According to me, one of the best movies of all time is The Princess Bride. I remember being highly skeptical and thought I might not finish it after watching the first few minutes, but boy am I glad I held on. I now watch it at least once per year. One of my favorite things from the movie to include in various conversations are the Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS).
As it turns out New York City has two versions of the ROUS. Yes we have unusually large rats that can scare dogs away, but we also have Road Obstacles of Unusual Size. Recently I was approached by someone wanting to "get into biking" and he wanted advice on what kind of bike to buy.
The first piece of advice I gave him was to consider a bike that could accommodate some beefy tires. "Getting into biking" in NYC poses its share of challenges and perhaps one of the biggest challenges is the condition of the roads. I am amazed at how quickly a road in NYC can deteriorate. I guess I should not be with the temperature extremes and the non-stop use by vehicles that weigh several tons, but a newly paved road loses its luster very quickly in these parts.
Take this section of road as an example of what might face someone "getting into cycling."
The picture does not really do it justice but trust me, most of the "roughage" is several inches deep. And at least once a year the government rolls in and strips the streets down causing COUS's - or clouds of unusual size. These streets can remain in this condition for several weeks and if I see one I will immediately find another route. Not that my tires cannot handle it, but I do not wish to end up with lungs full of dust.
Then there are the POUS's - Plates of Usual Size. These are especially fun when it rains - nothing like trying to ride across a giant metal plate covered in water, especially when it is dark and you are following traffic and they sneak up on you.
I am also amazed at what road crews will leave. This is a classic example. One time a friend of mine was scurrying across the street in the dark and severely sprained her ankle when she stepped in a giant rut that had been left unfilled after work was performed on the street. No cone, no tape, no warning equaled a trip to the emergency room to determine if any bones were broken.
The old classic pothole also makes frequent appearances and someone I guess wanted to issue a warning here . . . .
And in this case there was a barricade to provide warning.
Motorists frequenty get angry when having to share the road with cyclists but they should actually thank us - cyclists are basically responsible for no road wear. How do I know? Well I have been riding on a bike/pedestrian path for the last 7 years and it has not had to be repaved once. Meanwhile the main streets are repaved once per year.
So if you are interested in "getting into biking" in NYC, my advice is to consider tire size priority number one.