Monday, March 5, 2018

It's Not Really A Comeback If You Never Got Anywhere In The First Place

When it comes to cycling, New York City can be heaven and it can be hell.  You know all about our bike share program and our still-expanding network of bike lanes.  You also know about the NYPD's "no criminality suspected" approach to dealing with drivers who run down cyclists.  What you may not know is that, when it comes to bike racing, this city is a veritable paradise.

Beginning in March, you can ride to a bike race pretty much every single week, and you can keep this up until September.  Of course there are long-standing crits such as Grant's Tomb and the Harlem Skyscraper, and the Tuesday night series on the old runway at Floyd Bennett Field, and even the track races at Kissena Velodrome.  But the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes, the sour cream and borscht of the racing scene are the races in Central and Prospect Parks.

As you know if you suffered through my exhaustive profile in CyclingTips, I am a veteran of those park races.  From my first foray I was hooked, and in a burst of enthusiasm and River Road hill repeats I managed to accumulate just enough points to upgrade to Cat 3, after which I never saw the front of the pack again.  Still, I was out there week after week and year after year, and my role as New York City pack fodder very much defined my cycling identity and worldview.

Eventually however my life changed.  First, I became a world famous and deeply revered bicycle blogger.  Then I became a father, and after that I moved to the Bronx, from whence I could no longer roll out of bed and into Prospect Park for a 6am start time.  I could, however, easily access dirt trails, and so I transitioned to a lifestyle of fat tires and cutoffs:

This was a refreshing change, and for years I didn't look back.  However, once a Fred always a Fred, and to my surprise I recently found myself pining for the the pack.  So this year I renewed my USAC license for the first time since 2014 and joined the local racing club, and this past Saturday I rolled on down to Central Park for a 6:25am start.

The weather in the days leading up to the race was delightful:

But then on Friday we got slammed with an onslaught of rain, snow, and wind that laid waste the the area and caused power outages that continue as I type this.  By the wee hours of Saturday morning the storm had blown over, but it was still cold and blustery, and the streets were full of tree branches and mutilated umbrellas.  A lesser Fred would have shut off the alarm when it sounded at 4am, but I awoke ten minutes before it even went off, ready to throw myself back into the arena of futility.

My original plan was to race the Renovo Aerowood:

However, I pivoted on race morning for the following reasons:

  • It was really windy, and while I love riding the Renovo it just doesn't feel quite as "planted" (see what I did there?) as my other road bikes.  I don't know if it's the geometry, or the aerodynamic profile, or the 23mm tires, or some combination of the three.  Maybe it's just my psychological reaction to riding a really expensive bike.  Regardless of the reason, between the blustery conditions and my own rustiness I wanted as much stability as possible;
  • It was wet out, and my other bike already had fenders;
  • I was almost certain I'd get dropped, and I didn't want to be the guy who gets spat out the back on a $10,000 bicycle
And instead I ended up going with the Ritte Rust Bucket:

(It's almost as rusty as I am.)

Not only was the bike completely filthy, but I also made sure to leave both the saddlebag and the fenders on for the race so that as the pack excreted me it would be clear that I didn't take any of this too seriously.  (Even though if I'm to be perfectly honest I'm a Fred at heart so of course I take all of this incredibly seriously.)

Rolling out in the pitch black when it's 30-something degrees and windy is never easy, but there's also nothing like riding through the streets of New York in the Hour of the Wolf:

'The hour of the wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is the deepest, when nightmares feel most real. It is the hour when the demons are most powerful. The hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.'

Think of it as the Hour of the Fred: when Freds and Fredericas from all corners of the city converge on the park, huddle over a registration table, and pin on numbers in the dark.  New York City is never truly quiet, but at this time of the morning it's as quiet as it gets, with most of the revelers having finally turned in or passed out, and the diurnal set not yet having awoken.  Certainly as a cyclist it's the very best time to feel as though you've got the streets to yourself.

In any case, we lined up as the sun rose, and we set off under its very first rays.  While I've been putting in a fair number of miles recently the fact is I haven't experienced anything like sustained race pace in years.  Had I approached this properly I'd have at least done a few group rides during the preceding weeks, but sadly those don't work very well since I keep "writer's hours" and do most of my riding on weekdays.  So as I clipped in I wondered what would happen.

The race was six laps around Central Park.  For the first lap I sat somewhere in the middle of the pack and thought, "Hey, I feel pretty good!"  By the second lap I realized I was now at the back and that, while I still felt pretty comfortable, I didn't quite feel like using the energy to move up into a safer position.  (Unlike Max von Sydow above I had but a few matches to burn.)  By the third lap I realized I probably wasn't going to be able to hang, and I believe it was the fourth time up Harlem Hill that I finally tripped the circuit breaker in my legs and slipped off the back like it was slathered in Vaseline.  

I was done.

Though a bit disappointed I was mostly sanguine, and I casually rolled over to the start/finish area to hang out and watch the Fred Parade:

Finally I headed back uptown, and I was home and contentedly stuffing my face before most people have even begun their day, which is maybe the best thing about racing in the park--well that and the park itself, because there are few things more satisfying than a spirited gallop through the heart of Manhattan.  

Anyway, we'll see if I can eventually claw my way out of this hole and finally pass a race again, but if not there's always a pair of cutoffs with my name on them.  


Anonymous said...


hurryup said...


MolassesChamois said...

U put the gnar in scranus

HDEB said...

Races are good for showing one how badly they suck as compared to other people who suck roughly equally

Anonymous said...

I'm too lazy to log into disqus and leave this comment on transalt...

While I completely agree with your point about bike access to bridges, the Richmond bridge is not a good example. Not counting the access, the bridge itself is something like 5 miles long, high and often very windy. It's more like crossing Lake Champlain (at Burlington, not diminutive Crown Point) or Lake George than the Hudson. It's old and narrow. On one side is a Chevron refinery, the state's fourth largest, on the other side is San Quentin prison. Yes, there is also some decent riding on both sides and probably some people willing to commute that very exposed distance. But... it's a very worthwhile conversation about how the money for a bike lane might be better spent on other improvements... upgrades near schools and residential neighborhoods in the City of Richmond (the Bay Area's most struggling and often overlooked community, unlike Larkspur.)

Bus lanes make a whole lot more sense on that bridge than bike lanes. At least at one time, there was also some sort of bike bus operating there, ie. a short bus with bike racks sort of thing, that just went back and forth. Nice if it could use a bus lane.

This bridge actually figures large in my own biking as I drive it from Oakland/Berkley to take my young kid mountain biking at China Camp State Park, a nice beginner/kid friendly single track system on the Marin side. We ride everywhere in town, but no way I'm riding that bridge with her (hell, I'd probably just ride it once to say I did it and than look for other things to do.)

A set of Bay Area bridges I would pick on are the 3rd and 4th St draw bridges in SF. A couple of hundred feet long, also undergoing renovation, passable bike infrastructure (but not great) on either side that don't really connect because of the neglect to anybody but cars on those otherwise easy passes.

Mac said...

Still think fondly of the Spring Series and riding the wrong way up 5th Ave to the sunrise start in Central Park. And the Roar of the crowds.

Say Captain, See Wot said...

(see what I did there?)

Stop it.


Cliché to mockery to nauseating repetition.

Your readers will get the wit (or whatever) without the poke in the eyeballs.

Other than that... YOU RULE!

N/A said...

There are days where getting up and getting to the starting line is a win in itself.

N/A said...

It occurs to me that you'll probably start doping. And there will be stories about your roller sessions in your "pain cave". Oh sweet lob, you'll be insufferable!

Buffalo Bill said...

So, how much running will be required to atone for this resolution violation?

Grump said...

You did it all should have placed your bike on your $500 roof rack, driven to the race, got pulled after "X" laps, and when the other riders finished, complained that your legs froze up when you tried to jump up that hill in the 15. After 90 minutes of BS'ing with the other dropped riders, you load up your car and drive home.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Say Captain,

I love that after 11 years of blogging I still get comments from people trying to teach me how to write.

--Wildcat Etc.

Anonymous said...

There are no hills in New York City. Fake News.

Seattle lone wolf said...

Strava, electric shifting, USAC racing. I'm starting to worry.

dancesonpedals said...


The nice thing about driving is having room for your suitcase of courage in the trunk

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

Good for you Snobby, or as they say in other parts good on you, good slathered all over you. I'm hoping to get back to the rat race soon. Nothing fits!

Be careful!


Pist Off said...

I read this blog partly to learn how to write better. Maybe that says bad things about me, or just that Snob can rite reel gud. Watch out for your Eastern coyotes in the wolfen hour.

Anonymous said...


My brother Billy Volchko, is an ultra-cyclist and marathon-cyclist. He just set the world record on Zwift for a 72 hours ride coming in at 1175 miles!

We'd like to know if you'd care to do a short interview or story on the challenge.

You can find his social media link at:


JLRB said...

So which method of dropping/failing did you employ?

Another concerned Lone Wolf, definately not of the wolf hour persuasion. said...

"Strava, electric shifting, USAC racing. I'm starting to worry."

Yeah, I concur, it seems that soon he will actually enjoy "whatpressureyourunning" and other gear talk....

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous Another concerned Lone Wolf, definately not of the wolf hour persuasion,

Yeah, I concur, it seems that soon he will actually enjoy "whatpressureyourunning" and other gear talk....

You do realize I've been writing about bikes on the Internet for 11 years, right?

--Wildcat Etc.

bad boy of the south said...

Glad to see that you have gotten your feet wet,again,so to speak.
Good luck at the next run.
Watch out for them that there coyotes in central park.

leroy said...

God lord, I have been commenting here since at least April 2008.

Who would have guessed back in the halcyon days (or as my dog pronounces it, the Haldol daze) I would someday report:

Dear Diary,

I never thought this would happen to me.

This morning, I got mistaken for a bike messenger by a security guard who tried to shoo me away from an office building off the West Side Highway where I was waiting for a colleague and sheltering from the chilly wind.

Apparently, I was taking space in which folks needed to smoke.

I had to decide whether to be offended or flattered.

I went with flattered.

And now that I think about it, that's not the first time I've been mistaken for a messenger or been flattered.

Good thing my dog wasn't there to demand in his important voice "Why my good man, do you know who this is"?

He always follows that up with "No seriously, do you? I think he's lost and no one sewed a name tag in his jersey."

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

Speaking loosely about Prospect Park, near the Slope...

Woman in a white Volvo ran through a red light on 5th Ave and 9th Street hitting a Mom w/ 2 kids in a stroller, killing the 2 kids today.

It's in the Daily News and on Todd Maisel's twitter feed (Daily News Photographer). Woman in Volvo seemed non plussed about the whole thing.

Any possibilities of consequences?



Anonymous said...

Needed more puffs on the asthma inhaler to finish the race. Heard that tip from a Kenyan.

leroy said...

Dear Mr. Say Captain -

My dog asked me to ask you how you feel about talking canine tropes.

I'm not sure he's serious though.

BamaPhred said...

I would leave a better comment, but I have this binge drinking I have to finish.

Bill said...

Kick ass snob! Racing is great fun. Hope you enjoy yourself. Sometimes it's sweeter the second time around.

Anonymous said...

i've been commenting on here since being humiliated on facebook.

Drock said...

What a life, you lucky bastard.

Anonymous said...

Lobster help us. At least the driver didn't use a rabies defense.

Dooth said...

Oh no! Not the Satchel of Surrender. Say it ain't so, Wildcat, sat it ain't so.

Anonymous said...

Nice cairns dude

It Never Ends said...

Chelsea for President

Dirk Montero said...

Anonymous; March 5, 2018, 12:49pm:

You were too lazy to comment on TransAlt, so you chose HERE to badmouth the Richmond Bridge bike lane project? On behalf of all of us who have been waiting for this to open and are now horrified that its existence is threatened, let me say loudly: THAT SUCKS.

First of all, the space for the lane is already there in the form of an unused shoulder. Secondly, turning that shoulder into a third auto lane instead will only combine two bottlenecks into one at the already-horrendous freeway merge shortly after you get off the bridge.

But most importantly, you admit that you DRIVE YOUR BIKES OVER THAT BRIDGE to go riding, and then shit on those of us who want that lane to make the bridge part of our ride. THAT SUCKS.

Please be even lazier in the future and refrain from commenting on either blog. You have windshield perspective because your bikes are on the back of your car instead of between your legs.


Anonymous said...

Return to racing Sounds like a mid-Fredlife crisis.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dirk,
What difference does it make where I comment? Disqus is buggy and I was getting a local perspective to WCRM. Pretty sure he checks both. And I hope he checks out China Camp with his kids next visit to Marin.

Are you going to be a daily commuter across the Richmond Bridge? Or just another Fred passing through Richmond, maybe via the Bay Trail, safely gated away from the rest of the city the Bay Area loves to shun? Do you spend much time riding around Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland with kids? Ever tried, say, riding to Kaiser or the superior court down Macdonald from El Cerrito? Ever ridden to the Richmond Plunge with a young child? I have. Go stuff your "windshield perspective" tirade up your ass. Everyday of my life is spent pedaling East Bay with the family, kids and all, on just about every errand. I also commute from Berkeley to SF, by bike... via West Oakland, asshole, a route I've been doing for over 15 years, long before Mandela got overhauled. I used to commute it opposite direction from Outer Sunset to Berkeley, by bike... even more reason my perspective leads me to agree that the Richmond bridge will get little everyday bike use. It's a small crowd willing to make that long a run.

There are so many bike infrastructure problems in west Contra Costa County it's not even funny, particularly in Richmond. Supposedly progressive Alameda Co.? I can't even count how many intersections near schools or elsewhere in Berkeley are sketchy for kids. (Then there are the 3rd and 4th St bridges in SF I mentioned, which are a couple hundred feet long combined and sure to get much more bike traffic than Richmond Br.) So, really, screw an expensive and misguided bike lane on the Richmond bridge that serves the pleasures of the Fred crowd, a group that's generally pretty sorry in advocating for needed infrastructure IN THE DAMN CITIES THEMSELVES. The lane's going to be empty while other important projects go year after year neglected. Sorry you put your energy in the wrong place. Now your anger is in the wrong place too.

I do love this picture though:

Yeah, a lot of people are going to walk a 5 mile bridge connecting a prison and a refinery.

Finally, China Camp is awesome for kids. After you spend a decade riding with kids day in and day out around these cities, you'll realize how valuable building skills on good trails is, perhaps the difference between life and death. There is very little mountain biking that is kid friendly in the steeply hilled Bay Area. China Camp is sort of an exception. Keeping their enthusiasm up for the mundane efforts of back and forth to school is crucial, shithead. If I drive there once a month, so be it.

Yours in suckiness,
Anonymous; March 5, 2018, 12:49pm:

Anonymous said...

Also Dirk, this is a quote about the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge from Streetsblog:

"A study of the San Rafael bridge probably will show that it isn’t and might never be, on its own, one of the most popular cycling route in the Bay Area–given the crappy approaches to the bridge, that wouldn’t even come as a surprise. But it should be self-evident that we’re never going to make cycling a hugely significant part of mode share if we don’t even allow cyclists to get where they need to go."

Yeah, that Streetsblog. That's a lot of hooch for a bridge people aren't going to use. Bike lanes are more than things to punish drivers.

Scott Maurer said...

Mac or PC?

Dirk Montero said...

Anonymous bike-lane detractor:

In order:

You want to share your local perspective which is against a bike lane that a lot of us are really excited about. Well then I feel compelled to share a different local perspective, which is that most cyclists actually support bike lanes, especially crucial links that take advantage of unsused space on existing infrastructure.

Is my opinion not valid because I won't use the bridge to commute? I imagine I will use it many times a year. I really don't think you would think of me as a fred if you saw me on the road in normal clothes and shoes and a big front basket, but does the validity of my opinion depend on what type of rider I am? For the record, I've worked in Richmond and ride in all the places you have mentioned, and like you have been riding here since before it was cool. I remember before they connected Mandela, etc. Oh, but I don't ride with kids. Does that make my opinion less valid? That is the kind of sanctimonious parental BS that thankfully my friends with kids don't elicit and that I also don't get from this blog.

I know there are people who live in Richmond and work in San Rafael who will be happy to have a 5-mile bike ride as an option instead of essentially non-existent bus service or horrendous traffic that adding a third lane will do little to address. Did you ever try to bike to the Berkeley Marina before they built the bike/ped bridge? You either had to illegally use the car overpass or cross railroad tracks and carry your bike up three flights of stairs. I'm sure plenty of people decried the cost of the bike bridge and felt sure that no one would ever use it because THEY didn't plan on using it.

Of COURSE there are countless improvement that NEED to be made in every city to make biking safer. But it's not one or the other just because you don't have any plans to use the other. For what it's worth, the project also includes adding a third traffic lane to the eastbound lower deck, which also requires lots of expensive improvements to the approaches on both sides, but you don't hear anyone complaining about that for some reason. And the bike lane portion was made needlessly expensive by insisting on a movable barrier instead of a simple Jersey barrier to separate the path. Again, the space is ALREADY THERE!

Oh, and thanks for calling me asshole and shithead. The crazy thing is that if we ever encounter each other on Mandela with a flat or needing a tool, we'd probably be quite civil to each other in person. But you chose to comment on a bike blog as a representative of the Bay Area and are advocating against a bike lane. THAT SUCKS. Then when I shared a different perspective, you made a bunch of assumptions about me and used multiple profanities towards me. THAT SUCKS.

Feel free to go for the trifecta! Oh, wait, you already did. It sucked too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dirk,
Nice to have you back (see I even checked in for the lively and probably increasingly solipsistic debate.)

First, you should reread my original comment where I heartily agree that bikes need some sort of access across the Richmond and all other bridges and suggest that in this case it be done via a bus lane, which is cheaper and would serve more people in a more general way.

Second, reread your response and contemplate why I called you a shithead and asshole, by which I continue to stand based on your second response. (I made a bunch of assumptions?)

Third, the bridge is 5.5 miles, but that doesn't even begin to include the access and the fact that it doesn't connect to anything in particular that doesn't require many additional miles. The cross wind is routinely about 15kts, in a state where many cyclists wither if the sun fails to shine or temperatures drop below 60F or melt if two drops of rain fall. When even Streetsblog can only come up with, 'well, it won't be used by cyclists/pedestrians but it will suck for cars,' you know you've got trouble.

Fourth, speaking of induced demand, let's look at the Bay Bridge bike path. Who mostly uses the current path? People who drive to the trailhead through Emeryville/Oakland. I suspect the Richmond Bridge will be similar, which would make it a comparable recreational outing as going to China Camp or other parks, only way more expensive and boring. Even you seem willing to admit to probably irregular use of the path you apparently so longingly wait for.

You have to choose your battles. In the grand scheme of bike promotion, these bridge bike lane battles are poor ones based on impact and cost. But unfortunately some advocates like yourself have become entrenched in what will mostly be a symbolic gesture. A symbolic pyrrhic victory, hurrah.

Since you have opened the can of worms, let's look at the Bay Bridge bike path projects: I suppose the east span path should have been built, given it was a new bridge, and I've always held my tongue. But the cost was something around $500M. Right now the projected cost for the west span is $300M to $500M. If you don't know how debt service on a bond works, a simple equation under current interest rates is to double the bond's face value. So the complete Bay Bridge bike path will cost close to $2B over 30 years (and if there's one thing that's safe to do with these bridges, it's to take the higher estimate.) For what? 7 miles? That's got to be the most expensive bike path on the planet, no? (And I didn't even factor in steel tariffs.)

$Two billion. For that one could buy every kid in Oakland and SF a $300 bike every year for the next 25 years. For that one could buy plastic bollards for a protected bike lane that travels the circumference of the planet 2.5 times. An integrated speed hump ped crossing here costs $25k (don't ask me why but that's what it does.) For $2B you could build 80,000 such crossings in the Bay Area. $11.5M has already been spent to study and rough out a design for the west span. I believe that's already close to all other bike infrastructure expenses in SF for a year.

Many bridges are in sore need of bike/ped lanes. But, enough of boutique and symbolic bike lanes on mega-bridges bridges that service a small number recreational riders. Those are absolutely the last concern. There are cheaper solutions for taking bikes across water frequently put forth in this community. You're right, lots is spent on car infrastructure, foolishly. Leverage that. But don't waste it just for a fool's parity.

My original posting was mild and shares the sentiment of many other local cyclists, even if EBBC wants to promote otherwise (and posture like it speaks for everyone on two wheels.) Your response was ass so don't be surprised I was pissed.

Yours in suckiness,
Anonymous; March 5, 2018, 12:49pm: