Category Archives: info

You Trek Utrecht?

Photo: Alper Çuğun

OK, shockingly, I seem to have originated this terrible pun.  Moving along, the Dutch city of Utrecht gained some fame in 2015, hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.  As with most Dutch cities, bicycles are the most common mode of transport, with a third of journeys being taken via bike.  The city also boasts the world’s largest in-door bicycle parking lot.

However, only one of the three Utrecht bike tour companies seems to be currently operating:

  • Vintage Bike Tours is currently “not organizing any tours due to personal reasons“.  Here’s hoping that’s temporary.
  • One of Utrecht Bike Tours’ websites is down and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since mid-summer 2016.  However this page is up and perhaps tours will resume on Saturdays this summer?
  • Fortunately, it appears to be business-as-usual over at Color Bike Tours.

But here’s something truly unique about Utrecht…they now have an entire book devoted to a bike tour.  “Rietveld in Utrecht. A heritage cycle tour” has been released to celebrate Gerrit Rietveld’s contributions to “the Style” during the 100th anniversary of de Stijl.

Photo: Arjandb

So consider putting the book into your Winkelwagen,   You can rent a bike right from the Centraal Museum.

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.

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.

Gettin’ Googly With It

So you’re headed, say, to the Big Apple.  You’ve heard of bike tours and are ready to try one in the city.  Or maybe you’ve gotten a few great rides under your belt.  Either way, you Google “bike tour new york city” and come up with a lot of great options.  But there are a half dozen ads at the top, most of which aren’t even about bikes.  Hey, a helicopter ride looks REALLY fun, but that’s not what you’re looking for.  And, do you really want to ride a century (100 mile ride) in a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon?

We’re not saying not to use Google.  FAR from it; we use Google every day to improve our city bike tour directory and to research fun articles about great rides.  Here’s a better idea:

  • For New York, go to our USA/North America page (we’ve divided the directory mostly by continent to keep the page sizes reasonable without generating a zillion smaller geographic pages to dig through)
  • Scroll down or search for New York City, you’ll see this:

NYC Listings

Right away, there’s nearly a dozen traditional guided tours to choose from.  But wait, there’s more…your Google search probably didn’t show you those Wall Street Journal Bike the Boroughs tours.  Not only are these well thought out DIY tours, but you can take these tours right now on your device…every tour has a companion video!

Then there are the Splinlister rides…and Bikabout’s amazing “curated” rides that include multiple maps, transit info, where to rent bikes, what to see, and great eating and drinking spots.

You won’t find Bikabout, Spinlister, or even smaller commercial tours on the first page of Google’s results.  Most people, including us, rarely venture past the first page or two of a Google search.

  • So, explore a few of these rides and choose a favorite or two.
  • Now, it’s Google time.  Google your destination.  You may find a new ride that’s not in our directories yet.  If that happens, please do drop us a line, we try to keep everything current but new bike tours are starting daily, it seems.
  • Look through the results, you might have already found your perfect ride.  But use the power of Google to double-check.  And perhaps follow some links to reviews.  (BTBT has few here).
  • Finally, choose one (or more!)…go there…ride it…have a great time!

makeithappen

E-bikes for E-asier Bike Tours

Electric vehicles are hot these days and e-bikes may be the hottest.

By FaceMePLS from The Hague, The Netherlands (Sondors eBike) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: FaceMePLS from The Hague, The Netherlands
At last week’s huge Interbike convention in Las Vegas, there was an entire section devoted to e-bikes along with a test track.  Improvements in battery technology and aging demographics are leading the increased popularity of these bikes which easily reach 20 MPH with little effort.

They certainly make sense for bike tours.  Our directory of bike tours currently lists over 400 tours, with about 5% using e-bikes.  There are quite a few advantages:

  • Less pedaling and effort for those who may not feel comfortable riding for two or three hours (although, most bike tours ride at modest paces)
  • Faster bikes means covering more ground
  • Some of our cities are pretty hilly, an e-bike flattens those hills (think Athens which has three different e-bike companies)
  • More accessible for those who might never even consider riding a regular bike
  • Riding an e-bike is FUN

One downside, an e-bike is generally more expensive for tour operators to buy and maintain.  You might notice that e-bike tours cost a bit more.

Feeling lazy?  Wanna go uphill fast?  Give an e-bike tour a try!

**UPDATE** Check out this article from an e-bike tourer defeating hills, heat, and hours in Rome.

Bike Tours by Bike Share

The USA Today has posted an article about using bike share programs for touring cites: Great Urban Rides:  Bike-share Itineraries for Visitors.

They have a paragraph or so for New York, Boston, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, Columbus, Toronto, Chattanooga, and Portland.

It’s a great idea, particularly for the “accidental” tourist who may have a very limited time window to explore.  We’d definitely add BTBT’s San Antonio ride to the list.  For that matter, any city with bike share is a candidate.  If you have an hour or two free in a new city, check it out!

The Grand Strand in Dallas Land (Part 2)

Old 97s County Fair - Photo: BackAmp Research
Old 97s County Fair

(Part 1)

In the afternoon, we took a little break from the show and I set out again to explore a bit beyond the Trinity Strand Trail.  First stop, though, was the now open Noble Rey Brewing. After a quick pint of bike fuel, I rode a short distance on the trail to Sylvan Avenue.  One block south is the new Sylvan Avenue Bridge featuring an elevated, six lane bridge with two six foot sidewalks on either shoulder. The ramp from the roadway down to the floodway, will allow both vehicular and pedestrian access to Trammell Crow Park and its soccer fields and pond.”

Each side of the massive bridge has both a dedicated sidewalk as well as a bike lane.

Sylvan Ave Bridge

And, most notably, very few cars.  I continued on down the “Floodway Access Ramp” to the aptly named Trinity Skyline Trail:

In spite of the view, however, the trail runs along the Trinity River basin.  I was planning to ride to the Continental Avenue Pedestrian Bridge.  However, once I arrived and was looking up at the bridge, I discovered that there is no connection between them.  This, in spite of the bridge’s webpage that encourages: “We hope you will walk or bike by using the City trail system including the Trinity Skyline Trail!.”  In fact, there’s no way out of the river basin here.  It appears that the next street access is at W. Commerce.  However, time was short and I portaged my bike up and over a giant flood berm and through an already trodden down chainlink fence to reach the bridge.

The northeast half of the bridge was actively being set up for some event, with tents, tables/chairs, and people actively stocking bars.  I rode slowly through the commotion expecting to be ejected at any point.  Once I reached the temporary fence, I encountered a security guy:

Me: “You aren’t going to let me through this gate, are you?”

                   S.G: “Sure I will.  But I won’t let you back.  Those guys should never have let you get this far.”

Me: “OK”

And on I rode to discover:

And not just one Quinceañera, but at least a half dozen.  The lesson here is that the bridge is pretty much about pedestrians and lots of activities (their webpage has tons of activities…Yoga on a bridge, sure, why not?)  Anyhow, it’s a nice bridge with a great view, but I wouldn’t always count on being able to cycle across it.

Climbing berms, crashing parties, and Quinceañeras all tend to make me thirsty.  Happily, I was only two blocks from Four Corners Brewing Company.

After a quick stop for an IPA and a couple of handfuls of peanuts, I started the return ride.  In spite of the somewhat circuitous route so far, the Sylvan Avenue Bridge was only a few blocks to the north.

It was a quick ride over the largely deserted bridge to the Trinity Strand Trail and back to the hotel.

As a postscript, it turns out that this area, just west of downtown, is also home to two more breweries, Peticolas Brewing Company and the aforementioned Community Beer Company.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post about a DIY bike/brewery tour and why some clever entrepreneur should jump on this idea.

 

The DIY Route is Not a Tour (But It Could Be)

We’ve talked about many DIY city bike tours, including a few of our own.  Bikabout is probably the biggest database of rolling your own bike tours.  We love both the “official” commercial tours as well as the random, local, sponsored-by-whomever tours.

Barcelona "Route"
Barcelona “Route”

What we hadn’t considered is the Strava-fication of the city bike tour.  To wit, here’s a great looking “tour” of Barcelona on Bikemap.net.  This is the first we’ve heard of bikemap.net even though they’ve been around since 2008. Of course, there’s Strava, MapMyRide, RideWithGPS, et al.  But, all of these great services have ROUTES, not TOURS.  What’s missing is the information that goes with the route.  The sights, historic details, where to eat and drink, the cool local spots – those are what make a nice route into a great #citybiketour.

The various mapping apps/websites seem oriented to training, racing, and commuting.  Bikemap.net, though, appears to be a bit more angled toward touring, both longer distance as well as city “tours”.  But without the research, writing, and presentation of details along the route, at best it’s still just a pleasant route.

(You didn’t think we were going to say “curate“, did you?)

So, if you’re headed to a city and find a cool route online…ride it!  And take some notes, do some research, and write your own city bike tour.   And, send it to us to publish on BeenThereBikeTours!

Stats – How Many City Bike Tours on Earth?

Wow, there are now nearly 500 bike tours in our worldwide database:

TOTAL 182 478
Cities Tours
North America 70 134
Europe 74 204
South America 11 23
Africa/Asia/Australia 27 67

And this is just counting each tour company/link as one tour.  Many have two or even several tours!

bikeline1