Monday, July 2, 2012

The Ride To Montauk 2012: The Recap (Part 1)

::IMPORTANT:: For the time being, please update your bookmarks to this web address:

I'm having issues with my web domain! Hoping to work them out soon.

It's hard to believe it's been two weeks since the Ride to Montauk, but I'm pretty sure anyone who participated this year will understand when I say it's taken me about that long to process everything that went down.

On a slightly more personal (and a little whiny) note, I've been avoiding my laptop at all costs outside of work. I've developed a pretty gnarly case of carpal tunnel syndrome/tendonitis that makes it painful to hammer away at a keyboard for any significant stretch of time. I wish that didn't eat into my blogging time, but unfortunately, it is what it is.

I DIGRESS.  The tour. Let's do this! It's in two parts because I have so much territory to cover. In a nutshell, I had a really great time this year. Unfortunately, a lot (a LOT) of other riders did not. As always, I will go into far too much detail about this. Ready?

Pre-ride Volunteering –– Ups and downs 

Just like last year, I decided to volunteer for the ride in order to ride for free. This time around, I opted to help out on the Friday before the ride, rather than forcing myself to wake up at 2 a.m. to work the registration desk Saturday morning and then bike 100 miles on a few hours of sleep.

My friends and I showed up at Bicycle Habitat in SoHo at our 2:30 p.m. call time. There were a couple Budget Travel trucks already parked there and a pretty sizable line of folks snaked around the corner of the shop.

But there was one thing missing: TOUR PEOPLE.

We waited about half an hour before someone from the tour showed up. The face was familiar. It belonged to Anne, the powerhouse volunteer wrangler/tour organizer that I remembered working with last year. She barreled in and instantly divvied up the dozen or so volunteers on hand to work different tasks. I slid behind the check-in desk while a few friends helped load bikes onto the trucks.

After about 20 minutes, I wished I'd joined them. It was exhausting work signing everyone in, especially since I could answer practically NONE of their questions (we were told to direct them to the website) and I felt like I was going hoarse from repeating the same instructions over and over again. Four hours in and I was just about to strangle myself with the wrist bands I was supposed to be doling out to riders. Luckily, the other volunteers were in pretty good spirits and I think my grouchiness went unnoticed (Anne did supply us with snacks and water, which was nice).

It was a complete mess trying to direct bike traffic on the narrow strip of sidewalk we'd taken over and I know people were frustrated with the long wait. I still think pre-loading bikes is the best way to go for this tour, but I wish they could find a more streamlined way to manage the crowds. Perhaps arriving on time would be a good start. Also, it might have helped to have several check-in stations set up, rather than bunching us altogether.

The Big Day –– Race to the starting line 

I went to sleep Friday night on a full belly of carbs and lots of fluids and woke up feeling bright and springy when my alarm rang at 3 a.m. There are four different distance options for this tour––35 mile, 73 mile, 108 mile and 145 mile legs––and each had a different train to catch from Penn Station. The exception was the 145-mile crew, which left straight from Manhattan (bless their hearts).

My train was leaving at 4:45 a.m. and I made it there with probably two minutes to spare (Thanks, MTA). The ride to Babylon (Long Island) was pretty uneventful––save for the rowdy group of Long Island party-goers who refused to shut up. I sucked down the iced coffee I'd thankfully remembered to pack and scarfed down a Clif Bar while my friend whipped out a bag of––no joke––bacon he'd fried up as a pre-ride snack.

Bike pick up –– Off without a hitch  

Our chariots await.
I was instantly grateful we'd pre-loaded our bikes the day before. They were right there waiting for us when we arrived, which was a huge difference from last year when we showed up and had to wait as tour volunteers frantically unloaded them from trucks that had been delayed.

I know a friend was stuck waiting for his bike to arrive for at least 45 minutes, and he definitely wasn't alone.

Determined to hit the road by 6:30 a.m., we only took two 20 minutes or so to load up on snacks, drop off our bags that would be transported to the finish line, and slather ourselves in SPF. Then, we were off!

Leg One –– The life-sized piñata 

I could tell we all felt great during the first few miles of the ride. The sun was just getting a good hold on the sky and everything was bright and clear and calm.

Traffic was light, which was good because one of my crew hit a pothole that sent just about every piece of his bike that wasn't bolted down flying onto the pavement. It was pretty hilarious (kind like taking a really satisfying thwack at a life-sized piñata) but it would have been wildly less funny with dozens of cars zooming by.

Because we'd all agreed to take the tour at our own pace, it wasn't long before our group broke up. There was probably no more than five minutes separating any of us, but it was nice to free myself up to ride as hard or as gently as I wanted. I was taking it as easy as possible, given the fact that my knees were what wrecked last year's ride for me and this year I completely forgot to pack my trusty Advil.

Rest stop 1 –– Boozy bikers

I can only describe our entrance to the Blue Point Brewery rest stop as if Ponce de Leon himself had stumbled upon the fountain of youth. It was a treasure trove, I tell you. A TREASURE TROVE.

Lara bars, trail mix, fruit, gatorade (TWO flavors), coconut water, and honest-to-God beer were all piled high on picnic tables. There was probably more that I'm forgetting but I can tell you nobody left that rest stop wanting anything in the way of food or drink. I think people were just so glad they found food at all (last year there were shortages because of a busted truck delivery of sorts) which I think led to some unfair hoarding.

I totally understand the desire to pack a little extra kibble and bits to munch on during the long stretches of road between rest stops, but people were acting like they wouldn't see another meal for DAYS. Unfortunately, that meant that riders who showed up later weren't left with very much to pick from.

This would be a trend throughout the day, unfortunately. I wonder if they might consider doing a better job rationing out supplies...I know it's hard to tell thousands of full grown adults to go easy on the snacks, but it's not fair that people who paid just as much for their spot on the tour were left feeling like they got the short end of the stick.

Next up....Bloody surprises, rest stop fail, hit and runs––and you'll never guess how many hours I shaved off my time this year. 

Don't miss all my bike tour reviews:


  1. Sorry to hear about the carpal tunnel situation-- ouch!

    Bacon friend sounds awesome. Glad you had a good time on the ride this time!

  2. I live right by Babylon! Hmmm maybe I need to get a bike so I can do this with you next year ;)

  3. OMG! Bacon as a snack for a ride! Genius! I must tell this to my Iron Man friends and I may have to do this when I do my meager, Irish Pub Tour De Shore 65 mile ride from Philly to Atlantic City in a few weeks. Nice recap, can't wait to read more.