Mike’s Bike Tours of Munich – Classic Tour

This past September, we traveled to Munich for Oktoberfest.  Yes, THE Oktoberfest. We were meeting a small group with plans for a couple of group visits to the Wiesn fairgrounds, a tour of the Erdinger Brewery and the Andechs Monastery.  With only one free day before the rest of our group arrived, a bike tour was a perfect plan to reacquaint with a city I’d visited once, years earlier.

There are a couple of tour providers in Munich.  We chose Mike’s Bike Tours of Munich based on a friend’s recommendation and concerns about getting a reservation during the busiest time of the year.  Mike’s seems to be the biggest tour company, by far.

We met our group at the Altes Rathaus, located a couple of blocks from Mike’s shop.  There were at least 40-50 people and I was really concerned about how ungainly our group size would be.  Four guides met us there and provided a short talk about the old government building, while I continued to imagine this group of 50 plus riders and guides trying to ride around central Munich.

Fortunately, my fears were quickly allayed.  As the group walked to the shop, the guides broke us up into smaller groups of a dozen or so, each lead by one guide.  Each guide led his group to a different staging area with bikes ready to go.  (Side note, the back door to the Hofbräuhaus is across the street from Mike’s shop and they were very accommodating about a few dozen riders using their restroom facilities, pre-ride.)

Our guide was Basti, who bills himself as “probably one of the few, half Bavarian, half New Zealanders out there“.  Before we rolled, Basti asked for a volunteer.  As I raised my hand, I realized (from having read some Tripadvisor reviews) that I’d just volunteered to be the “Ass Man”.  The Ass Man’s job is to bring up the rear (so to speak) of the group and make sure no one was left behind or separated from the group.  It’s a smart and simple way to track of the group.  There were a couple of inexperienced riders with us and it would have been impractical for Basti to try to herd the entire group.

The tour wove through central Munich, stopping briefly at the Hofbräu (the front door this time), the Bayerische Staatsoper,  the Residenz, a short walk around the Odeonsplatz area, through the Hofgarten and past the Bayerische Staatskanzlei.  From there we entered the Englischer Garten, riding past the nudist meadow, picnickers and informal soccer games. At the Chinesischer Turm, we parked the bikes and stopped for lunch and a beer or two.  In addition to refueling, it was a good opportunity to meet our fellow riders, including three young ladies from Australia wearing AFY T-shirts (don’t ask) and a couple from Austin (small world!).  Basti shared some ideas on less touristy beer halls than the Hoffbrau and some restaurant recommendations.

Our tour then continued through the garden to the Eisbach Standing Wave, where surfers challenge a dangerous standing wave blocks from central Munich.

From there, we rode on past the Bayerisches Staatsministerium, eventually turning south along the Isar River at the golden Angel of Peace statue.  The stretch along the Isar was a wooded bike/walking path with one or two very moderate hills.  We turned back across the Isar on the Maximilian Bridge after stopping at the Maximilianeum building.  After a short stop overlooking the massive Deutsches Museum, we cycled up Tal Strasse to complete our tour.

Here’s the approximate route.

As with many tours, you pay at the conclusion of the tour.  It’s a good opportunity to tip the guide.  Mike’s shop had some T-shirts/hats/merchandise for sale as well as some handy pocketable maps (complimentary).

Here’s our group, with the Ass Man award:

With the lunch/beer stop, our tour lasted about four hours.  The pace was easy and mostly flat. Highly recommended. 

Also, check out Alexandra’s detailed review at Speaking Denglish, with tons of photos.

 

 

Confederacy of Cruisers – Cocktails in New Orleans Bike Tour

A few months after our Creole Tour we returned to New Orleans for a staff birthday party featuring (among other merriment), Confederacy of Cruisers’ Cocktails in New Orleans Tour.  Our group of six was led by the inestimable Lara, who arrived a few moments late, pedaling fast, fresh from being released from jury duty.  A relieved Jeff had been prepared to lead us and we ended up with the good fortune of having not one, but two, tour leaders.  Lara also tends bar at the Marigny’s R Bar and knows her stuff.

This tour rides spends much of its time riding in the French Quarter and CofC suggests “This tour is recommended to advanced riders.  Through much of this tour we will be sharing old, narrow city streets with motor vehicles and high volume pedestrian traffic, so an appropriate skill level is important to your ability to comfortably enjoy this tour.”   Definitely good advice, but our group was mostly anything but advanced and we had no problems, other than perhaps a spilt cocktail or two.

The ride kicked off with a fresh, classic Daiquiri (non-frozen) supplied by CofC.  Public drinking is, of course, completely legal in New Orleans.  Our Daiquiris went into our bike mounted drink holders and we pedaled off for the Napoleon House for their famous Pimm’s Cup. We’d incidentally just visited the night before, but that didn’t deter our enjoyment and Lara and Jeff added historical tidbits.

We next pedaled through the Quarter to the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel, located just at the edge of the CBD.  Our cocktail choices at the Roosevelt was the Sazerac itself, or a Ramos Gin FizzPro tip: Split your orders up and try them both.  The Sazerac Bar itself is plush, elegant, and historic.  You can only imagine the politics, intrigue, and tête-à-têtes here over the years.

The Erin Rose Bar on Conti was next.  The Erin Rose is somewhat of a local’s bar, although only a half block from Bourbon Street.  They’re only open 21 hours per day, so if you visit on your own, plan accordingly.  Drinks of choice here were Bloody Marys (secret recipe), traditional hot Irish coffees, and their famous Frozen Irish Coffee.  After our grueling ride (not) from the Roosevelt, our group mostly went with the Frozen Irish coffee.

The final bar stop was at Finnegan’s Easy for mostly beers, mostly Abita, and mostly to go.  The group rode on with beers in hand/drink holder past the French Market and checked out the Mississippi River from atop the levee before returning to the shop:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lara and Jeff certainly regaled us with more history and perhaps stories of how rum was once transported up the river to the city of New Orleans.  This review is being written three years after our tour and details may be a bit fuzzy.  But the memories are nothing but fun and a good time had by all.  Highly recommended!   rate4bikes

Orlando Gets Into City Tours

The sprawling tourist town of Orlando may or may not be bike friendly.  But they’ve definitely recently seen Orlando Bike Tours start up with their inaugural Tour de Tapas.  Sounds like way more fun than visiting Mickey to us…or at least something different to do, far away from the tourist areas west of downtown O-town.  We’re planning to check them out on our next trip to the home state.

Brew Bikes

Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Sacramento’s Sac Brew Bike has a nice write-up from their local NPR station.  A number of cities have Brew Bikes and Pub Crawlers.  Some allow beer on board (Austin’s does) and some, like Sac Brew Bike, just visit local establishments.  In particular, Sac Brew Bike “offers tours of Midtown Sacramento’s craft beer scene”.  Craft beer is exploding in the US, and the fusion of bikes and craft beer is common in many cities.

Since many of the beer bikes operate in the central parts of town, they offer a different way to take a city bike tour.  Most seem more focused on the beers/bar than local sites…but the social aspect is definitely part of the experience.  We look forward to trying and reviewing one soon.

Are You a Cyclist?

You certainly don’t need to be a “cyclist” to take city bike tours or rent a bike.  In fact, people who don’t routinely ride a bike might even enjoy the city cycling time MORE…since it may have been a while since they’ve ridden.  Robin Williams was an avid cyclist and known for saying that “cycling is the closest you can get to flying“. If you haven’t ridden recently, you might have forgotten how much fun just riding a bike can be.

Some cyclists are very much into the stuff, the gear, the “kit”. Don’t be intimated about taking a bike tour and not looking the part or not being a “cyclist”.  Planet Bike said it perfectly:

If we want more people in the US to ride bicycles, we need to change the image that bicycles are just sporting goods and the perception that people who ride bikes are “cyclists” and can be identified by their tight, brightly-colored Lycra outfits. Meanwhile in the rest of the world, most people ride a bike multiple times a day, but if asked, they would not say they are cyclists. For them, the bicycle is simply a means of transportation, not an identity.
We all brush our teeth each day, but we don’t call ourselves dentists. We vacuum our homes, but don’t wear special outfits to do it, and we don’t read “Vacuuming Magazine.” Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with bicycle jerseys, racing, training, club rides, etc. Bicycles are great tools for recreation and exercise. But they are also the most efficient, sustainable, fun, safe and healthy means of transportation out there.

We’ve always thought “biker” would be a better term for many of us, but that’s kind of taken. Anyway, all you need for your bike tour are comfy clothes and shoes, a helmet (if you so choose, nearly always provided by the tour operator), and a spirit ready for fun.

Bike Share for Bike Tours?

Here’s some interesting timing, we were just thinking about whether bike share makes sense for a self-guided city tour.  USAToday recently posted this article: 10Best: Bike Share Program to Tour Great Cities (apparently all the “best” cities are in the US).   Our town, Austin, made the list!

So, does bike share make sense for us city bike tour types?  The article says:

Forget a rental car or a taxi: The best way for travelers to explore a city is often on two wheels. And with more than 50 U.S. municipalities offering bike-share programs, it has never been easier for visitors to take to the streets, says Paul DeMaio, a transportation consultant and co-author of the Bike-sharing Blog. “You’re getting to see the sights, see how the city functions and you’re able to cover more ground than by simply walking.”

We certainly agree that two wheels are the way to go and faster than walking. And bike share is a quick, accessible way to get on those two wheels and get moving quickly. For cities like Austin, you can find rental stations within a block or two of most central locations.  That’s a time saver over finding and getting transport to (you could always use the bike share!) a rental shop.

So, what’s the downside?  Well, it could get expensive vs. renting a bike or even taking a tour. For example, in Austin, a day pass is a mere $8 for unlimited 30 minute rides.  That’s a great deal …. BUT, if you wanted to keep that same bike and ride for, say, 4 hours, it would cost you $36. That’s not bad either, but as the day goes on, it could get expensive.  On the other hand, if you make frequent stops and check in/out at each destination, you could literally spend just the initial $8.

Other cities will have different rate structures, so be sure to review your destination city’s plan before you decide.

Another possible minor downside for you, is that shared bikes tend to be heavy and slow (designed to last forever and accommodate many body sizes over winning the Tour de France).

So, here’s our advice:

  • If your city has a bike tour available, take it.  You’ll meet people, get inside tips, and probably see and learn more than you would on your own.
  • If you’re hungry for more, bike share is a great option, just make sure you understand how it works.
  • If you want a nicer/faster/keep-it-for-the-duration bike…rent one at a local shop.  But take the bike share to get you there from your lodgings!

And finally….guess what?  Austin’s B-cycle is starting their own tours! (see bottom of page).

 

 

 

Confederacy of Cruisers – Creole Tour

In 2012, we took Confederacy of Cruiser’s Creole Tour with a small group of eight riders.  They ride on comfortable cruiser bikes (thus, Confederacy of Dunces becomes Confederacy of Cruisers). It was our first foray into the neighborhoods east of the CBD and French Quarter.  Focusing on Faubourg Marigny and the Bywater areas, our tour was led by Jeff, one of the company’s founders. CofC’s T-shirts say “Not Even Close to Exercise” and this tour epitomized that. Starting in Washington Square Park, we rode a block or three between each stop and eventually rode as far east as Vaughn’s (featured in HBO’s Treme series). At each stop, Jeff told us about local restaurants and neighborhood haunts, New Orleans history and cultural development, Katrina and its aftermath, and the bits of local color from someone who knows and loves his town.

We visited a “Country Club” of a different sort, rode the biggest hill around (a good 20 foot climb) to the Mississippi levee, talked about the food at  Elizabeth’s (go there for breakfast, don’t tell anyone else), and….talked…..about shotgun and double shotgun houses, the Great War Memorial, land barons, Creole history and food, quadroons and plaçage, A Street Car Named Desire, what the symbols painted on houses after Katrina meant, about gentrification, the HBO Treme series and what it meant to the neighborhoods.

We stopped for a beer at a neighborhood spot that I can no longer find on the map.  Finally, it began to rain and we rode just a bit more quickly back to the shop.  Jeff knocked a few bucks off our tours for the rain and made dinner suggestions, bar recommendations, and called a cab for the couple headed to the airport.

Since this visit, we’ve also taken CofC’s Cocktails in New Orleans Tour (review coming soon), and joined the CofC crew and friends for a Frankenbike ride on Halloween.

We’ve recommended Confederacy of Cruisers to many friends visiting New Orleans and HIGHLY recommend them to you.  

Greetings

Welcome to BeenThereBikeTours. We like to take city bike tours and/or rent bikes in town when we travel. Most tours are between 2 and 4 hours and cost somewhere between 50 and 100 USD.  We aren’t talking about road bike tours, taking one or more days and covering miles and miles of countryside all kitted up and grinding out the miles. Those are great too, but that’s not why we’re here.

We like riding in the city because:

  • You can see more in a couple of hours than you could all day on foot, and have fun getting from place to place.
  • You often meet some new, like minded friends.
  • Many tours stop for a snack and tasty liquid refreshments.
  • Your tour guide can be a valuable source of for local tips, haunts, and hidden treasures.
  • It’s outside and not a stuffy tour bus filled with people.
  • They’re fun!

We’ve noticed there’s no comprehensive list of city bike tours and we hope to change that.  And we’re diligently taking as many tours as WE can, to help you know which ones are the best.  Watch for our reviews.

Some towns and cities don’t have bike tours (yet), so we’re also working on great places to rent bikes and local recommendations on the best routes.  What if you were taking guests in your town?  Where would you ride?