Oleg’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation, New York Edition

On Sunday I had to drive to Brookhaven, a small town on Long Island, which meant passing by New York City. I decided to use this unique opportunity to explore Big Apple by bicycle. Something I always wanted to do but never did, despite living in Boston for 8 years and visiting New York City at least a dozen of times.

It was like a dream come true. I didn’t have a predetermined route, I parked the car in Queens and rode around, crossed Queensborough bridge, then headed for Central Park. Central Park was insane. Tons of people, runners, walkers, cyclists (most slow). I suspect new CitiBike bikeshare system contributed greatly to the number of people on bikes there. It was like navigating a constantly changing, dynamic maze of people, bikes, kids, etc.. There are lights in the park for pedestrian crossing. I stopped the first few times for red light, like an idiot, while everyone else went by me. Apparently the stop-lights in the Central Park are to be used merely as “suggestion”. Everyone ignores them, including police, and you still have to watch for pedestrians crossing the bike lanes even if you have green.

Once I have had enough of Central Park (I did a full lap and a half) I headed towards Upper West Side, then rode towards Columbia University, crossed the George Washington Bridge and rode around Palisades. It’s easy to forget how close you are to the largest metropolitan system in US – as soon as you get into Palisades, it’s almost like you are riding in rural Vermont. It’s so peaceful and deserted, with shaded trees and steep descents.

On the way back to the city I rode with a few guys from Brooklyn. They were coming back from Nyack ride, which is a 70-mile loop that every semi-serious cyclist in NYC is doing on weekend. There is just nothing else, really. I rode through Central Park and onto 7th Ave, which took me to Times Square. Riding on NYC streets, especially in wide multi-lane avenues, amongst the New York City cabs is much safer than any urban riding I did. Unlike winding streets of Boston, New York streets are straight, and unlike Chicago streets, they are wider, so you can take the entire lane. Because of “green waves” of traffic, and the fact that it is now really only cabs and buses that drive in the downtown Manhattan, you can easily go with traffic or even faster than the traffic. Then you only have to watch out for opening cab doors, other cyclists and pedestrian jaywalkers. It was a great deal of fun, even though road surfaces are quite terrible in many places.

I made it to Lower Manhattan/Tribecca area, then decided to ride across Brooklyn Bridge. I was warned not to do it, but I wanted to experience all the touristy things one can do on a bike in a single day. I wished I had my son’s bicycle bell – there were crowds of people on the bridge, a lot of them walking or wondering aimlessly right into the bike lane. Even at 5 miles an hour it was dicey. I crossed back to Manhattan, this time using Manhattan Bridge, rode around Chinatown, World Trade Center, Wall Street area and headed back to Times Square. It was getting late and quickly getting dark. Somehow I found the well-hidden entrance back to the Queensborough bridge, and was even able to locate my car without too many loops around Queens.

The next two days it was raining, but on Tuesday evening rain stopped and I got a chance to ride a little around the lab. It was good time for taking photos as the skies and the sunset made for beautiful backdrop.

The following day Andrei, a colleague scientist of mine who works at the lab, wanted to ride with me and show me some Long Island roads. Unfortunately because of work we weren’t able to leave the lab until 6PM, with sunset just before 8PM. Less than 2 hours of daylight.

Andrei is an avid athlete – he has done numerous ironman races and races on the road occasionally, in addition to having toured all over his native Romania and many parts of Europe, including baltic states. He heard me praising Ritchey Breakaway system so many times that he got a Ritchey Breakaway (road model) of his own earlier this year. Nice, two Ritchey Breakaways!

We rode out to the Northampton Beach and back – on the way back we were rushing to get to cars before it got too dark – Andrei and I set a new KOM by riding at 27mph for a ~2 mile flat section, into the wind (I had that KOM for a few days before Andrei finally joined Strava today and took it from me by 1 second!).

Andrei must have enjoyed the ride because we decided to ride together again the following morning. This time we started in Hampton Bays and rode East, towards East Hamptons and Montauk. Unfortunately he had to go turn a bit early to go to the lab for a meeting, while I continued. I didn’t make it to Montauk (would have been 90+ mile day for me and I still had to pack, check out from my hotel and a flight to catch after lunch) but I got pretty close. On the way back to the car I explored a little Dune road which was a lot of fun.

When I got back to the hotel, I packed up my Ritchey, stuffed all my clothes into the second suitcase and headed for the airport. My flight was delayed by an hour, had I known that, I could have made it to Montauk after all. I was glad to be finally back in San Diego.

New York City:

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My first of six bridge crossings today. Queensborough Bridge connecting Queens and Manhattan.

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Palisades. Just minutes from Manhattan, but makes you feel you are in rural Vermont or upstate New York.

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I rode with these three Brooklynites all the way to Central Park. They rode out to Nyack and back. Apparently this is the best and only ride for Brooklyn residents.

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Crossing George Washington over Hudson River. NYC skyline on the left. New Jersey on the right.

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I made it to New Jersey. George Washington Bridge and the NYC skyline behind me.

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Returning to the city.

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Riding down 7th Avenue from Central Park towards Times Square.

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Lots of people ride here. Not sure if these girls are on strava.

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Times Square.

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Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a zoo with so many tourists. I was one of the tourists, of course. One needs a bell here, so many people just walk into the bike lane. We rode at 5 mph through here.

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Brooklyn Bridge.

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View of the city from Brooklyn Bridge.

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Chinatown.

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World Trade Center Memorial.

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Ritchey Breakaway in Times Square.

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Central Park. The most dangerous place to ride a bike in New York City.

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Bike Lane is currently occupied.

Link to Youtube video of what it’s like to ride around Times Square and other parts of NYC.

Brookhaven:

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The rain has stopped and I decided to go for a short 1-hr spin before it got too dark.

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Sunset next to Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (on the left).

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There are lots of deer on site, they are fearless. One of the Brookhaven cyclist got seriously injured when the deer attacked him at full speed.

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Some of the very empty (and still a little wet) roads. Perfect for training.

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National Synchrotron Light Source II, or NSLS-II, a brightest source of x-rays in the United States, to become operation later next summer.

Long Island:

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We parked by this farm stand in Manorville, NY.

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Andrei got tired of me telling him how great Ritchey Breakaway is, so he got his own earlier this year.

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Andrei of Kissena Cycling on his Ritchey Breakaway, riding past one of the Northampton Mansions.

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Me, with two Ritchey Breakaways – Cross is mine, Road is Andrei’s.

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Northampton beach in the evening. Somehow I feel that there should be two “h” in Northampton. One for North, one for Hampton. But somehow there’s only one “h”.

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Trying to get back to cars before it got too dark. This photo taken after sunset. We really pushed it on the way back to get to cars before dark.

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Next day we rode in the morning. Nice shaded roads in the East Hamptons.

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Andrei leads the way.

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East Hampton beach.

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This is how you know you are in Hamptons. This is the biggest front lawn I have ever seen. Meticulously manicured. Another house not far away had a helicopter landing pad next to the driveway.

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Historic windmill.

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My Breakway at the beach.

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Sunflowers

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Time to leave Long Island. Back to San Diego.

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