Tag Archives: DIY

San Francisco – An Alternative Touristy Ride

There are at least a half dozen bike rental and bike tour outlets along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf.  All of them offer guided and/or self-guided trips along the bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito, with a ferry ride back to the city.  If you’ve never been to San Francisco, it’s not a bad choice.  Except that Sausalito is pretty touristy.

Maritime Park

I was in San Francisco recently, primarily to check out the East Bay Punk History Rock Bike Tour.  I’ve always wanted to bike over the Golden Gate Bridge.  But, having been to Sausalito ONCE, I didn’t really want to do that again,  Plus, there are other ways to ferry around the bay (tip, check out downtown Oakland or Alameda).

So, do ride the touristy San Francisco side (especially if it’s your first time in the city).  And do ride across the Golden Gate bridge. But, then, come back and take in another side of San Francisco.

Fort Mason

Here’s how this ride breaks down:

  • Embarcadero to the Golden Gate Bridge, passing through all of the most touristed areas, including  the Exploratorium, Pier 39 (don’t miss the sea lions!), Fisherman’s Wharf, the USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O’Brien, the Maritime National Historic Park,  views of Alcatraz, Fort Mason, and Crissy Fields.  Finally climb up to and on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Approx. 6.5 miles.  Consider which side of the bridge to ride.
West Sidewalk – Golden Gate Bridge

 

The Presidio

 

  • SOMA back to the Ferry Building.  The mapped route is pretty direct back to the Ferry Building, but this area is dead flat and pretty bike friendly.  If you’re interested in craft beer, there are several brewpubs noted on the map.  Approx. 3.5 to 5 miles depending on detours.

Need a bike?  You can’t walk 50 feet along the bay without running into bike rentals.  But consider treating yourself to an upgrade from Golden Gate Rides, Bike Hut, or Dandyhorse.  Tell ’em BeenThereBikeTours sent you.

Have fun!

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.

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

Bike to Beers in San Antonio

Blue Star Bicycling
Blue Star Bicycling

We spent an afternoon in San Antonio earlier this year, riding the Mission Reach Trail.  Looks like it’s time to return to check out SA Current‘s suggested bike tour of local brews.  It’s a DIY ride visiting six breweries in about six miles.  That’s a brewery PER mile, so take your time and enjoy some food at the outset and maybe again at Blue Star.  The author also suggests taking a short detour to enjoy the view of downtown SA from the nearby Hays Street Bridge.

Since this is a DIY ride, you’ll need a bike.  If you don’t have one, we suggest B-Cycle’s bike share.  Better yet, why not rent a bike at Blue Star Bicycling Company, conveniently located next to the third stop at Blue Star?  Start the tour in the middle and cycle both ways — that’ll add a few more miles to the beer/mile ratio!

You’ll also need a map.  For now, here’s a Google Map to try.  We’ll get busy on getting back to the Alamo City and riding this in person.

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 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!

On A Mission

San Antonio has recently completed major upgrades and extensions to the original downtown Riverwalk which is very much focused on food and fun.  The Eagleland segment extends the pedestrian portion of the Riverwalk to the Blue Star Complex.  The Mission Reach Trail starts here and provides cyclists and walkers access to four historic missions, recreational facilities, picnic tables, and views of river wildlife in a semi-urban setting.  North of downtown, the Museum Reach Trail is nearing completion for access to several museums and the zoo.

I rode from the Blue Star Complex to the southern end of the Mission Trail and back on a perfect February afternoon in Texas.  In addition to visiting all of the well cared for missions, I spotted a pair of golden eagles, numerous turtles, ducks and other water fowl as well as a large snake.

 

Blue Star Bicycling
Blue Star Bicycling

Although I brought my bike from Austin, there are B-Cycle stations located at all of the missions as well as many of the road intersections.  B-Cycle would be ideal for short rides between two or three missions.  But the bikes are fairly heavy and the trail was hillier than expected.  If you intend on riding the full length, consider renting a bike from Blue Star Bicycling Company located in the Blue Star Complex at the north end of the trail.  From there, if you visit all four missions, plan on riding about 22 miles.

Of course, you don’t have to ride the entire length.  The trail is well marked and has frequent picnic tables, shelters, and water fountains, as well as easy access to local businesses.  Lingering at the missions and parks, you could easily make a day of it or just spend a couple of hours riding out and back.  Or just ride a few miles and enjoy this treasure that San Antonio has provided us.

Finally, after your ride, you might like to enjoy one of San Antonio’s oldest brewpubs, Blue Star Brewing Company:

The Blue Star Brewing Company was one of the first brewpubs in San Antonio that has been serving their uniquely brewed beer and food since 1996. Shortly after opening The Blue Star Brewing Company, owner Joey Villarreal and his wife Magdalena opened the Blue Star Bike Shop within the walls of the amazing brewery, and later moved to its very own location right next door. The Blue Star Brewing Company offers organic brew and a selection of locally sourced food, The Blue Star Brewing Company is the place to relax and enjoy a well crafted meal before or after an adventurous bike ride on the trails.

Tell them Been There Bike Tours sent you!

e place to relax and enjoy a well crafted meal before or after an adventures bike ride on the trails.

The One-Off

val-rideWhen we started building the BTBT worldwide global intergalactic #citybiketour database, our focus was on commercial bike tour operators.  But we quickly discovered numerous DIY, BYOB rides, such as Bikabout‘s very professional offerings along with more home grown efforts like the City of Portland’s recommended rides.   And we even wrote one of our own for Austin’s east side.

More and more now, we’re discovering the “one-off”…a specific one time bike tour created by the likes of art galleries, civic groups, advocacy groups, and just plain folks.  Even some of the bike tour operators are getting in on the act.

There are ecotours, history tours, art crawls, and even Valentine’s rides this coming V-day weekend (with optional tandem bikes, of course).

Bikes are a great way to get around town.  City bike tours are a great way to see a city.  And one-off tours are a great way to do something a little different and unique.  On a bike.

Who’s up for Tour de Cluck?

 

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.