Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Bronx, The Ocean, and A Bridge

I should probably start by warning you that the title of this post is somewhat misleading.  But never fear.  All will reveal itself in good time (and probably not be worth the build up I'm currently giving it).

Since my last blog entry three weeks ago, I had been sick and got very little riding in.  I had been hoping to ride the 40 mile Tour de Bronx, but was getting quite worried that I wasn't going to be healthy enough in time.  Last Friday (four days ago), I was finally well enough to get back on the bike and got almost 17.5 miles commuting to and from work.  This was by far not the fastest ride I have ever done, but both the morning and afternoon rides themselves went well.

As it is now fall and daylight savings time has not yet ended, I start out my commutes in the dark.  About half way into my Friday ride, the sun was finally coming up and I stopped to get a picture of the sunrise.

The sun rising over the Long Island Sound.

When I got of my bike to take a picture, I realized how quiet it was.  All I could hear was the ocean. I enjoyed it enough that I took a short (10 second) video where really the only interesting thing is the sound.

Short video where you can hear the ocean.  Corny, but I like it.

A few posts ago, I mentioned a technique called bridging.  This is basically where I plant my shoulders against the rear of the seat and lift my butt off of the seat while pushing on the pedals.  This technique allows me, for a  short period of time produce a lot of power and either really zoom ahead if I am riding on a flat bit of road or zoom up short but very steep hills.

This is a technique that many recumbent riders use.  Reading about it, it sounds like this is usually done on bicycles with a lower seat angle than I have on my Sofrider - I have heard you need an angle of 30 degrees from horizontal or less (my Sofrider angle is closer to 45 degrees). While I was on my commute ride, I realized that when I am bridging, I am also pushing myself up against the handlebars.  

The reason this is relevant is that unlike upright (err.. regular) bicycles, on most recumbents they are not designed to support much stress on the handle bars at all.  Cruzbikes, because they are front wheel drive that have the bottom bracket (where the pedals are attachted) that swings with the front wheel, have handlebars that can sustain much more force.  Without well braced handlebars, I wouldn't be able to bridge on a rear wheel drive recumbent.

Back, to our regularly scheduled blog entry,  I hadn't gotten the miles I would have wanted for the last three weeks, but the ride went well enough that I thought I was ready for the Tour de Bronx on Sunday (two days later).

One of  the 'Bent Rider Online Forum readers, Pat, posted about the Tour de Bronx and organized a meeting for recumbent riders. One difference about this ride compared to others I have done in the past is that the start and the end of the ride were not at the same place.  Pat was clever enough to tell everybody to park at the end.  So following his directions, I was at the meeting point with by bike put back together and ready to go with 30 minutes to spare.  The weather was cool and it was drizzling slightly.  The rain stopped completely within 30 minutes and never came back.

I was the first recumbent rider there, but most definitely not the last.  The second to arrive also lives in Norwalk (how's that for a nice coincidence!).  Within 30 minutes, I saw more recumbent bicycles in one place than I have ever seen before in my life.  Long wheel base recumbents, short wheel base recumbents, some with under seat steering.  There was even a family that showed up where the teenage sons rode mountain bikes and the parents rode tandem recumbent.

We left the parking lot as a group around 9:30, arrived at the start around 10:15 where we had to pick up our event numbers.  The start was so busy that we got separated.  A handful of us found each other and were (almost) ready for the start at 10:30.

Andrew and I rode the Bloomin' Metric Century in May, this was the most bicycles I ever saw at one place. We were also impressed at how homogeneous a group of people were riding that event.  Almost everybody was fully spandexed, riding a road bicycle where I estimated that the average bike there probably cost around $2,000.

The Tour de Bronx was much more heterogeneous, both in terms of the racial make up of the event, but also in terms of the bicycles.  There were many many fully spandexed riders here on nice road bikes.  Unlike the Bloomin' Metric, I saw several folding bicycles, a lot of fixed gear bicycles, a few pre-teen children riding mountain bikes with knobby tires, and even a BMX bicycle with 20" wheels and no gears.  Most bicycles seemed to be working fine, but the average bicycle price was well less than the Bloomin' Metric.  And where as the Bloomin' Metric Century was capped at 2,500 riders, this news paper sets the attendance at more than double at 6,000 riders.  There were several places where I was not able to ride as quickly as I would have liked because it was so crowded.  The atmosphere of this event was unlike that of any I have yet ridden.

A view of the first rest stop.

At about 14 miles (including our trip to the start), we got to the first rest top. It was crazy busy, but there weren't problems getting food.  Pat knew about a "secret toilet"; otherwise it would have taken 30 minutes just to visit the facilities.  I was supposed to meet the rest of the recumbent riders outside the rest area, but I lost them and continued on by myself.

During the ride, the sun came out in full force. In between the first and second stop, I pulled over in some woods to change my pants into shorts and remove two long sleeve shirts.  I was very well served having my Camelbak water bladder attached to my bicycle.

The route for this tour (as you can see below) really was all over the Bronx.  It was nice getting back to City Island (to where Andrew and I rode in April).

The Tour de Bronx Ride.  Since I started recording in the parking lot, the start and the stop are the same on my recording, which was not true of the actual ride.

As the ride progressed, the population of bicycles got thinner and thinner.  At the beginning of the ride, the police closed several streets and were directing traffic to allow the hoards of bicycles through.   Several spectators came out to cheer us on our way, and as usual, children really enjoyed seeing my recumbent bicycle - when we were a group of recumbents the reaction of the crowd was often quite lively.  After the third rest stop, the marshals that had been ever-present became quite rare indeed.  Within a mile after the last stop, the group of bicycles I was with no longer knew where to go and we were officially lost.  Between miles 43.5 and 44.5, I rode up a large hill (yes, they do really exist in the Bronx), just to realize that that wasn't the right way and to ride back down.

Because my GPS records a path of where I had been and because Pat was ever so clever (thanks Pat!) to tell us to park at the end, I effectively had a very good compass to help me get back to my car. At mile 45, with another rider following me, we came across a large steep hill.  She stopped at the bottom to walk up; I rode up 1/3 of the way before I quit.  The hill was definitely climbable, but I was tired enough that I just didn't want to push it.

A few miles before the end, I picked up a group of a half a dozen riders who were also lost relying on my GPS to get us back.  We made it back largely without incident, although I'm willing to believe that the official route would have been on much less busy streets.  I'll be curious to see if I can find the GPS track from somebody who rode the ride correctly so I can compare it to mine to see where (and how badly) I got it wrong.

As promised, I've covered everything the title of the post said I would, albeit not necessarily as expected.
It was a long three weeks getting over my cold.  I'm not completely better, but I'm much better off and very glad that I was able to ride "the tour."