This great, mysterious, yet alluring melting pot we call Manhattan has unlimited potential when it comes down to how many things one can accomplish in a day. Corners of streets filled with festivals, parades, impromptu sidewalk performances. Welcome to the The Five Boro Bike tour sponsored by TD Bank, one of the most anticipated events of the year.
First, let us start with the epic two day expo filled with infinite rows of people, bikes, helmets, tasting stations and interactive activities that are perfect for the entire family. Should your bike need a little tuning, or if you are interested in attending brief safety seminars on how to maintain caution while biking – this is the place to be!
Athletic oriented local businesses, including Team in Training, who specialize in combining groups to participate in Triathlons and marathons to help raise money to for Blood Cancer Research; and bike related vendors converge for two days by the South Street Seaport to cater to everyone’s needs related to biking.
This year, amongst the array of booths, Cabot, a pioneer in the dairy business, stood out as a personal favorite. They had an epic, grand sized barrel, attempting to capture the title for the world’s largest smoothie- and they did.
Here is how it works: A huge, low seated bike awaits its next host and once you sit, a blender is placed in-front of where the handle bar would normally appear, then you spin away, activating the blender to spin. Five minutes later, the blender is removed, and the staff pours into the the larger than life barrel in the corner of the booth. Then you get a sticker for contributing, and make way for new people to join in the excitement.
After a while, samples are given out for tasting, and a small $1 donation is required and the process continues all day. Other mini events included taking pictures with the beautiful Gran Fondo trophy- an additional sponsor to the Bike Tour.
6:45 am is the beginning of an awesome ride. We are lined up by the main entrance by White and Church street in lower Manhattan along with close to forty thousand other bicyclists – yes this is true.
After the National Anthem and a few other pre-event journeys, motivational events, the countdown begins, the music amplifies, pyrotechnics and hot blazes erupt, followed by loud sirens- signaling us that is time to go. Cyclists wearing ballerina tutus, bright flowers, mohawks, wigs, sombreros and funky designs on their bikes take off around the corner and head Uptown on 6th Avenue.
After a beautiful ride through Central Park, the first stop on the tour is Harlem, where we are greeted with outstanding melodies from the Harlem Baptist Church. The road levels and we enter Bronx for a quick two miles, back into Manhattan via FDR Drive.
After passing Gracie Mansion, we cross over the East River via the Queensboro Bridge heading into the first major rest stop in Astoria. Once refreshed, the tour continues onto Brooklyn via the Pulaski Bridge passing the Brooklyn Navy Yard and small well known and frequently visited neighborhoods -Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
After that we ride under the Brooklyn Bridge, onto the BQE and a bountiful down-hill riding through the Belt Parkway as we prepare for the last remaining miles on the tour to enter the Verrazano Bridge. Most people seem tired as they push their bikes onto the bridge for a two-mile, infinite uphill climb, however, the energy remains the same- let’s ride it out so we can arrive at Staten Island for the fun that awaits.
Once on a flat surface, this is where it all matters to give it everything you have left. Music, and cheers, echo down from under the bridge helping with extra motivation. After the final corner, victory is served – the end of the forty five mile bike tour around NYC. There are clowns, music bands playing, free massages and pictures courtesy of TD Bank, food, beverages and post-ride supplements.
Who would have thought an event starting with 250 participants in 1977 with the end destination to Queens has expanded to this magnitude. At our current status, 40,000 people, five boroughs explored and conquered on a bike in Gotham City can help makes us even prouder to be a New Yorker.
I hope to see you there next year!
By: Laura M. Artis