Bicycle Diaries: Phi Tran reflects on ride to NYC

By Phi Tran, Union board member

This past week my friend Chris Finlay and I embarked on a bike tour from Boston to New York City on a quest to raise money for my two favorite organizations, the Boston Cyclists Union and Viet-AID in Dorchester. This was the first multi-day tour either of us had ever taken and it was definitely a true “character builder.”

On the very first day it rained on us as we climbed the steep, endless Connecticut hills. The story of Sisyphus, forever cursed to push his rock up the hills of Hades, frequently came to mind. We knew that as soon as we finished a hill, there would surely be another one waiting for us, yet we pedaled through to the crests. This routine of hill climbing on country roads lasted for the first two days.

The halfway point was marked by the city of Hartford, Conn. From there on, the country roads gave way to sprawling suburban housing developments and roads lined with strip malls. Hills were the main challenge on the first days of the tour, but on this second half of the trip the challenges were dangerously fast traffic and an endless supply of broken glass to dodge.

On day four, the final day of the tour, serious mental fatigue and muscular failure prematurely ended the ride only 30 miles outside of Manhattan in the town of Greenwich, CT. While we initially wanted to find a place to sleep and finish the last leg of the tour the following day, it quickly became clear that would be a serious logistical challenge.

So, rather than crashing on the roadside for the evening, we took a train to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. From there we rode through the city to our friend’s warm and cozy Brooklyn apartment.

Riding in New York City was exhilarating—in the most adrenaline-pumping sense—to say the least. We plan to experience it once again at the end of the summer when we return to Greenwich and finish the last 30-mile stretch into the city. We don’t like to leave things undone, and we want to respect the support of everyone who donated to our cause.

The experience of our first tour annealed both our legs and our resolve. It was those small victories that got us through the tough times and self doubt while on the road. Making it to the top of the next hill, rain clouds yielding to a most beautiful display of light in the sky, a successful tire change in the rain, a quarter-mile of downhill coasting, finding a convenience store on a road in the middle of nowhere, the list goes on and on. These simple things got us through the exhaustion, the pain, and desire to be done that struck even when the ride was only halfway over.

Bicycle tours, like any endurance activity, can be difficult, particularly for beginners. We did it for the sense of accomplishment that comes with being able to move unthinkable distances under your own power, and for the simple, undeniable joy that is riding a bike.

1 Comment

  1. Phil Williams on October 20, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Dear Phi Tran,

    Interesting read!

    I am in the process of planning a similar ride, so would be very interested for any advice you can offer.

    Virgin Atlantic Airways are looking to ride from Boston to New York, over 4 days in September 2013, to raise money for the Free The Children charity. We estimate being a group of approximately 60 riders (of all abilities), and I have been charged with helping to organize the event. The purpose of the ride is primarily to raise money, however we are also looking to further enhance the relationship between the US and UK offices, and generally have a good time!

    As I am new to the world of road biking, I would be interested to hear any advice you may have, especially with regards to technical support required, legal requirements for riding in such a large group, and possible accommodations along the route.

    Very many thanks in advance for your any advice you can offer.

    Look forward to hearing back from you in the near future.

    Kind regards,


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