23rd Annual Tour de Bronx

Here it is, Monday morning and I am sore. The good kind of sore. Feels like I worked hard over the weekend, something a good stretch will address. Part of this beautiful weekend consisted of attendance of the Far Hills Hunt, a series of horse races, but mainly a social gathering where one stands for hours on end, imbibing and taking in very little racing. The other day was spent riding around the Bronx. With clear skies and temperatures in the mid 70s, it would have been a travesty to not spent most of the weekend outside.

While Sunday morning didn’t start too early, it felt early. It took a while to get our bikes in shape for the ride, but we were on a 4 train uptown by 8:30 AM, sadly it was a local making about 30+ stops before our destination, 161 Street – Grand Concourse in the Bronx. We were able to grab some seats and situate our bikes out of the way for the ride. A few other cyclists were spotted on subway platforms as we inched closer to the Bronx. Adair texted our two friends that were to meet us at the event and who actually informed us of this free ride. It appears they were slightly behind us, so we would be the first to arrive and assess the sign in situation.

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4 Train towards Woodlawn

The Tour de Bronx is touted as the largest free cycling event in New York State. There are two ride lengths, 25 mile and 40 mile route options. We opted for the longer ride that was to take off first, roughly at 10:15 AM. The line to grab bibs was absolutely massive, weaving up, down and up again on a single city block then looping around an entire city block before crossing the street and heading back up another full city block. The event had an alleged 6,000 participants, most of which seemed to have arrived just before we did a block from the quiet Yankee Stadium.

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Yankee Stadium off in the distance

The line moved slowly, but steadily. One gentleman put things into perspective for any impatient riders, “This is a free ride in the Bronx. Any time you mention something is free and in the Bronx, there is going to be a line!”. Our time in line allowed us to chat up our neighbors, stretch and take in some amazing people watching. There was no short supply of riders of all ages, shapes and sizes, dressed in a wide array of outfits with some unique bikes. A few individuals captured the Halloween spirit and had balloon animals of ghosts or witches attached to the tops of their helmets. Good thing it was not a windy day as I imagine that could produce a bit of drag.

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Small dog wearing a helmet in front basket

Just as we reach the halfway point in the line, the race is off! Hundreds of riders pass us by at a crawl. Some deciding to walk the first 100 yards or so before enough space was available to get on the saddle. At this point the line begins to move rapidly. The wait was in part of a slow registration process, but most likely not enough space at the starting line. Before we know it, we have our race bibs in hand and cue sheet for the 40 mile trek. There is plenty of space for us to ride and we take off. Nearly all of the route was open to traffic, but NYPD did a fantastic job of directing traffic and steering us in the right directions. Directional arrows were spray painted throughout the route to guide us as turns came up quickly and not all intersections were clearly signed.

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Beginning of race down Grand Concourse

Pace was slow due to the sheer volume of riders. It thinned out a bit once the routes split off from each other and we were then able to pick up speed. The ride was pretty amazing, it took us through parts of the Bronx I had never visited, such as City Island, Orchard Beach, Riverdale, Throgs Neck and Woodlawn. IMG_20171022_131820It constantly amazes me that New York’s boroughs can range from the expected urban landscape, to a suburban feel with single family homes and lawns, to even have beach communities. A gentleman offered to take a photo of Adair and I in City Island on one of the less picturesque beaches in our journey.Sadly the extra time he spent framing the photo could not avoid his finger making the image. We would later make some decent climbs in and around the Woodlawn Cemetery (absolutely gorgeous and timely with the pending holiday) and winding roads around Manhattan College and Van Cortland Park.

Another amazing aspect of this day was the fact that the event was completely free. Nearly every 10 miles of the ride had rest stops, with water, snacks and plenty of volunteers making the process run as smoothly as possible. The amount of police assisting throughout the route was also adequate and necessary. The end of the ride took us into the Bronx Botanical Garden where free Domino’s, beverages and live music awaited us. Bikes and bodies appropriated most of the lawn space where people rested their weary bones. We ate our fill and got our free t-shirts. Did I mention there were free t-shirts?

Adair and I ended up riding another 16 or so miles home through the Bronx and along the Hudson River Path. The day isn’t all wonderful. One casualty of the road occurred as I attempted to tighten my cycling shoe and snapped a cord that tensions the show around the ankle. I have no idea if I can fix my 3 year old shoes that just got me across the country or if I need to replace them. Whenever they go I will look into having them bronzed. This was common in the 40s and 50s, not sure what the cost would be for a size 12 in 2017…

All in all, it was a wonderful experiencing touring the Bronx and will be an event I look forward to each year. For another free ride, please join the morning of November 5 for the unofficial NYC Marathon Ride.

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