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Going Places

From the Bronx to Coney Island Overnight, On a Bike

One July night, New York’s bike warriors came out to play

7:30 AM EDT on July 23, 2022

(Scott Heins)

On beautiful summer nights in Van Cortlandt Park, families come together. The grassy fields fill up with birthday cook-outs, reunions, and neighborhood hangs. And every two years, one of New York’s wildest families throws its wildest party—a two-wheeled, hell-raising, 50-mile all-night race from the Bronx to Coney Island. Sound familiar? That’s right, the Warriors come out to plaaaaay.

One could over-simplify and call the Warriors Ride a big bike-punk scavenger hunt. Teams of riders don costumes and become rowdy good-natured gangs, led by a designated “war chief.” Each gang gets a manifest of required tasks that must be completed to rack up points, and tasks in each borough “close” every three hours. After all, the Warriors were running for their lives!

“This brings in all different sections of New York bike culture, so you have the commuters, the messengers, the fixed-gears, the mountain-bikers, and actual road-races,” ride organizer Shardy told Hell Gate, minutes before the 35 gangs were set loose for their first Bronx challenges. (We’re just using their nickname, at their request). “It’s just a way to get people together.”

Right as Shardy yelled the word “go,” war chiefs called out plans for their gangs of riders. The race was on. Riders swapped jerseys with other rival teams to earn a few early points, while others rushed into the “shotgun a beer on video and post it” challenge. Minutes later, cyclists in clown paint, hot dog suits, tutus, Hawaiian leis, punk vests, and Hector Lavoe screen tees sped off in all directions. 

Early challenges included staging a photo at the Bronx Zoo gates, playing handball against another rival gang in Crotona Park, buying a quart-size nutcracker from a barbershop, and unearthing a can of Crystal Pepsi from a bodega (last produced in 2016). After tagging along with gangs for the first few hours (and having one too many sidewalk beers shared by generous war chiefs), this reporter had to resort to a train ride home at 1 a.m. as the Warriors ride raged on. I can’t tell you which team won the sunrise tug-of-war on the beach at Coney Island that morning, but whoever it was, they deserved it.

The Warriors ride is a biennial affair, so if anyone is reading this in hopes of joining for the next one, they’ll need to wait until 2024. But if you do attend, you’ll be embraced by a community of cycling nuts who know they’ve created something special. “You run into your friends all over the city in these bizarre locations,” Emma Howells of the Beach Bums told Hell Gate. “To know everyone is out here doing the same thing as you is really exhilarating. The rest of the world goes on, you see drunk frat guys walking around, but then you see someone whipping it on a bike and it feels like a little secret you’re sharing with others for that one night.”

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