The legend of the bike parade

No, the Lincoln Tunnel wasn’t actually closed for good this week, but 1,600 dressed-up passengers did have to jump over a thick layer of steel beams for a shortcut to Chinatown.

Drivers with dogs, a mascot for Harper’s Bazaar and an alumni of the famed “Four Horsemen” have been navigating dangerously narrow manholes, inching across Boston Street and climbing over floodgates since noon on Tuesday. It’s the 72nd annual New York City Bike Parade, and although there is no state record for the event’s duration, here’s a very good guess: The annual Thanksgiving tradition will likely last around 3 hours.

Over the course of three hours, members of an old cycling gang known as the Four Horsemen of the Cretaceous struck again in New York City, laying down on paving stones to pass through roughly 1,600 manholes, just for fun, if not the sake of historical research. Three years ago, they allegedly bumped their rider, who suffered a broken shoulder, so last year they changed the route and pedaled on up Broadway to New York’s Financial District.

The start and finish points are really just pre-determined exits and entrances along the route. The last two parts don’t happen until the Four Horsemen climb a steep hill from lower Manhattan along the Bronx River and Grand Concourse.

Cyclists are insured by the self-appointed Bicycle Protection Corps (it’s a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group) and the police make sure they get there safely. (The city didn’t push back on that idea this year.)

In midtown at this point, there are millions of spectators looking for street closure signs and red-white-and-blue bunting — and the parade riders are waiting for traffic to let them through.

But some parts of the parade route still take riders right up to the American flag-waving crowds. If you keep your eyes peeled and plan accordingly, this might be one of the best parts of the parade for spectators to enjoy.

“This is the magic part of the city,” said Dr. Bob “Spokesman for the Hammerhead” Gravass, a member of the foursome and “chief of Dr. Hanko Toys,” who is traveling up from Portland, Oregon. “Every year I say to myself, I’m going to keep going until I break down.”

Most riders have an elaborate backstory on why they follow the event, typically beginning at home and rolling out their own bikes to Gotham.

A limousine driver who has raced alongside the group in the past now rides the route himself, riding at about 50 to 60 miles per hour, starting every year about July.

An energy lawyer says the Bike Parade is “the most surreal thing.”

“And it’s a nice family-oriented day,” she said, as she stuck out her finger. “People have happy memories of it.”

After New York, the two will gallop on to Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. for the 70th parade on December 2. And, they promise, they will do it all again this Thanksgiving.

Take a photo of yourself at the event.


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