Monthly Archives: April 2007

30-Minute Rides: Saw Mill River Parkway

A big part of city riding is having the freedom to venture to parts of Queens for great Thai or Romanian, or Brooklyn for Russian… But when the weather’s this good a biker’s mind starts to wander to curvier roads further out of the city. The good news is there are some great rides just 30 minutes from Manhattan with nice views and restaurants perfect for an afternoon out , yet close enough that you can be back in the city to meet your non-biker friends for dinner.

Map of the Saw Mill River Parkway

For today’s 30-Minute Ride, I present to you the Saw Mill River Parkway. These are about as curvy as two lane roads get in the NY area (looking at the map some are about as curvy, but the traffic doesn’t move as quickly), reasonably uncongested, but with some tricky on and off ramps to local exits. To get there take the West Side Highway (not a bad ride in itself) aka the Henry Hudson Parkway, to Riverdale and stay on course…in a few miles the Henry Hudson turns into the Saw Mill. There are a couple of Parkway stop lights early on in the Saw Mill, but after that it’s smooth sailing up into Westchester. Be careful at night! The parkway isn’t lit – I’ve seen cars run off the road in the dark. Traffic moves rather briskly as those familiar with its twists and turns like to take advantage of it.

You might want to stop by Sleepy Hollow by taking exit 20 to I-87 North (to the Tappanzee Bridge) and take the last exit before the bridge: hang a left after the exit, and a right at the T (onto Rt9), go one mile or so and you’ll hit Main Street. Park your bike and take a walk around. Main street goes all the way down to the Metro North station by the river and there’s a seafood restaurant all the way at the end…or try some of the other shops nearby. Then get back on I-87 (going “south” this time), pick up the Saw Mill going North and keep riding. Take a look at a map. Read more about the Parkway.

So You’re Thinking of Getting a Motorcycle…

It’s that time of year again…motorcycles are coming out of storage. And the question looms, is this the year you get up on two wheels? Now motorcycling isn’t for everyone: There are no cup holders on motorcycles, you can’t smoke a cigarette and you can’t talk on your cell phone… You can’t even zone-out and daydream because if you do, you’ll probably die. Okay, maybe not die, but it’ll get you into trouble. Riding a motorcycle is harder that taking the subway or driving a car, but there are some reasons in favor of it:

1. You can bypass quite a bit of traffic when traffic is at a standstill…

2. Gas mileage. My first bike, Ninja 250, gets 50-70 miles per gallon! AND yet it’s faster than 90% of the cars on the road (corvette’s and luxury cars are whales in comparison)…

3. You can enjoy your commute and the freedom that comes with it…

4. Parking (see previous post)

5. The skyline is awesome when you’re riding at night…

But what about all the dangers associated with motorcycling? There are real dangers…but they can be managed. If we’re talking about riding in Manhattan, you’re already facing similar dangers as a pedestrian (mainly from cabs and cars). The only difference on a motorcycle is you can move fast enough to avoid them. And after you spend some time dodging thru city traffic, the highway is a breeze… Life is full of risks, but we learn to manage and minimize them. Riding a motorcycle is no different.

Some questions you might want to ask yourself before you decide is: are you comfortable driving in the city? If you’re not comfortable driving a car safely, you probably shouldn’t be getting up on two wheels in the city. Are you accident prone when you’re on the road – are you a defensive driver? If you’re not, then you might want to reconsider getting on a bike.

How do I get started? Read the rest at www.citybikerblog.com!

How to Park Your Motorcycle on the Street, in NY

It’s a strange feeling, the first time you leave your bike unattended on the streets of New York. Someone could just go sit on it and start messing around. A car could knock it over while parking. Anyone could come over and steal it. But the remarkable thing is…you CAN park on the streets, and it CAN be safe! Of course there are real “dangers” to worry about, but there are some simple things you can do to minimize the chances of it. First let’s talk about WHERE you can park in NYC…

Parking on the Sidewalk

Out in the boroughs you can get away with parking on the sidewalk for a few hours or even overnight without getting a ticket. Right now the parking ticket people use handheld scanners to write their tickets. They simply scan the registration sticker on the windshield of cars. This way they cut down on ticket-writing errors (which I think they are penalized for) and can get out more tickets in a shorter amount of time. What this means for motorcyclists (since bike’s don’t have bar codes or registration stickers) is they don’t bother with bikes…most of the time. As a result you can get away with parking on sidewalks provided it’s not a busy/crowded pedestrian area or near an intersection, etc. If you have a cover for your bike you can go even longer… Although I think you are technically obscuring the license plate with anything, like a bike cover, is a ticketable offense, it seems to have the opposite effect: when you’re parked on an out-of-the-way street (i.e., side street with numbers, not a busy Avenue like Broadway) the DOT people will usually ignore your bike. You can do this regularly in the boroughs (Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx for sure) and to a lesser extent in some of the residential parts of Manhattan (i.e., non-main streets in Morningside, Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, etc…) If you’re worried about cars knocking over your bike, the sidewalk is the safest way to go. But be warned! They CAN ticket you for this!

[[Personal disclosure: If I’m leaving the bike overnight and won’t be riding early the next morning, I’ll park on the sidewalk and chain a wheel up to a street sign, then put a cover on it. So far so good.]]

Parking your Motorcycle on the Street

The good news is, if you park between cars in metered spots, you can often get away with NOT feeding the meter… As along as you’re not blocking a car from parking, you can park in the spot between cars as long as you like. Just make sure parking is allowed… during street cleaning times, or “commercial vehicles only” times you will get a ticket, or worse…

diagram A

When parking on the street in between cars I like to find “end spots” – a spot that will be easy for cars to get in and out of… A spot where a car can just pull out and pull in, like at the end of a block where the car is not boxed-in. Sometimes there are construction signs or dumpsters parked on the street – as long as there’s no construction going on, I try to park between the construction equipment and the first parked car…there’s usually plenty of space.

Also, my personal feeling is that busy streets and avenues are safer to park in than empty streets… I think drivers are a little more careful about not bumping into things (while parking) when there are lots of people around… In the Upper West Side if I can’t find an “end spot” I’ll park between a couple of small cars in metered spots on Broadway. I try to park just a foot or so ahead of the meter…that’s usually good the way the meters are spaced on Broadway.

If you can’t find an end spot, look for an area where the cars are not likely to move before you return such as residential areas. And if you can’t find a decent spot in a residential area, try to park at a metered spot near a restaurant with outdoor seating. Metered spots tend to be spacious, so you’ll have enough space, but also no one wants to be the idiot who knocks over a bike in front of all those witnesses. This helps control the risk of parking on the street.

Parking your Motorcycle in Parking Lots…

There are some lots that park a good number of bikes in the Upper West Side…so I imagine there are a few all over the island. My friend has a monthly spot near 72nd for $150 a month, and says there are a handful of bikes there. You want to find out in advance if a lot is bike friendly… If you don’t see any motorcycles as you enter near the front, they’re probably not… But if you do, then paid parking lots can give you some peace of mind… Be warned however! Parking lots usually state they are not responsible for any damage – and damage DOES occur (who knows what’s going on in there) for some strange reason…so if you just need a few hours of parking, and you’re not riding the latest high-end Ducati, my advice is to find a good street spot (like an end spot) first.

Let’s talk security…

Use your steering lock. Duh! But a steering lock isn’t enough to deter thieves or trouble-makers… In addition I like to use a good brake lock, an On-Guard Chain (which I keep at home, too heavy to carry on a ride), and a bike cover which I tie underneath the bike with bungee cords. All of these can be defeated by a determined thief (or three guys with a pickup truck) – but each item makes it just a little more difficult to pull off while parked on a busy city street with pedestrians walking by. I usually leave the chain and the bike cover at home, but I never leave without the disk lock… It’s cheap ($16 at http://www.newenough.com) or you can get one with an alarm (for $100), and it fits under the seat of my storage-challenged 600rr. Just remember to take it off before you ride. There are also locks that go over the clutch lever on your handle bar, which I’ve never tried, but seem like a good idea… Of course a determined thief can get past all of these measures, but that’s why it’s good to park where there are people around… NY crowds are the best security measure against crooks hacking your chain or removing a wheel to tow your bike.

Conclusion

Riding a motorcycle is about freedom… You don’t have to let the city take that away from you. You’re not free if you’re worried about your bike every minute it’s parked on the street – or if you have to pay an arm and a leg for garage parking. So develop your parking skills and ride (and park) safe! If you want more, here’s a guide that got me started (a little outdated): Motorcycle Parking

For more tips, archived articles, and plain ole’ citybiking fun, click over to our new URL: www.citybikerblog.com!

Helmets

Shoei Helmets

One of the things that happens after you start riding is you start to notice helmets. Sure there’s little scientifically verifiable safety difference between the $55 helmet you get from Auto Zone and the $700 Arai, but it’s hard to resist the lure of a nice lid… It’s the difference between a $20k Rolex and a $2 Timex (which actually keeps time more accurately) – if you can afford the pricier status symbol, more power to you! For those who want to resist high priced status lids, good luck with that too! But you CAN have it both ways. Every now and then you can find older stock helmets for cheap if you know where to look. Check out this Shoei sale!!! Just so you know… Some I’ve heard some folks warn that older helmets (even if they’re unused) can be less-safe because the styrofoam can break down over time. Personally I don’t think that’s a real issue for 2 or 3 year old helmets that have been sitting in warehouses… So if you’ve been dreaming of a Shoei, happy shopping!

Calling New Bikers!

Prince William, heir to the Britich throne on his Triumph Daytona

There seems to be something in the water these days when it comes to motorcycling. People whom you’d never expect to see on two wheels are putting on helmets and hitting the road. Take a look at some celebrity motorcycles here…