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  1. #1
    Senior Member brianinc-ville's Avatar
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    Advice Wanted: Austin Bike Tourism

    Hi. My wife and I are planning a three-day getaway to Austin in a few weeks. We're city bikers and bike-transportation geeks, but we're not road/fitness bikers. We'll be staying close to downtown and renting bikes -- and we'd just sort of like to get a taste of what people who live and bike in Austin on a daily basis really like about their town.

    So: if you know Austin well, can you recommend fun stuff to do / places to go by bike? Describe your ideal fun day cruising around, eating and seeing stuff. Also, any tips on good bike-specific maps and sources of info will be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianinc-ville View Post
    Hi. My wife and I are planning a three-day getaway to Austin in a few weeks. We're city bikers and bike-transportation geeks, but we're not road/fitness bikers. We'll be staying close to downtown and renting bikes -- and we'd just sort of like to get a taste of what people who live and bike in Austin on a daily basis really like about their town.

    So: if you know Austin well, can you recommend fun stuff to do / places to go by bike?
    Ride to Mt. Bonnell at sunset. http://www.google.com/images?q=Mt.+B...w=1680&bih=800 On a hybrid or mountain bike you can go up the rocky path to the very top and look 1000 ft down on Lake Austin. If the timing works out, I will be your guide.

    Quote Originally Posted by brianinc-ville View Post
    Describe your ideal fun day cruising around, eating and seeing stuff. Also, any tips on good bike-specific maps and sources of info will be appreciated.
    I am also a city biker more than a road biker. Call me when you get to Austin. If am not at work and it is not raining, I am riding one of my bikes.

    Don
    512-413-7001 cell
    512-447-9032 shop

  3. #3
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    The ride to Mt Bonnell has some pretty serious hills, and of course once you're there you have a really serious hill to go up -- but you can walk your bike up or carry it up that hill if you want (or just carry it up the stairs -- locking it down below isn't wise.)

    At the very least, make sure you rent bikes with gears.

    When you do pick your dates, check http://www.atxbs.com/ and see if there's any events going on. He tends to not put stuff up until the last minute, so don't expect stuff more than a day or two in advance. This site has most of the "informal" rides listed, if you're looking for that sort of thing. Very little spandex on those rides!

  4. #4
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    The ride to Mt Bonnell has some pretty serious hills, and of course once you're there you have a really serious hill to go up -- but you can walk your bike up or carry it up that hill if you want (or just carry it up the stairs -- locking it down below isn't wise.)

    At the very least, make sure you rent bikes with gears.

    When you do pick your dates, check http://www.atxbs.com/ and see if there's any events going on. He tends to not put stuff up until the last minute, so don't expect stuff more than a day or two in advance. This site has most of the "informal" rides listed, if you're looking for that sort of thing. Very little spandex on those rides!
    I like to take Mt. Bonnell from W 35th street because I think riding on 2222 is a really bad idea although I know people do it. Yes, it would be quite a challenge on a single speed! The other day I rode there with somebody who had only two front rings on his road bike, so we went up Balcones instead, which is a more gradual climb. The path is not that steep, it just needs a little tire size. I have no trouble going up the path on a MTB with 1.25 street tires on it.

    Don in Austin

  5. #5
    Dare to be weird!
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    The first thing to know about getting around in Austin is that Loop 1 and Mo-Pac Blvd are the same road. I guess the city and the state had a disagreement long ago about what to call it.

    My personal idea of a bike holiday in Austin would be easy riding, minimum traffic issues, and lots of eccentric little places where you can soak up the old Austin vibe. My plan misses out on all the beautiful hill country scenery.

    The big hills are mainly to the west of Loop 1. Smaller hills are south of the river. The area bounded by Loop 1, highway 183, and the river is mostly flat and has the old style street grid layout with many alternate routes.

    Downtown between the University of Texas and the river is fun to explore on a bike. You'll see lots of other bikes there. You have to watch the traffic of course but the downtown motorists are highly aware of bikes. There are some great bike bridges that let you get to the urban park areas south of the river. Personally I like the Pfluger bike bridge just east of Lamar, and the South First Street bike bridge.

    If you want to do an easy all-day urban bike ride with many possibilities for stopping to explore or refresh, ride the length of Bike Route 31 from Research Blvd (north side of town) to William Cannon (south side of town). Route 31 has a few interruptions and zigzags you'll have to deal with.

    If you're so inclined, you can learn a bit about the Capital Metro system here. All the buses have racks for two bikes. If you get tired or encounter any trouble, you can easily catch a bus for a boost or to bail out. The best deal is usually to buy 24-hour passes as you board the bus.

    If you want some hills and scenery, ride west on either Far West Blvd or Steck. There's a nice bike/ped bridge over Loop 1 at Far West which connects to Shoal Creek Blvd through a little park. Shoal Creek is part of Bike Route 31.

    Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the vacation here.

  6. #6
    Senior Member brianinc-ville's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Don in Austin View Post
    Ride to Mt. Bonnell at sunset. http://www.google.com/images?q=Mt.+B...w=1680&bih=800 On a hybrid or mountain bike you can go up the rocky path to the very top and look 1000 ft down on Lake Austin. If the timing works out, I will be your guide.

    I am also a city biker more than a road biker. Call me when you get to Austin. If am not at work and it is not raining, I am riding one of my bikes.

    Don
    512-413-7001 cell
    512-447-9032 shop
    Mighty kind of you, Don -- we probably will look you up! We reserved Electra Townies (7speed, I think) -- I've never ridden one before, and I'm skeptical about the "flat foot" design, but I'm also not shy about just walking up the hill, if I have to. We'll see.

  7. #7
    Senior Member brianinc-ville's Avatar
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    Thanks, Platy! This is definitely a pleasure trip, but I'm also interested in seeing some of the stuff the city has done to earn its silver bike-friendly designation from the LAB -- I'm on the bike/ped commission in my city and we're putting in an application this year, so I'm always looking for inspiration. Anything you can tell me about new bike facilities and how they got built?

  8. #8
    tcs
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianinc-ville View Post
    Hi. My wife and I are planning a three-day getaway to Austin in a few weeks.
    On the 25th-28th of February? Check out the NAHBS!
    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  9. #9
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianinc-ville View Post
    Anything you can tell me about new bike facilities and how they got built?
    I'm just one of the local bike riders around here. The first facility I remember noticing was an actual physically separated bike lane on Guadalupe, a busy arterial next to the University. That was around 1970. It must have had some workability issues because it disappeared a few years later, to be replaced by, well, nothing. Then there was a major expansion of the recreational hike & bike trail system funded as part of the Bicentennial in 1976. Some parts of the recreational trail system became wildly popular, other parts got kinda forgotten, and unfortunately floods damaged some critical trail segments that still haven't been repaired even to this day. But it seems to me that the idea of recreational cycling (and walking & running) really took hold here around that time.

    There seem to have been some tensions between recreational and transportational cycling advocates, but when they worked together, lots was accomplished. When they didn't, we got stuff like the Veloway, which I guess is great for recreation but has no use whatever for transportation.

    I think the main problem is that the state level agencies that are responsible for the main arterials are completely indifferent to cycling and sometimes downright hostile. So we have lots of state funded arterials that are problematic for cycling, and there's little that can be done locally to fix them.

    Sometimes there's been negative progress. Two examples that come to mind are the removal of bike lanes from 45th Street and the weird "bike dismount zone" recently created by the University on Speedway (a critical transportational bike route through the campus).

    Well, all this is just my personal viewpoint and opinion and I wouldn't be surprised if others might disagree.

  10. #10
    Member esperoquesi's Avatar
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    Hello All! I wanted to post on this thread as I am headed to Austin for work the week of March 7th-11th and I have secured a rental location in SOCO from the 7th-9th with bicycle available! As a regular cycle commuter I am excited about being in Austin and commuting to my work while I am there (I should be working in one of the state office buildings adjacent to the capital so a couple mile commute will be involved). I hear the city is great (my wife traveled to SXSW the last two years for work) but I'm looking for some suggestions for activities/rides the first couple days I am there. On the 7th I'll be flying in by 11am and probably be with bike by 1pm and need a good lunch spot (vegetarian preferably, obviously I'm not from TX) near Oltorf and 3rd street. A short ride would be fine as I would enjoy the chance to explore anyway. I'll be checking out some of the regular Austin Bike Culture websites as well to see what's happening the week I am there.....but meeting some local folks would be great too....look forward to hearing from some Austinites! Later!

  11. #11
    Senior Member walnutz's Avatar
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    Try to get down to Zilker Park if you can and just explore. Barton Springs Road (The main road to access the park) can be a little hairy, but there are cyclists up and down it and I think people know to look for them. Tons of things to do around there.

    The main Austin bike blogs I follow are:
    atxbs.com
    austinontwowheels.org

  12. #12
    Dare to be weird!
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    Quote Originally Posted by walnutz View Post
    Try to get down to Zilker Park if you can and just explore. Barton Springs Road (The main road to access the park) can be a little hairy, but there are cyclists up and down it and I think people know to look for them. Tons of things to do around there.
    That's a great suggestion. If you're starting from the north side of the river, follow the hike & bike trail to MoPac, then take the bike/ped bridge over the river, then turn left and take the hike & bike trail right into Zilker Park.

  13. #13
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=56122823659 is a good place to watch -- Austin SocialCycling has rides several days a week, and the thursday night ride is huge, often having hundreds of people.

    During SXSW there's also the Bike Hugger Social Ride -- it had 700 or so people I think last year, though I've heard it's scaled down this year, but not sure what that really means.

  14. #14
    Senior Member brianinc-ville's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcs View Post
    On the 25th-28th of February? Check out the NAHBS!
    Unfortunately, no -- I'll be there March 6-10 (same time as esperoquesi, as it turns out -- and hey, I lived in Charlottesville for 10 years, hence the username). Thanks, walnutz, for the blog links.

  15. #15
    Member esperoquesi's Avatar
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    The Park it is! Unfortunately I won't have access to a bike for the thursday night ride but I would love to do it and I had heard of it before actually on Austin by Two Wheels I beleive..I'll be in the (meh) hotel that night so my bike access will be non-existant by that time. NAHBS should be a great time for you guys. Obviously I went every day when it was here in RVA last year and even got to blog some for the event:

    http://2010.handmadebicycleshow.com/...rumming-along/

    So I know already you will be seeing some great stuff....that being said you're gonna miss alot of good stuff too! There is simply so much....make sure to check out Ellis Cycles as he seems to win something every year and last year Bilinky had a ridiculous booth....

  16. #16
    Don from Austin Texas
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    Quote Originally Posted by esperoquesi View Post
    Hello All! I wanted to post on this thread as I am headed to Austin for work the week of March 7th-11th and I have secured a rental location in SOCO from the 7th-9th with bicycle available! As a regular cycle commuter I am excited about being in Austin and commuting to my work while I am there (I should be working in one of the state office buildings adjacent to the capital so a couple mile commute will be involved). I hear the city is great (my wife traveled to SXSW the last two years for work) but I'm looking for some suggestions for activities/rides the first couple days I am there. On the 7th I'll be flying in by 11am and probably be with bike by 1pm and need a good lunch spot (vegetarian preferably, obviously I'm not from TX) near Oltorf and 3rd street. A short ride would be fine as I would enjoy the chance to explore anyway. I'll be checking out some of the regular Austin Bike Culture websites as well to see what's happening the week I am there.....but meeting some local folks would be great too....look forward to hearing from some Austinites! Later!
    Bouldin Creek Cafe -- South First and West Mary. A vegetarian restaurant that recently moved and, IMHO greatly improved their menu. I need to warn you. there will be so many bikes parked there you could have a problem finding your when you leave.

    Don in Austin

  17. #17
    Senior Member brianinc-ville's Avatar
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    Follow-up: we had a great time in Austin! Here're a few impressions, from a tourist's point of view.

    So, the first thing you'd want to think about is where to stay. We rented an apartment on the East side, a few blocks south of Cesar Chavez, near Metz park. It turned out great -- it's a quiet neighborhood (and clearly gentrifying, for those who care), and from there it's really easy to get to downtown, UT, and South Congress by bike. You can take the lakeside bike/walk path, or any of several quiet east-west streets; to cross under Interstate 35, you can use the new 4th St. bikeway. It's also well served by city buses, all of which have bike racks on board. We felt quite safe biking home to our neighborhood after midnight. If I lived in Austin, I'd want to live there. I don't think there are any hotels in the neighborhood, though, so if you're going for less than four nights or so, you might want to look elsewhere.

    We rented bikes from the Bicycle Sport Shop on S. Lamar. We chose them mainly because A) they had a comprehensive web site that described all their rental bikes well, and B) they rented Electra Townie bikes with 8-speed Shimano Nexus internal hubs, and I'd been wanting to try one of those for a while. The guys in the rental shop were really helpful and friendly. We had a few special requests (switching the front and rear brake levers for my wife, who recently broke a finger on her left hand; attaching an old Pletscher rear rack that needed a few bits of hardware), which they fulfilled with no problems. The bikes were in good shape (and, FWIW, we loved the 8-speed hubs but didn't love the odd frame geometry).

    After we got to Austin, we realized that there was another rental shop, Longhorn Bikes, on Cesar Chavez around the corner from our apartment -- but we already had reservations with BSS.

    So then we just started wandering around, seeing the city. We were totally impressed with the amount of effort (and money) Austin has obviously put into bike infrastructure recently, and the bike culture is impressive. The bike/ped bridge next to the Lamar Ave. bridge is a sight to behold -- in late afternoon, there's constant, unbroken bike traffic for hours. The Lance Armstrong Bikeway on 4th St., parallel to the light rail tracks, was also impressive (and useful). The lakeside paths are great. The older painted bike lanes, on the other hand, vary tremendously -- some are good, some (like Barton Springs between S. Lamar and Zilker Park) are kind of dangerous. The city's commitment to bike parking is truly impressive -- bike racks are pretty much everywhere in the central district, and we never once had to lock up to a fence or signpost.

    The City of Austin's bicycle map is absolutely essential -- we bought it for $3 at Bicycle Sport Shop. Get it. It's supposed to be available online here, but the link seems to be broken: http://bicycleaustin.info/getaround/routes.html In any case, it does a really nice job of pointing out the "barriers to cycling" -- roads you just don't want to end up on -- and a good job of pointing out appropriate cycle routes. It doesn't include the names of smaller side streets, though, so you'll need another map as a supplement. In our travels we often buy the "Streetwise" series of folding cardboard maps, but the Streetwise Austin map turned out to be pretty much useless: it really doesn't include the south side of the city at all. We did fine using one of those free tourist maps instead, combined with the city bike map and the bus system route map.

    Speaking of buses: we put our bikes on the #21 bus to head up to Mt. Bonnell, getting off at 35th St. and Exposition. That was a great trip -- thanks, guys! From the bus stop we rode up Balcones to the park; we then rode back down into the city via Pecos, Bridle Path, and the bike/ped path that parallels Loop 1/MoPac. That path leads under the MoPac bridge (did I mention that all the bike/ped bridge crossings are impressive?) to Zilker Park. Riding around in the park is a lot of fun; if you're going to head up the Barton Creek trail, though, you really need a mountain bike -- we went up a mile or so with the Townies before deciding that the path was too rough.

    One note: the city bike map shows a trail along Waller Creek, parallel to Red River and I-35; most of that trail is now closed.

    Austin is known for its food trailers, and they're especially convenient when you're traveling by bike -- no need to go through the hassle of locking up the bikes, just ride 'em straight up to your picnic table. We liked the East Side King trailer at the Grackle bar on E. 6th St. (Asian), the Fliphappy Crepes trailer just off of Barton Springs, and "Hey Cupcake!" (cupcakes, duh) on S. Congress. We also rode over to the Rosita's Al Pastor taco trailer, in a fairly scuzzy stripmall parking lot on Riverside -- not so easy to get to by bike (we went on Woodland, up and down several large hills, and down Parker; might be easier to take the bike/walk path along the lake, though, depending on where you're coming from), but totally delicious tacos.

    Oh, and if you find yourself needing to do some small repairs or pump up a tire downtown, the flagship Whole Foods (Lamar/6th) is, I'm pretty sure, one of the only supermarkets in the USA with bike repair stations out front. Gotta love it.

    All in all, the bikes gave us a lot of freedom to see the city. Highly recommended. Thanks to all who made recommendations.

  18. #18
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    awesome post, glad you had a great time!
    "have fun and be kind"
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