cycling · fitness

Sam and Sarah’s One Boro Bike Tour, #TDFBBT

The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is 5 boros, 32,000 riders, 40 miles. It’s the first Sunday in May. Sarah and I have done it before and loved it. See here. I loved seeing the city without cars. I loved the bridges. Loved all the neighborhood music and food that was part of this celebration of cycling in New York City.

We’ve been talking about doing it again and this year we roped Jeff in. He was on his northbound, east coast boat trip and the timing was good. (Read about his boating adventures here.)

Here the three of us are walking on the Highline on Saturday in the sunshine. Thanks to my knee brace I walked 10 km. Much better than my sad trip in March. I never know what will make a difference but it was better. There’s still pain. It hurts. But I managed.

This year though the day of the Five Boro Bike Tour was forecast to be cold, rainy (the tv forecast called it “soaking rain”) and windy. We kept stopping and checking the hourly forecast hoping for a sudden change. I got all excited at one point–only 60% chance of rain–but then realized I was looking at York, England. Sigh.

I was amused by all the hemming and hawing going on the day before the big ride on social media. This meme appeared on Twitter and made me laugh.

There was also lots of this:

Here’s the actual start:

In the end Sarah and I bailed after one boro and opted for brunch instead. Jeff bailed the day before based on the forecast opting for an early return to Chicago. Sensible Jeff. Here’s our actual route that day.

See Thousands brave the rain for the Five Boro Bike Tour.

That route map above stops at brunch. I didn’t have the heart to pause and restart the Garmin for the final 3 km home! Here’s our sad wet bikes on the brunch patio. We were so cold and shivery that the restaurant staff apologized that it was too early to sell us alcohol. (I don’t drink but I could see how they might think I looked like I needed one!)

We were saying tonight that in a way we were glad that it was so miserable that it was an easy call to end it early. It didn’t feel like there was much of a choice and while I’m sorry we didn’t get to ride, I’m not sorry we chose not to ride in those conditions.

Two wet bikes on a restaurant patio
Two wet cyclists on the same patio
cycling · fitness

5 boros, 32,000 riders, 40 miles, 0 cars, and 1 great day, #tdfbbt

It’s a ride I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour. I’ve tried to talk lots of people into doing it with me but it’s a big trip for not so much cycling really. Part of the thrill for me was the thought of seeing New York on bike, with no cars. I asked Sarah (she likes New York and likes driving) and this time got a “yes.” YAY! Now I’ve done it!

Here’s the medal as proof.

What’s it all about? Here’s the official blurb:

On the first Sunday in May, 32,000 cyclists of all skill levels come from around the world to roll through every borough of New York City on streets totally free of cars. For one day, the roads are yours, the bridges are yours, the City is yours—there’s no better way to experience the Big Apple. Produced in conjunction with the City of New York, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour Presented by REI is the largest charitable bike ride in the U.S., with proceeds funding our free bike education programs. Last year alone, we taught more than 17,000 kids and adults. When you ride with Bike New York, you’re helping us in our mission to empower more New Yorkers with the skills to ride safely and confidently on city streets.

Confessions: I’ve visited New York a lot but until this visit I’d never left Manhattan. I’m usually in the city for work and so don’t get out and about enough. Or I’m there with my kids and family to see plays. So this was a new experience. The bike tour was a great way to see the city. 

Also, I’m anxious about travelling in the US these days. My opposition to Trump’s policies on immigration and visitors’ visas means that I’ve cancelled some work travel. But I’d registered for the tour ages ago. It’s not cheap and there are no refunds or cancellations. So off we went.

Impressions: It’s not for the faint of heart. So many bikes. So many people. But the atmosphere was terrific. It was relaxed and fun and full of smiling faces. I actually think Tracy would like it. There are no cars to worry about and you don’t need a road bike. It would be perfectly fine to do this ride on your everyday commuting bike.

Thousands of cyclists lined up for the 730 am start. New York looks different without cars.
Thousands of cyclists lined up for the 730 am start. New York looks different without cars.

It’s also not very fast. I think my average speed was 17 km/hr, comparable to my usual noodles on the bike paths.

The Bike Expo held for the two days before was also fun. Yes, there was a ton of stuff to buy, everything from Bromptons (drool) to all the bike gear you’d ever need. I’d say the majority of the bike clothes were pitched at women. I even bought a cycling dress. I’ll report back on it once I’ve given it a try. There was also a pretty reasonable amount of plus sized clothing for sale. Nice to see that at a cycling event! There was also a lot of bike tourism being advertised and it was great to see all the booths from Canadian destinations, a lot of them in Quebec.

There were lots of women on the ride. It was probably the cycling event I’ve done that’s had the highest proportion of women. There were also people from all over the world riding, along with local cycling clubs, and judging by the accents, lots of New Yorkers too. I loved seeing groups I’d only known of through the internet out there, like Black Girls Do Bike. 

And so many different kinds of bikes–fat bikes, ellipitical bikes, cruisers, road bikes, fixies. You name it. They were on the tour. Lots of people talked about the choice to not wear cycling shoes with clipless pedals but I thought they were fine. I was also worried about the state of the roads and my narrow road bike wheels but given that we had the entire road to choose between you could avoid the bumps if you needed to.

A highlight for me were the bridges! They were fun to ride over without cars.

I was also impressed with the vibe. Given the number of riders I thought there might be more jostling for position, more crashing. But mostly no one expected to get anywhere fast. People were pretty happy and relaxed.

That's a rear view of me, riding over the bridge. Black cycling vest, back tights, red Castelli logo.
That’s a rear view of me, riding over the bridge. Black cycling vest, back tights, red Castelli logo.

You can view the ride’s route here.

I’ve got lots of photos to share and I’ll let them tell some of our story.

We drove to New York with bikes in the back of the car and stayed at a hotel very close to the start. We were allowed to keep bikes in the room and pretty much the entire Holiday Inn was full of cyclists. Saturday we did our registration at the bike expo and dined out on Thai food with friends. The alarm went off at 5 am to start our Sunday.

Early morning pre-coffee selfie.
Donuts for breakfast! Mine was a suitable breakfast donut, oatmeal. Sarah chose pistachio.


At the start we were so surprised to meet up with Canadian friends. I knew Kim and Sarah, from London, were doing the ride, but I didn’t expect to successfully make contact. Their Canadian jerseys helped!


Here’s me riding along!


Here’s Sarah and me at the finish. (I should have left my helmet on)



We ended on Staten Island and took the ferry home (along with thousands of other cyclists). Here’s the view of Manhattan from the shore.


What I do it again? Yes!

Have you done the Five Boro Bike Tour? Did you like it? Would you do it again?