Cycling in 2014

My goal for the year was to cycle around 1400 miles and I managed to ride 1236 miles, climbed 21 thousands feet, in 86.5 hours, which is pretty good even if I say so myself. I also targeted to complete two cycling events which I managed as well.

NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour

After 2+ months of preparation, I finished the NYC 5 Boro Bike Tour in May.

The Start
The Start
Last rest stop before Verrazano Bridge
Last rest stop before Verrazano Bridge
Negotiating Central Park
Negotiating Central Park

I rode with two friends and despite we were put in the last starting group we managed to get to the front of the group and had a clear, empty road all the way from lower Manhattan to Central Park, up 6th Avenue. Once we hit Central Park we were in thick traffic with almost the whole road occupied with slower cyclists. I was so focus on negotiating through the slower traffic that I did not take in enough fluid or food during the first 25 miles. Then inevitably, I hit the “wall” at mile 26 as I rode onto the Gowanus Expressway towards the Verazano-Narrows Bridge. At least I recognized the symptoms and quickly ate two energy bars along with the rest of my Skratch Labs drink, and thus avoided cramps in my legs. I slowed from the quick (18 mph) pace down to a slow, almost pedestrian (12 mph) pace until I arrived at the water station and filled my bottle up with more Skratch Labs. Then the last challenge of the ride was the climb up the Verazano Bridge which I was apprehensive before hand as I drove through that part and realized it is pretty steep. But when I hit the bottom of the bridge and the road turned up, it turned out that the climb to top of the bridge was between 6%-8% gradient which was steep but perfectly manageable in low gearing even in my condition.

Riding past Brooklyn Bridge
Riding past Brooklyn Bridge

When I arrived at the finish area, my friends who had left me behind somewhere around Brooklyn Heights were already eating delicious lunch. After I refueled on hot food and drinks, we rode to the Staten Island ferry terminal, another 5 miles down the road, and got back to Manhattan. I was very happy that I finished the ride (in 2 hours 40 minutes) without any difficulty. If I do it again, I’d take it easy and enjoy the whole route rather than speeding through it as quickly as I did.

Going back to Manhattan on Staten Island ferry
Going back to Manhattan on Staten Island ferry
Taking the Staten Island Ferry back to Manhattan
Taking the Staten Island Ferry back to Manhattan

RCDCU Bike-A-Thon for Prostate Cancer

All summer I’ve been riding with Princeton Free Wheeler cycling club during the weekend where I rode average of 40-45 miles. So the prospect of the 50 miles route for RCDCU Bike-A-Thon didn’t look daunting at all.

When I got the cue sheet after registration, I noticed the route included a well known local hill, Coppermine Road (Category 4 climb), which I failed to climb last year when I first started cycling seriously. That time I had to dismount and walked twice. I knew my fitness has improved substantially since then but not having attempt that hill since last year I was a little apprehensive, especially it comes after the midway point of the ride. Apart from this, the route is pretty much flat (as in rolling hills flat) so I wasn’t overly concerned about finishing.

RCDCU Ride - The Start

The event was a relatively small, having about 50-60 riders in total, spread out on three different routes (10 miles, 30 miles, and 50 miles). Compare to the New York 5 Boro Bike Tour which has 32000 cyclists this is like a ghost town.

I stayed at the front of the group as we departed the local school car park and we promptly got lost as no one was reading the cue sheet! We stopped and looked at the maps on our phones and got back on course without any problem, but not without adding a little extra mileage to the route. This proved to be the first of many detour I made that day.

Despite being careful to keep a moderate pace, somehow by the time I was approaching Coppermine Road, I was already feeling the fatigue in my legs. However, as I stood up to take on the first really steep part, I felt pretty good. I was going up slowly at a steady pace without overexerting myself. I crested the steep part with my heart rate below 175 bpm which was really good, meaning I was staying within my functional threshold. I stayed with the granny gear and spinner my way for the rest of the less steep climb, knowing that there was still 20+ miles to go.

5 miles later I stopped at the fire house which is the second rest stop. My legs felt ok, fatigued but I felt like I had enough to finish the remaining 15 miles. I ate the last of my energy bar, finished the remaining drink mix, and made a new bottle. I hopped back onto the bike feeling tired but optimistic about finishing the ride.

Little did I know, within 2 miles down the road my legs started getting stiff and my butt was getting sore. While I was able to keep a reasonable pace on the flat, I was struggling on any positive incline. Gravity was my friend as I coasted on any hint of downward slope. The pain from my legs and butt meant I was losing concentration. I missed a turning at a traffic light (there were sign on the side of the road as well as painted arrows on the road) because I was 100% focus on the traffic light and the car ahead of me, trying to figure out if I needed to stop or not. I didn’t notice my error until 1.5 miles later when I hadn’t seen another arrow on the road and had to turn back to retrace my route.

By the the time I got back on the route, my legs had hit the wall. I could pedal may be 20-25 meters before I had to rest which meant my butt hurt as I put weight on it. This caused me to shift around the saddle which in terms meant I needed to use my legs. I got may be 10 meters of actual rest before this cycle repeated.

I’ve been here before so I knew if I managed my energy (what little of it) right I had no problem getting back. The challenge was more of a mental one. Every uphill meant more pedaling, every turning meant slowing down which meant more pedaling to get back up to speed. I started distracting myself by composing this post in my head. I thought back on how I rode up Coppermine Road with ease.

To add insult to injury, there were 8 turns in the last 2 miles which meant I couldn’t focus my mental energy on pushing through the pain. I had to continuously reached behind in my jersey pock to get the cue sheet, read it to navigate suburbia neighborhood streets, then put it back.

Despite all these I managed to keep my speed and cadence right up until I saw the high school car park where I started 4.5 hours earlier. I coasted all the way through the deserted car park (I suspected I was one of the last few riders) and jumped right into the car and drove home without trying to see if there was a certificate or something that proved I finished the ride. I figured that my GPS/sensors data would be enough! Unfortunately, I upgraded my phone to the new iPhone 6 a few days prior and didn’t test out my cycling app. So I only have cadence/heart rate/speed data and no GPS coordinates, bummer!


Next year I may ride the 5 Boros Bike Tour again but only if I can find people to ride with at a more leisurely pace. Another event I’d like to ride in the fall will be the Bike MS in NJ which as a number of routes and one of which has a challenging climb.

And next December is my 40th birthday so I’ve started saving for a new bike. Not sure which brand/model or how (local bike shop or online), but I have 11 months to research and make up my mind.

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