Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frontier Cyclist, vol. 3

New Yorkers are provincial. As my dad says, once you cross the Hudson River, it's all Cleveland. But while we love our five boroughs here at FP, we admit we enjoy other places, too, especially those where we can ride our bikes. Below, five of our favorite American cities for urban cycling.

1. Austin, TX

The Texas capital is packed with bikers, from the spandex crowd on Highway 360 to UT students and profs to fixed gear hipsters in East Austin, i.e. the indie part of town. And there are tons of bike shops, including Lance Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny’s. (The name is a transliteration of Maille Jaune, the yellow jersey from the Tour de France. Armstrong also likes bad Spanish jokes; his nickname Juan Pelota refers to his testicular cancer.) Austin gets hot in the summer, which can make any Tour de Texas a bit sweaty. But the city is packed with swimming spots, including neighborhood pools and the massive Barton Springs. For out of town swims, ride to the waterfall in San Marcos or Lake Travis, a trip that includes a breathless ride over the Mansfield Dam. At night, ride loops around the state capitol, the second largest in the country after the one in DC.
(Austin Bike Map)

2. Chicago, IL

Chicago has 110 miles of bike lanes, 30 miles of shared lanes and ambitious plans for expansion, an unofficial contest between Mayors Bloomberg and Daley. The jewel of the system is the 18.5 mile paved trail along Lake Michigan that connects Hyde Park (University of Chicago), downtown, and Evanston (Northwestern). In summer, it's perfect for trips to the beach or moonlit waterfront rides. And this August, bike over to Lollapolooza to catch some of FP's favorite bands, including Hot Chip, The Black Keys, The National, The xx, B.o.B., and The Morning Benders. For more on the festival, check back with our Frontier Summer miniseries.

(Chicago Bike Map)

3. Detroit, MI

The streets of Motown are wide and in many neighborhoods devoid of traffic, perfect for exploring the city's beauty and urban decay. In his Bicycle Diaries, David Byrne calls Detroit one of the world's top biking cities. Try the path along the Detroit River and gaze at Canada to the south (Yes, south). Belle Isle has a 6-mile loop; another greenway paved bike path connects the waterfront to the Eastern Market area. This September marks the eighth annual Tour De Troit, “a leisurely, 30-mile, police escorted bike ride.” Last year, the 2,000 riders raised $40,000 for the Corktown-Mexican town greenlink. Also, bike to the Detroit Institute for the Arts to see the best mural in the country, Diego Rivera’s Marxist take on the auto industry.

(Detroit Bike Map)

4. La Crosse, WI

Hello Wisconsin! No preppies with sticks here, only a city on the Mississippi River across from Minnesota. Ride La Crosse's waterfront and wetland trails and channel Dean Moriarty from On the Road: "Now we must all get out and dig the river and the people and smell the world"

(La Crosse Bike Map)

5. Waseca, MN

OK, Waseca has fewer than 10,000 people and not much activity besides an agricultural campus of the University of Minnesota. But once you do a few loops around Loon Lake and Clear Lake and through the endless stretches of cornfields, you may question your urban existence --or at least have more tolerance for Prairie Home Companion. -Keith Meatto

(Waseca Map)

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