The Five Boro Bike Tour is a massive bike event (it’s not a race, and there are no timing chips, but it’s as well organized as any big running race) – forty miles of traffic-free roads through all five boroughs of New York City. My dad and brother rode in the event last year, and this year, my brother’s girlfriend and I got to join them!
We left Buffalo around mid-day on Friday, stopped overnight in Albany, and then headed down on Saturday for Bike Expo NY and packet pickup. The rest of our crew left early on Saturday morning and had an easier time at packet pickup as a result, but hubby and I hung back with Peanut until noon (a good time for her to start her nap) in the hopes that she’d get her sleeping done in the car. She did, but I paid for the decision later, because the expo was a mob scene.
I waited in lines starting a few blocks away to even get into the expo. Once I finally made it inside, we were herded toward packet pickup, which fortunately was running like a well-oiled machine.
After I got my packet, I headed over to the tour merchandise and bought two t-shirts, then made a quick loop around the expo and headed out to find hubby and Peanut. We reunited outside the expo, went back to the hotel, and carbed up with an Italian dinner.
We were in the silver wave on Sunday morning, which meant that our start time was 9:15 a.m. – right in the middle of the chaos. (Last year, my dad and brother had a 7:15 a.m. start and they definitely preferred the earlier start. Maybe we’ll luck out and get an earlier time next year…) Anyway, we took two cars into the city from our Jersey City hotel. Hubby and Peanut and I found parking right by the start line and then began the long process of looking for the rest of the crew.
Peanut was in rare form. As we were getting set up in the parking garage, she saw three cyclists zip down the ramp and announced “Bicycle bicycle bicycle!” We weren’t sure, at that point, whether she was going to announce “Bicycle” every time she saw a cyclist all day, but I guess she figured we got the idea. She also shouted “GO FAMILY!” which was adorbs. Best cheering section ever.
I finally found the rest of my crew, and before we had time to get too comfortable…
We were off! The first part of the ride went through Manhattan, past Radio City Music Hall and through Central Park. The park was my favorite part of the ride – it was a beautiful spring day, the flowering trees were in bloom, and I felt as if I was on a Sunday ride with 32,000 of my best friends. From Manhattan we crossed into the Bronx for a very short while, then were back in Manhattan for miles 10-14. Just before mile 15, we crossed the Queensboro Bridge into Queens, and that was my other favorite part of the ride, because how could this be anything other than epic?
I never, in a million years, thought I’d ever ride over a bridge like this on my bike, let alone with hundreds of other cyclists around. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.
Right before the Queensboro Bridge I bumped into this guy ^ and we hung together while we could, but I lost him somewhere before the bridge. I saw him again briefly in Queens, but he was waiting for the rest of our crew and I decided to continue on. To be honest, I was nervous about pulling over to the side of the road and waiting in the crowds of people. With our late start, the roads were significantly more crowded than they were last year, and I’d already seen several crashes. I decided I’d feel safer just continuing on my way and finding the rest of my “team” at the finish line, so that’s what I did.
Astoria Park! There was a “mandatory rest stop” here, so I took advantage of the opportunity to grab a banana, then got the heck out of there as fast as I could. It was a long haul getting through the park and back on the road. I used some of the waiting time to Instagram – since I couldn’t ride, why not? Finally, I made it back onto the road.
Before I knew it, we were crossing into Brooklyn. We still had a ways to go before the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and Staten Island, so I plugged along as best I could. This was definitely not a race; I’ve never been shouted at to “slow down!” quite so much. (No one ever seems to worry that I’m running too fast in a half marathon. I wonder why.) It wasn’t just me – everyone was getting instructions to go easy. The last thing anyone wants is a crash, so I totally get it. It was tough for me to slow down, though, because I have a fast bike, and even riding the brakes I was passing people left and right. I just hung on tight and went with it.
Adorable interlude – if you’re wondering what Peanut was up to, she was checking out the runners and “Horsie! Neigh neigh!” in Central Park with Nana and Daddy. They walked by the zoo, got bagels with lox, rode the subway and then watched the Staten Island Ferries come in. It really bummed me out that I didn’t get to experience Peanut’s first trip to NYC with her. (First trip on the outside, that is. She’s been there twice before, but the view wasn’t quite as good.) But there will be plenty of other opportunities, and I was having a ball on my bike.
I plugged away all through Brooklyn and over the Verrazano, which was a beast of a bridge. It seemed as though almost half of the riders had gotten off and were walking their bikes up the bridge, but I really, really wanted to ride the whole thing. I gave myself a pep talk: “Just keep pedaling. You can pedal as slow as you want, but don’t get off this bike.” Finally, finally, after what seemed like days, I made it to the top… and then it was pretty much all coasting to the Finish Festival on Staten Island! I cruised in, found a spot on the grass, and waited for the rest of our family team to come riding up, which they did about thirty minutes later.
Here’s a fun secret: the “Finish Festival” is not the end of the biking for the day! Even once you get through the festival, you still have about four more miles to ride to get to the Staten Island Ferry and back to lower Manhattan. We decided to bypass the food and entertainment and get right back on the road, since my brother and his girlfriend had to get home. So it was off to the ferry, where we waited about twenty minutes to get on a boat.
Once we made it onto the ferry, the views were breathtaking.
Totally worth the forty mile bike ride! Heh. All joking aside, this was an awesome day. The Five Boro Bike Tour is organized with military precision and the event seemed to go off without a hitch (at least from where I was sitting). I had so much fun riding – or at least, starting and ending – with my dad, brother and brother’s girlfriend, and I’m definitely on board for next year!
Have you ever ridden in a bike event? Were you white-knuckled the entire time too?