Being a child of "the theatre," I love a good spectacle, and N.I.T.E. Ride delivered in spades. 3500 cyclists gathered at IUPUI's Carroll Stadium last Saturday. It was a big first for me; N.I.T.E. Ride popped my cycling event cherry, and oh how sweet it was.
I arrived at around 9:30, and already, hundreds of cyclists had queued up in front of Carroll Stadium. If it hadn't been for the blaring beats of music sounding through the crowd, I would have been able to hear my own heart thumping with adrenaline. It was exhilarating to see, for the very first time, Indy's cycling community in mass, riders of all shapes, sizes and ages.
After visiting the BGI tent to purchase my mandated headlight, picking up my registration packet, changing into my N.I.T.E Ride t-shirt, and affixing said headlight to my bike, there was still plenty of time to kill before the big event began at 11:00. I turned up stag to the dance, and I was content to simply marvel at the pageantry. With each minute the queue of bikes behind the start line grew, and at about 10:15, I found my own spot among the throngs.
My awkwardness at being alone at my very first CIBA event was soon superseded by some friendly cyclists near by. I struck up a conversation with Charlie and Bernie (whose last names I unfortunately did not get). Bernie, a veteran of the N.I.T.E. Ride since the early '90s riding a vintage bike, had brought his friend Charlie, a newbie to N.I.T.E Ride like me. I asked them what to expect, and Bernie, aware of my nerves, offered "just relax and have fun." Charlie, a former competitive cyclist who had been out of the game for a while, sat atop a hybrid loaned by Bernie.
After an instrumental recording of the National Anthem, for which we all removed our helmets, the ride began... for some anyway. We, however, were two-thirds back in the queue, walking our bikes forward inch by inch to the start line for the next half hour. Bernie assured us, "It's a long wait to start, but if [the ride] wasn't worth it, there wouldn't be all these people."
Finally, we pushed off down New York Street. Police cars at every intersection held traffic for us, as we made our way through downtown to the Circle and started the trek north on Illinois St. Though alcohol is very clearly prohibited from the event, one group took an early pit-stop at a discount liquor store, raising their PBR beer cans to us as we passed.
Though I rode for about six miles with Charlie and Bernie, we all started to find our own grooves, losing each other in the crowd. I settled into the ride, contented to find solitude in the solace of such a large crowd.
Residents along the course sat on their lawns cheering and watching us zip by. Volunteers at every turn directed traffic, as calls from cyclists to each other sounded: "right turn ahead" or "left turn ahead." In fact, I was surprised at how much these cyclists called to each other. Things like "box in the street" or "water on the road" in an attempt to keep everyone, friend or stranger, informed and safe.
As we made the turn down 52nd Street, headed toward Butler, my stomach revolted. I was running out of fuel and needed to keep pushing until the rest stop. Thankfully, bike traffic started to slow through the Butler campus; the blinking red lights bunched-up. Water and fuel were in sight. I gratefully sat down to eat my cookie, and I refilled my water bottle twice before heading on to Act II.
The drunken cyclists, noted earlier, zoomed past the crowd laughing their asses off and screaming, "I think we just might win this one." Cyclists around me muttered discontentedly about how they were putting us all in danger. Personally, I can't imagine dehydrating yourself like that on such a long ride. Later, I saw the same group looking a little green, but still drinking, as they rested on the side of the road about five miles from the finish.
The ride continued through the IMA, onto 38th Street, down one incredibly fun off-ramp, and onto White River Parkway. The roads by the river darkened, and I began to understand the necessity of the headlight. And with about eight more miles until the end of the ride, I started to wish it would never end. The image of cyclists spread out in front of and behind me, streaks of red lighting the path: I'll never forget it.
As rear lights gave way to city lights, the end was insight. We wound our way back to New York Street for the finish line. Tired and unwilling to wait in the long line for food, I grabbed a Coke, and headed home finishing my final leg of the evening.
In total, I rode 23 miles, my longest ride to date. And I just can't wait for next year.
In Indiana, summer means festivals, outdoor parties - and cyclists heading from one end of the city to the other to try to get to them all. When they arrive, chances are increasingly good that Pedal and Park will be there to provide a safe, free place for bicycle parking.
Pedal and Park has parked 29,694 bikes since 2001. This weekend, at the Eitlejorg Museum's 20th Annual Indian Market and Festival, the non-profit organization should hit the 30,000 mark. In light of this momentous occasion, I spoke with Tom McCain, the organization's volunteer Program Director, about the program's origins, success and plans for the future.
NUVO:What was the impetus for Pedal and Park?
McCain: There was an interest among some of the bicycling groups in town to provide bicycle parking. The idea that really took off was providing bicycle parking for the State Fair. That was our original intent. I think the first year was 1999. We did that for two years. And then, during the winter of 2000-01, a group of us continued talking and thinking we could expand this. We could do other events too. We can turn it into a full-fledged program. And then someone coined the name Pedal and Park. Tom Olsen [former Program Director] negotiated a sponsorship agreement with the Metropolitan Planning Organization to pay us a dollar a bicycle that we park. And the idea was that the organization that provided volunteers to work the corral would then get that dollar per bicycle. In 2002, we had five events. It's just basically grown from there.
NUVO: How does the "corral" work?
McCain: When somebody comes into the corral to park their bicycle, we have a registration form that we ask them to fill out. It doesn't take very long. And the volunteer works them through that. We have wristbands that are numbered with a numbered stub. So the volunteers will take that numbered stub off the wristband and tape that to the bicycle. Then they put the wristband on the person. When the person comes back to claim there bike, we match those two numbers so we know we are giving the bicycle back to the correct person. It's exactly like a coat check system.
NUVO: Why the decision to make this a free service?
McCain: Our original thinking was that it would help encourage people to ride their bikes. It was an added incentive. Prior to [the MPO] sponsorship, we did charge people a dollar per bicycle to park. When the sponsorship started, we decided that could replace people paying. We do also take donations at the events. And at some of those events we keep the donations to help defray our expenses. And that some other events, I let the group that's providing the volunteers keep those donations. Actually those $1 and $2 donations add up over time. I've seen a family of four come in and park their bicycles, and as they are leaving one of the parents leaves a $20 bill in the donation jar. For the most part, people don't object to paying a little bit for parking their bikes. It's not enough money to sustain a paid person. It's enough to pay for the materials that we go through.
NUVO: What kind of volunteer base do you operate with?
McCain: Off the top of my head, I would say we use more than 500 volunteers in a given year. They earn money that benefits the not-for-profit for whom they volunteer. It might be the near East Side Community Organization or Herron High School students, the Speedway Travel Association or the Carmel Fest folks. It spreads around to some pretty worthwhile community groups, who make some money off of doing this too. It's a win-win in a lot of ways.
NUVO: How many events can Pedal and Park accommodate?
McCain: We've got enough equipment that we can do about three events per weekend as long as we get enough cooperation from [the festival]: coming in, getting the equipment, learning how to put it up, learning how to operate the corral. With the events that we added since those basic events, I don't really have volunteers to work the corral. So what I've said in, in the last few years, is we can help you in terms of providing equipment, but that you're going to have to find volunteers.
NUVO: What plans do Pedal and Park have for growth in the future?
McCain: It's growing organically. The way I see this needing to develop is that we figure out a way to fund the program well enough that there can be a paid program director working part-time each year to keep the program going. And part of that involves the fund-raising necessary to keep the program going. The demand will continue to be there for the program. It's a matter of how we make it sustainable.
NUVO:What incentive do you have to devote so much volunteer time yourself?
McCain: I've been cycling in Indianapolis for 30 years, and it's really fun and exciting to see what's happening with cycling in the last few years here in Indianapolis. This is my seventh year as a volunteer program director; it's the thing that I like doing.
Pedal and Park is always open to volunteers and donations. To learn more about how to get involved, visit their website. Also, for a list of the events Pedal and Park will service this Summer go here.
In light of the half-century challenge, I've decided to get serious about quitting smoking. With the smoking ban in effect throughout Indy, and some major routine changes in my own life, it seemed like the perfect time to take the plunge. So I bought a few packs of NicoDerm CQ patches, and have been following the nicotine replacement therapy plan for about two weeks. As of Friday morning, I'll have been smoke free for twelve days. And while its still too early to count it a success, I can already tell a big difference in my body and my bicycling.
Generally, I'm an afternoon cyclist. I wake up, work from home, and then I head out for a ride before dinner. But the downside to the nicotine patches: I can't wear them while I exercise. As blood flow increases, so does the amount of nicotine in your bloodstream, making for nausea, headaches, and dizziness.
Despite doing this research, I still tried to bike while wearing the patch on the first day. And what I felt were all of the above symptoms. I cut my ride short and actually got off my bike to walk (slowly) the rest of the way home.
And because I'm too cheap to remove the patch mid-day, train for the half-century and put a new patch on, I've had to change my daily exercise routine.
Now, even back in college, when I did habitually exercise (and wore a size-6 jeans, gee, those really were the days), I could never make myself get up early and get to the gym. It's just not in my DNA. So the thought of waking up early to ride first thing in the morning truly makes me shudder. It, at least, makes me hit the snooze button a few extra times as I bargain with my half-conscious brain, trying desperately to think of an alternative solution.
But, if I want to quit successfully (and I do, I really do), this is how it has got to be... at least for the next ten weeks or so.
So for the past eleven days, I've been crawling out of bed and into a sports-bra and bike helmet. And while it is hard to get there, once I make the first few pedals away from my apartment, it almost feels good.
I've realized, there are certain advantages to a morning workout. The trails I frequent are less crowded, making it easier for me to push my pace. It's much cooler in the morning than in the high heat of the afternoon. And it's just plain nice to see the world waking up via bicycle.
However, I do find myself less alert. (I've also given up caffeine, a major smoking trigger of mine) And I'm definitely less personable. On a ride yesterday morning, on three different occasions, a car blocked a crosswalk of the trail I was riding. The third time, the driver had his window down. So, I locked eyes with him and pleasantly said, "Thanks for blocking the intersection, asshole."
To which he responded, "I didn't think about it, bitch."
Not a very positive exchange to begin the day. But, I guess I did start the name calling.
And as the temperatures rise this Summer, I'm willing to bet I'll be grateful that a morning ride is my new habit. It's just going to take some time to adjust.
I've experienced one of the greatest injustices a cyclist can face: my bike was stolen. Well, not stolen per se, but almost. And my lock, my beautiful steel u-lock that cost me $32.99 plus tax at Bicycle Garage Indy was ruined. What follows are the facts, as I see them, with regard to this near-tragic incident.
I was visiting the Indianapolis Athletic Club on Meridian and Vermont Streets. I rode my bike to meet up with a colleague. As I approached the intersection, I looked around for a good, safe, secure place to lock my bike. With no bike racks in sight, I headed to the fence surrounding the IAC parking lot. Three signs hang on the wrought iron fence. Two read: "PRIVATE PARKING All Violators Will Be Towed." The other simply had the Athletic Club initials.
I thought to myself, "Is this a risk? The sign says no parking, but surely the use of the word 'towed' implies the message is meant for car owners." And in a split-second, I made the choice to lock my bike to the fence. I would be there for less than an hour, and surely the Athletic Club would be sympathetic to bicycles. In fact, I was shocked that this athletic club did not have bike racks available for use. After all, biking is good exercise.
Cut to 45 minutes later.
Exiting the building, I see a maintenance worker, who shall remain nameless, wheeling my bike away from the fence. In one hand, he wielded a small power saw. In the other, my poor, defenseless bike being man-handled by a stranger.
"Hey!" I screamed desperately. "That's my bike!"
I ran to the man, and grabbed my bike from his hands, sadly asking, "Where's my lock?"
"I had to cut it off," he explained. "The board doesn't like bikes locked to the fence."
He went on to explain to me that on a weekly basis he has to cut bikes from the fence. He stores them in the basement of the IAC saying, "It's surprising, no one ever comes back to claim them."
Shocking! In my disbelief, I simply took my bike and left. I thought to myself, "Of course no one comes back looking for their bikes. When you lock your bike someplace and come back to find it gone, the assumption is that its been stolen. If I had been a mere minute later in returning to my bike, I would have thought the same. My livelihood depends on that bike. I saved money for six months to afford it. A weekly basis? How many bikes has the IAC been "storing" in their basement?"
I was outraged.
In my ire, I tracked down the email to the management of the building: a one Chris Noll of Ardsley Management. I told him my story and inquired about the basement full of bikes.
This was his reply:
"The IAC's parking lot and adjoining fence is private property and we do not allow items to be chained to the fence. Removing an item chained to the fence is a rare occurrence which happens only a handful of times a year. There are a grand total of two bicycles in our storage area that were removed from the IAC's private property and never reclaimed."
First of all, I read the signs. I am college-educated person, with a background in literary analysis. When I read the signs (pictured), they were not clear to me. Yes, the parking lot was private, but I locked my bike to the sidewalk side of the fence. And granted, the fence is IAC property, but it does not say no bike parking. It doesn't even say "no parking," just that violators will be towed. Who would call a tow truck for a bike?
Secondly, Mr. Noll claims that the maintenance man has only cut two bikes from the fence this year. But in my brief conversation, he definitely used the term "weekly."
Something isn't right here. And I aim to get to the bottom of it. So, if anyone has any information about bike theft around the Indianapolis Athletic Club parking lot, please contact me.
The other day I was out for a ride with my bicycle mentor Pat. He hadn't spent much time on the Cultural Trail, and after he showed me the sights on the Monon, I was eager to return the favor. I'd been riding the cultural trail exclusively for the past couple of weeks. And every trip I make around downtown reveals something new.
Pat and I met up on the East end of Mass Ave. He followed me as I twisted my way through the trail, winding through the inner city. The Cultural Trail can be tricky to follow in some spots if you aren't familiar, and the last time Pat saw me ride I was a bit of a mess. So, I was eager this time to show him my new found cycling confidence. My posture and control of movement were at least a little less awkward.
But something about the ride felt weird. Unlike myself, a self-described joy-rider, Pat rides for speed. While I roam randomly on trails hoping to discover a new part of the city, he races up and down the Monon focused on time, distance and aerobic expansion. Simply put, Pat is in much better shape than me, and I couldn't help but feel like I was holding him back.
"How far has your furthest ride been?" he queried as we paused at a cross walk.
"Wow," He exclaimed. "That's probably like 20 miles."
Had I really just impressed Pat? I gleamed at the thought, but chided myself thinking he's only being kind.
"Huh, that's funny. I never count mileage, just how long I am on the bike seat," I replied, countering: "What's the longest ride you've ever done?"
"I like to head up to Westfield on longer rides," Pat tactfully did not mention a number. "I generally take the Monon up to Westfield and back again. There's a grocery store right at 146th Street, where I'll stop to fill up my water bottles and maybe get an energy drink. Then I do some riding around Westfield and stop again at the store before I head back."
I just couldn't shake the thought that I was holding him back. I'm sure he enjoyed the trail, but we certainly did not reach the his preferred level of exercise. Just as I was starting to think that Pat and I might not be the most compatible biking team I heard:
"Would you be interested in doing a half-century with me?"
"What's a half-century?"
"50 miles," he replied. "I don't mean like tomorrow."
"Sure," I replied and I know I glowed when he asked me. He followed my route, and now I would follow his. I guess that's how the best partnerships work.
Thus begins my Summer training for a half-century ride. Every week this blog has me asking, "What have I signed up for?"
I guess all I can do is hope that when the time comes, Pat doesn't regret the offer. Well, that and to ride my bottom off until the big day . By the way, has anyone got any tips for how to start training?