Manhattan by Bike

the-geekFrom the reasoning of the Dawg name to the best comic book authors, from the history of the Hot to a timeline of industrial music, Cory has the trivia, and the opinions to mouth off about it.

It’s pretty well established that we think riding a bike is fun, though I have noticed that many feel riding across town is more a chore than something fun to do.
First off, these people are mistaken. Riding in a city environment is a blast. “Playing in traffic” is a new way to approach cycling. Secondly, these people have never ridden in New York city. Riding in NYC is not like riding wherever you live… unless you live in NYC.

More cars. More people. More buildings. More, more, more. More is what makes NYC one of the coolest cities in the world, and ironically enough, it’s what makes cycling safer than other places. There’s not only more cars, there are more bikes. Car drivers are used to seeing bikes, and that makes all the difference. They may not give you a wide berth, but they’re not surprised by bikes in the street.

My first foray into NYC cycling was with the guys from NYC Velo, our shop in the East Village. My bike hadn’t arrived yet, but they lent me one of their rental Humuhumu-nukunuku-apua’a, and we rode 2- some odd blocks into the shadow of the Empire State Building for coffee. Pedaling in traffic up 1st Ave with three other cyclists at a fairly leisurely pace was a total culture shock to me as a cyclist. We weaved through four and five lanes of traffic casually, and not once were we honked at. This was my first lesson. You can change lanes, take a lane, ride alongside a car as much as you want, and as long as you don’t impede a car’s travel, they won’t mind. Riding back down to the East Village involved some of the Broadway bike path, which was awesome when it wasn’t overrun with pedestrians.
After that my own bike arrived, and while I’d miss the big cushy tires and BMX feel of the Humu, my neon pink Major Jake was ready for action. Mustache bars, a 42×17 gear, and some flat-protected 32s that just wanted to go fast were great for the grand island of Manhattan.
I first took it from Harlem to Inwood, which is a much hillier ride than lower Manhattan, and with narrower streets. Nothing too bad except for the 10 lb lock in my messenger bag. From there I headed the length of the island along the Westside Greenway, a protected bike/pedestrian path that runs the Western edge of Manhattan. It was… boring. It was safe, there were no cars, but there wasn’t that frenetic energy that NYC is all about to me. Coming back up to Harlem from the East Village on 3rd Ave was a blast, and I couldn’t help compare it to mountain biking, except with cars that move instead of stationary trees.
New York is a City everyone should visit, and there’s a million things to do. But if you go and don’t ride a bike, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Just bring a big lock.

7 thoughts on “Manhattan by Bike

  1. Bryan Malley says:

    That looks like a pretty awesome experience Cory. I guess in a city full of drivers that are expecting bikes to be all around them helps but I can’t help but think about visitors driving through town, or a driver who is on a cell phone or one who drops a donut on the floor and bends down to reach for it. I know I’d still be pretty cautious and a bit scared.
    Never the less, I am definitely envious of what you experienced. Sounds like you had a lot of fun!

  2. marc says:

    I don’t know if I would say “safer.” My wife works with 50 people in Brooklyn. Out of those 50, a handful are avid cyclists. Out of that handful I know of 2 hospital trips from cycling in the city over the last year and half.
    That being said, there is a certain beauty in riding among traffic and being considered a player, not an obstacle. The parts of Europe that I have riden in have the same vibe. Certainly is fun.

  3. Sparky says:

    Nice write-up Cory!
    I rode a Humu through the city streets of Chicago and it was a BLAST!
    I also rode a Humu through the city streets of Vegas and almost died. A couple of times. Biking around Vegas sucks in so many ways but you still get a huge adrenaline rush and who doesn’t love that?!?!
    I would like to give NYC a try one of these days but when it comes down to it I think I am more of a tree-dodger than a car-dodger at heart =)

  4. Robortion McStankles says:

    Was it equal to or greater than riding on Clayton road?

  5. cory says:

    I’d have to say it was a lot more fun than riding on Clayton Road. Probably safer, too!

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