New Cities and Experience Sharing

By WiDi [CC BY-SA 3.0]
We’ve just updated the tour directories and added some new cities, like Provo, Eindhoven, Koblenz, Ghent, Johannesburg and Soweto.  In Eindhoven, much like Memphis, there isn’t an bike tour company, but bike tours are available from experience-sharing site Withlocals (which is similar to Vayable, but currently focused on Asia and Europe).

We talked about Vayable a couple months back.  After poring over both company’s listings, we’ve concluded that:

  • They have some cool bike tours
  • They serve some cities that don’t have commercial tours
  • The providers are, mostly, not actual companies and likely to come and go more often than a bike tour company (we found a few commercial tours using Vayable for promotion)
  • Since both Vayable and Withlocals provide their own search capability by city, it seems redundant to reflect all of their listings in BTBT’s directories

That said…there are some gems, like the Memphis and Eindhoven tours, that we do want to reflect in our tour directories.  These tours are marked with this symbol: 💬  as a reminder that these are hand-picked from the “experience-sharing” sites.

Bicycle Tours of Atlanta – Fall in Love with Atlanta Tour

While visiting family in Atlanta, an extended BTBT team rode the Fall in Love with Atlanta tour from Bicycle Tours of Atlanta along with a few other guests.  When we arrived, all eight bikes were ready to go, identified with name tags for each rider.  BTofA’s website asks for height and age info when booking to provide an appropriate bike for each rider.  That’s not only helpful to find your bike, but doubly nice since it makes it easy for the guide and riders to learn one another’s names.

After a brief test ride and a few fit adjustments in the parking lot, we rolled out toward the historic shotgun houses near the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.  From there we began a rambling clockwise route roughly encircling the Little Five Points, Inman Park, and Cabbagetown neighborhoods.

After stopping for an iconic downtown Atlanta photo, we paused again to explore street art along a short section of the Atlanta Beltline (including one of three “tiny doors” that we encountered).  From there, we rode the Freedom Park Trail passing by The Carter Center.  A few shady streets later, we arrived at Little Five Points, Atlanta’s “answer to Haight-Ashbury”.  Little Five Points is proud to have exactly three non-local establishments:  The post office, a Starbucks, and an American Apparel.

After more shady residential streets and another short stint on the Freedom Park Trail, we entered Inman Park proper. Sadly, we rolled PAST the King of Pops HQ & Walk Up Window. (“Mmmm, popsicles…”)  Several blocks later, we stopped for a story about a pair of iconic houses, and their connections to the Coca-Cola company.  A bit further on, we discovered the butterfly flags marking the first neighborhood in Altanta to gentrify.

Next up, a fast, dark ride through the heavily graffitied Krog Street Tunnel followed by a photo taking break at the Cabbagetown terminus.  Heading west along Wylie Street, we encountered more murals along the concrete railroad embankment.  We then circled back to Sweet Cheats for a brief cupcake and bio-break.

Following the break, we pedaled a short distance to the site of the Fullton Bag and Cotton Mills.  A portion of the historic mill was converted to loft apartments in the late 90s.  Hundred year old walls overlook the inviting modern pool.  Just around the corner, we rode through a residence of a different sort, the Historic Oakland Cemetery.  The cemetery predates the Civil War and serves as both a final resting place and peaceful city park.

The final leg of the tour took us past the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center, once again, before returning to the bike shop.

What We Liked

  • Just about everything.  The location of the shop and tour route are nearly ideal to experience a cross-section of Atlanta.
  • The bikes were in very good condition (a couple were brand new) and set up for us in advance.  The name tags were a nice touch.
  • Walt was an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide.  Sara was learning the ropes and having a second guide to help with intersections in busy Atlanta added to our safety.
  • Plenty of water provided before and after the ride.

What Could be Better

  • One of our riders had requested an e-bike.  She wasn’t able to use the throttle, but the pedal assist worked fine.  Kudos to Walt for emailing us after the ride to explain the quirks of how that bike usually works.
  • I sure could have gone for that King of Pops popsicle  🙂

Should You Go?

Absolutely, highly recommended!  

Of note, Bicycle Tours of Atlanta also runs “Street Art” and “Twilight” tours.

Day Trippin’ with Austin B-Cycle

Photo: Austin B-Cycle

It’s SXSW time now in Austin.  Bikes and visitors are everywhere downtown and the local bike share, B-cycle, is helping to keep people moving.  For SXers seeking a little local sightseeing along with their panels, music, freebies and general SX insanity, B-cycle has a couple of local “daytrips“.  First up is the Summer Route: Austin Art Walls (Google map) that rides past at least six murals and you’re bound to see that many more on the eastside.

The Spring Route: Ann and Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail (Google map) takes you around Austin’s crown jewel, Lady Bird Lake (nee “Town Lake“) on the much loved hike and bike trail.  The trail has been recently expanded with several boardwalks, although the official route bypasses the quieter section east of I-35.

Elsewhere on B-cycle’s website is this Best of Austin Tour which visits the core of Austin, from the Capitol south to the Ann Richards Bridge, famous for being home to the largest urban bat colony in North America.

So, take a break from panel talks, dark bars, impossible traffic and ride Austin.

Silicon Valley Goes for a Mural Tour

Aztec calendar mural in San Jose’s Biebrach Park, originally painted by Antonio Nava Torres, is one of the murals that will be showcased in a community bike ride sponsored by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition on March 4, 2017. (Sal Pizarro/Staff)

Bike and murals seem to go together at least as well as bikes and beers.  This time, there’s a mural tour of San Jose, scheduled for this Saturday (March 4, 2017).

The route is about 13 miles and the tour is free of charge.  Sign up at Eventbrite.

It’s cool to see San Jose join Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, and Phoenix get in on the bike/mural tours trend.

“Fake Bike Tours”?

Yes, indeed, in these times of “fake news” there are fake bike tours.  Actually, Palm Beach Bike Tours has been around since 2008.  But now that there is a so-called “Winter White House” in Palm Beach…it’s time to take a fresh look at the Palm Beach area.

Photo: Nick Juhasz

Palm Beach proper faces the Atlantic Ocean and is home to Worth Avenue, the Flagler Museum, the Breakers Hotel, and, of course, the now (in)famous Mar-a-Lago (where the membership fee was just raised from $100K to $200K).  Palm Beach is a part-time home to roughly 30 billionaires as well as approximately 29,970 millionaires (the seasonal population being about 30,000).

West Palm Beach (and many surrounding communities such as Lake Worth) lie on the west side of the Flagler Drawbridge which spans the intra-coastal waterway and separates the wealthy from their servants.

Happily for us, there are bike tours on both sides of the bridge!  Visit Palm Beach has just started up two tours.  On the “rich” side, the “Guided Historical Bicycle Tour of Palm Beach” takes a:

“…journey into the then and now of the iconic Palm Beach Island with a guided 2 hour bicycle tour that travels along the famed Lake Trail as well as streets along the Atlantic Ocean all of which are lined with the mega mansions of the rich and famous.

Also enjoy the defining architecture and shaded areas of the flora and fauna and famous landmark buildings that make Palm Beach island so charming.

Your ride, which will begin and end along Downtown West Palm Beach’s beautiful Waterfront, will be filled with stories from a friendly local insider.”

And, on the “regular people” side of the bridge, the “Guided Bicycle Tour of Downtown West Palm Beach” explores:

“…downtown West Palm Beach on this 2-hour guided bicycle tour starting along the beautiful Downtown Waterfront.

Along the way, we will find hidden art murals, visit the Island Estuaries of South Cove and meander through charming streets as we visit of some of the cities historic neighborhoods we may even find time for a special visit to a historic bed & breakfast.  You’ll interact with art, pass by mega yachts and hopefully find hidden gems along the way”

In addition, ME Productions has also introduced a Palm Beach side tour.  The route sounds similar to Visit Palm Beach’s tour…both rides taking advantage of the very egalitarian Lake Trail which runs through the backyards of the super rich.

Vayable Looks Viable

Photo: Vayable

Have you heard of Vayable?  The best way to think about it is as the AirBnB of travel tours/experiences.  The equivalent of an AirBnB “Host” is a Vayable “Insider“.  Once an Insider has signed up, they can list various local experience ranging from a quiet trip to the local farmer’s market all the way to a ride on a jet.  Read what Fast Company had to say.

What does Vayable mean for those of us interested in bike tours?  Well, we’ve dug through their listings and found about 65 CITY bike tours.  Searching is a bit imprecise, so you still have to dig through the results.  One thing that we noticed is a smattering of insiders who also operate a local bike tour company.  There’s nothing wrong with that in our view, but we already include those listings here at BTBT.

At this writing, we see about 60 bike tours run by a single local.  Many of them look pretty great and quite a few are in a city that does NOT have a commercial bike tour company.  In fact, that’s how we discovered Vayable.  Memphis does not have a bike tour company, which we’ve always found surprising.  There’s plenty to see and the city’s bike infrastructure is improving.  Check out Nick’s two tours on our North America page.

Should we add all the rest of Vayable’s tours to our directories?  For now, we’re reviewing each one.  Tours in cities, like Memphis, which do not currently have a tour are our top priority.  Regardless of what city you visit, we’d like to have an bike tour option to show you.  For cities which do have tour companies, we plan to be more selective.  One of the benefits of taking a bike tour is meeting your fellow riders and perhaps making some new friends.  A private tour with a local is also a good chance to make a new friend, but we still prefer that dynamic of a handful of people, from who-knows-where, experiencing a new city together.  So we’ll be reading reviews and looking for only the best tours, especially if they offer something unique.

Update:  It seems that AirBnB is also the AirBnB of experiences now.

Progress in Memphis

It’s Martin Luther King Jr day in the U.S.  Rev. King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

The timing is coincidental, of course, but we’re happy to say that we’ve finally located a few bike tours in Memphis.  Surprisingly, there still doesn’t appear to be a commercial tour operator (other than a couple of pedal pubs).  But there are two guided tours available from Nick at Vayable.  We’ll have more to say about Vayable in an upcoming blog post.  Nick’s tours are Memphis Today & Tomorrow and Barbecue Bike Tour.

In addition to Nick’s tours, we’ve unearthed three self-guided tours:

We also hope that AIA Memphis will once again be hosting last year’s Architect’s Bike Tour this September.  Stay tuned to this page for updates.  It also features four self-guided bike/walk architectural tours to explore Downtown and Midtown Memphis on your own.

Progress in the Metroplex

CowTown Electric Bikes

We’ve updated Welcome to DFW. (again). This Youtube video shows a new tour in Dallas from DallasCityTour.  So far, no mention on their website though.

And, the Local Hub Bicycle Company has published a self-guided Brewery Tour by Bicycle! as well as a list of their favorite Big D routes.

On the other side of the Metroplex, things are looking up in Fort Worth too.  Until recently there was only one, running once per month.  CowTown Electric Bikes came on the scene about a year ago (!?) with three guided tours, three self-guide tours, and rentals.

In other Metroplex news, bike infrastructure just keeps getting better and better.  In addition to the ever-improving Trinity Strand/Skyline Trails as well as the Katy Trail, working its way north out of downtown Big D.

Staying in Addison on a recent road trip, we stumbled into Vitruvian Park‘s excellent hike/bike/explore trails that connects to even more infrastructure in the Galleria area.

Even for those who live in the giant Metroplex, there’s a lot to keep track of!

Play us out, Jimmie and Stevie Ray.

St. Petersburg Goes Bike Tour

Photo from Bikes and Brews St. Pete’s Facebook page

Update:  Unfortunately, Bike & Brews St Pete has gone out of business and seems to be for sale.

Here at BTBT we try to keep our bike tour directories current.  Sadly, some tour companies don’t make it, but we usually find more new tours to add than those defunct ones we have to remove.  Well…I guess they may end up being a defunct tour after all….here’s hoping someone takes it over.

While updating our St. Petersburg (Russia) links, we stumbled across Bikes & Brews St Pete in that other St. Petersburg in Florida… It wasn’t that long ago that this St. Pete was known as God’s Waiting Room (PS: There’s still a bar called that).  And retirees still abound, but the Millennials are coming in hordes.

Which comes first, Millenials or craft beer/bikes/dogs/cafes/farmers markets/etc.?  We don’t care because we love those things too.  And Bikes & Brew St. Pete offers you a chance to check out the resurgent town.  Founded about a year ago, they ride cruiser bikes and offer a:

“3+ hour historic bike tours of downtown St. Pete. Includes a drink at 3 brew spots in town.”

With at least eight breweries in town, along with plenty of craft beer bars, you should have plenty of choices.  Chances are that you’ll stop, of course, at Cycle Brewery and see a bit of street art on your ride.

Want to keep riding after your tour is over?  Just this fall, Tampa’s Coast Bike Share was extended to St. Pete.  You still have a half dozen breweries to check out, not to mention:

If you happen to be visiting Tampa, the Cross-Bay Ferry is a great way to get from downtown over to St. Pete.  No traffic and pelicans are virtually guaranteed.