Category Archives: Seasonal Cycling

A Summer Day on Governors Island

We were looking for something special to do.  My kids are leaving for camp on Sunday, so we want to do something special and memorable on Saturday.  Since several weeks of separation are looming, my children are being very nice to me and agree to get up early to go to Governors Island.

I am one of those New Yorkers who doesn’t like crowds.  There are lots of us on this island of more than eight million and we use tricks to feel like there are far fewer people than those who actually share our space.

The first trick is to go wherever you are going early!  Visit any location that tourists and locals like to visit and you’ll notice that they are empty until noon or so on weekends.  The kids and I are up, dressed, breakfasted, and out the door by 8am Saturday morning.  We catch the subway down to South Ferry and were at the GI ferry terminal by 8:40am.

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Hudson River Park: Manhattan waterside destination

BETH J. HARPAZ | July 12, 2012 11:07 AM EST | AP


NEW YORK — In the last decade, the decrepit piers and industrial zones along five miles of the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side have been utterly transformed. Hudson River Park is now a destination that gets 17 million visits annually, with a bike path, green spaces, playgrounds and recreation ranging from mini-golf and skateboarding to kayaking and even stand-up paddleboarding.

Melissa Lopez rented a bike a few weeks ago from Bike and Roll at Pier 84, near 44th Street and 12th Avenue, and was amazed at what she saw as she rode downtown through the park.

“It was gorgeous, like a little nature haven, beautiful flowers, trees, and only when you looked over to your left (at the buildings), did you realize you were in between a concrete jungle and this beautiful river,” said Lopez, 29, who came in from her home in suburban Westchester for the day. “Everyone was doing something active – sunbathing, rollerblading, bike riding. There was one pier with a volleyball court with sand. I kept telling my boyfriend, `Are we really in New York City?'”

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You have to see it to believe it (Governors Island)

Picture this. A beautiful park, complete with lush grass and foliage as well as a historic buildings, completely surrounded by water, with a view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline.  If didn’t hate using clichés so much this would be where I started to call it one of New York’s “best kept secrets,” a real “diamond in the rough.”

In all reality though, I was shocked while biking around Governors Island. It is a tiny little island only 800 feet of the coast of Manhattan. Yet, somehow, there is almost no noise, no cars, and no people. Rather than weaving in and out of people and cars, overwhelmed by horns and chatter, I got to ride completely uninhibited by others.

 

Ever since the day I interviewed at Bike and Roll, I have been hearing about this amazing island. Even still, I must say, the promotional material certainly does not do it justice. You will have to experience the beautiful serenity of Governors Island first hand to truly understand that this rant isn’t even an exaggeration!

The season’s first commute to work!

It’s a special day when the planets align and allow me to take advantage of an almost 60-degree day in February and let me ride to my office!  My meetings today are with an extremely young entrepreneur and with a director at a school that wants to offer our Learn-to-Ride after-school program.  Neither will care that I’m in sneakers and khakis.  The daylight lasts long enough into the evenings so that I won’t have to ride home in the dark.  My tires have been filled over the weekend.  Everything I need to carry today fits in my backpack.  It’s a go.

The bikes I see on the way in are few and far between, but I’m riding early and get to the office by 8.  The ride just feels good and it’s fast.  I can’t face the subway in the morning, so I walk to work.  It takes about an hour.  The ride is only about 20 minutes, even when obeying all the safe cycling rules.

The park is gorgeous and empty.  The lake is full of mallards and northern shovelers.  Daffodils are replacing snowdrops.  Did I miss the crocuses entirely?

We’ve moved our offices since I last commuted by bike, so I need to figure out how to get there without riding the wrong way on New York’s one-way streets.  It’s a piece of cake.  I’m looking forward to hitting the Hudson River Greenway on the way home, where there may be more bikes but no cars.

Our Columbus Circle location is open today.  The inventory there includes kids’ bikes.  It’s a great day to take a lunch break wheeling through the park or to put the kids on bikes after picking them up at school.  Our season officially begins on March 5th when our locations at Columbus Circle, Tavern on the Green, Pier 84 and Battery Park will all be open.  Guided tours start March 10th.

It’s weird that we haven’t really had a winter, but taking advantage of a day like this for any kind of ride is just the right thing to do.

Discover the North Fork

When I woke up on Sunday the sky was iron.  Clouds were everywhere, waves of gray and white, not a speck of blue to be seen.

“Oh no,” I thought to myself.  I was accompanying our North Fork tour, a 23-mile ride designed to introduce bicyclists to the scenic North Fork of Long Island.  One of the riders had sent me an email earlier in the week asking if the ride was rain or shine.  “It’s supposed to be a beautiful day,” I wrote back.  Confident in the predictions made by NY1 and weather.com, I refused to admit the possibility of rain and continued prepping for the ride.

Although I had ridden the route three times before (twice engineering the ride and once with a group), I was looking forward to this last tour of the season.  It was going to be a big group and everyone had been incredibly accepting of LIRR’s cancellation of its Mattituck train and were flexible about having to take the jitney or drive out.  A nice ride with a nice group . . . what could be nicer?

We were all on bikes and ready to go by 12:15 on Sunday.  One of our guests told me that her iPhone predicted sun by 1pm.

Making our way out of Mattituck, across 48 and onto Oregon Rd. was much easier than I had expected with a group this size.  Everyone was about the same skill level and all were attentive and cooperative.  We didn’t have any spandex jackrabbits who were more interested in clocking mileage than seeing the sites we’d selected.

We stopped at Sherwood House Winery first, handed out our locavore picnics, and settled at the tables scattered around the fire pit.  The merlot grapes hadn’t been harvested yet, so the vines still looked full and robust.  I’ll admit I’m a little bit of a wine snob.  I lived in northern California where the quality of wines one finds in the supermarket is better than the what one usually finds on the North Fork.  But I had tried Sherwood House’s cabernet franc, liked it, and given the delightful atmosphere of the French-style outdoor tasting room, it earned a place on our tour.

Leaving Sherwood House Winery after lunch on the North Fork tour.

The guests tried a steel-aged chardonnay and a merlot.  A few bought wine, which was carefully tucked into the bed of our sag truck.  Now that everyone had eaten, drank a little, and enjoyed the view over the vines, it was time to move on.  Plus, the sun was starting to peek out.  The iPhone weather app was on the money.

The next part of our route led past bucolic farms, potato fields, even a vast expanse of sunflowers.  Hurricane Irene had taken her toll on the sunflowers.  All their giant heads were bowed, but their faded beauty was still recognizable.  We crossed 48 again (at that point a divided highway) and rode along the wide shoulder at a healthy clip everyone could manage.

Catapano’s Goat Farm was our second stop.  I remember when Catapano’s was a tiny place with just a few goats.  I watched it grow until it outgrew it’s first location and relocated to where it is now.

There is a small shop with a large selection of goat milk products and a vast array of flavored (and plain) goat cheeses.  My favorite is the lemon-pepper (which gets consistent raves from our guests) and I never leave there without a chunk or two of the goat fudge, the taste of which falls somewhere between chocolate and dulce de leche.  Yum.    

We bought a couple of different cheeses as a snack for later, let everyone who wanted to say “hi” to the goats, got back on our bikes, and moved on.

The North Fork of Long Island, unlike the South Fork, was carved out by a glacier during the last ice age.  The North Fork is undulating and rocky, with lots of inlets and covers.  The South Fork, in contrast, is sandy and flat.

We rode for a few miles on these gently undulating hills until we reach Horton’s Lighthouse.  The lighthouse sits back from a cliff facing Long Island Sound and the southern shore of Connecticut.  The views are beautiful.  There’s a long staircase that goes down to a lovely beach full of pebbles and giant boulders that I’ve been climbing since I was a kid.  Several guests went down the long wooden staircase, enjoyed the view, collected some rocks, and headed back up when they were ready.

Horton's Lighthouse overlooking Long Island Sound

A few wandered over to the lighthouse, closed for the season, but beautiful in the way all lighthouses are beautiful.  A beacon shows one where to go (or not to go) and therefore offers reassurance.  Maybe that’s what makes them all beautiful; maybe it’s their proximity to water.  In any event, this lighthouse, too, is beautiful.

Mounted up again, we started going south, crossing the fork.  It was autumn, after all, so we stopped at Krupski’s farmstand, which was so loaded with pumpkins it looked like an orange wonderland.  It was the perfect photo op and we took lots of pictures of guests with pumpkins, gourds, and squashes.

A little further down the road we stopped at Pugliese Vineyards.  We pulled out the goat cheese and the extra baguettes from our picnic supplier.  Everyone was ready for a snack and the goat cheese was so delicious that it disappeared remarkably quickly.  Those guests who wanted to tasted a few more wines and purchased a few more bottles.  We sat at tables next to a pond occupied by giant koi with a great blue heron posing at its edge.

I liked that this particular tour group was interested in the history behind the Cutchogue Historic Buildings, our next stop.  The fact that Parker Wickham, the first large landowner in the area in the 17th century and whose house stands to this day in the common, still has descendants in the area fascinates me.  The North Fork feels more like New England than New York.  Peter Wickham’s house would fit in perfectly in Salem, Mass.

An autumn Sunday at Kimogener Point.

The next part of our ride took us to Peconic Bay, the south side of the North Fork.  We stopped at a spot overlooking Robin’s Island, with beaches in front of us, salt marsh behind us.  It was the golden hour and everything was bathed in beautiful light.  Everyone just sort of stood, chatting, enjoying the view, the weather, the fact that this was the perfect way to spend an autumn Sunday.

On our way again, we continued along Peconic Bay, passing one field filled with more Canada geese than I’d ever seen before.  We made our way to the Mattituck train station, and suggested to our guests that they take a stroll along quaint Love Lane before biking the last mile or so to where the jitney would pick up those who were riding it and where the others had left their cars.  It would be a few hours until they got back to the city.  Having a snack in hand seemed like a good idea.

Everyone said they’d had a wonderful time.  Several wanted to try our tours in New York City.  As always, our tour of Central Park seemed to have the greatest appeal, but many were intrigued by the idea of riding across the Brooklyn Bridge and exploring Brooklyn’s neighborhoods.

As far as the North Fork tour goes, we may be done for this season, but we’ve got April and May dates already loaded for next spring and even have a few bookings for them.  Spring will be a different experience, but it will be just as wonderful.

Autumn in New York

There are days when having to hop on a bike for work is an incomparable perk.  I got to do it yesterday and I get to do it again today.

Let’s back up a little.  It’s mid-October, the midst of Autumn, we’re in the Northeast, and there have been years when searching for gloves before leaving the house is part of this time of the season.

But I’m looking out at a clear blue sky with temperatures nudging 70.  Yes, I am worried about climate change, but today I’m focusing on a ride through Central Park and upper Manhattan as the leaves start to change.

There’s something about exploring the city on a bike.  We’re looking for something special to offer our customers this fall — something that will let them take advantage of the weather, the smaller number of tourists, and all the bike paths and bike lanes at our disposal.

First Central Park . . .  The big loop in Central Park takes you all the way north past the Conservatory Gardens and the Haarlem Meer, then up the big hill past the North Woods (where a search for screech owls at dusk can end with threatening growls from raccoons).  I stop at the Conservatory Gardens (still lovely despite the fact that their spring and summer blooms are gone) and walk my bike past the Haarlem Meer where a flock of Canada geese are resting on their migration south.

Then on to St. John the Divine.  I lock my bike up and go inside.  The soaring space never fails to amaze me.  I could be in any of the great cathedrals of Europe, but instead I’m here in New York.

It’s just a short hop to Columbia where I wander into the quad, find a bench, and watch the students hurrying to and fro as I perform a quick electronic check of emails, texts, and messages.  It’s a beautiful scene of very formal architecture with lots of columns set against so many young people dressed in casual clothes and enjoying casual conversation.

The bike lanes take me over to Riverside Park and Grant’s Tomb, another imposing edifice with columns and a dome.  It’s open to the public most days and I go inside.  Although this native New Yorker has actually been to the Empire State Building (when visiting friends insist) and the Statue of Liberty (via a field trip), I’ve never been inside Grant’s Tomb.  The mosaics are beautiful and there’s a sense of timelessness appropriate to the memory of a war hero and president.  A park ranger is giving a talk and I listen in for a while.

Familiarity with the soccer fields in the area (I am an American with kids, after all) means I know how easy it is to get to the Greenway bike path.  The sky is still blue, the water is still warm, and the slight headwind is refreshing rather than forcing me to shift down.

There are sailboats with their shrouds clanging against their metal masts, one of my favorite sounds in the world.  I’m in the middle of New York City, but I can hear it.  Ships are heading up the Hudson; a barge is heading down.  Most of the bike traffic seems to be heading in the opposite direction from me and the riders are aware and polite.

Oops.  Got to run.  I’m off to meet a co-worker in Central Park.  Another ride awaits.

 

New Highbridge Park – Easy Access to Hudson River Park Greenway, Harlem Greenway, and the Only Mountain Biking in Manhattan!

Everyone is aware of NYC’s efforts to promote bicycling in the city – lots more bike lanes, expanded Greenways, less traffic in the parks, even mountain biking trails in Inwood.

Bike and Roll NYC’s newest location at Highbridge Park on Dykman St. is the perfect place to take advantage of all of these efforts.  Ride east on Dykman and the Harlem Greenway is just across 10th Avenue.  Ride west on Dykman and you’re on the Hudson River Park Greenway that goes all the way to Battery Park and beyond.  Go west and around the corner on Ft. George Hill and you’ll find the trailhead to the only mountain bike trails in Manhattan.  From calm, flat, bike paths to rugged, steep single track, every type of cycling is within blocks of Highbridge Park.

What’s wonderful about this neighborhood is that it’s a great place for any cyclist,” said Chris Wogas, president of Bike and Roll NYC.  “There’s a path or trail for everyone, from the novice to the most expert.”

“It’s really a great family activity,” said Jennifer Hoppa of the NYC Parks and Recreation Department and Inwood resident.  “Kids can easily and safely ride to the Harlem River Greenway where there’s a lovely, wide bike path.  It’s easy to keep an eye on the kids as they explore a new part of their neighborhood.”

Biking gives access to places that feel too far away to walk to.  It’s a fun, easy, healthy family activity.  It’s a great way to see sights you couldn’t see any other way.  It’s green.  Just about anyone can do it.  Then there are the adrenaline rushes from riding Highbridge’s mountain bike trails.  All these experiences are possible with a trip to Bike and Roll NYC’s newest Manhattan location:  Highbridge Park.

About Highbridge Park

Highbridge confounds expectations. With everything from smooth cruisers to wickedly technical “east coast gnar,” the trails provide a small but entertaining subsample of the best of the regions trails, all within the confines of the densest metropolitan area in North America. Highbridge Park itself straddles the rocky cliff band above Harlem River Drive between 155th Street and Dyckman Street, and the trails use this rocky, cliff-strewn terrain to their advantage… routing beginner riders through the shadow of hulking rock cliffs, and taking expert riders up, down and across the steep and challenging cliffside. In addition to the XC trails, Highbridge also features a freeride trail, with terrain that includes drops, berms, steeps, rock gardens and other challenging features sure to get your adrenalin pumping (designed and built in conjunction with pro ride Jim Dellavalle and the Brooklyn Bike Riders). But the most-used feature of Highbridge Park is the dirt jump park, designed and built by IMBA Trailsolutions with current and former pro riders Judd DeVall, Jeff Lenosky and Kyle Ebbett. The Highbridge jumps include a pump track, a beginner line with three small jumps, and an intermediate line with five tables and two berms. While the XC trails are a bit short to ride as a destination, they’re perfect for city residents looking for a local spin and riders out to sample a bit of everything- jumps, drops and trail riding all in one place, and all a half block from the #1 train.

Bike the River Valley: A Nice Day of Cycling along the Hudson

 

Looking to get out of the city on your bike? Check out the Bike the River Valley touring event. Here’s the “skinny” and the rest of the details are below:

Date: Sunday, July 17, 2011

Location: Highland, NY

Type of Event: Touring

Routes for beginners and experts (40 miles, 70 miles, 100 miles)

Optional transportation available from New York City

The best rest stops, superb support, marked routes, free hot showers at the finish line, free post-ride meal, free massage, all ages welcome and kids ride free!

This is a lovely ride with great scenery, fun people, wonderful volunteers, and lots of food. Almost 1,500 people are expected to register and participate, and the support for this event is huge.

Everyone starts at the Highland start/finish line. From there, the ride heads east over the Hudson, then turns north to visit FDR’s home, the Vanderbilt Mansion, and the Mills Mansion.

At this point, the routes split:

  • The 40-mile rider ends at Bard College.  From there the race sponsors will transport your bike and you back to the start/finish line.  (Why not have you do a loop?  Because there’s just not that much difference on the way home AND because you would miss Bard College, which is lovely.)
  • After the 70s and 100s visit Bard college, they split.  The 70s head straight over the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge and then back to the start/finish line in Highland by riding along the west side of the Hudson.
  • The 100-mile riders head north to the beautiful towns of Tivoli and Germantown, before heading over the Kingston-Rhinecliff bridge and joining up with the 70-mile riders.  The 70s and the 100s ride back along the west side of the Hudson to the start/finish line.

The details are too many to post here so we’re going to refer you over to the event site for much more additional reading, photos, and registration information.

Don’t have a bike but want to participate in this event? Bike and Roll New York City can absolutely help. Call us at 212.260.0400 for information about the types of bikes we offer that would be suitable for this event.