Monday, May 7, 2012

The NYC Five Boro Bike Tour: Third Time's a Charm

Yesterday, my son and I again rode in the NYC Five Boro Bike Tour. This father-son family tradition began in 2009 when Eli was just 9 years old. That year, we braved Biblical rains as we passed countless middle-aged riders pushing bikes up hills and taking advantage of the bail-out option at mile 25. "No stopping," he said at the time. Now that he's 12, a few things have changed. For one, he's using an actual geared bike (with 3 chain rings!) - we look for creature comforts as we age, don't we? 

In this, the tour's 35th year, 32,000 riders again descended on the city in search of adventure. This event, while thrilling for many, was becoming known as the "Five Boro Bike Walk," so drastic measures were necessary. This time, the organizers chose to send out starters in three waves rather than just one. As a result, we experienced absolutely no bicycle traffic along the way, even at the typical bottle necks.

Eli, or "Squeaky Magee" as he came to call himself, was riding his mother's Trek mountain bike which could have done with a little additional lube. We saw lots of commuter bikes, many with rusty chains and some with odd modifications, like the rear rack-mounted handlebar bag that I could not quite figure out or the full suspension mountain bike with the high rise handlebars. I also saw a few old Detours bags here and there, but never when I seemed to have ready access to my camera, so I have no pictures to share. None of these bags was as cool as the two I was sporting that day anyway. My Sodo handlebar bag has really grown on me as a place to store food, gear and gadgets all within easy reach.

One of my son's many great qualities is his determination to stick with something once he's started. He was very happy, for instance, to find out that we did not need to stop at the first or second rest areas. Why waste time, he reckoned? This steady forward motion enabled us establish a new family record with a sub-4 hour finish. Done before noon? What do we do with ourselves?

The final 3-mile stretch from the festival to the Staten Island ferry was predictably relaxing up until the final 1/4 mile when the two of us became separated as riders started funneling into the ferry staging area. Images of 19th century steerage popped into my mind and I may have been humming the theme to Titanic as I weaved through the crowds looking for my son. As luck would have it, we found each other before too long, but he is now using this as leverage to get a cell phone. Can't really argue with him there.

Here'a time-elapsed video of the entire tour in under two minutes.

Next up: A return to randonneuring with the Princeton 300K this Saturday.


  1. Sub-4-hour finish at age 12? What a kid!

  2. Congrats!! I have to make this happen next year in my family!

  3. I came down to NYC with my bike last year to ride the 5 Boro Bike Tour - didn't make it this year. I'd love to do it with my kids, but they're not quite old enough yet. Maybe we'll do the trailer bike.

  4. Yes - it was a great day! The impact of the changes that the organizers made to ease bike traffic were very noticeable throughout the day. It was like a whole different event than last year. I kept looking for crowds and never saw them.

  5. Father-son biking tradition, what a wonderful thing! Continue enjoying your cycling adventures!