Urbana High School freshman Matthew Larason loves biking in the Big Apple.
On May 6, Matthew participated in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City with his father, friends from his Boy Scout troop and about 32,000 other cyclists. They all rode for 40 miles through the five boroughs in the city. Beginning in Battery Park, the cyclists traveled through Manhattan, Central Park, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn to a festival on Staten Island that ended their day with food, games and massages for the bikers’ sore muscles.
Matthew, 15, started biking in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour in the 7th grade in 2010 and finished in seven hours. This year, he completed the course in about five-and-a-half hours.
“It has definitely gotten easier over the years,” he said. Matthew said he has learned about his capabilities and strengths during the tour and what he needs to work on. “I think it’s made me a better biker,” he added. As a group, he and his fellow bikers averaged 10 miles per hour and only took a few 30-minute breaks to fill up on water and eat.
He especially enjoyed biking in New York City because the riding course is reserved exclusively for the cyclists. “There are no cars or anything,” he said. Matthew also enjoys biking over huge bridges in a big city with skyscrapers.
Matthew does long-distance rides throughout the year to prepare for the event. He and his father, who first suggested biking in the tour in New York, have made several 20-mile cycling trips, as well as a 50-mile biking excursion. The assistant scoutmaster of Matthew’s scout troop joins them for biking and camping trips along the C&O Canal.
One of the challenges of the event is biking with so many people, Matthew said. “It’s the first year I’ve ever gotten in a wreck.”
During Matthew’s ride, two bikers pulled up unexpectedly close to him. To avoid a collision, he braked hard but ended up flipping over his handlebars and landing on the pavement. Matthew quickly got up, grabbed his bike and gear, and made it safely to the side of the road. He found his elbows, shoulders and knees were skinned — but said it could have been a lot worse.
“I’m happy I had my helmet on,” he said. When his father and friends realized he was not seriously hurt, they were able to laugh about it together.
When asked if he plans to participate in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour again, Matthew said he will probably do it for the rest of his life.
“I like the long duration of biking and having a great time with friends,” he said. Matthew said if he had known about the TD Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City, he would have started at a younger age.
For Matthew, biking is a hobby. When he’s not biking in New York, Matthew said he enjoys backpacking and canoeing with the Boy Scouts and studying science, math and ceramics in high school.
All sorts of people with many kinds of bicycles participate in the event, he said. Matthew rode a 15-speed hybrid bike for the tour. “You don’t really need the most high end bike,” he added.
Matthew said it would help cyclists to go on a few rides before biking in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City.
“I would recommend it for anyone who is interested in biking,” Matthew said. “With just a little practice, anyone can do it.”