousands of bicyclists in the way, the marshals who have to narrow the course for whatever reason.  Bikes break; collisions occur. The unexpected will happen.
  • Watch the weather, and dress accordingly. If you normally wear street clothes, consider what 40 miles/64.3 km in a cute dress and thin underthings, or your favorite basketball shorts or jeans, may do to your anatomy. Try out any unfamiliar clothing long before your event, and make necessary accommodations.  Friends who run recommended Runner’s World’s What to Wear Tool; I used it to check my calculations for what I wore on the 5 Boro, since temperatures were going to be in what was, for me, a borderline range between tights and shorts.  It asks about gender and personal preferences, and, I felt, offers sound suggestions that are probably applicable to other cyclists’ needs, too.
  • I don’t have to point out that your bicycle should be in good working condition, recently tested on those practice rides you took, with working brakes, and with chain greased and tires inflated, right? (I didn’t think so!)

Did I miss anything?

5 Boro Tour Events

We Ride the 5 Boro Tour

Cinco de Mayo, May 5th, was the date of 2013’s 5 Boro Tour: 40 miles/64.3 km through New York City’s five boroughs, ridden by approximately 32, 000 cyclists, of whom Basil and I were one.  (I am, after, One With My Brompton!).  I rode Basil to the subway station — on Manhattan streets for the first time.  (Sunday streets; they were deserted except for a friendly cab driver who smiled and gestured to show me he wouldn’t run me over.)

We got up at 5 AM — earlier than theoretically necessary — but missed the first train. This turned out to be a lucky break. It was a good thing that I’d taken seriously the event’s warnings to arrive early — the suggestion was to arrive up to an hour before our actual start time, and I’d allowed well more time than needed. Basil and I were in Blue — the first start, thanks to the number of miles we rack up each week — and our start time was 7:45 AM.  That’s Basil, above, just before we descended into the subway.  In May, it was light already, though just barely.

We were coming from Washington Heights, not terribly far from The Cloisters, so the ride would have been at least 40 minutes at best.  5 Boro riders number 1 (!) and 10, dressed in Giro d’Italia jerseys, joined us on the train, as did rider 62.  For reasons that mystified rider 62 and me, 1 and 10 got off three stops before the race start.

Rider 62 asked me what stop I was using.  “Canal Street”, I said. He was relieved . . . which was a serious mistake. The next thing we knew, the train was pulling into Metro Tech station. In Brooklyn.  Rider 62 looked at me again and said “Metro Tech?”, just as I was realizing that something had gone very, very wrong. The A train had skipped every stop below W 4th Street, because, you know, on weekends they can do that.

**Important Tip: don’t just type the day of the week into HOP STOP when confirming directions; type in the actual date.  HOP STOP gave me standard Sunday directions.  On 5 Boro day, with an early morning influx of 32,000 riders clogging the system, the MTA, in its infinite wisdom, changed the downtown A route.

We got off at Metro Tech with Rider 62, crossed over, and prepared to retrace our steps. Waiting on the platform was another 5 Boro rider — a resident of lower Manhattan, and therefore conversant with the MTA’s local changes — and she assured us that we’d all be able to get off on Canal Street, now that we were going uptown. And so we did. There was no mystery about where to go; volunteers were everywhere, and so were cyclists.

That’s the view in front of us (above) as we joined the crowd.  Very early, in spite of our little side trip to Brooklyn, we were blocks from the start line!  Below is the view behind:

People just kept pouring in.  We were only the first third of the cyclist waves: Red cyclists started 45 minutes later, and Silver 45 minutes after that. There were roughly 11,000 riders in each wave.

As the start time drew closer, things tightened up. You can’t really see it, but there’s a fine white line stretched from one side of the street to the other between the buildings, directly in the center of the picture. That’s the start line — blocks away!

A bunch of gobbledygook came over the loud speakers during the ten minutes before the start, none of which ws comprehensible until a voice sung out tinnily ” . . . the laaaand of the freeeeee” (line from the USA national anthem), and the crowd roared.

A few minutes later, we were on our way. At 1 mph/1.6 kmh! Feet on the ground . . . and then 3 mph/4.8 kmh, and then a whopping 6 mph/9.6 kmh . . . at which point I realized something significant: This ride was not going to be about speed.  It was particularly not going to be about my speed — how fast we went was going to be determined by a bunch of other factors, most of them irrelevant to whatever Basil and I were doing at any particular moment.

Soon we were leaving lower Manhattan and blasting up Sixth Avenue, where I got the first shock of the day:  Streets were closed to motorists, but not to pedestrians.  I figured this out when an older gent came tripping across in front of Basil, dragged along the street by two enthusiastic Golden Retrievers. The guy looked shell-shocked.  At other points ride marshals were gathering groups of pedestrians and stopping the Tour, crossing-guard style, but there were points all along where pedestrians were just obliviously stepping into the pack of riders.  I was glad I got the wake-up call early in the ride.  (No Golden Retrievers were hurt in the process.)

I didn’t take any photos at first, except for this shot of the RFK/Triborough Bridge from the Manhattan.  Getting oriented was plenty enough to occupy me, and it was surprisingly difficult to curb my natural tendency to stop at red lights and to ride the correct way down one-way streets . . . all of which were irrelevant on this ride.

The big disappointment of the Tour was not being allowed to stop on the bridges; this was an inevitable injunction, probably, as a result of last month’s bombing in Boston.  I took the photo above as the tour was beginning, and, once I had my bearings, snapped a couple others (below) before I realized that we weren’t supposed to stop.

We then rode up through Central Park, through Harlem, and headed into a tiny corner of the Bronx over the Madison Avenue Bridge.  Then it was back into Manhattan over the 3rd Avenue Bridge, onto the FDR.  It was verrrry strange to be cycling on the FDR, which is a massive, usually hugely  over-crowded, espressway.  Drivers on the other side, who were going the other way, sometimes honked and waved — in a friendly fashion — as the Tour passed on the closed portion.

Then we rode over the Queensboro Bridge into (naturally) Queens, northward, with a mandatory dismount at Astoria Park, before continuing south on to the Pulaski Bridge into Brooklyn, where we rode through Greenpoint and past Red Hook, and onto the BQE/Gowanus Expressway and then onto the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island.

The mandatory dismount at Astoria Park was a surprise.  I had been warned not to stop at the first rest stop, since lines were likely to be terrible, but I didn’t need a stop there, nor at the next two. I’d started out well-hydrated, it was a cool day, and I was used to riding 20 miles or more without a stop. But it wasn’t possible to just continue cycling through the park. Basil and I just wanted to ride!

We were lucky, though, that we arrived just after 9:15, since all riders who had arrived earlier were held there until 9:15 while further streets were closed so that the Tour could continue.  We didn’t have to wait, and I did take advantage of the enforced walk to take pictures.

Two bridges connect to Astoria Park, neither of which we rode on. On is the RFK/Triborough (above), and the other is Hell Gate (below).

Hell Gate is a railroad bridge with excellent towers at each end, along with a very pretty arch spanning its length. Surprisingly pretty, considering that it’s Hell, and all.

Basil had had enough of this photo delay, but it was important to immortalize him, too, at the park.

We moved on quickly, into Brooklyn where a “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign greeted us as we crossed the Pulaski Bridge. The crowd had thinned out quite a bit by this time, probably thanks to all the rest and water stops that dotted the route. No one who was unprepared was likely to go thirsty or hungry on this Tour.

We entered Brooklyn at Greenpoint, and I rode by some streets which were quite familiar from previous visits to New York.  If I recall correctly, this is the only point at which I really noticed the wind — but not for long, as Basil and I were soon flying through Brooklyn, with very few other riders by our side along this stretch.

This may have been where I was restrained from taking  more pictures. Someone official (a marshal or security officer?) told me that, a little oddly, I could take pictures from the left side, but not at the right, where I had stopped. (That was particularly strange, since, naturally, anyone stopping or riding slowly is expected to keep to the right.)

It was a beautiful day. Some people claimed that it was too cool, but cool is best for rides. I was wearing shorts (with padded liners), a 5 Boro jersey, and a light jacket and was perfectly outfitted. I did unzip the jacked about halfway through, and ditched it altogether when Basil and I stopped at our one “rest” stop, nine miles from the finish.  There was plenty of clean, sparkling water available, but one had to hunt for it, since it was hidden at the back, far, far from the enormous Red Bull presentation at the entrance of the stop.

The city has been on a kick attempting to get residents to drink NYC water.  Maybe this is to reduce bottle litter? Anyway, NYC water tastes just fine to me, so I was happy to tank up.  I can’t even imagine doing a 40 mile/64.3 km ride on Red Bull.  (If you need it, maybe it would be better to train instead?)

There were plenty of snacks.  Fairway Market (oh, Fairway, how I long for you on my home turf!) supplied apples, Kind bars (“ingredients you can pronounce”) handed out their treats with abandon, and there were piles and piles of bananas, one of which I happily consumed on the spot.

There were views and not so many cyclists at this stop, which was about three-fourths of the way through the Tour.

The Brooklyn Bridge loomed in the distance:

Basil met a friend, the first raw lacquer Brompton that I’ve seen in person.  This is one handsome bicycle!

The other important business of this stop was the dreaded Port-A-Potty. No, I wasn’t dreading it for the reasons you might imagine.  Many years ago I used to backpack and camp, so I learned a long time ago how to deal with, ahem, interesting situations which require delicate operations where one might not want body parts touching unhygienic or unsavory flora or toilet seats.  No, that was not the concern.

The concern was Basil. As frequent readers of my blog know all-too-well, I quite boldly take Basil into just about every bathroom I encounter.  Port-A-Potties, however, have dimensions that challenge even a person of my relatively small size.  Either I was going to have to find an extra-wide cubicle — probably somewhere around — or I was going to have to leave Basil outside.  Gulp.

So that’s what I did. But I didn’t like it!  (And that was probably a world’s record in rapid toilet use.) I do think it was quite clear that Basil was waiting for someone. Had I heard anything untoward outside the door, I’d have been outside in a minute, modesty be damned. Must keep the priorities straight.

In the months leading up to the 5 Boro, almost everyone I talked to said that the bridges were tough because of the climbs.  At this point, we’d crossed 4 of the 5 bridges on the Tour and, really, they hadn’t been an issue.  Ahead, though, was the  über-dreaded Verrazano, cited specifically I think, by everyone I’d talked to.

But, you know, it wasn’t that bad.  The incline does go on forever, and I’m not saying it was a walk in the park — although I guess it could have been, since I do recall looking at my Garmin at one point and reading “2.3 mph/3.7 kmh”, so I could have been walking for a brief few moments.  And I did use first gear, although I’d never dropped lower than fourth anywhere else on the Tour.

I wonder how many people who do the 5 Boro ride city bikes and rarely use low gears?  It seems odd that so many people found the bridges so rough . . ..

Huge numbers of cyclists were stopped on the Verrazano, checking out the views. The “no stopping” rule was essentially unenforceable, once those kinds of numbers decided to engage in a little civil disobedience.

Even little old law-abiding me stopped for two seconds to get a couple of shots.  (Too fast to compose them well!)  Security was more of an issue this year than in past years, which made it even stranger that there were neither security nor marshals for quite a [literal]span here.  I assume they figured they had the bridge covered, and we had gone through security choke points along the way, with riders with non-compliant bags stopped as they went by.

The NYPD had us covered in the air.

Basil and I finished just before noon.  Well, that’s not technically true, since the “finish” line is at 37 miles/59.5 km or so; there was a “festival” at Fort Wadsworth, where we all, once again, dismounted, and were offered the opportunity to buy all sorts of things (food included) that we’d mostly seen at the Expo where we’d picked up our packets.

I took a very quick look around, and then we found out way out — but not until I’d bought an embroidered patch that will end up on a bag for Basil.  This was a ride to remember, and I think he’ll be pleased to have a souvenir on his gear.

On the way out, there was a sign pointing to an overlook. This seemed like a very welcome consolation prize for having not been able to fully enjoy the views from the Verrazano, so Basil and I detoured there.

OK, it’s a long bridge . . .

and it’s a high bridge!  And it was one fun bridge to ride! Normally, neither pedestrians nor cyclists are allowed across.

See the heads, just above the side of the lower deck? Those are more, ever more, 5 Boro cyclists, streaming over.  (The heads are the little blips between the lower rails and the single rail just above.  The road racers are leaning forward at an angle, as is their wont.)

Here’s Basil, beneath the Verrazano Bridge, having traversed it all the way:

Several people asked me to take their pictures at the lookout, which I was happy to do. The favor was returned:  Here are Basil and me, none-the-worse for wear, just about at the end of the 5 Boro Tour:

Is that a Brompton directly behind Basil?

Why yes, it is, a beautiful all-black M6 — not only that, but the fellow riding it identified himself as a reader of this blog — who would have imagined it?  (That was actually a pretty cool moment . . .. )

Then Basil and I returned to the Tour route to ride the remaining three miles to the Staten Island Ferry.

The line for the ferry was long, but the wait was only about twenty minutes.

I didn’t have any idea how much time the the ferry trip would take, and we were right at the exit doors, so I didn’t fold Basil all the way.  This ferry’s capacity, in humans, was 2,639, so carrying capacity, even with bicycles, was considerable.

Later, I moved Basil, and folded him partially.  As the aisles filled up, a fellow near me gave me his seat so that he could stay closer to the bikes he was watching.  We ended up in exactly the right spot to get this shot:

Then it was time to disembark. (Is every single person in this picture checking his phone?)

This was the scene behind us as walked down the ramp:

This is an absolutely fabulous experience, and anyone who has the slightest interest in travelling through New York on otherwise forbidden, inadvisable, or inaccessible roads and bridges should seriously consider doing the 5 Boro Tour.  The various waves are designed for all levels of cyclists; wave Silver included families and children, and the Tour offers suggestions for people who may want to ride only part way.

Actually, the 41 miles/65.9 km we rode wasn’t enough. I decided to cycle all the way “home”, back to Washington Heights (another 12.5 miles/20 km), instead of returning by subway– but that’s a post for another day.

Here’s Basil, though, on the 5th floor landing, back “home”, once we’d returned from the 5 Boro and the trip up the West Side Greenway:

This event turned out to be cream puff for me, though, and I owe that entirely to the experience I’ve gained while riding, only since last October, with the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. Thanks to leaders like Tim C. and George, and experienced mentors like Saul and Mike, I’m used to riding 30 miles/48.2 km and more on a regular basis.  (Even if the most recent ride nearly knocked me out — sometimes you learn the most from mistakes.)

Admittedly, had the day been much hotter, or weather conditions terrible (it could happen) this would have been a much rougher ride, but the biggest surprise of the day was how ready I was for this particular challenge . . . bridges and all.  (Gotta love Brompton’s BWR — Brompton Wide Range — gearing, too!)

But anyone with some experience riding a bicycle can probably manage the 5 Boro — though maybe with a little walking here and there. And anyone can probably make it a great event with just a little focused preparation!  What a fantastic day this was!