This past Sunday I woke up to an alarm at 5:15 AM, with maybe two hours of sleep under my belt. The early rise was necessary in tackling what has become my favorite ride in New York City! I worked the door of a friend’s bar in Carroll Gardens the night before, checking IDs. The snooze button was hit once to remain in the warm bed just a few moments longer. Then it was up and at ’em to get out of the door at a decent time. We had to be in Bay Ridge by 7 AM, an hour’s ride from the Financial District. Leftover coffee hit the spot, waking up the mind, as oatmeal warmed my soul (read: stomach).
All tires were pumped, provisions packed and helmets in hand. Adair and I were on the road 15 minutes later than we had hoped, which is pretty good considering touring departures usually ran a half hour to hour late. Outside the air was cool, borderline cold, as we aimed our wheels towards the Brooklyn Bridge. The slight incline warmed us up in an unusually quiet ride over the BK Bridge. It was nice being up that early on a Sunday, while tourists and motorists were likely still in bed. We found 4th Avenue in Brooklyn and headed south for roughly 80 blocks, which would also take us back north, as this was part of the established Marathon Route.
Some gentlemen in blue jackets with blue helmet covers leapfrogged us as we headed south. We noticed these guys just before we got on the bike lane to traverse the East River. Seeing them up close it was apparent they were volunteers for the Marathon. Each was assigned a person of interest, either elite runners or celebrity, Kevin Hart for example, and shadow their assignment constantly radioing back to a TV command center, detailing locations and running times. This allows the cameras to pick up on the runners as they ran insanely fast. Turns out almost a similar pace to what we road that day.
Adair and I arrived at the meeting spot placed on my FaceBook event, just outside of a Bagel Supreme, at 7:10 AM. About 15 people were waiting. Chances of rain nor recent acts of terror could thwart this group. There was obvious concern for our safety as well as the police permitting cyclists to complete this unofficial ride. The Fort Hamilton Triangle area seemed a little more quiet than last year. Perhaps we arrived a little later than the previous ride. Or maybe the aforementioned concerns stopped the masses from partaking this year. The group chatted a bit as we waited for Adair’s coworker who was a few minutes behind.
A volunteer cyclist informed us that the police were likely to clear the streets in the next few minutes and advised that we should get on our way if we wanted to complete the ride. The group agreed that the time was now, as none of us wanted to give up a rare chance to enjoy near traffic-less streets. Especially since we all had gotten up so early. Adair texted her friend to press on upon arriving at the Bay Ridge subway stop and we took off. Some riders were faster than others and Adair, Bruce and myself were at the front of the pack.
Bruce is a recent friend I made during the previous weekend’s Sleepy Hollow ride, organized by a local bike shop, Bicycle Habitat. An interesting person and strong rider, I had fun getting to know him on a trip up north and asked him to join for the Marathon Ride. He watched the weather closely all week and decided to join a day before the event. He also informed us of his lack of sleep after a Saturday evening, turned late night, entertaining clients. Bruce and Adair got to know each other as we all enjoyed the beautiful calm that is 4th Avenue before the Marathon. It is surprisingly tranquil considering the number of volunteers setting up tables, water, mile markers and police presence monitoring the Route, shutting down streets, etc. With overcast weather and carless avenues and bridges, the City had an ominous apocalyptic feel.
We seem to enter new neighborhoods with incredible speed. Not having to wait for lights or circumvent double parked cars in bike lanes, one was able to make considerable distances relatively quickly. Before we knew it we were in Queens, then taking the Ed Koch/Queensboro Bridge back into Manhattan. This is arguably my favorite stretch of the Route. This section provides the largest climb and the fastest descent. This was the anniversary of Adair’s new bike and she climbed with the year old steed as if she had a considerable tailwind. My intent was to bomb down the descent, but was enjoying the views too much and then failed at taking a few photos.
Once in Manhattan we turned up 1st Avenue towards the Bronx. As we make great time along the Route, the streets became more congested. We had to share the road with some cars, but a small fraction of any normal morning. The ride on 1st Ave reminded me how unlikely I would be to ever run a marathon. It is long, straight and has constant ups and downs. Not necessarily tough on a bicycle, but could prove murderous for a novice runner like myself. Next thing I know we entered the Bronx for a brief moment. Crowds had already amassed even though runners wouldn’t be through for another hour or so. We took a bathroom break and waited several minutes for Adair’s coworker who is seemingly just behind us. With a considerable amount of police activity, we decided to press on to avoid being kicked off the course.
We crossed our last bridge and were back in Manhattan heading towards Central Park. The Route heads into the Park after a long, steady uphill climb south on 5th Avenue. Emma and Nick, Adair’s coworker and boyfriend, catch up to us on 5th Ave. They quickly passed us, both appearing to be avid cyclists. Bruce had decided he needed to work harder and had sprint up 5th Ave to get his blood pumping, simulating a final push for the finished line. Central Park is off limits to cyclists and we were directed to exit the Route as it turns into the Park. We decided that a photo op should be completed at the Plaza, on the southeast corner of Central Park. We all high five and chat for a bit before deciding on the route that will get us to our respective homes.
We headed down Park Avenue south and split off in Soho. When we arrived home four hours after our departure, we had completed 37 miles. Our reward was a large bagel and lox brunch and attempted nap, before heading out to watch the Marathon.
This is by far the best ride available in New York. It’s free, it’s quiet and it is amazing to see New York City come together for such an amazing event. Even with all the craziness that keeps rearing it’s ugly and tragic head, it was nice to be in such a beautiful, resilient and strong place.
Feel free to like, share, follow and comment on this post! If anyone else has completed this ride, please let us know your experience in the comments.
For anyone of those who want to join next year for the NYC Marathon Ride, I will be at the Bagel Supreme on the Fort Hamilton Triangle in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn at 7 AM.
Big congratulations for those that participated in the actual Marathon, you have my utmost respect. I am more likely to ride back across the country before running 26.2 miles.