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June 9, 2015 24 comments

"Someday a real rain will come..."

Correspondence Friends Bicycles Monthly highlights Travel & Adventure Cycling Urban Cycling Stories
By Bike Snob NYC
"Someday a real rain will come..."
This past April I took delivery of a brand new saddle:
And I was so excited that I put a brand new bicycle under it:
This bicycle reflects my current ethos with regard to road bikes: --It is black, like my soul; --It is ferrous, like my heart; --It has wide clearances, like the loose-fitting pants I always put on before I go out to eat:
Yes, the frame and the calipers allow for my preferred 28mm tires with plenty of room to spare, and if you're wondering why the brake's quick release is at 9:00, it's because this allows me to reach down and adjust it while I'm riding--which has been especially handy in the brake pad-eating conditions we've been experiencing for the past week. I apply the same on-the-fly adjustment concept to the belt on my "restaurant pants" (also equipped with a quick release) during the course of a meal. Of course all this clearance also affords plenty of room for full fenders, which would go a long way towards mitigating all the crud on the bike:

However, fenders are a liability when it comes to mixed-terrain exploration, and so I'll be leaving those off until the wintertime. I suppose I could also clean the bike in the meantime, but why waste time doing that when I can ride it instead? Additional features of this bicycle well-suited to the sophisticated rider who enjoys large meals include: --Leisurely compact gearing; --Mountain bike pedals to facilitate walking; --A threaded bottom bracket shell like [insert deity of your choice here] intended; --A decorative gram-squandering logo on the downtube to dazzle the eye and irritate the weight weenies:
I should point out that my number one priority when embarking upon a ride is to avoid people riding bikes with aerobars.  This is why I ride on dirt whenever possible--dirt is like citronella oil to triathletes.  However, this past weekend it was raining, and so I decided the best course of action was to stay on the road.  While I wasn't in the least bit concerned about exposure to the elements, I did worry about coming into contact with tridorks.  However, I trusted that the precipitation and wet roads would be enough to keep them at bay, and so I headed off towards the George Washington Bridge:
Crossing the wet metal grating of the Broadway Bridge to Manhattan I appreciated the bike's sure-footedness:
The brown putrescence beneath the grating is the water of the Harlem River Ship Canal, no doubt rife with untreated sewage thanks to all the rain we've been getting. I'm pleased to report I successfully traversed the Broadway Bridge, but not before hopping over its wheel-eating iron maw:
One of the better-known landmarks on the northern end of Manhattan is the Dyckman Farmhouse, which was built around 1784:
Here's what it looked like in 1895:
Sometimes I think about how, if only they'd never paved the streets, then maybe there would be no such thing as aerobars... Then I weep a little bit for what we've become. Besides the Dyckman Farmhouse there are few remaining vestiges of upper Manhattan's rural past, though its spirit does live on in the whimsically bucolic rooftop of the Fine Fare:
They say if you listen closely at night during a full moon you can hear the cows mooing, and that on Old Man Dyckman's birthday the one on the left cries chocolate milk. Yes, upper Manhattan abounds with mysteries.  You might think of subway stations as little more than holes in the sidewalk, but sometimes they can be a bit more intriguing than that, and this one is practically carved into a mountainside like a portal to another dimension:
At 140 feet it is one of the deepest in the system, and while it might not be quite as glamorous as an alpine gondola, it certainly wins in the urinary redolence department. The George Washington Bridge is the busiest bridge in the world (especially when Chris Christie is intentionally snarling it), and on a typical weekend day it is crawling with Freds and Fredericas like ants on a log:
For this reason, as I drew nearer to the bridge I became filled with dread.  After all, as either Sartre or Jobst Brandt said, "Hell is other Freds."  Furthermore, the positively gothic appearance of the bridge entrance against the cloudy sky only intensified my sense of foreboding:
Indeed, the road to hell is paved with sharrows:
And those sharrows are in turn flattened by buses. Behold, the Gates of Hell:
Or at least the Gates of New Jersey, which is pretty much the same thing. Ordinarily the Lycra-clad legions of New York City would be coursing through the arterial bike lane that leads to the bridge, but this morning the weather was indeed serving as something of a tourniquet and the flow was merely a trickle:
Leaving a polite distance between myself and the Fred ahead of me, I tested the road-holding capabilities of my tires on the wet pavement as I rounded a brace of parked motorcycles festooned with traffic cones:
Clearly the cones were meant to warn hard-cornering drivers and cyclists away from the crotch rockets beneath:
Though I'd have added some hay bales for good measure, especially given the huge number of hapless triathletes that frequent the bridge. You know you're in Fred Country when the lampposts are plastered with Gran Fondo posters:
As I ascended the bridge I turned to take in the Manhattan skyline, which looked doomed and forlorn beneath the leaden sky:
Don't worry, it's not doomed and forlorn.  It's full of filthy rich people throwing money at each other. Then I contemplated the monolithic grey support towers:
The bike path executes an awkward right-angled chicane as it passes beneath them:
The bike traffic was minimal this morning, but when the weather is fair it's crucial to check in the overhead mirror for oncoming tridorks lest you get gored by their aerobars:
I've never been shanked in prison, but I have faced oncoming triathletes beneath the George Washington Bridge support towers, and I imagine it's not too dissimilar:
Behold...New Jersey:
If the sun had been out there would be flocks of Freds and Fredericas displaying their bright Lycra plumage in order to attract riding partners, but as I arrived there was merely one hardy specimen:
Until this rider arrived on the scene:
Complete with anatomic Stealth Bomber-like saddle weaponized with a full butt-rocket arsenal:
If you put your ear to your monitor you can hear someone at Brooks sobbing.
Then a second triathlete arrived:
Followed by a small group returning from hunting Strava segments in the wilds of New Jersey:
And so I scampered away in haste and sought the open road:
Where all was peaceful and serene, save for the OBNOXIOUS HIGHWAY SIGN TELLING CYCLISTS WHAT TO DO:
 
Come on, this is a park road, not the New Jersey Turnpike:
Save the tax dollars and the retinal assault and use a sandwich board for chrissakes. I enjoy sunshine as much as any Fred, but there are few sounds more pleasing than the gentle sucking sound of bicycle tires on wet pavement:
Shortly thereafter I dropped down to sea level to begin the first climb--and around here the start of a climb is always marked by a goose standing sentinel:
As I began the ascent a pair of roadies passed me effortlessly, their conversation unlabored and peppered with the word "motivation:"
I've never needed motivation in order to ride a bike.  If anything, I've needed motivation to stay away from the bike.  ("Sure, go for a ride, just don't expect me to be here when you get back.") Then again, I am a terrible climber, so there may be a connection there:
As I pondered all of this, it occurred to me that I've ridden through this beautiful park about a gazillion times, and year after year I've consistently failed to dismount my bike and take even a single step into the beguiling landscape (bathroom breaks excluded of course).  Instead I've simply pedaled through it, businesslike and oblivious, no better than the sorts of people who need "motivation" to ride a bicycle. So as the roadies vanished I resolved to remedy the situation by checking out the waterfall that was, at that very moment, babbling away seductively right beside me:
It ain't exactly Victoria Falls, but it has its charms:
So I stood there for awhile, listening to the water and watching rider after rider attacking invisible Strava foes:
And after awhile I remounted and tackled the climb myself, after which I checked in with Johnny:
It turns out the pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof of a porta-potty is nearly as soothing and contemplative as the rushing sound of a waterfall. Finally after a few more miles I arrived at the base of The Big Climb--presided over of course by another goose:
"Ready, set, go!," I cried, the goose started the stopwatch, and I began to climb--steadily at first, and then slowly shrinking into myself like a snail in the sun:
Finally I made it to the top, and if you squint (or you're sufficiently oxygen-deprived) you can pretend the ranger station is a Swiss chalet and not a shack in New Jersey:
As I crested the summit, I was greeted by this turkey, who wagged his head disparagingly at me:
He then radioed down to the goose to tell him how badly I suck. I was tempted to linger for awhile, but I didn't want my legs to seize up, and in fact if you wait too long to get going again you can turn into a tree, which is what I assume happened to this person:
Between the tree-Freds and the talking turkeys it was getting downright Narnian up there.  Furthermore, the sun was burning through the clouds, which meant that there would soon be an infusion of triathletes from the city.  So I headed back over the bridge just ahead of the charge:
Sometimes it's best to stay ahead of good weather.
Comments
So, entirely unrelated to your ramblings I got a C15 for my birthday this past week. Intending it to go on the heavy duty commuter to replace the worn out (tsk, only been about five years) Kona own brand that's shedding little yellow flakes of foam to the wind. But then I figured I'd stic it on the crabon bike for a roadie club ride at the weekend, in place of the Fizik Arione that it came with. And now I've got a quandry as what I obviously really want is a second C15. Think I'll stick with plan A though. The black (and mine is the black black black version) looks OK on the white bike, but maybe the extra energy that would be produced from Old Man Brooks rotating in his grave were brightly coloured versions available would be worth it? I'd quite like a blue one, see.
Al__S May 23, 2016 at 5:34 PM
Great. Felt like I was riding with you. Didn't realize there was such a wooded area in New Jersey city. I'd read other stories of your rides. I enjoyed the pictures also.
John May 23, 2016 at 5:34 PM
Great one Mr. Snob.

You do climb fine, don't kid yourself.

I on the other hand climb as well as, ... well something bad that's all I know!

vsk
vsk May 23, 2016 at 5:34 PM
All wet -- Hey you might need a raincoat.
1983 David Byrne May 23, 2016 at 5:34 PM
Nice looking saddle bag. What kind is it?
J Gerb May 23, 2016 at 5:35 PM
Nice title, Travis
RandMart May 23, 2016 at 5:35 PM
Your travelogue was so moving and your photos so well-composed that I ordered a hand-chamfered B17 Special this morning.
Winecanine May 23, 2016 at 5:35 PM
So, did you take the river road back or 9W? I always feel a bit guilty if I take the river road back, as if it is all one counter clockwise loop instead of two ways throughout. If you took 9W then we've missed out on the pictures of......gas stations and Fred/ericas eagerly consuming sports drinks in a parking lot.
Gideon May 23, 2016 at 5:35 PM
"Monolithic" towers? They're not "mono" nothin', much less "lithic." You got dictionary, Bike Snob?
DKB May 23, 2016 at 5:35 PM
motivational

lampposts?
JLRB May 23, 2016 at 5:35 PM
I think those are the famous New Jersey rescue geese. They're like the St. Bernards of the Alps, except they're geese. And you have to supply your own brandy. Otherwise just the same. The turkey may be Chris Christie in disguise.
crosspalms May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
Dear Mr. BSNYC --

The weather was perfect the next day, but the park was closed for a charity walk/run. My dog, an old friend, and I took a leisurely spin up 9W to Piermont to see the Armstrong/Zable photo gallery in the window of Bunbury's and to get oatmeal cookies.

My dog insisted you were supposed to leave two dozen bags of Cheetos and a case of Chassagne Montrachet for him at the NJ side of the GWB as recompense for some past slight.

I explained that BSNYC doesn't negotiate with terriers.

Sorry we missed you.

That park has some surprisingly nice hiking trails.
leroy May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
<i>"...monolithic grey support towers..."</i>

You might want to look up the word "monolithic" in the dictionary.
Mr. Pedantic May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
BikeSnob, You always put your best work on Brooks' site.
Somewhere in the Desert May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
Almost makes me want to go out and get a Brooks saddle ... but no.
Alex Bunin May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
Hellooooooo! Where is everybody? Where are all of the comments? Well, at least I know that you suck at climbing, too, snobbydoobydoo... I don't feel so lonely anymore.
babble on May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
podium!
Turkey May 23, 2016 at 5:36 PM
fun blog today --used to live in the bronx and then in nj by the bridge
always liked the river road tour but i unfortunately never met any talking birds
- did he say," Now yer talkin' turkey"?
rod carney May 23, 2016 at 5:37 PM
you can take away my clip-on aerobars when you pry them from my cold ....wait...let me not go there...
dop May 23, 2016 at 5:37 PM
Thanks for entertaining me for the last 15 minutes, love your work. What's with the tri thing anyway?? I also have Pasela Panaracers on one of my road bikes, love 'em dearly!
Steve May 23, 2016 at 5:37 PM
That's a beautiful travel-blog. 'Cept for those Joisy-side freds-man, it's a wonder sockless tridorkdude#1 even let the socky buddy stand next to him. Also, that last shot of the tridork is weird...Is it just me, or does that guy's bike seem inordinately tiny-ish? #HulkTriDork.
P.S., Snorb: Your 28c tires are too skinny; 30-32 seems to be the minimum for real world conditions.
P.P.S.: Your bar-taping job is incorrectly finished. The PVC tape must only wrap the squared-off bar tape, and should never contact/overlap the metal bar itself. PVC degradation byproducts include chlorine, which will eat away at most metals, and may harm thermopalstics/crab-bone fibre too.

That is all.
KoalaPlow May 23, 2016 at 5:37 PM
Thanks for the nice article. As a recent transplant to NJ/NYC, I'm glad to see that my dread of bridge collision is not unfounded.

What direction did you go to get to the land of geese & turkeys and away from the 9W peletons?
Michael May 23, 2016 at 5:37 PM
A nice ride. Thanks, Mr. Snob. How did that Brooks saddle treat you? My Brooks B135 that I bought in 1998 is still too hard today. Maybe I am not heavy enough? Well, at least it has lasted all this time. Tootles.
Stuart M. May 23, 2016 at 5:37 PM
"Gates of Hell"? Jersey gotta lotta nice places once you get out of dem urban parts. Just look at dem photos of Jersey vs the 'Road Work Ahead' photo on that damn island, so who's on the wrong side of the river? Welcome to ride in sunny Jersey!

p.s. what part of "EMail optional" did the blog programmers fail to comprehend?

p.p.s. nice saddle.
meltyman May 23, 2016 at 5:38 PM