I want to ride my bicycle - NY edition
June 11, 2014 3:38 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Manhattan from this weekend for a conference and some holiday time. I'm trying to keep up cycle training for a big event in two months. Are there routes around Manhattan where I can do some nice mileage while seeing some sights and feeling secure? Details within.

I'm trying to avoid the hotel fitness centre and the crushing oppression of staying in the same hotel as the conference. I'll be staying near Penn station for 5 days and then in the East Village for 3. I'm happy to use Citi Bike (I live in London where there is a similar scheme), but would hire a road bike if it was worth it. Essentially my question is: Are there nice routes not far from Midtown where I can cycle some miles without many cars or pedestrians? Thanks!
posted by hannahlambda to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hudson River Park and the path along the west side goes for miles. Pretty views and you're not riding in traffic.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:52 AM on June 11, 2014

Thanks, Hudson River Park looks brilliant. Just to say that I might also be interested in a bike ride in the countryside if there was a way to access it on public transport.
posted by hannahlambda at 4:05 AM on June 11, 2014

Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad - the public transit ways you'd access the country - only allow bikes if you get a permit; it costs about five bucks. I wrote away for mine, but they also sell them at the ticket counters.

Here's all the rules for bikes on public transit in New York City.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:24 AM on June 11, 2014

It is really easy to get out of the city on the bike. Just ride north on the Hudson River greenway and get on the GWB. Once you are in NJ you can ride north on 9W toward Nyack and Piermont. It is a very popular route. Memail me for more detailed info.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:25 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Is there some reason you are not considering Central Park?
posted by megatherium at 4:29 AM on June 11, 2014

Megatherium, is there a specific path in Central Park that I can go fast without dodging pedestrians, having to pull out my map etc? I'm not familiar with NY at all.
posted by hannahlambda at 4:34 AM on June 11, 2014

The Central Park drive is a loop of about 6 miles and is car free much of the day. It is a roadway, not a walking path but there is a lane on the left for runners and there can be a fair bit of people crossing the road so you have to exercise caution.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:40 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

My old business partner is a very keen cyclist. Participates in a bunch of racing leagues, has a trainer etc. I know that he eschews the Hudson River Park as a place to ride because of the combination of heavy pedestrian crossing traffic and lots of very slow cyclists. His normal path is to take surface streets to the GWB and riding up 9w as C_a suggests.

For similar reasons he doesn't use the central park part except for very early in the AM races.

Just something to keep in mind.
posted by JPD at 4:43 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Central Park is car free on weekends! Just follow the other bicyclists and remember to stop at the stop lights.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:13 AM on June 11, 2014

For similar reasons he doesn't use the central park part except for very early in the AM races
re-quoted for truthiness

I live in Boston, but had to work in New York for a few weeks on a client project while I was in the middle of training for some long-distance endurance rides. While I was there, I did more or less what JPD's colleague suggests, but only after some trial and error. Both the Hudson River Park path and Central Park bike path are fine for leisure cycling or some basic aerobic activity, but they're near useless for conditioning purposes or doing things like intervals due to pedestrian density. The ride to Nyack is nice, but a round trip is a half imperial century and maybe more than you need for conditioning purposes. You could cut the trip in half and turn or loop around the Greenbrook Nature Sanctuary in the Palisades Interstate Park.

Depending on your definition of safety, you may want to consider taking the Hudson River path to the GWB anyway if you think that you can game a proper trade of pedestrian congestion for street lights.

Oh, and also, pro-tip on urban riding in New York. In general, I found New York City riding to be rather easy and sedate, despite the reputation for aggressiveness in driving (though this is coming from Boston where driver aggressiveness is in a class all of its own). The only thing I had to adapt to was being wary of pedestrians hailing for cabs, because cabs are ruthless in hustling for their fare. If you see a pedestrian raising their hand to flag a cab, check your shoulder, and be prepared to be cut off by a taxi divebombing across three lanes to get to them first.
posted by bl1nk at 7:20 AM on June 11, 2014

For similar reasons he doesn't use the central park part except for very early in the AM races

I would put it a little differently: If you can get on your bike between 6am-7am, the loop is 85% cyclists. So if you don't want to venture up to 9W (which is a little more complex, but definitely doable), I'd recommend 4 or so loops of the park in the morning.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:54 AM on June 11, 2014

Check out the New York Cycle Club, nycc.org. You can find routes, and ask questions on the message board, and there's a drop-down list of shops that rent road bikes.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:08 PM on June 11, 2014

BTW, I agree with all the comments above, with a caveat: It's laughably complicated to get from the Hudson River Greenway to the George Washington Bridge, and then from street level up to the level of the bridge. We locals do it all the time, but it's tough to explain.

So the recommendation to head over the bridge to NJ and on to Piermont or Nyack is a great one, as long as you take your time and have a clear set of instructions.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:16 PM on June 11, 2014

going along the Hudson River is nice, but my favorite, most NYC ride, was from Midtown out to Long Beach on Long Island. I would take something similar to this route - you get to see all kinds of interesting neighborhoods in Brooklyn (and many add-ons if you want to see other things:Prospect Park, Ocean Parkway, Coney Island, guys flying model airplanes at Floyd Bennet Field). On a weekend morning there is very little traffic and you can always take the LIRR back into the city.
posted by nanhey at 6:23 PM on June 11, 2014

Can you be more specific about what kind of mileage, speed, and ascent you want? The answers here are roughly split into two clusters: some people recommending that you leave the city, and others suggesting routes within the city. The first group are probably the serious clipless pedals and chamois shorts crowd. If you're thinking of using Citi Bike to continue your training, you're probably not in that crowd. A Citi Bike is almost exactly the same as a Boris Bike. And, to say the obvious thing, you cannot get a Citi Bike out to Piermont and back before the late fees add up to a truly impressive sum.

If you are in that crowd, I apologize. Cross the George Washington Bridge, turn left, and ride on the sidewalk until you can turn left again onto River Road. This is about eight miles of pavement threaded along the face of the Palisades with 2000 ft of climb up to the Interstate police station, at which point you can either repeat the hill or come back on 9W.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:10 PM on June 11, 2014

River Rd/9W are the traditional NYC road biking routes.

You can also take the 1 train to the end of the line and grab the Old Putnam Trail in Van Cortlandt Park and ride 50 miles on a lightly-rolling, mostly paved path up to Brewster, NY:
posted by akgerber at 9:31 PM on June 11, 2014

To answer d. z. wang, I'm kind of half in both crowds. I'd be happy doing 30 minute stretches on a Citi Bike every evening and renting a road bike for one or two long spins. These answers are excellent, thanks all.
posted by hannahlambda at 2:58 AM on June 13, 2014

To follow up, I cycled from the lower east side around by Battery Park up the river path to the George Washington Bridge. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to go on the 9W, which looked lovely and left from the bridge. The cycle was great and not too crowded with pedestrians or other cyclists (as long as you have patience, which I saw lacking in some cyclists). Thanks all!
posted by hannahlambda at 5:10 AM on June 24, 2014

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