Scheduled Mileage: 12
Actual Mileage: 13.3
Average Speed: 13.2 mph*
Max Speed: 24.3 mph
*Includes city street speed average
Random Notes to Self:
- Love the smooth, wide roads in Central Park (click here for a map).
- Hate pedestrians who start crossing the street before the light turns red; even worse - I am one of those.
- Need to remember to carry tissues; my nose begins to run on the longer rides; will my nose ever get used to this?
- Noticed a tendency to prefer clipping in first with my right foot and clipping out first with my left; will practice the opposite on my next ride.
- Good to keep my helmet on when "wearing my bicycle like a purse" while climbing the four flights of stairs to my apartment - for when the saddle knocks me in the back of the head.
The beautiful weather brought out all sorts of people. I followed the bicycle lanes from the Merchants Gate at Columbus Circle, looping south of Heckscher House and headed north on the west side of Wollman Rink. At the 65th Street Transverse Road, just below Sheep Meadow, I merged onto East Drive and pedaled east of The Mall, passing between the Loeb Boathouse and the Conservatory Pond.
After Cedar Hill, I crossed over the 79th and 86th Street Transverse Roads that border the south and north edges of The Great Lawn. And I was once again struck by how small Central Park became from the seat of my bicycle. Again, I had to battle urges to stop and take photos. By the time I passed the entrance to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir at East 90th Street, I was barely two miles into my ride and running out of daylight fast.
I hopped back on my bicycle and followed East Drive beyond the North Meadow to where it zigzags along the Conservatory Garden, Fort Fish and Lasker Rink & Pool before circling back just below the northernmost boundaries of the park between Harlem's Duke Ellington Circle at Fifth Avenue and Frederick Douglass Circle at Central Park West.
As the road loops back south over The Great Hill, where East Drive becomes West Drive, I was breathing hard as seasoned cyclists breezed right by me one after the other. Actually, seasoned cyclists had been passing me since Columbus Circle, but I suddenly became very aware of how easily they seemed to be pedaling over the hills.
There I was - in Pearl Izumi attire from head to toe - in "full regalia" as my roommate likes to joke (but she really hasn't seen "full regalia" until she checks out some of the real, hardcore cyclists racing in Central Park). As they zoomed by in their drafting lines, I suddenly felt a little hokey. I had the look of a cyclist, I had the bicycle of a cyclist, but I couldn't help but feel like I was denying my Trek of a worthy ride. Although I was seemingly cruising at over 20 mph on the downward slopes, I listened to the subtle tick of other bicycle wheels constantly humming by. Even a guy in plain clothes with no helmet and a messenger bag overtook me at one point.
My mind wandered back to days not so long ago when I walked my bicycle everywhere - to and from the bicycle shop, to and from my cycling coach's apartment. I had purchased this cool bike, but I was so intimidated by the seemingly-complicated gear shifts and the clipless pedals that I walked it whenever there wasn't a licensed professional present. And then I thought about how far I've come in so little time; time that has been even further limited by schedules and weather. And I reminded myself that it's ok to be a beginner. I wasn't going to let the faster, stronger, sleeker cyclists intimidate me based on my own personal hang-ups. The sooner I can get over myself, the more I can learn.
I spent the rest of the ride down West Drive shifting my crankset and rear cassette, trying to find gears that would allow me to pedal as efficiently as the decked-out, colorful lycra billboards that swooped by. I closed in on my first lap as I approached Columbus Circle and looked down at my cycling computer. I had only gone five miles and the sun was gone.
However, Central Park did not immediately become the fated dwelling of darkness and evil of which I have been warned. The bicycle lanes were well-lit and since plenty of cyclists and joggers were continuing their evening jaunts, I decided to go for another lap.
I was able to get in the full 12 miles after roughly two and a quarter laps around Central Park. For the "quarter lap", I cycled as far north as Bethesda Fountain & Terrace and cut across the park to Cherry Hill and Strawberry Fields before returning south to exit where I had started at Columbus Circle.
I had completed my first 12-mile ride all by myself. I rejoiced in that.