People say you never forget how to ride a bike. In fact, the expression “like riding a bicycle” is used to describe something that once learned, cannot be forgotten. However, for some people, forgetting how to ride a bike is not an issue because they never learned it in the first place. Biking is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to get around the city. No one should be stripped of this privilege just because they never had the chance to learn.
Each year, cyclists from every state in the U.S. and dozens of countries around the world descend upon lower Manhattan in support of Bike New York’s free bike education programs. From there, they experience something unlike any other – a ride on traffic-free streets.
Despite the unseasonably cold and rainy weather, the appeal of having 40 miles of busy streets in the concrete jungle shutting down just for cyclists made the event exciting. The bike routes ran through all five boroughs of New York City which included FDR Drive, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and the Queensboro and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges, with the finish line in Staten Island.
The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is the largest charitable bike ride in the world, with all the proceeds going towards free bike education programs. Funding for these programs comes from the organization's numerous annual events, including the TD Five Boro Bike Tour, Bike Expo New York, and smaller regional and local rides. In 2015, the bike education program taught more than 17,000 how to ride bikes and grab life by the handle bars.
I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in this year’s tour, and I was exceptionally excited because the TD Five Boro Bike Tour was my first large-scale organized ride/event ever. I was not worried about the 40 miles because as an avid biker, I usually clock in 40 miles three or four times a week during the summer. However, the rust had set in from the long winter, and I decided to prepare for this tour. The week before the tour, I rode my bike from Brooklyn Prospect Park to Central Park which was about 45 miles round trip and covered the tour mileage- it was easy work, and I was ready.
Mayday - On Sunday, May 1, along with 32,000 other cyclists, I endured the gloomy rain and began at the the starting line in downtown Manhattan. At first, I was so excited, the rain had no effect on me, but as the ride went on it became heavy and more constant. I was beginning to feel cold and my knee caps started to cramp. I decided to make a rest stop at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn.
I really thought about stopping the tour right there because I was freezing. I thought I was going to get frostbite on my hands which were exposed to the wind, and I was not sure if I could even finish the race due to the kneecap cramps. But there was no way I was going to end my first ever tour with 10 miles to go. I ate a banana in hopes of stopping the cramp and got back on my bike and continued.
The roughest stretch was the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. We rode across the three mile span of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, half of it uphill, into Staten Island in a rain soaked headwind. I remember I was trembling pretty bad as we neared the end of the bridge. It would have been an amazing ride if it was sunny, but you can't fight Mother Nature. In the end, I crossed the finish line and checked this off my bucket list.
Summer is coming, go out and grab life by the handle bars.
Special Thanks to Sam Polcer from Bike New York