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Friday, November 4, 2016

My Bicycle Part IV

In 2003, I moved back up to Hells Kitchen to 50th Street between Ninth and Tenth Ave. The place was gentrifying nicely since my former days in 1981. I had a backyard to store my bike and as I found I spent more time on it, I needed to upgrade. That was when I went to a local bike shop on Ninth Ave and met a rider who had done some riding in France and knew bikes. He set me up with my current Cannondale Six and had maintained it ever since for me. This was when I started doing some serious riding, joined the NYCC bike club and went on road trips with them and started doing centuries more regularly. I got a teaching job up on 102nd Street and would often ride my bike to school and back instead of taking the subway. I was closer to the George Washington Bridge and spent every weekend in NJ riding up to West Point or just along the river. I was still learning how to ride a bike.
Riding in NYC was an intense experience because of the number of people on foot, in vehicles, and on bikes. It kept me constantly vigilant. People cross any street any where on the block whenever they want to, which makes them a constant road hazard. They look for vehicles not bikes, so they don’t stop even in crosswalks against the light, which was why many bikers in the early days carried whistles and used them. In time the whistles became useless. NYC is a pedestrian city and all bikers must recognize that. I preferred riding on the left side of the road, away from the side where buses drove. They don’t care about anything except getting to the bus stop, their domain. Cabs are always a menace as they care only for their fare and tip, not bikers. The next hazard about cabs is that the passenger rarely looks before opening a door and often as the cab is coming to a stop. Getting “doored” is not fun. It happened to me once and never again. Trucks always provided pause as they were concerned for one thing, the delivery and they didn’t own the truck. They parked wherever they wanted causing constant problems. Oddly enough, other bikers could be a problem especially if they don’t communicate. The bike messengers were the worst, though more often than not the better bikers on the road, but they broke all the rules making it difficult for the rest of us on bikes as they blew through crosswalks and in between crossing traffic. The delivery bikes were the worst as they always went the wrong way on streets and avenues. I had my biggest issues with delivery bikes, especially when I was walking, and in many cases when shocked by them going the wrong way I’d have to push them to save myself and when on a sidewalk I wouldn’t move. They were the bad guys of biking. My favorite riding was on weekends when the normal New Yorker is calmer and the city was filled with tourists who observed the rules of the road. That made traveling on any of the avenues a fun ride as I could get my speeds up and go the entire length without hitting a light. I also found myself riding more down the middle of the road with the traffic than on either side. On good days, I was going with the traffic or faster, which made it very safe.
I had many different kinds of locks so that I could get off the bike and go in to someplace to enjoy myself. Locking a bike in NYC is an art. When done well, the bike was there when I returned. I’ve seen many bikes locked up, missing a seat, a tire, or both tires. Thieves would take whatever they could as a prize. I never lost anything.
In February 2012, I retired and moved to Maryland on the Eastern Shore near Assateague Island. I found the flat roads fabulous. I spent my first year riding every day. I was doing centuries every two weeks while a fifty or sixty-mile ride was the norm. In that first year I did four organized centuries in addition to my own rigorous riding regimen. I got into watching the Tour de France every July and learned so much about riding. Now I have a Scamp trailer and travel around the country with my two bikes. The road bike to enjoy the Colorado mountains, the Road to the Sun in Glacier, roads all along the Great Lakes and the California coast while the mountain bike gets me around the parks and along the carriage paths of Acadia. The mountain bike was my main form of transport in NOLA for Jazz Fest, while morning rides found me along the Delta of the Mississippi south of English Turn from my St Bernard campsite for my daily twenty-mile ride. Now I have restricted my rides to twenty miles every day for an hour and fifteen-minute exercise regimen, except when I cut the grass, which takes me two and a half hours. I can’t ride and cut the grass on the same day. Tried that once and suffered for a day.
In 2010, I had a TIA stroke, which was a surprise and a wakeup call. It happened after a sixty-mile ride and the doctor believes I was stricken by some cholesterol that broke away and affected the back of my brain and vision. Bike riding was crucial in my recovery and eventual easing off the medicine as exercise and diet have been very important for me in my retirement. Today at sixty-seven, I’m a stronger and more active man then I would have expected. My doctor is very happy at where I am in regards to my health and that is very important as I now turn my attention to my grandchildren. It is all about maintenance of the bike and my body. My bicycle is very important to me.

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