When he steps away from his day job as a designer and pulls on his kit, Patrick Roldan is a cyclist, an athlete, and a proud member of Veselka Racing. More than just a racing team, Veselka is a community of riders from all over the world. Roldan is part of something bigger, and while riding a bike is something alien and even dangerous to many of New York City’s denizens, to him it's an essential lifeline.
The crash and hum of NYC streets provide the backing track to Roldan’s life. It was on the sidewalks of the borough of Queens where, at the age of 10, his dad first taught him how to ride a bike. Growing up here with a passion for life on two wheels means that Roldan really understands what it means to be a cyclist with New York City as a training ground.
“It means getting creative with how you tackle the environment. You have to understand that no two rides will ever be the same because of how much goes on in this city,” he explains.
It is this deep understanding of his metropolis that tells him when the best time is to take to the streets.
“I actually tend to do my bigger rides on weekdays as there is less congestion and traffic on the roads I tend to ride on!”
Not that the streets are any easier on the bike on the weekdays. There are some essential items that Roldan would not dream of leaving home without.
“Need my flat fixing kit. NYC is torture on rubber! Otherwise, I also can't leave home without my headphones. Need some beats to vibe to! My vibe is Mass Appeal by Gang Starr or It Ain't Hard To Tell by Nas. Generally, East Coast and NYC hip-hop are all I listen to, to get in the zone. I live down the street from Queensbridge, the home of Nas.”
Routines may be dull, but rituals never are. The habitual quirks we perform pre-ride make sense to us (if no one else) and are as much a part of the experience as the ride itself. Roldan is no different.
“My pre-ride routine is always: make a cup of coffee, black; make sure my kit is dialled for the weather; make sure my route or workout is loaded on my computer; take the dog for a walk to give the caffeine some time to digest; check tyre pressure, then roll!”
Roldan has two modes, he says, “zoom, zoom” or “dog dad”. It is not unusual to see him rolling by with his beloved pooch safely tucked up in a rucksack on his back enjoying a free ride. But for Roldan, rest days are not limited to easy bike days when there is so much to see and do.
“NYC has so many beautiful parks and neighbourhoods to explore. On a recovery day, I like to stay active and don't necessarily go for rides. I go to the basketball court to work on my jump shot, or I take the dog out for a 10-mile walk to get him tired so I can ride the next day!”
The training grounds we call home are both a place of consistency and continual change. They're where we find comfort in familiar places and faces and break beyond our comfort zones in effort and distance. The colour, texture and pace of our various training grounds and daily routines around the world are unique to each of us, yet the feeling and energy brought forward is something we all share.
Check out a few of Patrick's favourite routes and segments in his NYC training ground:
For when time is a constraint he opts for the Central Park loop. It’s also a great place in the morning or at weekends to run into friends if you need company.
For a change of scenery on an early morning ride, Brooklyn’s famous Prospect Park is the go-to. He often does hot laps here on Thursday evenings with his homies.
As a Queens native, this route lets him escape Manhattan, heading towards Flushing and out to the East Hills and North Shore for seemingly endless, punchy, rolling terrain. The return trip is extra rewarding as you are near the legendary NYC skyline.
A staple among NYCers is this route that heads across the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge and time trial north to Nyack. With the right group of people, this route is an absolute ripper until the finale with the climb of Bradley.
Along these routes are some pretty sought-after segments on Strava.
Harlem Hill in Central Park is a good incline that people like to test their one-minute mettle on, but the fastest times are generally untouchable without a race pace lead out.
This segment is my exact route to Prospect Park, and I love using this as my warmup before weekend races around PP.
On Long Island, one of my favourite segments is known as Vuelta Canela Go, a 6mi/10km loop that challenges all types of riders.
Bradley Hill Eastbound is a fun segment to finish the northbound time trial to Nyack. Some hard 5-10min efforts up this 5% avg 1.5mi stairstep climb!