Ride Report: Bike Philly 2010

This past Sunday marked the third annual Bike Philly ride, which offers the unique opportunity for cyclists to ride a planned route around the city on streets free of motor vehicles. The ride featured three different route options of 10, 20, or 35 miles so anyone from novice riders to hardcore cyclists would have a challenging ride.

I volunteered for SAG (service and gear) support, which meant I would carry some tools, a tire pump, and patch kit and look out for any riders in need of assistance.

The morning of the ride dawned cool and damp, and I pedaled toward the starting  area in front of the Art Museum on deserted streets. I checked in with the volunteer coordinators, received my volunteer t-shirt and complimentary coffee. Rain fell intermittently, and a rainbow briefly appeared over the museum before the rain fell in earnest.

From Bike Philly 2010

Despite the rain, groups of riders of every description filtered into the starting area: racer-types in full spandex outfits, new riders grinning ear to ear, older folks on their trusty steeds, parent/child tandem teams, people piloting adaptive tricycles, and countless others on all types of human-powered transport.

From Bike Philly 2010

As the roll-out time neared, the starting area swelled with riders. Mayor Michael Nutter made a speech expressing strong support for cyclists in the city. He and his wife were taking part in the ride, so it seemed his words about cyclists’ right to the road carried more weight than if he had made the speech only to duck into an idling limousine.

From Bike Philly 2010

Roll-out time finally came, and the huge group of riders crammed into the starting area slowly stretched out into a line that stretched longer than the Ben Franklin Parkway. I was amid the ‘easy rider’ group, composed mostly of families and others who took the ride at a relaxed pace. My first roadside repair came only a few hundred yards from the start when a tag-along bike suffered a bent chain guard that I quickly bent back into shape. My second repair occurred when I got a flat tire myself soon after. I repaired my tube under an awning at the US Mint as the last of the riders and support vehicles drove by. I started near the back of the group, so by the time I got back on the road I was far behind. I rode for a couple of miles with traffic, not another rider to be seen until I finally caught up with a group just as we turned back onto the Parkway to head out to the scenic, hilly roads of Fairmont Park.

The rain eventually petered out and left the riders with a wet, slick road to contend with, but I have to hand it to the ride organizers, who stationed many course marshals at every turn and road hazard, alerting riders of any dangerous conditions.

There were also several rest stops, which featured free bike repair, food, and drink. My favorite was in front of an old mansion in the park that even featured a live bluegrass band.

From Bike Philly 2010

After the rest stop, the ride separated between the 35- and 20-mile routes, and I headed back toward the museum on the shorter route. I had only one other call for assistance when a man needed some air for his tire. In our brief interaction, he told me how he had driven from Yonkers, New York at 3 that morning to ride, and that he used to be ‘a couch potato’ before he took up biking. It was good to hear about biking making a positive influence on his life, and his enthusiasm was a great boost for the last few miles of cold riding to the finish.

From Bike Philly 2010

I was impressed by the overall enthusiasm of nearly everyone I encountered on the ride, and it seemed that no one was going to let rain keep them from having a good time. The droves of organizers and other volunteers radiated enthusiasm and encouragement, and the riders enjoyed themselves despite gray, wet conditions.

I highly recommend Bike Philly to residents and out-of-towners alike. It’s a great way to see the city and share the fellowship of riding bikes with thousands of other people. There are also a multitude of volunteer opportunities available, and you don’t have to be a mechanical whiz to help out. It’s definitely worth contributing to this great event.

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One response to “Ride Report: Bike Philly 2010

  1. I just moved to Mt Airy from Los Angeles less than 2 weeks ago. I signed up for Bike Philly and did the 20 mile route. It was my first introduction to my new hometown – and it was awesome! What a great way to see the city for the first time.

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