Monday, April 23, 2007


Yesterday, April 22, I joined the 5BBC for a ride out to my old stomping grounds at Sunken Meadow State Park which is listed as a 75 mile round-trip. We started from Cunningham Park in Queens shortly after 8:30 AM. The trip out was lots of fun though we had an extended stop in Kings Park to fix a flat on one rider's bike (as it turned out, she had *two* punctures in the same section of inner tube though of course the second was far enough from the first that it wasn't covered by the first patch). That was when I became acquainted with the wondefully kind Richie, who not only dragged along a couple of patch kits but an impressive and -- for bicycling -- relatively heavy array of tools for repairing bicycles. Richie's not so much anticipating trouble with his own bicycle but that perhaps one of the other cyclists will need his assistance. Indeed, not only did Richie fix a flat he pulled a small tool from his large collection and made a minor repair to the front wheel of another cyclist as well. Richie's goal is just to help keep his fellow cyclists rolling. Truly, a wonderful example of chesed and with a humble manner to accompany it.

After eating our lunch on the easternmost end of the boardwalk, we headed back toward NYC with some rather tough hills. Things got somewhat confusing when we came to Round Swamp Road. Since the reality of day rides is that not everyone can keep the same pace and ride as a pack at all times, the 5BBC day rides use a "point-drop-sweep" system to supplement the directions ("cue sheet") handed out at the start of the ride. One leader rides point and another rides in the back as sweep. At turns, an experienced rider is left to give direction to those following. At Round Swamp Road, the "drop" told me to turn left and I thought I heard "turn right at the [first] [traffic] light". I rode along for a while with no traffic light in sight until after going through the Northern State Parkway underpass. At that point, I stopped to check the cue sheet which indicated a right turn on Manetto Hill Road. Since I grew up on Long Island and lived and drove there for many years (and my 2nd job was located in a Plainview industrial park off Old Country Road and I used to take the Round Swamp Road exit from the LIE and go south to the office so this area was familiar from 25 years ago), this sounded familiar but I couldn't quite recall where Manetto Hill Road was, it didn't seem to me that I remembered it crossing Round Swamp Road. I saw nobody else from the group as I kept going to the LIE. I didn't have a map with me (arrogance, relying on memory of where I used to live and work) and this seemed too far. I went back up to the Northern State underpass and still saw noone. I called my Mom who checked a map for me and after I reviewed the cue sheet with her I came up with an alternate plan.

I headed back down Round Swamp past where it joins Old Country Road. Eventually I found Manetto Hill Road, made my right turn and then found Washington. Suspiciously, the cue sheet says left on Washington but Washington was on the right. I went up Washington and found the Executive Drive intersection marked on the cue sheet. I looked at the very steep hill and decided to follow my Mom's recommendation: skip Washington, take Manetto Hill to Sunnyside instead. After stopping for refreshment and a map at a gas station on Manetto Hill, I realized that in fact Manetto Hill ends at Woodbury Road so I skipped Sunnyside, hoping to catch up to the group at the rest stop, I continued on, picked up the route at Angel Way and made my way onto the LIE North Service Road. Now I could pick up speed the route was more level with gently rolling hills and I got my pace up to 15-17 mph. I eventually got to the rest stop, where the counter clerk told me that the group of cyclists had left about an hour or hour-and-a-half before. I headed out again.

As I passed Old Westbury Road, it was getting late and I had no bike lights with me to ride at night. After pulling off the road, I checked my new Nassau County map and the cue sheet. I decided to head for the Alberton LIRR station and take the train to Penn Station. I turned down Glen Cove Road then IU Willets and soon found the LIRR station where someone waiting in his car told me the NYC train was due at 7:04. I tried to buy a ticket from the ticket vending machine with 3 different credit cards and my ATM debit card. None of them worked and I hadn't enough cash. So much for bailing and taking the LIRR.

The brief respite at the LIRR station helped me recover a bit and I was able to cycle a bit quicker as I headed west following the cue sheeet back to Cunningham Park. As I crossed New Hyde Park Road headed West on Union Turnpike, the Sun dipped below the horizon but I felt that -- though they weren't on yet -- the street lights would provide some margin of safety as it got darker. It stayed light for quite a while and I made it past Cunnigham Park and back to the F train before it really got dark.

The F train wouldn't take me home easily so I switched to the E and after changing again at 42nd St/Times Square made it to my apartment building at about 9:30 PM. A long exhausting day. But, overall, fun. Losing the group was not good though, and in the future I'll make sure to get cell phone #s so I can rejoin the group if I get separated.


After Passover, we had some nasty cold rainy days. I couldn't ride my bike and with Montauk coming up I needed to train somehow. Someone recommended that I try a spin class. I was dubious but given the rain and unseasonable cold, I decided to give it a try.

I have a membership in Eastern Athletic Clubs which I originally purchased because their facility at the Mariott Brooklyn Bridge is across Jay Street from the Metrotech campus where I work; I use it to shower and change when I bike to work. They have some additional locations all of which are much better equipped.

I tried two spin classes, one "high intensity" and one "low intensity". They were fun, and the music was great -- I haven't heard anyone playing the 80s Michael Jackson hits ("Billy Jean", "Thriller") in a long time and there were even better songs. None of the ultra-modern "Techno" or "House" that I can barely listen to (I wonder if my parents felt the same about ELP, ELO, and Yes much less the artists like Jethro Tull I added to my tastes in far my daughters like listening to their Daddy's old ABBA and Moody Blues tapes when they're not singing the latest choral pieces from school). Most importantly, I feel I got a decent workout in 45 minutes and some good stretching techniques as well. The main issue in regards training for cycling is that while I rarely stand on my pedals for more than a few pedal strokes as I get moving from a full stop, both classes had a lot of standing "climbs" (turn the resistance knob up).

I did like the variety of the Wednesday "medium intensity" class whose insructor is more of a mountain biker so he had us simulating jumps. While it has you standing on your pedals rather than sitting, its different from a standing climb in two key aspects: you don't turn up the resistance and you are bent forward over the handle bars. Of course in a *real* jump on a real mountain bike you'd also pull the front wheel up. I'd never tried jumps, since I don't do off-road riding.

Spinning class seems only useful as a fall-back when I can't ride outdoors. There is of course no breeze from your motion and a room full of people spinning away gets quite warm. Most of all, it just doesn't have the right mix to train one for real cycling on a real bicycle up real hills. I will continue to use spinning class here and there because its fun once a week anyway and has some overall cardiovascular training benefit -- and some leg strength benefit too.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Training for Montauk

Well, I've been riding to work. Weather very tricky -- cold morning, warmer late afternoon. Fortunately, I have room for all my gloves and bicycle clothes in the pannier along with my regular clothes, though the pannier definitely is bulging with all that stuff in it.

I got a Team One Family jersey the other day from Sammy Zack. The day was quite nice and warm so I wore it that evening -- and the temperature at 7PM was cold. I thought I would get warmer after crossing the Brooklyn Bridge but while Chambers St. was a bit better the West Side Greenway was quite cold. Its a nice jersey but its not realiably warm enough to wear it.

Last Sunday, April 1, I joined the 5 Boro Bike Club (5BBC) on one of their Montauk training rides. We met at 9 AM at Columbus Circle and then headed uptown to the George Washington Bridge and over the south path (which closed for construction the next day through June 2; now cyclists and pedestrians have to share the north path with its stairs instead of ramps). I managed to get through the fairly hilly ride through suburban NJ to the Westwood Pancake House. While I was not the slowest up the hill, those who were slower were also at least ten years older. Though they were on road bikes and I'm still riding my "hybrid" Gary Fisher Tiburon ATB frame with road tires (though not slicks) I was still barely 1 mph faster up the big long hill -- and at least 3 mph slower than the rest of the group.

The next day, Monday erev Pesach I managed to get time in the afternoon to ride up the West Side Greenway to the area under the George Washington Bridge down by the river. The "Little Red Light House" section is still under construction, no idea what they're up to but they've been at it since at least last summer. This is a mostly flat run though its got that tricky on-road connector at 135th st going out onto the street and around Fairway to the new bike path built last year outside the sewer plant. Its a very nicely built path and i was pleased to see that it has been maintained, with some walls put up to keep the hill from sliding onto the path and last year's slides cleaned up.

At this time, my odometer is 205.39 miles (effectively, all the miles I've done this season) 10.8 mph average speed (37.3 maximum, achieved on one long steep downhill in NJ on Sunday, bent over as flat as I could get; managed to get most of the way up the next hill coasting n that one) which I rode in a total of 18:56:26 hours (i.e. 18 hours 56 minutes 26 seconds). I mentioned my relatively low average speed to some folks on the ride and they assured me that since most of my miles are commuting in Manhattan I'm doing pretty well. Its true that riding to work across Chambers street I have to stop at least every other block for the traffic light and even if I sprint up to 18 mph mid-block I soon have to come to a complete stop then wait and accelerate back up. I probably make an average 5 mph across Chambers.
Going home at night is better I only stop once usually and then again waiting to cross West Street to the Greenway.

Now that it is shortly after 10 AM and I'm off to ride around Central Park. Weather report says 34 degrees. I'm going to wear my winter jePublishrsey and my long sleeve jersey and of course my insulated bib tights. This afternoon is my LASIK surgery no more riding outside for a week.