Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Circumnavigation of Manhattan

Monday the 17th of January was a holiday from work, and the training plan called for a recovery ride so what better way to spend the day than riding a road bike around Manhattan?  Never mind it was the coldest day of the year by quite a bit with a forecasted high of -5C, and to make sure I didn't snooze behind the shifters, snow and ice were in abundance on the bike path from the few major snow storms the NYC area has recently received.

near w181st access to Greenway
The Neil Pryde Alize was the weapon of choice to take me around the "Greenway", a path that in some unforeseeable future is going to wrap around Manhattan in it's entirety.  For now it completely covers the west side, and roughly half of the east side.  The west side of the path from the southern tip in Battery Park to Dyckman St, currently the northern terminus, could be tackled by anyone, but the entire route should only be ridden by the more adventurous rider who's capable of basic bicycle maintenance, and is comfortable pedaling through a few lively neighborhoods that aren't known for their kindness to spandex clad folk.

The Alize is an amazing road bike, but is not renowned for it's handling over icy paths.  Toss in some nasty winds creating a "real feel" temperature in the -15-20C range and we have ourselves an epic ride!

underneath George Washington Bridge
Usually there's a path leading to the lighthouse.  The Little Red Lighthouse has a touching story that everybody will love, and it's worth checking the huge plaque set beside it.  Before the monstrosity above the lighthouse existed, it's job was to keep boats and ships from running aground on the rocks during foggy conditions.  

I continued south on the bike path with a helpful tailwind pushing me along, and did not stop until around W. 70th st.

Pictured above, the structures behind the bike are remnants of an old pier.  If you spin around 180 degrees you'll be awed by the beautiful spires of luxury glass high rises courtesy of the mighty Mr Donald Trump.  Be wary of this area as there are many wealthy pedestrians who gleefully taser perceived threats, and there's almost always security lurking in the shadows itching to give a biker a ticket for ignoring the camouflaged signs stating to stop breathing if you are riding a bike.  OK, they don't say that.  They say to dismount in certain areas, but I personally disagree with their requirements.

Downward I went until I was in the meatpacking district which is around west 14th st, and also happens to be near where I work.  The dual rectangle glass hotel behind Alize is relatively new to the Manhattan skyline, but is already infamous for it's guests exhibitionism to the point where the management decided they needed to mention it when checking in.  Eh, hm, please, uh, don't undress, or perform any other nefarious activities before the hundreds of watching eyes on the Highline park directly below!

On the southern tip of Manhattan things begin to get a bit messy.  There's currently construction just north of Battery park briefly forcing the intrepid adventurer off the Greenway, and then Battery Park is a bit confusing to navigate especially on a nice day when you are bound to be negotiating the area with one million other tourists.  The South Seaport has some sail boats to check out while you soak in the rays, and enjoy the Brooklyn backdrop while munching on some roasted nuts purchased nearby.

Heading up the east side, the adventure truly begins.  The path is seriously lacking continuity, but persevere and you will be rewarded with some amazing views.  Famous bridges are everywhere, and eventually you'll get to see the entire midtown skyline.  Pictured above are the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Not too long after this photo, in the 30s, the path dead ended and I was forced out on to the city streets.  I passed the UN building, and eventually ended up on the path again in the 70s, and was kicked off again, and then got back on again - I really can't remember exactly where, but the route I'll link at the end should give a better idea.  It should be noted by this point I was FREEZING.  What once was a tailwind was now a strong headwind.  My hands rebelled and stopped offering feedback.  My face, I'd find out later, would be nicely windburned.

One last photo to whet the palate.  My hands could barely operate the camera at this point, and the path (again) terminated at 120th St. where I was forced in to the city streets.  This section is where you should be alert.  The path doesn't continue again until around 155th, and it's very easy to miss the Greenway signs guiding you along the route.  At this point, you'll probably be laughing at the "green" signs.  What's so green about this?  There's trash all over the place, stinkeyes are hitting me from every direction, and, man, does that fried chicken smell GOOD.

I managed to make it to the 155th St entrance to the path, but unfortunately it was totally unplowed.  The Alize can adroitly handle many situations, but foot deep snow is not one of them.  I turned my frozen carcass towards the west, quickly calculated my arrival to home time, and hammered away for the last ten minutes eagerly anticipating my very warm apartment to thaw my frozen digits.  Epic!

Route can be found here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Storm #2.

Another storm rolled through NYC last night bringing maybe 10" of snow.  But I don't fret any longer since I've finally gathered the gear that works for me in foul weather.  The studded tires are the greatest thing I've discovered for a bike in recent years, and I'm psyched every time I get to take them out for an adventure since they can go nearly anywhere from technical single track to an iced over lake or a foul commute like today.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday's Ride

This morning I went for a 2+ hour ride on River Rd and 9W to Piermont, NY.  It was very foggy, but warm, and a great day for getting a tough workout completed!  Below is a pic from the GWB looking south towards downtown Manhattan.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years NYC ride to Bear Mtn

Since 1903, every January 1st dedicated cyclists in the New York City area get together for a century ride (~100 miles/160km) organized by CRCA to celebrate the beginning of the new year.  This was my first year participating in the "fun ride."  The ride starts at 7:30am on the east side of Central Park near 90th and 5th avenue, does two loops of the park then continues north through Manhattan, over the George Washington Bridge(GWB), and up towards Bear Mtn where the route turns around, and the motley crew still present returns to the city.

This year was nearly perfect for a leisurely celebratory 100 miles due to the starting temperature of around 38F(3C) and a high of 50F(10C).

I left my apartment at 7am as the sun began to peak over the Bronx and East River, and headed south towards Central Park.  The roads are improving every day after last Sunday's blizzard dumped two feet of snow, and for the most part snow is not present on the roadways, but it's still really wet and generally nasty on all city streets.

I rolled to the Engineer's Gate in Central Park, the meeting point, right at 7:30 and was greeted by about 20 or so other riders.  Very shortly after I arrived, the whistle blew and we were off!  The pace was steady and mild for the two loops, 12 miles, of the park.  I rode up front until near the very end of the second loop to snap a photo, and was quickly greeted with a spray of nasty, brown city gunk from the riders' rear tires in front of me.  A quick aside, everyone should use at least a rear fender in winter group rides!!!!

Occasionally during the laps of Central Park and even later after crossing the GWB, more riders joined the group.  After the laps we headed north through Manhattan up St Nicholas.  There were some sections that had lots of snow still.  I heard a few mutterings of not breaking a collar bone, etc but no one went down, and everyone rode smart.

After a minor bottle neck entering the bridge due to snow plowing, we left the city and rode across the GWB single file.

A short break ensued on the opposite side of the bridge, and then we were off at a steady pace.  The pace was slow, in my opinion, and I was calculating the hours it would take to finish this ride and not happy with the results.  I decided I would leave the group eventually, and ride at a higher pace so I would not be gone the entire day.

On the return route, I was solo most the way, and decided to ride on River Rd for the end before crossing the GWB.  For those considering it, a warning, it has a lot of hills and is not as easy a return as 9W.  But, tackle the hills, and be rewarded with solitude and expansive views of the river and city.

For those not from the city, the Bear Mtn century route is the definitive century ride out of NYC, and for the most part, it's a nice route on roads with mostly very wide shoulders with minimal traffic, great views of the Hudson River and surrounding areas, and a decent amount of climbing especially if you ride all the way to the top of Bear Mtn.  The final climb is about 4.5 miles long with great views on the summit, and on clear days you can see the outline of Manhattan a ways off to the south.  If you are in the area I highly recommend doing this classic route, and even starting from Central Park to get the full experience.

A link to the route.  Note:  the GWB crossing is not entirely accurate since there is a separate bike path on the north side of the bridge which does not show up on the map.