I am obsessed with bicycles. The obsession began when my grandfather gave me his 30-year-old Peugeot 10-speed when I was in high school, and has only intensified since then. I've done a lot of different kinds of riding- touring, long road rides, and cyclocross, although the bicycle-as-transportation is most important to me. I ride to get around almost every day, all year. I've worked as a mechanic on and off for years. In addition to riding, I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about bikes.
When I saw this task, I knew I wanted to do it, but with a twist. Although I don't consider myself a super-strong rider, I often go on road rides, and I have once or twice put in around 100 miles in a day. In addition, having a relatively light, modern road bike makes 100 miles a lot easier than for people who do not have access to that. This isn't to say that a century (as 100 miles is known as in some circles) is easy for me, but I didn't consider it interesting enough as a task.
I decided that I would do two centuries on two consecutive weekends. The first would be faster, I would be on my road bike, and would take me out of town and up the Hudson river valley on a common route for NYC cyclists.
The second would be on my fat-tire fixed gear, and would be a slower dérive that would stay within the confines of the city, and in which I would be joined in part by assorted friends.
This provided an opportunity to think about the role of bikes in my life. In truth, my obsession with bikes has become a double-edged sword. For one thing, there's a tension between my excitement over bicycle riding and my excitement over bicycles-as-objects. This obsession has led way to a level of materialism in my life that has not been as present as other times. As much as bikes are a source of freedom and movement for me, owning several bikes and the relevant gear also means that I have a lot more stuff than I have at other times, and that ties me down more than when I didn't have so much shit and it was easier to just pick up and go.
Also, cycling, particularly road cycling, entails a peculiar mechanization of the body. Bikes are often described as becoming an "extension" of the rider, but I wonder if it's not more of a case of riders becoming part of the bike. Pedal/shoe attachment systems, bike computers to track speed and distance, power meters to measure the wattage that riders put through the bicycle (a technology that I don't want and can't afford), and the whole practice of training one's body and regulating its micromovements in order to achieve higher speeds/endurance all point to a process of controlling the body in a way that alienates the "body" from the "self" and the "environment".
I think that these rides, and other trips I have done recently, have helped remind me that speed and training, although they are fine, are not really the point. I like all kinds of riding, but I think I enjoy biking the most when I can take a long time to do it, can go far slowly, and can stop for knishes along the way.
Ride 1: Faster Route Up The Hudson (To Haverstraw, NY)
This ride was done in about 8 hours (~6 of actual ride time) through Brooklyn, up the West Side Bike Path in Manhattan, and then over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey and then back into New York State along the Hudson River. The route has some decent hills, especially towards the end as it splits away from the river valley and into the mountains to the west. On the weekends, you'll see dozens of other cyclists also riding along 9W in NY/NJ.
Over the Williamsburg Bridge.
The West Side bike path. This was an unusual clear stretch, usually on a nice weekend morning it's full of other bikers, walkers, longboarders, strollers, etc.
The hill up from the river to Washington Heights. They don't call it the Heights for nothing.
The view from the George Washington Bridge.
A waterfall on the Palisades park road along the river, definitely my favorite part of this route.
The view from the 50 mile mark. I didn't take a lot of pictures on the way back because it was along the same route.
Ride 2: A Bici-Dérive in New York City
An approximation of my route. It started in Bushwick, went over into Manhattan, and then circled Brooklyn/Queens before heading into Midtown and then back home.
Following Formal Log into work in the morning (8am).
Riding behind R in Brooklyn.
A view from the docks in Red Hook, which is traditionally a shipping district in Brooklyn that was geographically severed from the rest of Brooklyn by the development of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway by Robert Moses in the post-war era.
The knish cart in Brighton Beach.
A bridge crossing some canal in southeast Brooklyn
I passed by Cunningham Park in Queens. It has really good mountain bike trails, so I rode one for shits and giggles. It was kind of hard with the fixed gear (I struck my pedal against rocks twice), but I could handle the easiest trail route.
Burritos with otter.
Back over the Polaski bridge with otter and O.
Home at 8:30pm.