Lost In History, Vol. 29

by |
04/25/2007 12:00 AM |

Fat-bottomed girl or not, that’s exactly what you should be doing now as the weather gets gorgeous-ier, the budding flowers and blooming trees freshen up our stale city air, the skirts get shorter, the legs get longer(did we mention that last week?), and all around the vibe turns to frivolity and excitement that it is outstandingly, exhilaratingly, finally springtime. New York doesn’t have any definitive harbingers of spring, even less so this year as we didn’t really have any textbook examples of winter. It’s more a social change, a group exhalation into the sparkling atmosphere that announces that we’re all ready, goddamnit. One of the most obvious social cues that we are in the full-fledged glory of May and springtime is the Five Boro Bike Tour, which just rampaged across the city yesterday.

In its thirtieth year, the Five Boro Bike Tour is a citywide ride that covers forty-two miles across Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, in that order. People ride in costumes, on track bikes (we hear those fixed gears are all the rage nowadays), with boom boxes strapped to their backs. We’ve seen tandems, tall bikes, tall tandems! We even once saw a wedding party, bridge, groom, maids and guests of honor, all on tuxedos, all on bicycles. It was badass. People really get into the Five Boro.

It starts at Battery Park and carves its way up through the canyons of Midtown, into Central Park, up through Harlem, then over the 145th Street Bridge into SoBro (the South Bronx, of course). With less than a mile clocked in the only borough attached to the mainland of America, the ride continues back to Manhattan over the Third Avenue Bridge, and down the FDR Drive towards the Queensboro. One of the greatest thrills of the Five Boro is that it allows you to ride over bridges and highways where bikes aren’t allowed — even on those unruly Critical Mass rides.

Over the QB and up through industrial Long Island City and past the Socrates Sculpture Park into bucolic Astoria, filled to the brim with families, elevated trains and hipsters wishing they were a) living in Williamsburg; b) fit and un-ironic enough to bike forty-two miles in one day. Back down through Queens and over the Pulaski Bridge to Brooklyn, where the route zigs through Williamsburgs of the Hipster, Hispanic and Hasidic variety. Up there with the glory of biking down the FDR is the stretch of the ride through Hasid-land on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, where it seems as if every Hasidic family is out on the sidewalks, cheering and waving and shouting at the phalanx of bicyclists zooming through their normally staid neighborhood.

Once the cyclists have conquered Hasid-land, it’s down through the Navy Yard and DUMBO, and then over the Gowanus Expressway and the BQE — as thrilling as the ride along the FDR. The BQE takes the group up to and over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world when completed in 1964 — so long that the tops of the towers are a few feet farther apart than the bottom, because the curvature of the earth had to be taken into account when the bridge was built. This part of the ride is always a bitch, because the bridge is so long, and the incline so infinitesimally incremental, that it feels as if one is biking across the bridge in perpetuity, forever. The crowds of over 30,000 people on bikes can both help, as psychic reassurance, as well as hurt: so many bikes! So easy to crash and cause a pileup! However, once your tired little legs have pushed you over the crest of the Verrazano, you’ve never been happier to see Staten Island, and the finish line. Forty-two miles, five boroughs, 30,000-plus bicycles, all getting home on the Staten Island Ferry. But not us. We didn’t ride this year — had too many tours to give and we were just too damn tired. Ce la vie!