The 5 Boro Bike Tour Experience

212Access January 29, 2013 Comments Off on The 5 Boro Bike Tour Experience

By Anisa Arsenault

When was the last time you were able to ride your bike across all 5 boroughs without stopping? You’ll get another chance on May 5th, 2013 with the annual “TD 5 Boro Bike Tour.”

For those who haven’t experienced it, the 40-mile journey is a NYC staple that takes place every year in May. Bikers might think they own the streets, but on this day, they truly do.

This “5-Boro Bike Tour” is not a race; it’s an experience for bikers of all ages and levels. The purpose of the ride is “to encourage cycling as a safe and sustainable means of transit and recreation,” according to the event’s founder, Bike New York.

But the relaxed atmosphere does not imply a free-for-all; rules are strictly enforced.


The “5-Boro Bike Tour” begins at Franklin Street and Church Street, just north of Battery Park. It continues up Sixth Avenue through Central Park, merging onto Seventh Avenue. It then ventures into Harlem.

The Bronx

The bike tour tiptoes into the Bronx before it quickly changes its mind. Altogether, bikers spend just 3.2 kilometers in the borough.

Manhattan (again)

The route dashes back down the East Side, onto the FDR Drive and towards the Queensboro Bridge. Bikers will get a view of Gracie Mansion as they bicycle past the official Mayoral residence.


Queens features the first major rest stop in Astoria Park before they head south towards the Pulaski Bridge.


This is where the bike ride gets scenic. This portion of the route follows the Brooklyn waterfront, past the Navy Yard, and underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Riders then spend nearly a mile elevated as they cross the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Staten Island

The culmination of the event occurs by Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, where a festival full of food, games, bike demos, massages, stretching, and merchandise takes place. The final three-mile stretch takes participants to the ferry, which brings them back to the Battery Park start.

What you need to know

Worried that you won’t make it? The 2012 ride featured four rest stops, not including the Staten Island festival. Each stop has snacks and a bicycle mechanic station for minor repairs. Tour marshals line the route, indicating where to turn, where to slow down, etc. SAG (support and gear) trucks and buses follow the route as well to aid cyclists in need.

The front of the pack cruises along at 15 mph while the back travels at 6 mph. If you want to get involved but are looking for a more competitive edge, consider registering for the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia Five Boro option. Cyclists who sign up for this option are given a chip to time their climb up the Verrazano Bridge before reaching the finish festival.

While no awards are given to the fastest finishers, certificates with times are distributed.  At $325 per person (proceeds fund Bike New York’s free bicycle education programs), the entry fee may be steeper than the ascent up the bridge. But participants also receive a priority start, breakfast before the event, a pasta party at the finish line, and a “Made in Italy” bike Jersey.

Though perhaps not as prominent as the Giro d’Italia, the 5 Boro Bike Tour is America’s largest cycling event, hosting approximately 32,000 participants.

It has come a long way since the inaugural ride in 1977, when the 250 participants didn’t even think to anticipate issues of crossing the traffic-heavy streets all at one time. Now, thanks to the New York City Department of Transportation being a co-producer, streets are closed and traffic is not an issue.

The entry fee is $86 per person. Children ages 3-9 must ride with an adult either on a tandem bike or an attached trailer, but their entry fees are still required. Children ages 10-13 require adult supervision. You can find more information on the bike tour at Or, you can click on the map below to see a close-up view of the path.