With no electricity, riding through lower Manhattan

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Intrepid contributor Nick Goddard embarks on a journey through lower Manhattan on his cub. No power, no traffic lights, no cops. But plenty of crazy cab drivers, utility trucks and dangers. – Ed.

Manhattan’s power outage hit traffic lights below the 30s, and while there are now policemen and flares on most corners, earlier in the week it was a free for all, or rather, a return to active and alert driving. I pinned it from Chambers Street to 13th Street, and only slowed at Canal. There was never that feeling of being trapped unnecessarily by a red light, and after the merciless blast around Manhattan, the staccato progress through Brooklyn seemed like a colossal waste of time. Right at the end of the bridge I was held at a traffic light for more than a minute — even after having proven my intersection-assessment capabilities countless times in Manhattan. Hasn’t anyone here heard of roundabouts?

In the East Village, there was a pizza place open. It was lit by nearly one hundred candles, and the gas oven was still churning out pies. There was no music, and nobody could disappear into their cell phones. The friendly, bored guys I met had been without power for days, and eventually offered me a handful of Reese’s Puffs from their stash. It was a nice break from the usual flatscreen TVs and blaring music. In fact, it’s so quiet in the powerless parts of Manhattan, both acoustically and optically, that anywhere north of 34th street seems like Las Vegas.

  • http://www.codyk.net codyk

    It must be the camera, but the headlight on that thing looks worthless.

    • nick2ny

      It isn’t the camera. That 6V headlamp puts out as much light as a turn signal. I had hoped to take my 900SS with it’s excellent lights, but the garage it’s in had closed for the night.

      The Cub’s light is aimed high too, at the moment. When you hit a massive bump it sometimes falls out, and I push it back in–apparently not always all the way. See 2:02 to get an idea of what it normally looks like (under braking it shone on the ground, in this case).

  • Divino Paran

    creepy. living on the UWS, i have been in a bubble

    sidebar, but can we discuss what is the best moto to have during these kinds of situations? Started thinking about it when my boss emailed and said he was stuck in the burbs and wished he still had a bike. don’t know how my daytona675 would fair. supermoto maybe? full on dirt bike? adventure?

    • Beewill

      The best bikes would have to be either a KLR or Honda XR of any flavor. Those will still be around with the cockroaches when we are all gone.

      • nick2ny

        Any bike is pretty much fine, except for water crossings, logs, or mud. But since those are a possibility, I’ll go with an XR600 too (with big tank and spare tank, rally lights, rerouted carb vents, an upgraded alternator with 110V outlet and 12V outlet, and mousse in the tires).

      • tbowdre

        DRZ400 e,s,sm… any of them would be great with decent rubber, big tank, luggage and a phone charger.


        • Filipe

          I had to shoot some footage for NatGeo of the destruction at the Rockaways last Thursday and so I rode my DR650 out there. Needless to say the scene was very depressing, the neighborhood is in shambles, the boardwalk entirely gone. But I also have to admit that it was a blast riding the (now) dirt roads over there and blasting through the post-apocalyptic beach over all the rubble on the Suzi.

          There was a little kid, probably 13 or so, on a little Honda dirt bike, having the time of his life. Maybe it was the first time he rode dirt, and he was enjoying jumping over logs and crossing large puddles. When he saw me he decided to follow me wherever I went and we even dragged for a hot minute (I let him win, of course ;). I was very very pissed to not have my helmet cam on…

  • http://www.TroyRank.com Troy R


    Good to see you got everything worked out after being submerged.

    I need a cub…

  • Core

    @00:43 into that video.. uh, anyone else notice that trash truck not using any of its lights?

  • zero

    I live on the UWS but had to venture downtown to my office on 9th and Broadway a few times to get things and it was a mix of exciting and terrifying.

    Early in the morning when still dark, the speeds on the avenues were averaging 50mph. Cabbies blazed and I used them as shields from the cars trying to cross from the streets. Getting across a two way avenue was near impossible and required quick judgement and a hard launch(I would be terrified to attempt it on a Cub when there was real traffic).

  • Coreyvwc

    I can see the events of the past week spawning a new crop of two wheeled urban post apocalypse machines. The next logical heir to the “cafe racer” maybe…?

    • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

      Icon would approve.

  • http://twitter.com/metabomber Jesse

    Nick, you mad bastard. Fantastic feeling of what it must be like out there. Stay warm and dry.

  • dan

    I left my office last night on W 38 St betw 8 & 9 Aves around 6:30. I usually take the west side to Brooklyn Battery Tunnel but thats closed so I head east on 38 St to FDR and Brooklyn Bridge. There are traffic lights to 6th Ave but no power east. There’s one cop directing traffic at 5th Ave but none all the way to the FDR. Completely dark blocks and trying to cross Madison, Park. Lexington and other Avenues in the dark on a motorcycle with no traffic lights at rush hour is an experience.

  • Ray

    I helped a friend move in the middle of the night from the UWS to Brooklyn. Rather secure in a Uhaul. Eerily peaceful uncontrolled major intersections across Canal St, like a country lane in the dark.

  • Daniel

    We were lucky to keep power at home. And the ongoing suffering in Red Hook, Staten Island, and elsewhere is heartbreaking. But riding from Brooklyn to my midtown office and back provided a unique tour of the city. Downtown was was quiet and empty. Cabs were bombing the avenues, but with no stoplights and little traffic it was easy enough to cut through on side streets.

    At night, crossing the border between the electrified city and the dark zone was scary, with crosstown drivers forced to floor it to get across 7th Avenue between waves of traffic. Here and there an oasis of light popped out of the dark — a fourth-floor apartment, a Chinese restaurant on Grand Street that must have been feeding half the neighborhood, pedestrians trying to cross six empty lanes and waving a flashlight to be seen. It was eerie and awful and beautiful.

    And now I can’t even fill up the tank. Apocalyptic New York was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

  • domiken

    I live in the East Village, I felt powerful having the motorcycle. If it wasnt for the bike I dont know what we would have done to get to work or for the small things we needed to get to the apt. It was definitely a free for all, while you had to ride cautiously through intersections, everywhere we had to go was a quick trip due to the lack of congestion, traffic lights out, and a vigilant spirited ride. Leaving work one day I was unfortunately forced to ride the sidewalk at one point due to a gridlock where no one was moving, cops just waved me by. It was so eerie but def an experience. We still have no hot water.

    I’m friends with the pizza owner that was giving away free pizza’s one day, definitely a nice gesture.

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