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.

Basil, En-Scène

Nose to Nose


I’m not sure who looks more dubious.

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.


Argyll, Manhattan-Style

Argyll’s ready for his next trip to New York City:


If we get lost, we know just where to look. (That’s a map, of sorts, of the subway system.)

(Basil — and Argyll — and I are out of town again this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)



Argyll at the 81st Street subway station, New York City.


It’s the home of the Museum of Natural History, and worth a visit on its own merits.

(Basil and I are out of town again this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)

Argyll Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Argyll Goes to New York

Argyll, Dr. Diarist’s Brompton bicycle, needed his post-purchase service and check, so he and I took the train to New York City.  (Dr. Diarist was otherwise occupied.)

any-stThis was not Argyll’s first time on a train, however.  He’d come home in January, in the middle of a snowstorm, but there was little documentation from that rather frenzied trip.  It felt odd to travel without Basil, but both Argyll and I took it in stride.


My T bag was stuffed, but I don’t have any trouble getting four days’ worth of clothing and gear into it.  Even a wimp like me can manage a T bag and a Brompton on a train; I sling the T bag across my back, carry the B in my right hand, and hold on firmly as I mount the incredibly infelicitously staggered stairs into the train carriage.

We watched a few trains go by before ours arrived.  Amtrak’s “Coach Class” cars always look spiffy.  I love the classic curve of the exterior, too.

any-akThe locomotives don’t seem to get as much love — or  maybe the life of a locomotive is naturally just a lot grubbier.

any-lcThis engine is pushing the train westward;  that’s a common configuration in our part of the world.  This particular train will head to Lancaster, Harrisburg, and possibly all the way to Pittsburgh.  Weirdly, the trip to Pittsburgh by train takes about ten hours, or twice the time required to drive it on the turnpike.

any-spThe exterior of SEPTA’s newest cars also tend to look pretty good, too.  The end of this particular regional line is at Thorndale; anyone wanting to go farther west needs to hop aboard Amtrak.


We were going eastward, of course.  It was a trip full of firsts for Argyll, and I did my best to record them.  It was very odd to see a small green Brompton on the train where I’m used to seeing Basil’s yellow.  Basil’s T bag served Argyll just as well as it has Basil, ensuring that he didn’t slip about during the ride.


Dr. Diarist sent me off with a new app on my Android tablet:  Trainz.  This meant that I spent some blissful time driving a train through the British Midlands while on the way to New York.  It was the best sort of cognitive dissonance:  The train I was on, and the British one, seemed to move in perfect harmony.  Good thing I wasn’t the engineer on the Amtrak train, though:  I got lost in the Midlands and had to backtrack.

any-indOutside, In Real Life, the sky was putting on a show.  All that drama above yards of industrial detritus!

any-idyMaybe it was the influence of Trainz, but it seemed to me that the view looked surprisingly like something that an animation engineer might have created.  That was a little worrisome .  .  . and inspired a philosophical moment:  What is reality, anyway?

any-plThe next view successfully distracted me from further musings.  There it was:  the unending sky, a plane, trains, and a Brompton.  The lure of adventure, symbolized in the nouns of the moment, and a fantastic roiling of clouds.

any-cgI’m not allowed to ride my bicycle inside the subway, or at indoor train stations, but a Brompton’s brilliant luggage block still carries the weight of my gear.  Argyll, just like Basil, transforms into an excellent luggage cart.

any-mrIn no time at all, Argyll had arrived in Washington Heights, and was having his portrait snapped in front of the mural where his sibling has posed so often.

any-grThen upstairs we went, Brompton and baggage, and settled into the home of the Manhattanites, to prepare for the next step of our adventure.

(Basil and I are out of town again this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)