Last month, I had the opportunity to ride with a group of awesome bike ladies from WEbike NYC. I don’t hang out with them as often as I should, but I’ve never felt disappointed after going on a ride with them. I’m not a social butterfly. The idea of meeting up with a bunch of strangers for a bike ride is somewhat anxiety-inducing, but in the end, I’m always happy I go. I haven’t quite made any strong friendships but that’s a reason in itself for to get off my ass and get (bike) social.
Back to the ride.
Every year in July, women and female-identifying individuals from all over the world get together to ride the Rapha Women’s 100—100km in a day. I heard about it last year and signed up to ride this year. But who would I ride with?
I’m not a hard core, ultra-training cyclist but I’m not a mere beginner either. I wanted something that was challenging but in good, chill company. I knew I found my riding group when I saw WEbike NYC’s Facebook event. These ladies are as chill as they come—no drop, super helpful, wise and pleasant to be around.
Sunday, July 23. 7:30 a.m.
I dragged my bike onto the subway early Sunday morning and made my way to Columbus Circle, the southwestern corner of Central Park. The weather didn’t look good. Dark clouds from the previous night were rolling across the sky and it looked like the rain would come pouring down any minute. The breeze was mild and it wasn’t overly hot. At 8:30 a.m., our group of about 20 ladies set off to complete the Women’s 100.Destination: Kensico Dam.
The hardest part about doing long rides from the city is getting out of the city. Ten grueling miles of red lights, traffic, and glass shards in the travel lane.
It felt like we hit every red light going up Central Park West. After that, glass. Beady shards of glass everywhere along Saint Nicholas Avenue and Broadway in the Bronx (along with terrible traffic congestion). From Van Cortlandt Park Greenway, we connected with the Putnam Trail and headed northbound. The first mile-or-so of the trail was extremely muddy, which I imagine made for an entertaining view: twenty ladies with their bikes rolling through the slick muck.
The rain held off but the overcast continued. The breeze was still mild but none of this mattered. The humidity was brutal and noticeable when we stopped for a quick break. I was sweating. A lot. But it was hard to tell because it wasn’t the beady, drip-drip type of sweating. It was the glossy type. The type you ignore until you stop and actually look at your skin and realize just how hot you actually are and how dehydrated you actually feel. I wasn’t sure I’d make it all the way to the dam.
We continued northward, connecting with the South County Trailway. In Elmsford, we hooked right onto East Main Street, took a quick bathroom break at the Dunkin Donuts while our ride leader put in our sandwich orders that we’d pick up on the return trip.
Thirty minutes and traffic lane dancing with a bunch of cars later, we made it. Kensico Dam in Valhalla.
It was really busy. There was an Italian heritage festival going on. White-topped pop-up tents were lined up in the Plaza, covering tables with Italian artifacts and goodies. There was a church service in another corner of the plaza, and a dance space in another corner.
Then there’s a the dam. Towering over everything in its architectural beauty. The stones, different sizes, neatly stacked into simple columns, offset in some places for aesthetics. There were people walking across the top of the dam. It was a strange feeling seeing them up there. It was like watching a tilt-shift in real time.
Some of the ladies asked if were headed to the top. We weren’t. After about 15 minutes of stretching, refilling water bottles, and using the bathrooms, we lined up in front of the dam to take the obligatory WEbike NYC photo. One more quick stretch and we all saddled back up to make our way back to Elmsford for lunch. After lunch and another quick bathroom break, we headed back towards the Bronx.
Our return ride took us along the Hudson River Greenway. We wrestled with some runners for the shared lane, but continued a good place down the northern tip of Manhattan. My knee was starting to hurt by this point. All that clipping in-and-out action was becoming a bit much, but I stuck it out to the end point. It was early evening by the time we go to the Intrepid Museum. The sun was out by this point, and the sky had a beautiful red-orange glow about it. We gathered around the fountain and took one final group photo before disbanding.
After saying final goodbyes and throwing out some ideas for the next group ride, we all went our separate ways. I headed straight for the subway. My knee was swelling and the downstroke was unbearable.
My takeaway lesson from this: train your body. I don’t know if there’s anything I could’ve done to avoid the knee pain completely, but my guess is if I trained with the clipless pedals and lifted weights, the pain wouldn’t have been as severe.
We’ll see how I fare in the upcoming NYC Century on September 10.