The Brooklyn Bridge and Bike Repairs

New York has kept me well-stimulated and quite busy!

Friday I went on a group ride organized through Time’s Up!, a biking organization that describes itself as a “direct action environmental group” which also runs bike repair workshops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Fellow L.A. rida Rambod is also in New York right now, so we’ve been going on many adventures together; this was the first New York group ride we both attended. The ride met in Manhattan at the Brooklyn Bridge and was headed for Coney Island–13 miles from the starting point.

Well, things got a little wacky…

Rambod and I had gone out to have a picnic with Michelle, his girlfriend, who is working for the High Line Park. After the picnic, which consisted of a virtual fruit-and-veggie feast composed nearly entirely of dumpstered goods, we locked our bikes up and went to explore the specialty foods mall of sorts known as Chelsea Market. We spent about an hour tasting fancy rum and salts, olive oils and vinegars. On our ride home I realized that my slightly untrue rear wheel had somehow become now rather untrue since our ride out there. But it was a short ride home, and I didn’t quite realize how horrendous it was. On our way out to the start point for the ride, I realized how much extra force I needed to exert to keep moving. No bueno!

So we arrived at the foot of the bridge and attempted to loosen my (only) brake to alleviate the trouble. I gave my bike a test ride and found that now I had no braking power. Readjust. Less rubbing, more braking. Still kinda iffy on both counts, but we decide to make a go of it. So we take off with the group of about 15-20 riders, and move at a very casual pace along the Brooklyn Bridge. Our first time on the Brooklyn Bridge, wooo!

Then we realize that the Brooklyn Bridge sucks to ride on. It’s a series of small wood planks and a million tourists who just want to stand around and point their camera at the wire ropes that hold up the bridge and really just take up space and breathe too much.

As we made our descent down the Brooklyn side of the bridge we all picked up speed and I shifted into my largest gear–and then as I’m pulling my lever as to not pass the woman ahead of me on the narrow bikeway–SNAP! I have no brakes. I’m rolling faster. Shitshitshit. I pull to the left and whir past a few cyclists, uttering “watch out” in the calmest voice possible. 50 feet. I consider my options, looking at the meaty wire roping holding up the bridge. No, that won’t work. Another 50 feet. Now we’re beside an iron railing. No, can’t grab that either. My speed is increasing. OK, I think, OK, here we go. I take my flip-flop equipped foot and reach back past my rack and press my shoe against my wide 2 1/4″ tire. Whhhzzzzzzzzz. About 300 feet after I hear that dreadful SNAP! I come to a stop. I pant; I laugh; my leg buckles as my hamstring coils into the most wretched cramp I’ve ever known. I can’t stand, but I am unharmed, and so is everyone else. Rambod stops with me and we investigate what we both expect to be a snapped cable, but apparently the noodle just slipped out of the V hinge. Damnit, how the heck does that happen? I can only assume that in our previous adjustments it didn’t get reset correctly. Yay, I can keep riding! So we continue on with the ride (which is slow and boring, except for the new scenery through a very pretty part of the city) until the Brooklyn meetup point. We meet up with Jeff, one of the NY polo players, and here I determine that continuing to Coney Island is not in my (or my bike’s) best interest. So we head to Jeff’s, play Race for the Galaxy, a game I’ve quickly become slightly addicted to, and I give my bike the attention it’s been crying for. Rear wheel gets trued. Front hub gets tightened. I make a brake adjustment, which turns out to be not-so-adequate due to the fraying of the cable. On Saturday I visit Continuum Cycles for cable (and keep abreast of the Wolfpack v. Jetblue race, won by the cyclists of course!), go home and tear apart my housing and noodle attempting to remove the frayed cable without a wire cutter, and then take a trip on Sunday to NYC Velo gather all the pieces I had destroyed the day before. Finally, I get my brake back in working order on the sidewalk of 2nd Ave, and head off to polo to catch the NY v. Richmond bench match and get in a few good pick up games.

And here is some fun coverage of Wolfpack v. Jetblue and the Carmageddon silliness:

BBC Audio: Wolfpack Cyclist Roadblock on BBC

Carmageddon Challenge on by transportation expert Tom Vanderbilt

KPCC Audio: Why Can’t Every Weekend be Like Carmageddon?

P.S. A note about the bike shops: Everyone at both bike shops I went to was very friendly. No snobbery. Only one visit to each, plus a walk-back-in-after-my-exit​ to each. Continuum is the more scrubby, down to earth spot and NYC Velo is more “shiny,” but the mechanics and cashiers and both places were helpful and welcoming. It was nice, very nice, considering I averse to bike shop trips simply because of bike shop snobbery.


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