Long associated with being home to Lance Armstrong, Austin is a cyclist’s city. Armstrong undoubtedly had an impact in cultivating a community of cyclists, and the bike shop he owns in Austin - Mellow Johnny’s - is arguably the most famous bike shop in the world. And that cycling culture extends beyond Austin into the rolling green hills and open roads of the Texas Hill Country. The local sense of community in the cycling world is colorful, containing both competitive cyclists and those who simply enjoy riding.
"We have a fun bike culture, ranging from chill group rides in cutoff jeans to Barton Springs, to spandex-clad competitive racers who are training their butts off, looking to become king of the mountain and nab a top step on the podium," says Austin cyclist Madeline Enos.
Robert Wray, Austin-based cyclist and founder of TexasBikeRacing.com, points out that Austin is also home to "the best weeknight criterium series in the country," referring to the Driveway Series. Wray says that every Thursday between March and October, cyclists get together “to race crits on a car track, socialize, and drink beer afterwards.” The races attract 300 to 400 cyclists each week.
Between road, mountain, velodrome, and cyclocross races, riders can find an event nearly every weekend of the year. Charity rides are also frequent in Austin, offering cyclists the opportunity to pair their passions with their altruism, giving back to causes and missions they deeply care about through their cycling.
ORGANIZATIONS IMPROVING AUSTIN’S CYCLING COMMUNITY
There are countless organizations in Austin who contribute to the cycling community in creative, active ways. Wray’s project, TexasBikeRacing.com is an editorial resource for cyclists covering trends, news, races, and events in Texas. And Wray is a big fan of several local organizations also contributing to regional cycling.
The mission of the BoneShaker Experience is to empower children to feel physically strong early on. It has a fleet of bikes that it brings to events throughout the city along with expert coaches who teach children along the way. Be Kind to Cyclists was founded by Alvaro Bastidas, a local cyclist nearly killed in a bike accident. Since then he’s made Be Kind to Cyclists his life’s mission, which is to "work with cyclists, motorists, policy-makers, and community members to raise awareness and promote mutual respect between drivers and cyclists on the road, creating healthier and more harmonious communities."
Enos is an advocate for Team Snacks, which is also supported by local bike shop Cycleast - a women’s-only cycling club in Austin. Enos says that the organization "organizes regular workshops, events, and rides," including her favorite ride, the Sunday “Slow Your Roll” ride, a casual, no-drop, 20-30-mile ride usually ending with breakfast tacos.
"There are some pretty spectacular routes in town," Enos says. “Riding from downtown to Mt. Bonnell is epic, taking Scenic Drive along the water and catching a nice breeze off the lake, putting yourself into a pain cave up the steep climb, and then catching an awesome sunset view at the top.” She also likes the paved Walnut Creek Trail, which part of the Walnut Creek Greenbelt and designed for bikes and pedestrians only.
"Dedicated bike paths and wide and marked shoulders for cyclists make cycling downtown great," Wray says. He also finds the paths along Lady Bird Lake fantastic.
For road cyclists, a popular route is to Buda, Texas, about a 25-mile round trip, passing miniature donkeys along the way. If you want to go farther, ride out to Manor, Texas, and back, which is about a 40 mile round trip.
"On the Manor ride, you can stop at Mr. Jim's to grab a cold drink and some tacos from the cart in their parking lot," Enos says.
Wray agrees, saying that he also enjoys the road to Buda and San Marcos by way of Old San Antonio Road, as well as the Walnut Creek Trail, which connects East Austin to Manor.
The Violet Crown Trail offers beautiful in-town riding. And it’ll soon be a much longer trail, with plans to extend it by 30 miles connecting Zilker Park to Hays County. Pace Bend Park features a number of fun trails, and the opportunity to cool off with a post-ride swim. The Barton Creek Greenbelt, with 12 miles of trail within the city, is also a great destination for mountain bikers, offering varied terrain and steep climbs - all within a very beautiful landscape consisting of steep cliffs and shaded groves alongside famed Barton Creek.
There are countless places in the city to park your bike and take a break, be it with a coffee, a cold brew, or a full dinner. Enos says Cycleast is her "favorite bike shop in town," which shares a space with Flat Track Coffee. Enos describes it “as the perfect place to stop by for a cortado and pick up some gear, get a repair, and pet the shop dogs.”
On any given day after a ride, Wray can be found at a number of local Austin joints for brews and grub. Among his favorite hangs are ABGB, Juan Pelota Cafe, Caffe Medici, Radio Coffee & Beer, Home Slice Pizza, and, like Enos, shares an affinity for both Flat Track Coffee and Cycleast.
All in all, Austin has it all when it comes to the cycling community: designated bike lanes, well-kept trails, organizations supporting the community, bike-friendly establishments all throughout the city, and good weather much of the year.
Contributed by RootsRated.