I get this email a few times a month. "I'm coming to Austin and would like to ride, where do I begin?"
It is worth putting it all down in one place so that everyone else that gets this request can just point them to one spot versus having to write it all up again and again.
If you are coming here, you're going to need a few things, so here are all of the things that you should consider.
A bike: First things first, you need a bike. Often you can get someone you are riding with to bring their backup bike along, but that is more of a long shot. I am always willing to let people borrow my backup, but it is an older hardtail and you'll have more fun on a properly fit, full suspension bike. Plus this can be an opportunity to try something new. There are several places that you can rent from:
- Bicycle Sport Shop - rents only in their south Lamar location. The good news is that this is about a mile or so from the Zilker park entrance to the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The other good news is that they have a wide selection and are open on Saturday and Sunday, which is great if you are in for a weekend, you can get in 2 days of riding before you have to turn the bike back in. They only rent 29ers, but that is probably not a problem for a weekend.
- Mellow Johnnys - They are located downtown with a walking distance to many of the hotels that people frequent for conventions. You might even be able to get a pedicab to the shop ;) at some times of the day. From the shop it is a couple of miles to the Barton Creek Greenbelt as well.
- University Cycle - located along the Shoal Creek Greenbelt, from their shop it is a quick ride down to the Barton Creek Greenbelt, mostly on granite paths and sidewalks. They rent Yetis and are also open on Sundays.
- Cycle Progression - On the south side, close to the better trailhead for the Barton Creek Greenbelt, they rent higher end bikes here and have a really good service department.
Where to ride - So, now that you have your bike, you need to pick a trail. Luckily Austinbike.com can give you all of the info that you need for all of the trails. As you will see from the rentals, all have good proximity to BCGB, which is good news. The bad news is that if you don't know the trail system, then you will probably miss out on a lot of the fun. Some of the other trails like City Park or Walnut Creek Municipal Park will be popular because of proximity; CP is more technical and a loop, hard to get lost, while WC is a tangle of trails but well-marked and easy to find your way back.
What to bring - We don't generally ride with armor down here, it's XC riding. However water is critical. 100oz is barely enough in the summer, and probably fine in the winter. In summer months bring extra bottles of water and make sure you have nutrition. There is never a spot to stop for either on our trails. Sunscreen in the summer is also critical for northerners who aren't used to triple digits. Always bring a cell phone and make sure you have 2-3 people's numbers in it. In some outlying places like Reveille Peak - Burnet, coverage can get sketchy, and will vary by carrier, so make sure there are several people you can try if you are lost.
Who to Ride with - Always start at BikeMojo, that is the best place to find rides and meet other riders. Other places include Austin Ridge Riders and MeetUp groups. There are no guide services (that I am aware of) but I have generally found that visitors can always find someone to take them around. I try to do it as much as possible because of karma - I ride trails around the world and people have always helped me out.
Where to Eat/Drink - While we always recommend a cold beer at the trail head, there is nothing like a cold beer and a hot meal. Here are some options from the folks on BikeMojo:
Near Barton Creek Greenbelt:
- You can ride directly from the Greenbelt, down Barton Springs road, roll up to the back patio of Uncle Billy's and enjoy fine craft beer and so-so BBQ. Very convenient for post-ride imbibing.
- Tacodeli - often the spot where our greenbelt rides will end. You can actually drop into the greenbelt from a trailhead right across the street.
- Rudy's BBQ is just up the road on 360. On a good day you can sometimes smell BBQ from the GB.
- Doc's Backyard or Craig-O's if parking at Spec's
- Dovetailing with the City Park talk, hitting Ski Shores for a couple brews and a burger after riding City Park is primo
Near North side (north of the university
- Draught House, Billy's, Pour House, Flying Saucer and Pinthouse Pizza
- Crown and Anchor, Posse East, Dog and Duck