Last weekend I went on a Bike n' Brew with a bunch of Minnesota friends. The name pretty much explains it - you ride a bike between a bunch of breweries. It's great fun because the Twin Cities has 'miles' of great biking trails and an abundance of top-rate breweries (we stopped at Pryes, Utepils and La Dona Cerveceria). What city do you think would be the most bikeable city in the U.S? You might say Portland or New York, but according to Redfin and Walk Score, Minneapolis is the most bikeable city in the United States. Minneapolis also became the first American city to be named as one of the top 20 most bike-friendly cities in the world by Danish design firm, Copenhagenize. All this is even more impressive considering that for at least four months of the year the bike trails are covered with snow and it never gets above zero degrees.
Utepils Brewery beer garden
Minneapolis has almost 400 kilometres of bike lanes and is home to some of the largest pieces of bicycle infrastructure in the U.S., like the Midtown Greenway which is used year-round by more than 4,000 cyclists a day. I can jump on the Greenway just down the end of my street and in long stretches it's a two lane (both ways) freeway - just for bikes. You can even ride into downtown without crossing a single road.
There are a few other bike trails around Minnesota I'd like to try, too (even if there are no breweries to stop at along the way). One of them is the185 kilometre (115-mile) Paul Bunyan State Trail, which is the longest continuously paved rail trail in the whole country. The route starts in the town of Brainerd (not Brian-nerd) and ends up north in Bemidji, which is home of the famous Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues.
I do love doing a bit of cycling about when I travel. It's a great way to get a feel for a city or just a pleasant way to amble through the countryside. I haven’t done any serious bicycle journeys (and I would like to one day), but these are my top 10 bike rides from my travels:
I lost my city map in the first 15 minutes then spent a wonderful day riding around completely and utterly lost - and loving very minute of it. I trundled around the Forbidden City, discovered hidden back streets, stopped for delicious Peking duck and somehow made it back to my hotel.
My 73 year old father and I rode around this tiny, barren island looking for the remaining four ‘locals’ who live there (we found all of them plus a donkey). The good thing about the small population is that we just about had the beautiful island to ourselves.
Santa Fe, USA
This was my first serious attempt at ‘proper’ mountain biking. Beginning at around 2,500 metres I rode over boulders, jumped logs, shot down steep embankments and negotiated narrow tracks along precarious ridges. Well, I actually wasn’t that good at negotiating the precarious ridges and I ended up getting thrown over the handlebars and tore my knees to shreds.
Lauterbrunnen to Bönigen, Switzerland
The 20 km easy ride was pretty much all downhill through a stunning Alpine landscape. We rode by a raging river, through fields of snow (and cow poo), past ever-so-cute villages, through the charming town of Interlaken (to pick up some grilled chickens and some wine) then finished in the town of Bönigen with a picnic on the shore of Lake Brienz.
Besides the incessant honking of car horns, riding around Mandalay was a relaxing way of seeing the town and its many and amazing sites. Oh, except at night when the streets were pitch black and you couldn’t see the road in front of you.
Root River, Minnesota
This was my first go on a tandem bike (with my girlfriend Beth sitting at the back) and it was great fun (although I had my suspicions that Beth was just pretending to peddle – although she might say that I was doing the same!). The 42-mile Root River (no sniggering, please) State Trail is in southern Minnesota and is built on a former train line. We rode through forests and farmland and past cutesy little towns and stopped for lunch at a cutesy little restaurant overlooking Root River.
Hoi An, Vietnam I hired a bike from a 12 year old boy and spent the day trundling around the countryside, through villages, past rice paddies and along the coast. And the whole time – because the bike was so small – I looked like Kermit the Frog.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands When in Rome… or when in Amsterdam, it’s great fun to cruise around the city and along the canals on one of those clunky, cumbersome Dutch bicycles. I’ve done it many times, but my favourite is on a warm sunny day cruising around Vondel Park watching the locals getting stoned.
I spent a whole day cycling around the valley from amazing waterfall to amazing waterfall, being befriended by gophers, chasing raccoons and looking out for hungry bears.
I went on a ‘Bangkok Back streets Bicycle Tour’ and, although I had been to Bangkok a number of times, I got to see many ‘hidden gems’ amongst the back streets and canals (although I did fall off twice and took out a fence).
Have you been on any great bike rides?