12 Sep 2010 6:55 pm   //   Filed under: Bicycles

Today’s bike ride: NYC Century

Today I set a personal record for the most miles biked in a single day: 127. I rode the NYC Century Bike Tour today—all 102 miles of it—and biked to and from the Central Park start/finish line from my apartment in Brooklyn. There are a couple of ways I could have made this ride easier—including choosing the alternate start location of Prospect Park, rather than Central Park—but I wanted the challenge of the extra miles. As a bonus, I got to enjoy a pre-dawn, solo warm-up ride through the empty city at 5 a.m. on Sunday.

On balance, this was a good ride and I had a great day. This century ride is different than others I’ve ridden (Bike MS NYC, Bike MS Maryland, and Livestrong Philly). For starters, this one benefits Transportation Alternatives, my city’s bike lobby. This an organization near and dear to my heart, but not the kind of thing that motivates me to fundraise the way cancer and MS do. I didn’t solicit donations for this one.

On top of that, this course is all-urban: It stays entirely within Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. They don’t close any roads for it, so you’re dealing with city traffic for much of the ride. This a much more mentally taxing ride than others; you have to constantly watch for cars, signs, and traffic signals. There are ride marshalls and first aid people, but no vehicular support. If your bike or your body fails, you’re supposed to find your way to the nearest train station.

Fortunately, I saw very few problems and experienced no setbacks myself. This ride attracts a crowd of well-prepared riders who are skilled at biking in city traffic. The tour through the 4 boroughs is just what you’d expect: Scenery varies from the canyons of Midtown to the marshes out by the airports, passing a whole lot of chicken restaurants and auto body shops along the way. We also passed through a lot of parks, packed with New York’s fabulously diverse array of people having cookouts and playing sports. The ride through the South Bronx was especially cool—taking me through neighborhoods I would have no inclination to visit if not for this ride.

Along the way, a lot of New Yorkers going about their days were curious what we were up to. Most people who asked had heard of the New York Century. The best moment was probably in Rockaways, when we rode by a group of people standing in front of a church, and one of the men called out, “Did you start in Brooklyn?” I shouted back, “Central Park!” The man replied, “Jesus Christ!”

Last but not least, the map. I tried out a new GPS mapping program for tracking this my ride, called GPSed. It’s significantly more complicated to embed a map on a blog using this program, but it has the advantage of plotting more points with greater precision than Instamapper. Here’s the mega route I rode today, beginning at my place in Brooklyn, heading over the Brooklyn Bridge to north Central Park, heading back over the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn and all through Queens, into the Bronx over the RFK/Triboro Bridge, back to Central Park, then back to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge. Whew!

View Larger Map

Start time: 5:03 a.m.
Finish time: 4:27 p.m.
Duration: 11:23
Distance: 127.7 miles
Average speed: 11.2 mph
Weather: Cloudy, with a little drizzle, turning to full-on rain by the time I got home.