About the Author
I wanted to write this in reflection of my bike ride around NYC with my friends. Although the ride was challenging, it was also enjoyable. I would love to do this ride again and writing about it made me remember how enjoyable the ride was.
A Bike Ride through Manhattan
Two years ago, in 2021, my friends and I decided to meet up on 72 Street, and 2nd Avenue, a place where many vendors lined the streets. The scent of the barbeque grill, sizzling hot dogs, and overcooked burgers were everywhere--the gray, smoky exhaust, spitting onto the streets from these carts. Through the mist, I saw my friend, a block over, with a bright green helmet. I remember looking up and watching the red light turn green. I remember looking down and seeing my friends cross the street, two more by this time, both wearing black helmets. After they crossed the street, I planned on asking them how they were doing, but their faces told me everything. My friend with the green helmet was much shorter than usual, clearly slouching. The other two, however, were playing with their bikes, and jumping up and down. There was a long journey ahead of us, many miles. While I believe I could do this now, at the time, I believed that it was impossible.
About 10 mins later, quarter to 11, we took off. We started by heading south down 2nd Avenue, on a freshly painted green bike path. Leaving the neighborhood of Lenox Hill, we journeyed south. It was a similar journey for most of the way; delivery bikes caused a loud gust of air sound as they passed by and the occasional motorcyclist in the bike lane. The ride should have been calm through these neighborhoods as they were residential. Yet, it was anything but quiet because of the revving of sports cars, or impatient drivers slamming their fists against the honk button in the middle of the steering wheel. After reaching the midtown tunnel, we changed directions, heading east toward the river. We eventually arrived on the bike path next to the river, and headed south, at around 12 pm. On this journey, all I heard were cars zooming across in the opposite direction, shaking my bike a little every time this happened. I recall the fresh, cold breeze directly blowing against my face, cooling it down as the sun reflected off the fast-moving water, heating my body. Heading downtown, across an endless river to my left, and an endless highway to my right, the journey felt endless. Yet, it was only 30 minutes in total until we reached the southern tip of our journey.
At around 12:30, we began our journey west, following a curvy, narrow path only inches away from hundreds of cars. I noticed my bike swerving and looked down to see both of my hands shaking violently. I suddenly felt an itch on my arm, and as I tried to scratch it, I felt many tiny bumps on my skin, goosebumps. The awareness of them made me shiver, realizing what a dangerous position I was in. I was sandwiched between cars getting on the Brooklyn Bridge to my left and a thick, white concrete wall to my right. Every time a car zoomed by, I jumped a little bit and my hands shook. I thought to myself: shouldn’t I go closer to the wall? It is an inanimate object after all. Yet, every time I tried to do that, it felt like a conveyor belt was moving me towards the wall then immediately away, again and again. Looking ahead, I saw a black helmet, one of my friends, and the road and bike lane forking out. While I was unsure of what path to take, my friend took decisive action and veered to the right, which made me sure that we wanted to go that way. I later learned that the other path led toward Brooklyn, which was not at all where we wanted to be. However, another challenge emerged, a steep, brick road. I felt the bike and my body bounce as I hit each brick. I heard a click behind me, and shortly after that in front of me as well: my friends were switching gears. As I looked up the hill, I asked myself if I should do that as well, so I tried to.
When I attempted to twist the gear shift, I couldn’t. This never occurred before so while surprised, I looked down at my gear system. However, something else caught my eye, the ground below me moving so slowly. I suddenly realized that I was biking very slowly. Knowing that I would have to shift my gears if I wanted to go up the hill, I needed to gain speed. I recall pushing my legs against the pedals, struggling to get up after being in a similar position for a while, just like after a movie ends. However, I eventually stood up and using my body weight to pedal the bike, I saw the ground moving faster. “Yes,” I thought to myself. Once more, I tried to switch my gear but I couldn’t, again and again, I tried, but I just wasn’t fast enough. Using all my energy left in my body, I pedaled so fast, I could feel the breeze against my face. Click! I switched my gears! Relieved, I wiped the sweat off my face and sat back down on the bike. I felt exhausted, my calves and thighs burning in pain. However, I knew that if I could make it up this hill, I could rest. Giving all my energy once more, I got up the hill, finally. Going downhill, I followed my friends, not even needing to pedal, to a boba shop. Raising my right leg over the left and coming to a stop, I lowered my kickstand and walked into the shop. I remember the scent of sweet, flavorful boba until this day.
Looking back, I remember this day most for stepping out of my comfort zone. From being willing to take on this journey, to biking near cars, and overcoming a steep hill, I took many risks. In particular, knowing that this bike ride would be over 15 miles was traumatizing. However, I wanted to go, as I knew it would be a challenge and a fun activity to do with friends. Another risk I took was knowing that even if I got tired halfway there, I would have to bike back anyways. One year before this, I would have never dared think of biking this route. However, today, I would love to do so as it is challenging and enjoyable.