Over the course of the fall, my Kissena teammate Anthony Ott and I, traveled together to most of our cross races. Besides having good company along for the ride, the unintended consequences are the insemination of crazy ideas. On one of our trips, Anthony had an idea of trying to ride a century in Central Park, NY on a single speed. I liked the idea, but being in the middle of Cyclocross season, it got shoved to the back of my mind.
My Cyclocross season had ended early do to a sudden encounter with a car in early November. This incident put me off the bike for about three full weeks. Only recently have I started to ride again to build my fitness back up in order to be ready for my 2020 racing year.
A few weeks ago, for some unknown reason this Central Park Single Speed Century idea came forward again. Anthony and I started to discuss this and a time frame to pull this off. Due to holiday commitments, it was decided that the weekend of December 14/15 would be the best time to get this done before the end of the year.
Originally we planned on Saturday and a full one hundred mile ride. This would result in about sixteen to seventeen laps around the park. We discussed what gearing to use and if we would ride fixed or not fixed. I had recently purchased a Surly Steamroller with brakes for some fixed gear winter riding and, or, commuting so I had the machine. We also opened up the invite to anyone else who wanted to do this. People who wanted to could join and ride any distance they wanted. They did not have to have a steel single speed, they could bring whatever they have available to them.
As the day drew closer, we had to move the ride to Sunday since the weather forecast for Saturday was rain all day long. In the end, the weather report was right. But, Sunday we also had on schedule the Kissena year end party in Brooklyn, so we did not feel we could pull off the whole one hundred miler, so we diced to knock it down to a metric century, sixty-two miles, or ten laps.
Due to high tourism, we planned at starting in the park at Tavern on the Green at five thirty in the morning. This meant that I had to get up around two-thirty and get out by three-thirty. I needed to be parked in the upper west side by around five. The drive in was not bad at that hour. It got a little busy on the Cross Bronx Expressway, but nothing crazy.
It took me a good twenty minutes to find a suitable parking space by the apartment of the cousins of my mother. I was planning on visiting them for lunch and a shower after my event. Luckily I did find something and within about five to ten minutes I was cruising down to meet up Anthony at his place. From there, we rolled on down to Tavern. The park was quite empty when we arrived five minutes late at our starting location. We waited a few more minutes but not wanting to get completely cold we decided to begin our adventure.
I have only raced twice in the park and ridden the park loop one other time. So I am not terribly familiar with it. The tempertures were just below forty Fahrenheit with a ten mile per hour wind. The first lap felt quite hard. This was undoubtedly due to not yet being properly warmed up. The hill by the boat house was definitely a sobering moment. But the real awakening was the first time we were greeted by Harlem Hill and the three sisters shortly after.
Riding a single speed there is no downshifting in order to spin up a climb. So we just had to work with whatever gear we had. On the descents we would spin the gear out and therefore we would have to just coast the downhill. In a sense this would force us to recover from the efforts on the hills. On the flat grounds we motored along using a nice high cadence.
On lap two, things finally started to settle in. I felt that I could cope with the climbs. There were some wet spots especially on the descent by the swimming pool/ice rink. Before getting back to Tavern on the Green we passed through a very dark section with just the red traffic lights illuminating the surrounding area. It was really very spectral.
On the west side, Anthony pointed out one of the oldest man made structures in the city. An Egyptian Obelisk. I never knew it was even there.
As time progressed, we started to run into more cyclists and Joggers. We even got buzzed by guys on very expensive carbon bikes riding as fast as they could. Around three and a half laps in, we came across John Hale on his track bike in a big fixed gear and no brakes. He tagged along until we had eight to go.
While John was with us, we finally decided to have for our first restroom stop. Good fortune we found a set of bathrooms still open to the public.
Not wanting to cool off too much we pressed on. With eight to go, the hills were really starting to be felt in our legs. Also the wind had picked up and for some reason it always felt as if we had a headwind while going up hill. Sometime around the last lap, Ricky and Nathaniel, two of our Kissena teammates, appeared and kept us company for the remainder of our adventure.
On the last lap, I noticed my chain slipping. I had to cut my chain and re-adjust things the night before. I am keen on having a chain tensioner like I have on my track bike, which allows me to dial in my wheel perfectly and also helps to prevent slipping. I babied the bike as much as I could to prevent it from getting worse. We were almost done and I did not want to stop now and have to re-adjust the rear wheel.
In the end, the chain survived, and arriving at Tavern on the Green after ten laps we declared our ride complete. We had started in the dark and had completed the one hundred kilometers in daylight.
It really felt that the ride was divided up into two. The Dark and the Light. In our case the Dark was the better part of it, since we did not have to worry to about the other park users.
Following the shower, breakfast, and lunch with my family, I drove to Queens and meet up with my teammate Robert Peras. Together with Jason, another teammate, we drove down to Brooklyn and spent the evening hanging out with fellow team members enjoying a year end party with food, beer and giveaways. It was a fun night, and a nice way to end to the 2019 racing season.
In the end, the park ride was a fun challenge or adventure. And these are always lived best when in good company. I want to try to do some more of these single speed Central Park rides during the off season, but it will have to wait until the new year.