Well, in spite of this I have indeed cancelled my hosting. Beentherebiketours (well apparently someone picked up the domain name for a porn site ) is gone, although I preserved the best info right here. And I did keep my BackAmp domain. All good and some simplification achieved.
I’m slowly sunsetting BeenThereBikeTours. Building the indexes of 600 or so bike tours around the world was largely powered by Google searches. But now and then I discovered an unusual tour that somehow Google hadn’t found (or at least weren’t on the first page of results). Here’s a collection of offbeat city bike tours that you might not find by Googling:
|Dallas||Dallas Brewery Tour by Bike||Self-guided|
|Denver||Bike Into Denver’s Past||Self-guided|
|Durham||Durham Mural Tour||Monthly|
|Lexington||Cycling Through the Centuries||Self-guided|
|Minneapolis||Hidden Music Landmarks||Self-guided|
|New York City||Bike the Boroughs||“Virtual” with Maps|
|Portland||Best Rides Around Portland||Maps|
|San Antonio||Brew Tour||Listing – No Map|
|Tampa||History Bike Tampa||Free BYO Bike for Monthly-ish History Tours|
Look for updates with whatever comes along post-BTBT.
A few years back, I started up BeenThereBikeTours, dedicated to finding every #citybiketour on the planet. I hoped, and still do, to ride and review as many of them as possible.
The website has (soon to be had) a blog, tour reviews and an index by region. For example:
There are over 600 commercial or regular city bike tours worldwide. And dozens more self-guided options. New York City, at 14, had the most in one city at last count. And there are tours in cities you might not think much about, like Kuching (in Borneo) or Da Lat (Viet Nam).
I’m not aware of any other website that has attempted to index them all. Unfortunately bike tour companies come and bike tour companies go. Keeping that list current with new tours and frequently validating that the listed companies are still in business has become more work than I’m willing to dedicate.
The real fun is actually taking bike tours and making up my own DIY routes. And writing the reviews is rewarding and helps preserve the memory of the day. For years, I’ve written personal “trip reports” for vacations. It’s a habit I learned from keeping a journal of my month in Germany when I was 17.
So…I’ve decided not to renew my hosting for BTBT. After June 10, 2019, BTBT and its indexes will be gone. On the bright side, I’ve transitioned the ride reviews here.
Most of the commercial bike tours are pretty easy to find via Google. For example, here’s Berlin. Unfortunately, the tricky part is that search doesn’t reveal some of the more offbeat tours and rides. Not to worry though, I’ve consolidated the best of them here.
Finally, I had originally hoped to attract some sponsors for BTBT. Unfortunately that has not happened. I don’t believe there is enough traffic to justify placing some Google ads. The net is that I’m spending time and money (hosting) for little benefit. Adios then to BeenThereBikeTours.
“Punk rock” and “bike tour” are two phrases you don’t expect to see together. Throw in “history” and you’ve got the East Bay Punk Rock History Bike Tour. When I saw this in my news feed a few weeks back, I knew that I had to make the trip. The ride was co-sponsored by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). So I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and began looking for a rental bike that wouldn’t make me look like a tourist who’d escaped from Fisherman’s Wharf. Shout out to Golden Gate Rides who set me up with a Cannondale Quick flat bar road bike that was perfectly suited to a long weekend in the Bay Area.
The sellout ride began at the museum in downtown Oakland. The 30 or so riders mingled prior to a welcome and pre-ride briefing from the WOBO board president, Chris. CBGB and Dead Kennedy T-shirts replaced the typical cyclist kit. And there was a bit of minor incredulity that someone would fly 1500 miles to participate. Each rider received a pocket-sized Powerpoint deck detailing each stop of the tour.
Here, and at each of the eight following stops, Kamala and Kate related stories “from the day”. Stories of starting bands, communal living, and less-than-normal rental practice spaces shared with semi-legal tattoo parlors and offbeat print shops.
More than half of the nine stops no longer resembled their punk rock roots, due to gentrification, remodeling, and new construction. This ride was not about sightseeing as much as about the stories. After each stop’s story, the guides played a song from one of the associated bands. There’s nothing like a punk rock soundtrack on a bike ride.
Here’s a quick video of the music portion at one of the stops:
(East-bay-punk-rock.mp4 upload to youtube and place here.)
One particularly interesting detail about gentrification stuck with me. Most of these neighborhoods were, at one time, inexpensive warehouse spaces or housing. They were often very ethnic and dubious of the punk squatters. Gentrification in the early 90’s hadn’t started, but Kate expressed regret that they didn’t try harder to build bridges with the existing neighborhoods.
The final stop on the tour was 924 Gilman which is a:
- DIY and nonprofit venue for music, art, and community events
- Cultural landmark since 1986 that continues to inspire similar spaces globally
- Volunteer-run, all-ages, drug and alcohol-free safe space
- Multi-generational, independent collective
- Place for young people to work cooperatively
The route from OMCA to 924 Gilman was just under nine miles:
Stretching to Berkeley, the ride also provided a quick glimpse of some of the exceptional Bay Area cycling infrastructure, e.g. bicycle boulevards.
To top off the post ride, WOBO sent a playlist of the tracks played at the stops and during the ride:
02_Special Forces_South Africa.mp3
04_Neurosis_Double Edged Sword.mp3
05_Christ on Parade_Just Pretend.mp3
10_Fang_Berkeley Heathen Scum.mp3
13_Isocracy-2 Blocks Away.mp3
15_Operation Ivy_Junkies Running Dry.mp3
16_Mr. T Experience_Gilman Street.mp3
17_Blatz_Berkeley is my Baby.mp3
19_Lookouts_Big Green Monster.mp3
20_Screeching Weasel_Ashtray Song.mp3
Most of these titles seem to be available on Youtube.
Although this wasn’t a commercial bike tour, I’m including the usual:
What We Liked
- It was a well organized, well run, well thought out event. Kudos to WOBO and OMCA.
- The pocket guide and music samples were a great idea.
- Tim from WOBO even brought water along in his panniers.
- Follow up emails with the route information and downloadable MP3s.
- Friendly fellow riders.
What Could be Better
- Nothing, even the weather was perfect.
And, finally, if you’re interested in learning more about the East Bay punk scene, check out a new documentary titled: Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.
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.
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.
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.
- The Presidio to the Wiggle, including an amazing bay view at Vista Point, a steep downhill reminiscent of the Streets of San Francisco, a short taste of Golden Gate Park and Haight-Asbury. Approx. 7 miles.
- 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.
While visiting family in Atlanta, an extended BTBT team rode the Fall in Love with Atlanta tour from Bicycle Tours of Atlanta along with a few other guests. When we arrived, all eight bikes were ready to go, identified with name tags for each rider. BTofA’s website asks for height and age info when booking to provide an appropriate bike for each rider. That’s not only helpful to find your bike, but doubly nice since it makes it easy for the guide and riders to learn one another’s names.
After a brief test ride and a few fit adjustments in the parking lot, we rolled out toward the historic shotgun houses near the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. From there we began a rambling clockwise route roughly encircling the Little Five Points, Inman Park, and Cabbagetown neighborhoods.
After stopping for an iconic downtown Atlanta photo, we paused again to explore street art along a short section of the Atlanta Beltline (including one of three “tiny doors” that we encountered). From there, we rode the Freedom Park Trail passing by The Carter Center. A few shady streets later, we arrived at Little Five Points, Atlanta’s “answer to Haight-Ashbury”. Little Five Points is proud to have exactly three non-local establishments: The post office, a Starbucks, and an American Apparel.
After more shady residential streets and another short stint on the Freedom Park Trail, we entered Inman Park proper. Sadly, we rolled PAST the King of Pops HQ & Walk Up Window. (“Mmmm, popsicles…”) Several blocks later, we stopped for a story about a pair of iconic houses, and their connections to the Coca-Cola company. A bit further on, we discovered the butterfly flags marking the first neighborhood in Altanta to gentrify.
Next up, a fast, dark ride through the heavily graffitied Krog Street Tunnel followed by a photo taking break at the Cabbagetown terminus. Heading west along Wylie Street, we encountered more murals along the concrete railroad embankment. We then circled back to Sweet Cheats for a brief cupcake and bio-break.
Following the break, we pedaled a short distance to the site of the Fullton Bag and Cotton Mills. A portion of the historic mill was converted to loft apartments in the late 90s. Hundred year old walls overlook the inviting modern pool. Just around the corner, we rode through a residence of a different sort, the Historic Oakland Cemetery. The cemetery predates the Civil War and serves as both a final resting place and peaceful city park.
The final leg of the tour took us past the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Center, once again, before returning to the bike shop.
What We Liked
- Just about everything. The location of the shop and tour route are nearly ideal to experience a cross-section of Atlanta.
- The bikes were in very good condition (a couple were brand new) and set up for us in advance. The name tags were a nice touch.
- Walt was an enthusiastic, knowledgeable guide. Sara was learning the ropes and having a second guide to help with intersections in busy Atlanta added to our safety.
- Plenty of water provided before and after the ride.
What Could be Better
- One of our riders had requested an e-bike. She wasn’t able to use the throttle, but the pedal assist worked fine. Kudos to Walt for emailing us after the ride to explain the quirks of how that bike usually works.
- I sure could have gone for that King of Pops popsicle 🙂
Should You Go?
Absolutely, highly recommended!
Mural Rides are a thing now. This past Sunday, I hopped in the car and drove 175 miles to Houston to ride in Bayou City Outdoors’ Graffiti Ride (we’ll let Columbia University sort out the difference between murals and graffiti for us 😎 ).
BCO is “Houston’s event, adventure, and social club”. They sponsor a number of cycling oriented events in and around H-town. This was the second Graffiti Ride, with more likely in the future.
Sixty or so riders started at Market Square Park and focused on East Downtown (“EaDo“) and the 2nd Ward/East End districts. The first mural stop at the Houston Graffiti Building featured a dozen or so murals on several buildings (near the intersection of St. Emanuel and Bell):
We rode east from here and made use of two excellent bits of cycling infrastructure, the Columbia Tap and Harrisburg Hike & Bike Trail. This part of town provided some great cycling conditions (especially on a Sunday) and offered a handful more mural sightings:
We eventually looped back toward the start, but not before a brief stop for refreshments at the 8th Wonder Brewery. The ride took right at three hours and was 11 miles or so. As you can see the weather was nothing short of ideal. Especially for Houston.
And, another three hours and 175 mile drive later and my day was done.
If you visit Houston and want to see some murals, please check out this amazing guide by Ashley Cardoza, Carrie Colbert, and Maritere Ricee. Best of all, they included this interactive Google map:
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.
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.
Who would have guessed that I’d return to Munich for Oktoberfest for the second year in a row? Last year, we took and enjoyed Mike’s Bike Tour (review). Lenny’s was a possible option for this year but the route looked pretty similar to Mikes. My one free day was forecast for showers and rain all day. After being turned away from Mike’s new rental office (the weather forecast was not good, happily it was also wrong), I quickly rented a bike from the original location and set off on my own tour. Munich has an emerging craft beer scene that could warrant a tour of its own and I wanted to visit at least a couple of small breweries.
Riding south out of the Altstadt, the first stop was to be Brauerei im Eiswerk. It was easy to find but sadly not open until 17:00. Next up was Giesinger Bräu. Armed with both a printed map and GPS, the brewery was tough to find. A friendly Frau sensed my uncertainty. After a mishmash of English, German, finger pointing, and head nodding, I set off up the only hill for miles around. And found Giesinger at the top, next to the all important “kirche” (church) landmark.
Following a couple of beers and a very tasty smoked fish salad, I headed back downhill and rode towards the Oktoberfest “Wiesen” grounds. The map showed the most direct route was via the busy Humboldtstraße. As I looked for a suitable side street to avoid traffic, I crossed Humboldtstraße and discovered generous bike lanes and no need for taking the back roads. Munich’s reputation as a bike friendly city is well deserved.
I rode around the exterior of the Oktoberfest grounds to get a better sense for the scope of the festival and took some photos from the Bavariapark hill on the west side. I continued a short distance west through Bavariapark, the mostly empty Wirtshaus am Bavariapark beer garden, and the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum and stopped at at the Endless Staircase in front of the KPMG building to get a shot of this stairway to nowhere….or is it art?
From here, I rode north and east to the main pedestrian entrance to Oktoberfest. Many visitors, including my group, arrive via the U-Bahn and miss the photo opportunity at the walking entrance.
Continuing east, I rode past the
Hauptbahnhof, numerous Trachten (Germanwear) shops, and a constant flow of Lederhosen and Dirndl clad revelers headed to the festival.
Finally, I rode into the Altstadt, stopped for an obligatory selfie with the wild boar in front of the German Hunting and Fishing Museum and worked my way back to Mikes.
Here’s the map:
The route is about 10 miles; it took me about four hours, with frequent stops for photos and lunch.
A couple of notes if you decide to take a similar ride:
- The Thereisenwiese grounds are home to Oktoberfest as well as a few other festivals. Depending on the time of your visit, there may be nothing there to see.
- If I rode this again, I’d continue up the hill past Brauerei im Eiswerk and look for the bike paths that appear to connect more directly to the Giesinger area. But do ride down using the route shown through the woods.
- Another fun alternative would be to ride from Mike’s across either the Maxilimilian or Ludwigsbrücke bridge and visit one of the beer gardens shown on the east bank of the Isar River. Or go the other way around and end your ride there.
- There’s nothing magic about the route I took through the Altstadt and there are places on the pedestrian malls where bikes must be walked.
- Finally…..if you haven’t taken one of other Munich bike tours…do that BEFORE you venture out on your own.
- Have fun!
We booked Green Fleet’s Signature City Tour at the tail end of a work conference in Nashville. Green Fleet has two other tours, Bike the Line: Stories of Music Row and the Downtown Highlights Tour. Our crew was four riders and two additional ladies from Detroit. Booking and payment was easily handled on Green Fleet’s website. However, where to actually show up for the ride was a bit unclear until I received the very helpful reminder email and text message the morning of our booking. The bike shop itself is on the move soon and that will be changing.
Two of our riders had a late afternoon flight to catch. Green Fleet was super accommodating about that and allowed them to keep their luggage behind the counter at their tiny shop on Edgehill Avenue.
Our bikes had been set up in advance in the lot across the street from the shop. The bikes themselves were an assortment of different models and sizes, and it took a few minutes to get everyone on an appropriately sized bike. It would have been helpful to assist a couple of novice riders with seat height adjustment and the various shifter types. Each bike also had a bottle of water, which we appreciated.
Austin was our guide, whom we later learned is also the owner of Green Fleet. He’s super friendly and a very laid back, easy going guy. Once settled on our bikes, we took off and turned quickly north headed toward “the Gulch”. Austin told us that we could mostly ride in a group, abreast, taking the lane and that the Nashville drivers tended to be very patient. That turned out to be true, in spite of the fact that we saw very few cyclists in the downtown Nashville area. It seems that the slow/social cycling movement is taking some time to build in Nashville. Considering how many people comment on the similarities between Austin (home of BeenThereBikeTours) and Nashville, this is a notable difference.
The Gulch is a historic moniker named after a natural railroad cut. The also historic Union Station is now an upscale hotel in the valley area, which is transforming into condos, trendy eateries, music venues and shops. At the time of this tour, there was quite a bit of road and building construction that required a bit of care on the bikes.
From the Gulch we rode through an old industrial area where a couple of Gibson Guitar buildings are located as well as the olfactory notable Burton Snuff building. This route circumvented the large hill on which Tennessee’s state capitol building resides. We stopped at the foot of that hill on top of a large map of Tennessee in the Bicentennial Capitol State Park. Standing on the Tennessee map, with the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains at our back, Austin told us some history of the Capitol and about the 2 (or 3) dead bodies entombed within the walls. From there, we rode north-(ish) through the park, parallel to the large, linear farmer’s market building. We stopped once or twice and talked a bit about Tennessee’s Confederate War history. We arrived at the Court of 3 Stars promptly at 2PM to hear “Love Me Tender” and “The Tennessee Waltz” played by a 95 bell carillon contained within the 50 columns surrounding the plaza.
We then rode out the east side of the park, headed toward the observation tower at Public Square Park. En route, we passed by the Criminal Justice Center and a hand full of 24 hour bail bond outfits. Nothing scary though, other than the small hill that challenged a couple of our riders, heading up to the park.
The observation tower is built atop an underground parking garage, whose elevators extend to the tower top (some of us took the stairs, just sayin’). From the top are fine views of the Cumberland River and riverfront parks, football stadium, the “Bat” and “R2-D2” buildings, the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, and public art installed in the park below.
From the tower we rode to the Downtown Presbyterian Church via Arcade Alley which crosses The Arcade. We learned about the long history of the church, including being pressed into service as a hospital during the Civil War and the Army Corps of Engineers failed experiment with a multi-story outhouse in the adjacent alley.
We also got an insider tip for seeing Bluebird Cafe singer-songwriter style live music in a nearby venue. (Want to know where? Take the tour!)
We continued south, past the Frist Center art museum, housed in Nashville’s former main Post Office across from Union Station. There’s a 21 minute video documenting the journey from Post Office to museum here. (OK, I admit it, I didn’t watch the whole thing either.)
After a right turn on Demonbreun, we crossed over The Gulch and rode a short climb over the freeway and past a number of trendy restaurants and bars. At the Music Row Roudabout, we stopped to talk about the controversial Musica Sculpture, sometimes referred to as the “Naked Statue”. Amusingly, the locals have occasionally clothed the figures in kilts, Christmas lights, and hockey gear.
From the scandalous statue, we proceeded south on Music Square W, down the middle of Music Row. The final stop before returning to the shop was RCA Studio B, famous for its role in popularizing the “Nashville Sound”.
Our tour concluded a short distance later at Green Fleet’s shop on Edgehill. The tour lasted two hours and 15 minutes and covered close to seven miles. The timing was perfect for our two riders Uber’ing off to catch their flight. The pace was easy, mostly flat, with a couple of hills.
This is the first chance we’ve had on BeenThereBikeTours to write a review so soon after our bike tour. With the ride fresh in our minds, we’re experimenting with some new sections for our reviews:
What We Liked
- The route choice and focus away from the obvious destinations (e.g. Rymans, Broadway, the County Music Hall of Fame, etc.)
- Austin was an amiable, knowledgeable guide.
- “Insider” tips.
What Could be Better
- With the proximity to Vanderbilt University and Centennial Park/Parthenon, we were hoping that would be part of the itinerary.
- A couple of the riders could have used some bike fitting and explanation of the gear shifters.
Should You Go?
Absolutely, highly recommended!