I began riding in May, ideal biking weather. I was so glad to have discovered it, it never entered my mind that cycling might be a seasonal sport, that I might ever have to stop. As the summer wore on though, I began to hear people murmur about the confines of Winter, and the closer we got to Winter, the more fearful I became.
My first strategy was to panic (it’s always been a reliable game plan in the past), but gradually as reality set in I have begun to investigate correct attire, and today I’ll need it: silk top, light wool sweater, light down vest and light wool scarf. Still going with the fingerless gloves for now.
And yet, I can tell it’s crisp outside – perfect for a ride.
My approach to cycling is one of exploration. I will do some rides because I need to get from one place to another; a few to stay in shape. But generally, Lucille and I prefer to ride to new places (and we’re willing to take the subway to do it).
I have a friend who cycled in NYC for 10 years. After that, he said he got bored. I think of him a lot, especially as I ride the West Side Greenway. On the one hand, I understand what he’s saying. On the other hand, things are always changing here. And what’s changing most is the people.
Today I decide to repeat a wonderful ride I learned from The Bromptoneers at NYCeWheels (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xosic6OlNqE&feature=youtu.be). Though I’ve ridden it before, it’s full of the unexpected. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has never done it.
I cross to the East Side via 20th Street, coming across this beautiful bike as I wait for the light:
One thing to note, and I notice it every time I am over by the East River: the Hudson and the East Rivers smell very different. The first time I noticed it, I thought the sensation must be my imagination. Then I wondered if one river were simply more commercial than the other, and what I was smelling was diesel and commercial trade. When I get home to Google however, I discover the reason: the Hudson River flows from north to south. The East River isn’t really a river, but a strait connecting the Sound with the lower Bay. And it’s constantly changing direction (Hell Gate where the two meet and tussle). So the East River is more brackish. It has a flavor all its own which informs every ride I take there.
The views at this point aren’t all that open, but the ride itself is interesting.
Up 1st Avenue, east on 54th to the beginnings of East End Avenue, then down a hill to an entry on the right.
Up the East River Promenade we go, not a cloud in the sky.
Up we go onto the 3rd walkway (no stairs for us!). Emerging on 78th Street, I take a wrong turn and end up walking Lucille up a couple of blocks to correct my course. As I do, I come up behind two men, one with a dog, one elderly and walking with a cane. The dog walker checks that I don’t intend to run them over, but I am going at a respectful pace behind them. When the sidewalk widens to let me pass, I hear a snippet of their conversation and the word, “Spinoza.*”
Spinoza?! How many places in the world do you even hear his name outside a university setting? What are the odds? (When I go home to refresh my memory via Google -ahem - I find the Jews and the Catholics both hated this guy. Serious boyfriend material…).
On a more immediate note, I also notice that the morning coffee in me has nowhere to go. Whenever this happens on a ride, I think of an apocryphal story about Martha Graham. One of her dancers was about to go on and complained to her that he really had to pee. She looked directly at him through those heavy eyelashes. “Absorb it,” she was said to have directed. Not a Starbucks anywhere near me. I reluctantly follow her advice.
Riding east on 84th Street, three different people remark on my helmet camera (known to me affectionately as Helmut, a misspelling by a friend).
It used to be that Lucille grabbed all the attention. And she still does on the subway. More and more however, Helmut is the one people remark on. It happens all over town. And of course he records it.
No one (except the notoriously shy Bill Cunningham) is bothered by it though. And it strikes me the degree to which all of us now gladly sacrifice our privacy for convenience - even just for pleasure. Everyone has a camera phone. Everyone will photograph, everyone will be photographed. Those who fight it, are photographed anyway. That ship has sailed. I can't think that this will lead to anything good, but for now I'm glad to have Helmut around.
We enter Central Park at 85th Street. For a weekend, it’s quiet.
As I round Fiend’s Hill at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, I wonder what it would be like to live nearby and have your first ride into the Park be such a challenge. My guess is, you would live forever.
But it is exhilarating weather, and Fiend’s Hill, while not all that friendly to me since I haven’t visited for a week (there’s a little Jewish Mother in Fiend’s Hill), is manageable in this low humidity. As we descend, the path becomes more crowded. But all is going well, until this guy.
Probably on drugs.
Yes, there are a lot of bad bikers out there. I’ve had far more dangerous brushes with cyclists than with cars.
And now my shoulder hurts. And I am reminded how precarious is my joy in cycling. I cannot afford a fall. I already have a bad shoulder which I cannot afford to let get worse. But my hunch is that my cycling career will end not as a result of a single catastrophic event, but as a series of small cuts. By which time, I hope to be well into my 80s and focused on speed knitting. Or competitive dozing.
Exiting the Park at Columbus Circle (I’ve forgotten my Metro Card), Lucille and I take Broadway to 55th, and over to the Hudson Greenway where the Finish Line of the MS ride is welcoming riders back. For some it’s a 100 mile ride.
Alice Aycock: http://www.aaycock.com/peastriver.html