Two Chains, Four Wheels by Terry Halpin
Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.
~ Charles M. Schulz
On May 16th, 11th Hour Racing and Manuka Sports hosted, Living on the Edge, a panel discussion on coastal communities and climate change. The panel discussion, in conjunction with the Atlantic Cup, took place in New York City, more than 200 miles from 11th Hour Racing’s home in Newport, RI. The majority of our staff took the train in to the city to attend the event. However Rob MacMillan, our Program Adviser and Terry Halpin, 11th Hour Racing Ambassador, decided it would be a grand adventure to ride bikes to the city. This is their story.
Q: You are both active sailing competitors. How does riding a bike compare to sailing? Do you feel there are similarities?
There are many similarities that make the two sports complimentary. There are many disciplines and subsets within each sport that allow for participation and enjoyment for just about anybody at every level.
Competitive, big boat sailing requires physicality, coordinated team work, tactical genius, and the use of technology as the cornerstones of success. The same is true of professional bike racing teams that compete in prestigious events such as the Giro D’Italia or the Tour de France. Both require intense training, mental focus and commitment.
There really is something for everyone under the umbrella of each sport and they both offer ways to satisfy the desire to compete and enjoy the beauty of their respective operating environments.
Q: Where in the world have you ridden and how does it compare to riding in the US?
Cycling is a part of the culture in Europe. I feel fortunate to have been able to ride in most of the locations that I have traveled to for competitive sailing. New Zeland, France, Italy, Spain, and South Africa and for the most part, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. The same can be said for the riding both Rob and I have done here in the US, including most of New England, South Eastern Florida, and the Bay Area of San Francisco, oh and a couple of thousand laps around Aquidneck Island. What should be stressed is that the steep, twisting country roads of coastal Sardinia are no more or less dangerous to bikers than the back roads or suburbs of any-town USA. It’s about driver awareness and in the US, it just isn’t woven in to our fabric yet.
Q: Choosing to Ride through NYC is not something everyone would want to sign up for. What led you to that decision and how did it compare to other rides you have done in the states.
Rob planted the suggestion a couple of weeks before the Atlantic Cup and shortly thereafter, it became something more like a challenge. Originally, he wanted to ride the length of the 180 or so miles from Newport to New York over a two-day period; Instead we drove to New London, took a ferry across to Orient Point, and began the 110 mile trip from there. I had entered a 100 mile race in New York that would cap the weekend so at that point, I was all in. While I was well-trained for the upcoming race, I had never ridden more than 75 miles in one go and had a feeling that neither had Rob, this was certainly going to be interesting. Despite the insanity of riding through Queens during rush hour, we both felt that crossing over into Manhattan after starting in the “wine country” of Long Island hours earlier, was a great feeling.
Interestingly, the ride through NYC proper (if you don’t count the borough of Queens) was actually pretty easy. The many recently added bike lanes improved the conditions and once south of mid-town at rush hour, the traffic thinned out and it was clear “sailing” to the event location at North Cove.
Q: Along the way what did you notice about the roadways or landscape you rode through. Do you feel the trash and pollution you found relates back to Marine debris and Clean regattas?
The amount of trash along the roadways was ridiculous. It stretched far off the road and was much more obvious from the bike than would have been from a car. Sadly, the majority of the trash and waste will end up in the waterways eventually. Seeing this re-enforced the idea that everything is connected and we have to do a much better job of recognizing the impact everything can have.
For those who aren’t familiar with the North Fork of Long Island, it’s pretty rural with many farms and vineyards as you head West. What I found interesting about the first 35-40 miles is that while the scenery is reminiscent of famous paintings the road itself was a constant stream of heavy, commercial vehicles heading (loudly) in both directions. The noise and soot produced from the traffic was, at times, a little overwhelming, the diesel particulates and dust would take a toll on my lungs later on in the ride. Around mile 40 the scenery changes quite dramatically to one of endless strip malls and it doesn’t stop until you get to the affluent areas around Huntington. Shortly after that you’re in the borough of Queens. While for a good portion of the ride we were afforded either a generous bike or break-down lane, it was often littered with broken glass, fast-food containers, or just bits and pieces of vehicles that had fallen off and been kicked to the curb by the traffic. One of the more depressing sights was an estuary of Long Island Sound we passed by just before entering Queens. The tide was out and the exposed muddy bottom was strewn with the remnants of old docks, sunken and abandoned boats, and many more examples of the detritus of people. The water was the color of hot chocolate and looked as if nothing could be capable of living in it never mind using it for recreational activity. You have to wonder how the people we as humans can accept this as normal and how did we become so careless. It’s a monumental task but we have to do a better job.