Love at First Bike

Before Citi Bike (B.C.B.), I had my own bike. On my birthday in 2012 I purchased “Delphi” from Bicycle Station, a cramped storefront on Park Avenue at Adelphi Street under the BQE.

The timing was both a gift to myself and the recognition of a new reality. I had one more week of misery before saying sayonara to my first ill-fated corporate events job. (Oh yes, there would a second!)

Quitting a full-time job while paying full-time rent in a luxury building wasn’t an easy choice, but saving my mental health was worth any cost. Aside from app royalties, I had no revenue plan except to start cutting costs. First expense to slash: $104 monthly MetroCard.

To save money in the long-run, I bought a used bicycle despite no experience biking in the city—except during Summer Streets.

The shop's inventory was limited, but fortunately a used bike just my size was in stock for a reasonable $300. Plus, even the colors were nice, and isn’t that the most important thing?

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I hadn’t owned a bike since I was a kid, and this Raleigh road bike’s tires felt precariously narrow during a test ride around the block. The owner assured me this was an ideal bike for me to grow into as my confidence increased.

He was right. But on my inaugural ride, I almost keeled over from exhaustion summiting the Manhattan Bridge into Manhattan. Bridges go uphill? I was already learning so much on a bike.

In Manhattan and still panting, I phoned for help.

“Ozu Sushi, how may I help you,” said a familiar Asian accent across the river in Brooklyn. A lunch special from my favorite neighborhood spot was just what I needed. I biked home via the Brooklyn Bridge and picked up food faster than a delivery man could get it to me and without any tipping (see, I was already saving money!).

From Brooklyn to Beyond
My cycling range gradually expanded. Weeks later I rode to Coney Island via tree-lined Ocean Parkway, a scenic landmark designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. The duo are also responsible for Central, Riverside, Prospect and Fort Greene Parks. Nice resume, guys.

And did you know that the nation’s first bike path was added to Ocean Parkway way back in 1894? Horse and carriages of yesteryear used Ocean Parkway to get to Coney Island, but I had a different agenda: calamari and clam chowder feast at Randazzo’s Clam Bar. It's a true Brooklyn original that I’m sure Olmstead and Vaux would have enjoyed, rolling up their sleeves and getting a little red sauce dirty in Sheepshead Bay.

One month later in early May I completed the 40-mile Five Boro Bike Tour with such enthusiasm that upon finishing in Staten Island I willed to take a second spin around the course. That September (six months after buying my bike), I grinded out 75 miles during the NYC Century. A year later I graduated to the full 100 miles, a feat I repeated the following year but faster.

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Riding 100 miles on urban potholed streets is exhausting, but the rewards of exploring "where the f#%& am I?" neighborhoods was a urban high I’ll never forget. The next day the only muscles that ached were in my hands from braking so much!

I also joined 20-to-40-mile rides organized by Transportation Alternatives, such as the Tour de Staten Island, Tour de Brooklyn, Tour de Queens and Tour de Bronx. Covering long distances in the outer boroughs helped balance my Manhattan-centric experiences and renew interest for living in New York.

The Next Frontier
After riding all these courses two, three or four times, that buzz of adventure has worn off. The rides are still great, but familiar. I feel that I’ve biked all of the Big Apple. Searching for broader horizons, I came up with Countri Bike.

Ready to buy your first bike? 
Awesome! Here are some tips:

  • Get a used bike. Cosmetic damage from scrapes and dings will quickly scuff up a new bike in a big city. It could also get stolen. Theft is always a threat when parking outside. No matter how well you secure a bike, a determined thief can unsecure it faster. Losing a new bike hurts harder than a used one.
  • Visit several bike shops over the course of a few weeks. Used bike inventory is always changing and by shopping around you’ll get a sense of prices and features of what bike is right for you.
  • Buying from a bike shop will include a free tuneup, equipment check and customization of the bike for your body. Not so when buying online or from the owner through an ad.