By DANIEL KRIEGER
Published: August 16, 2012
Source: NYTimes – Cycling Section
IF you’re looking for a cycling workout in New York City without having to navigate much traffic, the six-mile loop in Central Park offers one of the world’s best urban cycling courses. But for a less solitary ride, a variety of groups do the loop at paces from high octane to moderate to downright leisurely.
Here’s a look at three groups with distinctive approaches to social riding:
HSS CYCLING TEAM “Knowing these guys are waiting is what gets me up in the morning,” said Dr. Bradford E. Carson, a 49-year-old anesthesiologist who had just rolled up to a lobby along East 71st Street at dawn one recent day to meet with other members of the Hospital for Special Surgery cycling team. They set off at 6 a.m., as they do every weekday, in their sharp blue-and-white team uniforms.
A half-hour later I was staking out the loop by the northwest corner of Sheep Meadow in Central Park. A few cycling groups sped by before the team whizzed around the bend near 72nd Street in a 14-man pace line, with six nonmembers latched onto the tail. The pace line was bigger and faster than the others, a horizontal Godzilla that roared by with a colossal whoosh.
After the fourth lap, clocking in at an average of 23 miles an hour, eight sweaty and pumped-up team members unwound over coffee and muffins at a cafe, waxing on the orthopedic virtues of biking and the power of the group.
“You can’t ride as fast on your own as you can in a group,” said Dr. David S. Levine, 45, a foot and ankle surgeon. You use 30 percent less energy on the pace line, he said.
In the true spirit of cycling culture, anyone who can keep up may join.
WEEKDAY CYCLISTS Searching for something more my speed, I found theWeekday Cyclists, a group of recreational riders, mostly older people, who meet weekly at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. On a cloudy Tuesday morning earlier this summer, I joined them. After we all started out in a pack of 12, a few of the faster riders pulled ahead, while others, like myself, brought up the rear.
One woman I was riding with, Catherine Hogan-Conlon, an accountant from Ireland who is in New York temporarily and declined to give her age, said these weekly rides had enhanced her social life.
“It’s super for expats,” she said, “because it gives you an opportunity to meet real New Yorkers.”
Back at the Boathouse an hour later, gathering at the Express Cafe after a two-lap spin, the group enjoyed drinks, snacks and chitchat. Many said they had been participating for years, for the exercise and the camaraderie.
“Time passes quickly when you’re riding in a group,” said the co-founder Ann Shorter, 69, a retired payroll manager who lives in Washington Heights. “You forget you’re going up a steep hill when you’re talking to someone.”
MOONLIGHT RIDE For my final excursion I went on a Moonlight Ride, sponsored by the environmental group Time’s Up.
On a recent balmy Friday night about 100 cyclists who had festively gathered at Columbus Circle were streaming onto the loop, led by Hannah Borgeson, 40, an academic administrator who wore a sign that said “Auto Free Central Park.”
She followed the circuit of the loop but took some winding detours onto pedestrian paths to show us the “pretty parts,” with a signaling system that kept everyone together.
One stop was Bethesda Terrace, where some riders frolicked in the fountain while a man in a black fedora fired up a propane tank mounted on his bike, handing out sticks with marshmallows for roasting.
Later, back on the loop, coasting south as a moon peeked over the trees, Justin T. Shockley, a 33-year-old fashion photographer who lives in Glendale, Queens, said he traveled around town solely on his bicycle. For him the group ride had the perfect ingredients.
“I like being around people,” he said. “Bikes and people.”
The Hospital for Special Surgery team rides at 6 a.m. weekdays. The Weekday Cyclists meet at 10 a.m. Tuesdays at the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park. The Moonlight Ridestarts at 10 p.m. at Columbus Circle the first Friday of the month and at Prospect Park the second Saturday. New York Cycle Club, nycc.org, and Five Borough Bicycle Club, 5bbc.org, also offer rides.