We’ve done it! Our first ride of this Dreaming of NJ is now complete - and after a year in which the idea of a service-oriented bike trip across the state seemed like, well, a dream, I can hardly believe that our trip is about to begin in earnest.
Today’s ride took us from Buccleuch Park in New Brunswick to Colonial Park in Somerset, then back to Buccleuch for an approximately 17.3-mile round trip. (We may or may not have made the route a mite longer by missing our rest point our first time through Colonial Park but that just made the fruit snacks at the end of the journey that much sweeter, right?) I could definitely get used to having a police escort around to block intersections for me when running bike errands in New Brunswick! In all seriousness, though, especially since we were such a large group (both Dreamers and friends from the community!) with a wide variety of experience levels, having that extra level of protection went a long way towards helping us feel more comfortable on the road - or in my case, on the road bike.
Though I’m relatively used to riding on the street to get to and from campuses or to run errands around New Brunswick, all of my previous bicycles were hybrids (with moderately thick tires, with a sturdy frame and flat handlebars). In fact, I only ever mounted a road bike (thin tires, light frame, and curved handlebars) for the first time back in June, during our pre-trip training session. I remember coming away from our relatively short route shocked at how much weight I needed to shift into my upper body, and I worried that a month of hard riding would exacerbate some of my past problems with wrist pain. To make matters worse, due to high pandemic bicycle demand, we were only able to lay our hands on our bicycles for the first time this week - in my case, only two days before our trip.
For all my initial concerns, however, I think I can tentatively say that I am a road bike convert! After lowering the seat to a height where I wasn’t in danger of falling every time I tried to dismount, I found it much easier to take undue pressure out of my wrists while riding. I consider myself a hesitant bicyclist on the hybrid, not inclined to high speeds for fear of crashing or having to brake abruptly, but the road bike was so swift and maneuverable that going quickly became more fun than frightening. I found myself far less inclined to coast than usual, which contributed to this being one of the most physically intense - but thrilling! - activities I’ve engaged in since my solo ride to Princeton a few weeks ago.
After a quick break for a post-ride snack, my fellow Dreamers and I congregated at Buccleuch to put snack packs together for Elijah’s Promise. As we chatted and put food into paper bags, the weather refreshingly cool and breezy for early afternoon, I couldn’t help but feel a thrill that this is only the beginning of our adventure together.