Urban biking in NYC

When I lived in the Bay Area, I fell in love with biking, both on dirt trails and on the road. I knew the dirt trails of the East Bay like the back of my hand and seeing the transcendent views of fog over the bay in the morning calmed my soul. I never tired of it, not even a little. I even saw the occasional cow or two. I made significant major life decisions on the hundreds of miles I covered with my friend Andrew. So when I moved to NYC, aside from missing friends out in California, I missed riding through those gorgeous hills more than just about anything else.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been determined to get back in the saddle, so I signed up for the 55-mile ride in the NYC Century, which is tomorrow. To prepare, I’ve been running 2-3x a week and doing a training ride on the weekend. Urban riding is way different from what I’m used to, but it has its own kind of excitement and I’m having a blast exploring NYC on two wheels. Here are my past two rides (I’ve been biking to and from work, too, which is awesome in the fall weather):

1. Manhattan Loop (right around 30 miles)

This ride goes over the Brooklyn Bridge, up the east side to Harlem, down through Central Park, cut over to the greenway on the west side, down around the perimeter of Manhattan, and back across the Brooklyn Bridge. Going over the Brooklyn Bridge is a little like a video game as you dodge tourists who step into the bike lane to get the most scenic photos. The bike-and-pedestrian-only greenway on the East River stops around the United Nations and you have to get back out in regular traffic, and pedaling amongst the crush of taxis and pedestrians was a memorable experience that kept my blood pumping. Shooting down into Central Park at the north entrance was absolutely awesome (side note: the Great Hill in Central Park — which felt like a big climb relative to everything else — is only 135 feet above sea level). The greenway on the west side along the Hudson is really nice, too, though I almost wiped out when an elderly woman came barreling towards me with a “I don’t know how to stop this thing!” look (whew).

(I used Veloroutes to map this trip).

2. Brooklyn waterfront to Marine Park to Prospect Park (about 40 miles)

Beach at Jacob Riis ParkI took some photos along this route, which goes along the waterfront in Brooklyn along Gravesend Bay, out near Coney Island, through Sheepshead Bay, out to the Rockaways, Jacob Riis Park, Floyd Bennett Field (NYC’s first municipal airport), and Fort Tilden, then back up Bedford Avenue (the longest road in Brooklyn!) to Prospect Park. If urban decay and post-apocalyptic-Planet-of-the-Apes NYC are your cup of tea, you’ll get your money’s worth with Jacob Riis Park and Floyd Bennett Field, both of which have been beautifully neglected.

For this ride, I dusted off my Garmin Edge 305, which records all sorts of data about your ride, including speed, lat/long coordinates, elevation, heart rate, and calories burned. While this is a bit of overkill for my level of riding, I find that looking at all the data after the ride is fun for a data geek like me. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know the exact lat/long coordinates where you hit your peak heart rate? The data from the Edge can be loaded into a program like Ascent, where the data can be exported to a KML file, which is how I generated the map below.

View Larger Map

The 55-miler starts at 7:30am tomorrow in Prospect Park. Tonight, it’s early-to-bed for a fresh start.

2 thoughts on “Urban biking in NYC

  1. You need to come poke around the upper end of Manhattan with me. There are some very cool rides to be found and interesting places to explore there. So glad you are finding good things here!

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