Experience the Bronx: Tour De Bronx 2016

A few weeks ago, I signed up for the Tour de Bronx on a whim. I’ve done the BQT (Brooklyn / Queens Tour), the NYC Century (Well, 68.2 miles of it – the humidity that day was obscene), so why not explore another borough in a more in-depth manner?

I set my alarm for 6:00am, the start was supposed to be at 8:00am, I figured 2 hours would give me more than enough time to have breakfast, stretch, ride up to the Bronx from Queens, and pick up my bib number.

Riding up to the Bronx

I was moving pretty well up to the Bronx. I went over the RFK Triborough Bridge. One thing to note, I updated my Garmin Edge 520 firmware from 7.0 to 8.0  and I didn’t realize it was on “trainer mode” which did not have “auto pause” set up – because of this, all of the stop lights (and walking up the stairs on the RFK) slowed my average speed was far lower than I was moving. It registered 13.9mph, but I was moving closer to 16mph.

The pictures I took with my phone on the way up to Lehman College for the start came out pretty foggy. It was chilly this morning, one of the coldest mornings we’ve had in a while. I’m guessing this had something to do with the fact that my phone was pretty much on my body and taking it out quickly to snap a few pics fogged up the lens.

 

Look over to Manhattan from RFK mid-span.
Look over to Manhattan from RFK mid-span.

 

Looking out at the Hell's Gate Bridge.
Looking out at the Hell’s Gate Bridge.

 

Approaching Randall's Island Connector to South Bronx.
Approaching Randall’s Island Connector to South Bronx.

 

 

From there, I made my way up Grand Concourse and turned off somewhere around 193rd street, then took Jerome Avenue up. Unfortunately at Harris Park I was greeted with some super long lines that didn’t appear to be moving. On top of that, there was a general sense of confusion in the air as nobody knew why they were waiting.

 

Strava segment up to Lehman College.

Waiting in line… in the cold

 

Here’s where the Tour De Bronx, “Tour De Disorganization” began. We waited for about 45 minutes, in the shade, for us to be corralled to the baseball field where the bib numbers were picked up. Of course, walking in  SPD-SL cycling cleats via the grass and then sand, was a bit annoying. I felt kind of uneasy during this wait. I saw a couple different bomb sniffing K-9 unit dogs, and of course no one wants to think about that, but it’s unfortunately in the back of our heads.

Line finally moving out of the shade, albeit slowly
Line finally moving out of the shade, albeit slowly

 

During this 45 minute wait, there wasn’t much else to do but look around, try to make small talk, and retain body heat. A few things I noticed: there were a lot of people for this tour, currently the largest free event in New York State. Now, if this event was entirely free, why did we need to wait for all that time? Nobody even checked that we had bib numbers at the rest stops.

Alas, another thing I noticed was that a good portion of people with nice road bikes were wearing sneakers? I saw one guy with full SRAM Red, a carbon fiber frame, and tennis shoes… It felt a bit out of place.

While I’m on this tangent, I was a bit irked by some of the Tour de Bronx volunteers, they were taking their roles very seriously, too seriously. I actually saw one volunteer arguing with an NYPD officer over some nonsense.

Finally, after picking up my bib number and affixing it to my windbreaker, I made my way to the starting corral for the 40 milers. I was right at the very front and actually got to shake hands with Ruben Diaz – the borough president.

 

Waiting at the front of the start corral.

 

Now, probably the worst part of the Tour de Bronx. After waiting in the cold to pick up a bib number for a free event, we all then had to wait an hour and fifteen minutes for the 10am start.. 10am!! I asked the NYPD officers that you can see above when the start would be and they said that we were going to get rolling at 9am. Well, 9am rolled by, 9:15 rolled by, and with each passing minute, I realized the tour really was going to get started at 10am.

Without a doubt, I was super cold. I felt so badly for some of the people around me, we were all shivering. I tried doing some air squats to warm up a bit, but it didn’t help much. Thankfully, as the time passed, the temperature got a bit warmer, luckily.

 

Awkward Pre-Start Selfie with Borough President. I'm in the red windbreaker, looking cold.
Awkward Pre-Start Selfie with Borough President. I’m in the red windbreaker, looking cold.

 

The guy in all black on the left side of the picture was interesting. It’s tough to see, but he had a plastic crow attached to the back of his aero track helmet and claims to do full centuries with that set up. 

Since this post is getting on the longer side, I’ll try to keep it brief from here. I have to say, one aspect that I was genuinely impressed with was the absolute breadth of the route. I saw some parts of the Bronx that I’d never seen before and some that I’d only seen in passing driving into NYC with my parents when I was a kid.  I ended up cutting my route just slightly short because the late start really was a hassle since I had some errands I had to run in the afternoon. So, I missed the Riverdale section, but I’d ridden in that part of the Bronx before, so I didn’t feel like I was missing much.

I thought it was absolutely hilarious to see people going out of the gates on mountain bikes, hybrids, bmx bikes flying at 20 mph+. I was averaging 16-17 mph (the wind gusts today was really challenging). After about 10 miles, they were completely out of steam and were having trouble keeping up. In the end, I completed the course averaging 14.4 mph which I felt pretty good about. My speed suffered near the end because the wind gusts were just a bit too strong.

The Tour

Strava Route of the Tour de Bronx
Harding Park: fantastic view of Manhattan off in the distance.
Harding Park: fantastic view of Manhattan off in the distance.

 

 

View of the Whitestone Bridge from Rest Stop #1.
View of the Whitestone Bridge from Rest Stop #1.

 

Pelham Bay Park / Orchard Beach Rest Stop #2.
Pelham Bay Park / Orchard Beach Rest Stop #2.

 

 

Woodlawn Cemetery before Van Cortlandt Park.
Woodlawn Cemetery before Van Cortlandt Park.

 

As one last aside, at the Pelham Bay / Orchard Beach Rest Stop, my SRAM Rival FD that I mentioned in my previous post, finally experienced the proverbial nail in the coffin. I was trying to fit the free bag (that the volunteers were insisting we take) in the back of my windbreaker pocket and a very strong gust of wind knocked my bike over (non-drive side). Everything looked okay, except my FD is now visibly bent somehow. Some normal gear combos began producing heavy chain rub, but other than that, the bike rode relatively fine to the finish. Thankfully my SRAM Force FD is in the mail on its way!

 

Overall: the Tour de Bronx was a unique experience to add to my Strava Heatmap, but I don’t think that I’ll be returning going forward, or if I do, I might just skip the whole corral component. A lot of people had no idea how to ride in a group setting and I saw too many close calls. Somewhere near mile 25, I saw that two cyclists had collided and NYPD was double checking what happened with them.  One thing to say is that this was a great initiative for the Bronx to greatly expand cycling awareness!

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