The organizer, Transportation Alternatives, is kind of awesome and, in addition to numerous cycling advocacy activities, also stages each of the borough tours throughout the city, including the Tour de Bronx, which is totally free and happening on October 14. Don't let my disgruntled ranting about this event color your perception of TA, because I've got no beef with them.
I initially signed up for the 55 mile, and that probably would have been totally manageable, except the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind with vacation and school starting, and I haven't ridden as much as I should have, and I had no idea what was up with this course (hills? No hills? Who knows?) The night before, I decided 35 would be enough for me, so I arrived in Central Park at the 35 mile start time, 7:30.
Let me preface this by saying that TA was very clear that the course would be open to traffic. They even went so far as to say that this is preferable because one of the goals of the event is to illustrate that bikes and cars can get along, even in NYC (ha!). With that, they emphasized bike etiquette and requested that riders be cognizant of cars trying to pass the massive peletons moving through the open city streets. I should have known what I was getting into.
Anyway, the lights got old, fast, and riders weren't particularly polite, especially in Manhattan, where they generally took up the entire street and made dozens of taxis and livery car drivers very cranky. There were a lot of wobbly riders and nobody was vocal, i.e, saying "left" or "right" or whatever, which resulted in a couple of scary near-miss crashes for me when I would try to navigate around a pothole and some beach cruiser would come storming around on my right without calling out.
We went over the Brooklyn Bridge, which was generally fine, except large groups of cyclists would stop dead and clog the path to take pictures. I avoided this because I'm not that big on pictures anyway, and I could literally walk over and photograph the hell out of this bridge any day of the week, so didn't see the point. There were also some disgruntled bikers coming the opposite direction on the run side of the path, pissing off runners and bikers alike and yelling, "Mind your business!" to people who called them out. Charming!
Moving on - the first rest stop was in Prospect Park. I flatted a few blocks before the park (lots of glass, potholes, and crap in the roads will do that, especially since my tires are getting old) and fixed it. People were really cool, asking if I needed help, but I had it under control. A bike marshal eventually came and used his hand-pump to help me fill up the fixed flat, and I headed to the park. I realized that I had only hit 16 miles in over 2.5 hours, which is completely ridiculous. My average speed was only about 9 mph because of all the congestion, and then stopping for the constant red lights accounted for the rest of the time. I was incredibly frustrated by the time I made it to Prospect Park and circled around looking for the rest stop (I actually almost crashed a big Lubbavitcher party because I thought that was the stop, duh) and when I found it, I was disappointed to see no trace of a mechanic tent to help top off the air in my re-filled tire. After getting all muddy trying to refill my water bottle and eating a piece of plain bagel smeared with peanut butter, I tried to get back on course... only to find that my tire had flatted. Again.
And THAT is how I cut off the NYC Century from 55 to 35 to 15 miles (actually, it was over 16, but they advertised it as a 15 mile route) and left in such an annoyed state that I neglected to even pick up my T-shirt or water bottle. Conveniently, Tim was in Brooklyn at the same time while picking up his brother, and he came and saved me. The end. It wasn't anything physical. I felt fine, and could have easily done the next 20 miles, but emotionally I was a wreck (for some bizarro, unexplained reason - why the emotion?) and almost in tears when I finally called Tim to tell him I was done. Also, I knew the Triboro bridge was part of the route ahead, and that they wanted us to navigate stairs - on our bikes, in our bike shoes. Well, my bike shoes. There were a lot of flip-flops out there, I'm sure they were fine.
I won't be doing this ride again, not because TA did a bad job with anything - they didn't - but because I'm too much of a princess special snowflake to ride around the nasty streets of NYC with my special fancy bike. Navigating the city with red lights in full effect was just too freaking annoying, and it's something I could do any day for free, without worrying about the girl in flip-flops on a beach cruiser crashing into me. I might try it again on my mountain bike - more durable tires, slower ride so less frustrating - but probably not. Maybe the free Tour de Bronx, since it's free, but generally I'm disappointed that I put out money for this ride. Now I know.