Category Archives: review

East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour

“Punk rock” and “bike tour” are two  phrases you don’t expect to see together.  Throw in “history” and you’ve got the East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour.   When I saw this in my news feed a few weeks back, I knew that I had to make the trip.  The ride was co-sponsored by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA).  So I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and began looking for a rental bike that wouldn’t make me look like a tourist who’d escaped from Fisherman’s Wharf.  Shout out to Golden Gate Rides who set me up with a Cannondale Quick flat bar road bike that was perfectly suited to a long weekend in the Bay Area.

Chris kicking off the ride at OMCA

The sellout ride began at the museum in downtown Oakland.  The 30 or so riders mingled prior to a welcome and pre-ride briefing from the WOBO board president, Chris.  CBGB and Dead Kennedy T-shirts replaced the typical cyclist kit.  And there was a bit of minor incredulity that someone would fly 1500 miles to participate.  Each rider received a pocket-sized Powerpoint deck detailing each stop of the tour.

 

We rolled out under clear blue skies to the first stop at the former site of the Practice Pad, in downtown Oakland.  Our guides were Kamala and Kate, pioneers of the punk rock scene in the East Bay.

Here, and at each of the eight following stops, Kamala and Kate related stories “from the day”.  Stories of starting bands, communal living, and less-than-normal rental practice spaces shared with semi-legal tattoo parlors and offbeat print shops.

More than half of the nine stops no longer resembled their punk rock roots, due to gentrification, remodeling, and new construction.  This ride was not about sightseeing as much as about the stories.  After each stop’s story, the guides played a song from one of the associated bands.   There’s nothing like a punk rock soundtrack on a bike ride.

Here’s a quick video of the music portion at one of the stops:

One particularly interesting detail about gentrification stuck with me.  Most of these neighborhoods were, at one time, inexpensive warehouse spaces or housing.  They were often very ethnic and dubious of the punk squatters.  Gentrification in the early 90’s hadn’t started, but Kate expressed regret that they didn’t try harder to build bridges with the existing neighborhoods.

The final stop on the tour was 924 Gilman which is a:

  • DIY and nonprofit venue for music, art, and community events
  • Cultural landmark since 1986 that continues to inspire similar spaces globally
  • Volunteer-run, all-ages, drug and alcohol-free safe space
  • Multi-generational, independent collective
  • Place for young people to work cooperatively

The route from OMCA to 924 Gilman was just under nine miles:

Stretching to Berkeley, the ride also provided a quick glimpse of some of the exceptional Bay Area cycling infrastructure, e.g. bicycle boulevards.

To top off the post ride, WOBO sent a playlist of the tracks played at the stops and during the ride:

01_TheGr’ups_RRHood.mp3
02_Special Forces_South Africa.mp3
03_StarFuckingHipsters_Immigrants_Hypocrites.mp3
04_Neurosis_Double Edged Sword.mp3
05_Christ on Parade_Just Pretend.mp3
06_Tilt_Berkeley Pier.mp3
07_Econochrist_Withdrawl.mp3
08_Spitboy_Sexism Impressed.mp3
09_NoMeansNo_Dad.mp3
10_Fang_Berkeley Heathen Scum.mp3
12_SocialUnrest_GeneralEnemy.mp3
13_Isocracy-2 Blocks Away.mp3
14_Crimpshrine_Tomorrow.mp3
15_Operation Ivy_Junkies Running Dry.mp3
16_Mr. T Experience_Gilman Street.mp3
17_Blatz_Berkeley is my Baby.mp3
18_Filth-The List.mp3
19_Lookouts_Big Green Monster.mp3
20_Screeching Weasel_Ashtray Song.mp3

Most of these titles seem to be available on Youtube.

Although this wasn’t a commercial bike tour, I’m including the usual:

What We Liked

  • It was a well organized, well run, well thought out event.  Kudos to WOBO and OMCA.
  • The pocket guide and music samples were a great idea.
  • Tim from WOBO even brought water along in his panniers.
  • Follow up emails with the route information and downloadable MP3s.
  • Friendly fellow riders.

What Could be Better

  • Nothing, even the weather was perfect.

Final Notes

Over an après-tour beer, I heard that WOBO is planning a shipping container themed bike tour around town and the Port of Oakland area.

And, finally, if you’re interested in learning more about the East Bay punk scene, check out a new documentary titled: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.

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.

350 and 11 Or So Miles – Houston Mural Ride

Have I mentioned that Mural Rides are a thing now?  This past Sunday, I hopped in the car and drove 175 miles to Houston to ride in Bayou City Outdoors’ Graffiti Ride (we’ll let Columbia University sort out the difference between murals and graffiti for us 😎 ).

BCO is “Houston’s event, adventure, and social club”.  They sponsor a number of cycling oriented events in and around H-town.  This was the second Graffiti Ride, with more likely in the future.

Market Square Park
Market Square Park

Sixty or so riders started at Market Square Park and focused on East Downtown (“EaDo“) and the 2nd Ward/East End districts.  The first mural stop at the Houston Graffiti Building featured a dozen or so murals on several buildings (near the intersection of St. Emanuel and Bell):

houston_mural_ride_3 houston_mural_ride_4 houston_mural_ride_5We rode east from here and made use of two excellent bits of cycling infrastructure, the Columbia Tap and Harrisburg Hike & Bike Trail.  This part of town provided some great cycling conditions (especially on a Sunday) and offered a handful more mural sightings:

houston_mural_ride_6 houston_mural_ride_7 houston_mural_ride_8DCIM100MEDIAWe eventually looped back toward the start, but not before a brief stop for refreshments at the 8th Wonder Brewery.  The ride took right at three hours and was 11 miles or so.  As you can see the weather was nothing short of ideal.  Especially for Houston.

And, another three hours and 175 mile drive later and my day was done.


If you visit Houston and want to see some murals, please check out this amazing guide by Ashley Cardoza, Carrie Colbert, and Maritere Ricee.  Best of all, they included this interactive Google map:

Happy Muraling!

Old Delhi by Bicycle — travels with a milk addict

 

Check out Travels with a Milk Addict‘s write-up of a recent bike tour in Delhi.  This is only the second bike tour we’ve discovered in Delhi, a city of 25M residents.  But there are plenty of hidden adventures in this vast city and our two bike tour listings aim to show them to you:

Be sure to click the link for the whole story:


Not much sleep as we try to adapt to the +5.5 hr time zone meant a 6.30am bike tour was pretty early. They have them this early so it is quiet, we got a rickshaw there and it was in no way quiet 😄, our starting point was not far from a large mosque which […]

via Old Delhi by Bicycle — travels with a milk addict

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

Thanks to International in Style for writing this great review of Loudest Yeller Bicycle Tours:

After seven months of “settling in” to New York City, I finally decided to explore parts of the city outside of the neighborhoods I normally frequent.I conveniently live in midtown, yet I rarely make it to Lower Manhattan. One of the best ways to explore intricacies of a big city is by simply walking it, […]

via Exploring Lower Manhattan with Loudest Yeller Bicycle Tours — International In Style

Green Fleet Signature City Tour

gf_bagWe booked Green Fleet’s Signature City Tour at the tail end of a work conference in Nashville.  Green Fleet has two other tours, Bike the Line: Stories of Music Row and the Downtown Highlights Tour.  Our crew was four riders and two additional ladies from Detroit.  Booking and payment was easily handled on Green Fleet’s website.  However, where to actually show up for the ride was a bit unclear until I received the very helpful reminder email and text message the morning of our booking.  The bike shop itself is on the move soon and that will be changing.

Two of our riders had a late afternoon flight to catch.  Green Fleet was super accommodating about that and allowed them to keep their luggage behind the counter at their tiny shop on Edgehill Avenue.

Our bikes had been set up in advance in the lot across the street from the shop.  The bikes themselves were an assortment of different models and sizes, and it took a few minutes to get everyone on an appropriately sized bike.  It would have been helpful to assist a couple of novice riders with seat height adjustment and the various shifter types.  Each bike also had a bottle of water, which we appreciated.

Austin was our guide, whom we later learned is also the owner of Green Fleet.  He’s super friendly and a very laid back, easy going guy.  Once settled on our bikes, we took off and turned quickly north headed toward “the Gulch”.  Austin told us that we could mostly ride in a group, abreast, taking the lane and that the Nashville drivers tended to be very patient.  That turned out to be true, in spite of the fact that we saw very few cyclists in the downtown Nashville area.  It seems that the slow/social cycling movement is taking some time to build in Nashville.  Considering how many people comment on the similarities between Austin (home of BeenThereBikeTours) and Nashville, this is a notable difference.

The Gulch is a historic moniker named after a natural railroad cut.  The also historic Union Station is now an upscale hotel in the valley area, which is transforming into condos, trendy eateries, music venues and shops.  At the time of this tour, there was quite a bit of road and building construction that required a bit of care on the bikes.

From the Gulch we rode through an old industrial area where a couple of Gibson Guitar buildings are located as well as the olfactory notable Burton Snuff building.  This route circumvented the large hill on which Tennessee’s state capitol building resides.  We stopped at the foot of that hill on top of a large map of Tennessee in the Bicentennial Capitol State Park.   Standing on the Tennessee map, with the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains at our back, Austin told us some history of the Capitol and about the 2 (or 3) dead bodies entombed within the walls.  From there, we rode north-(ish) through the park, parallel to the large, linear farmer’s market building.  We stopped once or twice and talked a bit about Tennessee’s Confederate War history.  We arrived at the Court of 3 Stars promptly at 2PM to hear “Love Me Tender” and “The Tennessee Waltz” played by a 95 bell carillon contained within the 50 columns surrounding the plaza.

We then rode out the east side of the park, headed toward the observation tower at Public Square Park.  En route, we passed by the Criminal Justice Center and a hand full of 24 hour bail bond outfits.  Nothing scary though, other than the small hill that challenged a couple of our riders, heading up to the park.

The observation tower is built atop an underground parking garage, whose elevators extend to the tower top (some of us took the stairs, just sayin’).  From the top are fine views of the Cumberland River and riverfront parks, football stadium, the “Bat” and “R2-D2” buildings, the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, and public art installed in the park below.

From the tower we rode to the Downtown Presbyterian Church via Arcade Alley which crosses The Arcade.  We learned about the long history of the church, including being pressed into service as a hospital during the Civil War and the Army Corps of Engineers failed experiment with a multi-story outhouse in the adjacent alley.

We also got an insider tip for seeing Bluebird Cafe singer-songwriter style live music in a nearby venue.  (Want to know where?  Take the tour!)

We continued south, past the Frist Center art museum, housed in Nashville’s former main Post Office across from Union Station.  There’s a 21 minute video documenting the journey from Post Office to museum here.  (OK, I admit it, I didn’t watch the whole thing either.)

After a right turn on Demonbreun, we crossed over The Gulch and rode a short climb over the freeway and past a number of trendy restaurants and bars.  At the Music Row Roudabout, we stopped to talk about the controversial Musica Sculpture, sometimes referred to as the “Naked Statue”.  Amusingly, the locals have occasionally clothed the figures in kilts, Christmas lights, and hockey gear.

From the scandalous statue, we proceeded south on Music Square W, down the middle of Music Row.  The final stop before returning to the shop was RCA Studio B, famous for its role in popularizing the “Nashville Sound”.

Our tour concluded a short distance later at Green Fleet’s shop on Edgehill.  The tour lasted two hours and 15 minutes and covered close to seven miles.  The timing was perfect for our two riders Uber’ing off to catch their flight.  The pace was easy, mostly flat, with a couple of hills.


 

This is the first chance we’ve had on BeenThereBikeTours to write a review so soon after our bike tour.  With the ride fresh in our minds, we’re experimenting with some new sections for our reviews:

What We Liked

  • The route choice and focus away from the obvious destinations (e.g.  Rymans, Broadway, the County Music Hall of Fame, etc.)
  • Austin was an amiable, knowledgeable guide.
  • “Insider” tips.

What Could be Better

  • With the proximity to Vanderbilt University and Centennial Park/Parthenon, we were hoping that would be part of the itinerary.
  • A couple of the riders could have used some bike fitting and explanation of the gear shifters.

Should You Go?

Absolutely, highly recommended!  

 

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

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.