Biking to the George Washington Bridge was just not going to work on the day before Memorial Day. The crowds were too packed in the park on the way up to the GW Bridge, and so I turned around and decided to do a nice brisk ride along the Hudson River Greenway and through Central Park.
I’m a big guy. I’m currently around 280 pounds, and yet when I ride I tend to be faster than most cyclists on the path by quite a bit. On this particular evening, I pedaled hard up the uphill entry ramp to the Greenway and saw in my rear-view mirror that I had another cyclist who was following pretty closely behind me.
I shot down the Greenway, passing cyclists and genuinely enjoying the cool breeze and the fresh smell of the Hudson River. My unknown cycling companion was generally only one or two bike lengths behind me. As much as I love to bike, I do not take it to the level that some folks in New York City do. I don’t have a set of “real” biking shorts or a real biking jersey, nor do I have a super-expensive road bike. My anonymous companion, however, did appear to have all these trappings: a bike that looked like it could have been made of carbon fiber and a set of biking shorts and a jersey from some race or event.
Around 110th Street, the Greenway cleared out ahead of us. No pedestrians were in sight for quite a ways. The other cyclist pulled up beside me. He caught my attention and in an accent that sounded vaguely Eastern European, he called to me, saying, “You’re amazing!”
He seemed quite impressed by my speed, or more likely my speed despite my size. In retrospect, my average speed down this particular section of the Greenway averaged out to almost 17 miles per hour, and that average includes the long, slow climb up three avenues once I reached 59th Street. I was going pretty fast when he was trailing me.
Still, I wasn’t entirely prepared for a complement, and so I just shot back, “Thank you!” as we both sped down the river path.
The gentleman in question was older – he looked like he could be in his mid-50s. His next question was even more interesting and also unexpected. “What do you eat?” he shouted.
I guess he wondered if there was some secret pre-workout routine I followed, or perhaps he was just inquiring as to whether I routinely ate my spinach. Nonetheless, the only answer I could muster was, “far too much.”
(My relationship with food is not terrifically healthy and will assuredly be the subject of a later essay.)
He offered a word of encouragement that I can’t quite recall and then we switched places for about the next 40 blocks. He turned left before the fenced-off part of the path near the Trump Towers and I continued to shoot towards the egress at 59th Street.
I ended up doing a complete circle around the park, biking west down 72nd Street into the sunset and heading back home through the beautiful split-lane path around 79th Street that spills back into the Greenway once more.
The whole experience exemplifies that which I love about NYC. It is cyclist-friendly, full of nature despite its gargantuan size, and populated with of a large variety of people of all races and cultures who might just surprise you with their geniality.