So what, pray tell, gets an out-of-shape 35-year-old man to suddenly start riding a bicycle on a 5.5-mile commute to work?
Riverside Park, for one thing. Moving to the Upper West Side last summer put us one short, traffic-free block from the greenway that stretches the length of Manhattan on the Hudson River. Amy and I planned on cycling for fun, but pregnancy and a lack of a bicycle prevented us from doing so. (Also a mild lack of ambition, the same one that led us to play tennis at the park’s great clay courts a total of zero times last summer. Anyway.)
Then I started working at Ai, where I discovered coworkers who commuted to work on bicycle, some every day. The casual dress code and relaxed environment made cycling a realistic option. As I tired of yoga and began looking for another form of exercise, the choice became clear.
After a long saga involving a construction van, a Zipcar, and a 1:30 a.m. visit to a dark vestibule in Hoboken, my ride arrived: a 20-year-old Nishiki Century, a heavy, ergonomically unappealing, sea-foam-green 10-speed complete with squeaky brakes and slipping gears. Amazingly, a visit to the local bike shop gave the bicycle a clean bill of health, and with some air in the tires I was ready to roll.
Since early June I’ve been riding to work twice a week on average. My commute relies on a funny equation that takes into account client meetings, weather, and baby feedings, but I’ve had little trouble finding opportunity to jump on the bike.
The new commute is an absolute delight. My usual route takes me directly into the park, down the greenway from 91st to 22nd Street, and briefly across town on a bike-laned street from 10th to 5th Avenues. In the morning, the ride is quiet, and the morning air off the river is a great way to wake up. The ride home is more visually stimulating–more people, ball games, general activity–and the exercise is both invigorating and calming. With my noise-isolating Shure headphones, I can listen to music with little distraction, even while passing the heliport on 34th Street.
I can make the trip in just under half an hour–almost the same as my morning ride on the subway. The trip home is slower by bike, due to uphill climbs and less train congestion, but the difference is neglible. Unlike the train, I burn around 500 calories round-trip, and I’m getting a little color on my face for a change, too.
Now that I’m riding regularly, I hope to spend some time taking longer trips that increase my stamina and encourage weight loss. If I stick with it for the summer, I’m going to quit my gym and invest the next few months’ fees in a new bike. I may love the subways, but a nice ride to work is a terrific way to live.
I can’t help you with the slipping gears, but WD40 would work wonders on the squeaky brakes! You’re sure the headphones don’t isolate the noise of honking horns, right?