Back In the Saddle

Even before I left Cambridge, I was already investigating what sort of short bike tours I might be able to make out of NYC and beyond. And before I even found a bike to carry me, I’d already signed up for a ride. A few weeks ago, the New York City Homebrewers Guild made its second annual ride to Captain Lawrence Brewing in Elmsford, NY. Not only was it my first long ride since returning to the States, it was also my first group ride, which was a whole new biking experience.

The approach to the Manhattan Bridge. (Photo: Colleen Napolitano)

The approach to the Manhattan Bridge. (Photo: Colleen Napolitano)

I rose early to meet up with another Brooklyn based brewer, Simon, at the Manhattan Bridge. Things kicked off with a bit of a rough start, with Simon accidentally abandoning his phone at the base of the bridge and me nearly losing control of my bike after the long descent into Manhattan. Once we’d carefully navigated the tricky traffic of Canal St., we rolled on to the smooth cycling along the Hudson River, joined by two more brewers. We cruised at a quick clip, passing up the island so fast that I felt like I was counting our progress in steps of forty blocks. Though the traffic was still thick along the greenway, at least it was all moving more my speed and I wasn’t trying to simultaneously dodge potholes. Pedestrians and cyclists alike are without the benefit of a ton of metal armor.

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View of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan Bridge. (Photo: Colleen Napolitano)

We picked up three more riders just before the George Washington Bridge and another three just before crossing into the Bronx. By now our little peloton was becoming a commanding force on the pavement, and drivers were yielding us a more respectful share of the road. But just as we were exercising our newfound power, we left the roads behind and entered Van Cortland Park. A hard-packed dirt trail through the trees leads to the city limits, where Westchester County welcomed us with a paved path.

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Just as I was getting a little saddle sore and worn by hunger and thirst, we arrived at Captain Lawrence. Their offerings that day were a little less exciting than I’d been hoping, probably due to our journey falling just a week after they hosted a huge sour beer festival. Nonetheless, the beers were fresh, there was well-crafted brick oven pizza, and best of all there were plenty of talented homebrewers who I was pleased to get to know a bit better.

After sampling seven or eight beers, we started to disperse, some taking the train back and some opting to ride. I lagged behind the group that was riding back (just as well, they would’ve dropped me at their pace anyway) but elected to forego the train. I got back in the saddle to bring the total day’s trip up to 50 miles. By the end of it I was sweaty and sore. My month and a half away from daily riding seems to have robbed me of all my endurance (although I can’t say that my choice of bike, which I rented through Spinlister, was helping).

CAM00068Nonetheless I was excited to be back into it, and though I boarded the subway at the earliest opportunity, I immediately took out my phone and started once more scanning Craigslist for bikes. A month later, I’ve finally settled on one. I picked up a 1989 Specialized Stumpjumper, which I’m outfitting for touring as best as I can, hopefully retaining some of the bike’s off-road capabilities as well. It’s a terrific feeling ride, with a very comfortable riding position, smooth shifting, and even going decently fast despite the wide, knobbly tires on it (I’ve not been too daring with it since the wheels also need to be trued and the brakes adjusted and pads replaced). Hopefully more bike-borne adventures will be returning to this blog soon.

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