Archive for October, 2013

Back on the Bike, Y’all!

This morning I awoke early for a ride in Central Park before going to work. Normally, that’s not a big deal, but other than a brief ride to test out some new gear, I haven’t been on the bike for over a month. This wasn’t the plan, but between illness, travel and an impending move…

2013-10-17 07.33.09It was cool and foggy as I was preparing to get started. At 60F it wasn’t bad and I’d normally go with a summer jersey, but after my illness I wanted to stay warm. And I had a great new long sleeve GFNY jersey just waiting to get on the bike with me, so long sleeve it was. And it was a good choice. First, it never warmed up. Second, it rained a bit on the ride. Third, and most important, this jersey is really comfortable! I was warm from the start and as my body warmed up from activity, I never felt too hot (and that was a definite concern.) The jersey was definitely “breathing” and I really appreciated it.

From where I live (for another week, anyway) I enter the park in the middle of Harlem Hill, so it’s an immediate effort. But being fresh, that small bit of hill always feels nice. My concern this morning was that I’d be sluggish from the time off. Instead, I powered up that part of the hill, around the park 3+ times, and felt terrific! It wasn’t a day meant for PR’s (although I actually got a few) but a day to appreciate that any ride can be a great ride.

Since it was dark and wet when I entered the park, the flashing red lights zooming around the loop were in full force. And since my first lap was pretty slow, plenty of those lights went zooming by as well. But during the second lap, right around 7:15 AM, I noticed that the lights had practically disappeared even though it was still dark. “Oh, right, shift change!”

Overall, it was a great ride. Even after the time off, it was just like riding a bike.

Can CitiBike save the Millennials?

You’ve seen them all over the city – the Millennials with their heads in the phones, never looking up, never making eye contact. For the most part, they magically take one step to the side as you approach, as if they have some kind of radar. And, yes, they occasionally walk into things as well. But one thing is for sure – they are not taking in their surroundings. They are on a destination mission and their phone is either mapping them there or simply a distraction along the journey. Technology has swallowed their attention.

I like to compare this to the Emerson quote, “life is a journey, not a destination.” For the Millennials, this couldn’t be more false.

But I think that an invention of the modern city will help to save them from their technology (and themselves.) This invention? CitiBike NYC.

I watch as several zombie drones, phone held at the familiar angle around chin high, approach the CitiBike docking station. The put the phone away, methodically use their fob to unlock the bike and sleepily adjust the seat height as if still in a trance. But then, as they mount the bike, something magical, almost unheard of, happens – they look up!

From this moment until they reach their destination, their only distractions are the obstacles of the city streets. But these are experts at navigation without sight, so they don’t need to look at the streets. Instead, they look up! They look at the people on the sidewalk, they make eye contact with the produce delivery guy and, dare if I say, they look at the buildings and the rest of the city around them. For perhaps the first time, well, ever, they see the buildings, the architecture, the people and parks for what they really are. Why? BecauseĀ they look up!

It’s pretty amazing that a simple thing like a new mode of commute can force an entire generation to see the world around them in a new way. And for this, if nothing else, we must thank CitiBike NYC for its contribution to our culture.

If only there were a CitiWalk NYC sidewalk system that forced this same behavior…

 

Just What is a Gran Fondo?

gf logoThere’s no single website. There’s no overseeing body. There isn’t even a truly formal definition of a Gran Fondo. So what is a Gran Fondo? Here’s what I’ve learned in my own research and from speaking to participants and organizers of various Gran Fondos in the U.S.

Literally translated using a tool like Google Translate, “gran fondo” is Italian for “great fund.” Yeah, that’s not really helpful. But loosely translated it is commonly referred to as “great endurance” and that certainly makes sense. If nothing else, any Gran Fondo ride should be a ride of great endurance. And from various sources, it would seem that the minimal requirements for a Gran Fondo are a distance of 100+ miles, challenging hills, a timed component and riders having the right of way.

That last one is curious since I originally thought all Gran Fondo rides required closed roads. And after riding the Gran Fondo NY (GFNY) earlier this year, I was pleased to find fully closed roads to the riders. But then I noted that other Gran Fondos I rode or looked into didn’t have closed roads, or even give riders the right of way.

It’s a shame that there isn’t universal oversight for usage of the term Gran Fondo, and even worse that potential participants aren’t always sure what they are getting. In the end it’s important to be sure that you are getting what you pay for – and closing roads or giving riders the right of way is what really costs a lot when planning a supported ride. If you are looking for the best experience, be sure that you are paying for at least the right of way. There’s nothing wrong with supported rides that don’t provide this, but those rides shouldn’t cost more than $100. When you pay more, you should get more. And right of way or, better still, fully closed roads is what the higher price of admission should get you.