Renting in Central Park

I ran up to New York City for just a couple of days a while ago, basically to run a couple of errands — and to test ride the Tern Link D8. Also on my (brief) itinerary was taking a ride in Central Park.  I ride Pegasus, my six-speed trike, to compensate for several physical problems that have made bicycling inadvisable.  The year I’ve spent on my trike, though, and doing ancillary exercises, has made me stronger, and I’ve begun to explore the idea of riding on two wheels, at least some of the time.

My few days in NYC happened to coincide with a heat wave.  Hot weather and I are not friends, and I ride a pedal-assist trike, in part, because my body responds very, very badly to high ambient temperatures.  I managed to ride the Tern in a leafy park for twenty minutes or so on my first day in the city, but, due to the heat,  I couldn’t have ridden any longer on that particular day even if the bike shop had been willing to let me take my time.  The next day was even hotter (I spent part of it on a ferry on the East River, which was a lot of fun, though not as cool as you might imagine, temperature-wise).

I ended up at Columbus Circle around 7 PM on the second day, and saw a bike rental kiosk when I emerged from the subway. Temperatures had dropped just a slight bit, so I decided to take my chances on a bicycle.  It was the last moment for rentals — but the staff agreeably signed me up, and I was quickly outfitted and pedaling away on a 21-speed Trek 7300:

During mid-day, and after 7 PM, the roadway in Central Park is closed, and becomes the domain of pedestrians and cyclists only, so I had no concerns about traffic or going too slowly.  And I was slow; I rode about 4.5 miles in forty-five minutes, which is no land speed record.  But I did do it in  91-degree heat, without pedal-assist.  (And, yes, I nearly died, and was wrecked the next day — but hey, I did it!)

The loop I took — the loop everyone takes — went from 59th street up to 104th, across the park, and back down.  In the map below (the image is from the free NYC 2012 Cycling Map, widely available all over the city), I started from the lower left corner, followed the red line around to the right, and then took the squiggly green line (second green line above the reservoir) across the park (at about 104th street), and then returned down the west side of the park.

The area above 104th apparently gets really hilly; that wasn’t an option in the heat, and I was also concerned about getting the bike back before the kiosk closed.

In theory, it’s only one way, but a few people didn’t know this, or didn’t care.  Riders of all ability levels were on the path — including, even in the heat, some who appeared to be first-timers.  Packs of cycling club members were circling, too, showing the rest of us how it’s really done, even in scorching temperatures.

I liked the Trek.  It was easy to ride, shifted well, was comfortable and sturdy.  Weirdly, it didn’t feel any lighter, or any  more  nimble, than my 65 -pound trike, but that didn’t mean that the ride was at all compromised.  I’m guessing it’s around 32 pounds or so with the extra rental panels on the back; you’d expect it to be heavy  as these rental units have to be workhorses, ready for any rider, and for rough use.

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