Tag Archives: austin

Bike Tour Beginnings

We have three stories for you about how bike tours get started.  The first two stories are from today’s news.  Third is a nice blog post from Austin’s Bike and Brew ATX.

  1. The city of Houston is getting a new bike tour!  3rd Ward Bike Tours is starting up just this past weekend with a fleet of orange bikes donated by CYCLE Houston.  The founders, Alan Moore and Veon McDonald are combining forces to encourage locals to bike more, get moving, and stay healthy.
  2. The Locks Heritage District Corporation (in Lockport, NY near Buffalo) will be offering the Lock City Cycling Tour on Saturdays, starting July 8.  The seven mile tours are a home grown project, visiting landmarks in Lockport focusing on the Erie Canal’s namesake locks.  Sandy Guzzetti and her husband Mike started with an interest in local bike tours.  That grew to be ride chaperones for Explore Buffalo, and finally creating the new bike tours.
  3. Adam Watt, of Austin’s own Bike and Brew ATX tells his story about starting his bike tour company.  Here’s a snippet:

…I had fallen in love with tourism and when I went on a bike tour in San Francisco, I realized that Austin didn’t have anything like this. So, I brought it back home with me. Although I never had a “real” office job, I was able to take all those years of experiences at tour outfits, breweries, teaching, distilleries and skydiving and mold it around a business that perfectly fits me. Everyone wants to change the world right? Well this is my way of making people laugh and smile for those 3-4 hour that I get to ride bikes with them.  I mean, bikes and beer; what’s not to love?

Couldn’t have said it better myself  🙂

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.

World’s Shortest Bike Tour?

aus_brewery_tour1This past Saturday, three breweries in Austin sponsored the Brewery District Bike TourAdelbert’s Brewery, 4th Tap Brewing Co-op, and Circle Brewing comprise the self-proclaimed “official-ish brewery district”  (I think Austin’s east side could make a similar claim).   Of note, Colorado based Oskar Blues is opening a brewery in the same area, any day now.

The breweries are situated in a light-industrial/warehouse ecosystem that grew to support IBM’s manufacturing operations in the 70s and 80s.

The tour took this GRUELING, 1.3 mile route :

aus_brewert_tour_mapRiders to were invited to buy a beer at each stop, in exchange for a collectible Bike Tour aluminum water bottle.   A group ride would have been impractical considering congestion when arriving at the breweries, so the organizers suggested “riding in packs”.  The turnout felt a bit light to us.  Nevertheless, we chanced into meeting up with friends (the founders of The Brewtorium) and spent an enjoyable, albeit muggy Saturday afternoon.

aus_brewery_tour2Once Oskar Blues is open, we expect to see future similar events.  BTBT has a few suggestions:

  • Throw a few free T-shirts to some volunteer tour leaders.  “Packs” could depart every 30 minutes or so and rotate between the breweries.  The leaders could do a quick intro to each brewery while the riders are queuing up to be served.
  • Some additional bike racks or valets would be helpful for bike security.
  • Sponsor a “ride to the tour” departing from central Austin.

Anyhow, at 1.3 miles, we think this may be the World’s Shortest Bike Tour.

Austin’s TNSR – Thursday Night Social Ride

Social Cycling Austin sponsors  more than a half dozen weekly rides.  Several of their rides could be suitable for taking an unpredictable bike tour.  The Thursday Night Social Ride (TNSR) is the granddaddy of the social rides, sometimes attracting as many as 300 riders.  The rides start at Festival Beach, just under the I-35 bridge over Town Lake Lady Bird Lake near the heart of downtown Austin.

The ride departs around 8pm and lasts about tnsr1three hours, covering 10 to 12 miles, typically.  Sometimes the route is publicized in advance and sometimes not, but always stays within the general confines of central Austin.  The group typically stops for a mid-ride break at a local park.  And the ride generally ends at a bar or bike shop for, often discounted or free, adult refreshments.   Expect to see a tall bike or two, crazy curb-hopping BMXers, fixie bikes, tandems, bike stereos, and plenty of colorfully lit bikes.  The TNSR generally attracts a younger adult crowd, but some of us not-so-younger types ride it too.  TNSR is probably not appropriate for under 21, due to the latish hours/adult beverages.

Here’s a short video of riders departing Festival Beach.  Several ride leaders from Social Cycling Austin help keep riders on track with turns and ensure the group is remassed after being split at traffic lights.

For visitors to Austin, you’ll need to borrow or rent a bike (and be sure to borrow some lights!).  Check out Streamline Cycles and Eastside Pedal Pushers, the two closest rental bike shops.  Austin B-Cycle is a possibility, but the bikes are on the heavy side and it would get a bit expensive for the evening.

tnsr2In any event, TNSR is an opportunity to take a free, unpredictable city bike tour with a couple hundred of your new best bike friends.

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).