The Park of Parks.
The Central Park is the crown jewel of the New York City Parks System and arguably the premier urban park in the United States of America. Central, which opened in 1859, was inspired by parks in London and Paris. The park drives were built for horse-drawn carriages, and shortly after the bicycle first appeared, it was banned from the park. In more recent times, cyclists have helped spur the resurgent popularity of the park. The Central Park bike ride is a must for everyone.
Riding the green island surrounded by canyons of concrete and steel.
Central Park is designed so well that thousands of people can be in the park at the same time and there’s still plenty of room for bike riding. People commuting, out for a little air, exercising, and training for bicycle races and triathlons can all do their thing and rarely get in each other’s way. Cyclists first start filtering into the park around 5am, and you can find them riding around until midnight just about every day of the year. That the road is lit makes it a great place to get some nighttime exercise in a very safe environment.
The park drive winds through a number of different environments and gives the cyclists plenty to see. It’s hard to get bored when you can change your focus from watching people to admiring architecture to checking out the skyline to looking out over fields and lakes or pondering what’s going on inside dense forests, all in the space of a few minutes.
If there’s a drawback to Central Park, this book is only going to make it worse. The park is incredibly popular. Go for a ride on a summer Saturday afternoon, and it can feel like you’re expending more energy dodging people than riding your bike.
Four rides in one.
Central Park is one ride, but there are four common routes inside it. The first is the Long Loop. For the sake of variety, we have this starting at Grand Army Plaza at the corner of 60th Street and Fifth Avenue. On this loop, you’ll encounter the other three loops in the park. The shortest loop is the Upper Loop, which goes around the North Woods and starts at 110th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. Next is the Lower Loop that goes around the south end of the park. We started this ride at 67th Street and Central Park West. The final sub-ride is the 5.2 mile loop, which is the ride people do when they want to skip the big hill, which many racers call 110berg. We start this ride at 100th Street and Central Park West.
Repasts, casual to formal.
Loeb Boathouse by East 72nd Street is a popular and easy place to stop, but there are also plenty of food carts along the park road and a few cafes in the park as well, notably one just north of Sheep Meadow and one just inside the park at Columbus Circle. No shortage of water fountains and places to picnic.
There is no shortage of things to do in Central Park. From skating at Wollmann rink at the southern end of the park and at the Lasker rink at the northern end of the park in cold months (this rink is a public pool in the summer) to the Charles Dana Discovery Center at Harlem Meer on the north end (see them abut fishing), to the botanical garden at Fifth Avenue and 100th Street, SummerStage at Rumsey Playfield, and Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theatre, there are things to experience year ’round in the park.
Deets (Central Park Bike Ride)
How to get there: Go to the middle of Manhattan Island. You can’t miss it.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Elevation: 298 feet
Terrain: park roads
Ride Rating: @@
Notes: A classic, a staple, it can be so crowded, hardly anyone ever goes there anymore.