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5 of my favourite cities to explore by bike

I used to ride my bike a lot.

I grew up riding my bike to school, piano lessons, gymnastics, friends. We’d often go out for bike rides as a family, usually involving cake or at least a picnic somewhere.

But these days I don’t ride much because the Sunshine Coast isn’t exactly made for enjoying a leisurely Sunday bike ride. Sure, there are cyclists and bike paths along the various foreshores but you’ll be sharing the path with serious marathon runners, afternoon strollers, dog walkers, bouncy kids and more, so riding can be a little painful.

Plus, for most of the year it’s just way too hot for me to even contemplate going out for a ride. My body has clearly been designed for a cooler climate…

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When I was still riding often: Participating in the 2011 Melbourne Cycle to have my one chance to ride over the West Gate Bridge (with incredible views of Melbourne)

But I still really love cycling – not mountain biking, not road cycling, just plain old-fashioned get on your bike and ride around for a few hours. And I especially love exploring other places by bike. Life always looks different from a bike.

5 Fabulous Cities to Explore by Bike

Some places make cycling easy, both for people who live there and those who come to visit for a few days. Among the many cities I’ve strolled around over the years, these cities make exploring them by bike a real pleasure.

1. Melbourne | Australia

Melbourne isn’t flat by any stretch of the imagination but it’s still absolutely wonderful for bike riding. In fact, it’s one of the most bike-friendly cities I know.

I should know since I lived there for 13 years, and explored all sorts of random suburbs on my bike. For years, the then-boyfriend now-husband and I would get on our bikes and go for a ride on the weekend, and see a part of Melbourne we would otherwise have never explored.

Melbourne is so choc-a-bloc with cycling paths that you never really have to ride on the road (and many have bike lanes) unless you want to. I’m even struggling to think of what to recommend as there are so many fabulous cycling options all over the city.

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One of the best trails is probably the popular but fabulously iconic Capital City Trail (30 km loop, check out the Capital City Trail map) encircling the city. Or you could ride along the Yarra River on the Main Yarra Trail to the boathouse at Studley Park for Devonshire Tea, or even Fairfield if you’ve got more stamina. Alternatively, doing a bike trip along Port Philip Bay to Williamstown or down to St. Kilda, Elwood and Half Moon Bay is a lot of fun.

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Easy riding along the Yarra with the giant MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) in the background

If you want to head out of town, the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail (40 km one-way) is really wonderful and will take you through some scenic countryside. Once you manage to get over the hills around Mount Evelyn, the rest of it will feel like a piece of cake as it’s pretty flat.

There are seriously so many options in Melbourne, and with a bike share system in place, it’s easy to rent a bike and get on your way. Check out Melbourne’s bike routes on this Google Map or take a look at the various cycling tours you could do.

2. Vancouver | Canada

When we flew to Canada, we landed in Vancouver at 7 am. After a 16 hour flight, you’re not only very tired but I generally find that my mind is a bit slow and I feel dazed, especially when you cross the dateline and arrive before you’ve even left. That boggles my mind.

Soaking up some sunlight, doing something active and getting some fresh air is usually my go-to approach in dealing with jetlag. Arriving as early as 7 am in Canada made that exercise a little tougher so we decided to rent some bikes and cycle around Vancouver for the day.

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Sunday cyclists and exercisers along the Seawall at Stanley Park

Brilliant idea is all I can say, Vancouver is simply made for bike riding!

Not only are there beautiful bike trails, drivers are so incredibly courteous to cyclists that it was a real pleasure cycling around the city.

Since our hotel was close to Stanley Park, our first thought was to just ride around Stanley Park and call it a day. But at that point we felt awake enough and decided to keep following the bike path around False Bay. In the end, we made it all the way out to the University of British Columbia cycling along English Bay and some back streets in suburbs like Kitsilano.

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Along busy Kitsilano Beach: Beach volleyball seemed so much more popular than in Australia!

It’s such a flat ride so even though we covered something like 50 km that day, it felt like easy riding, and a perfect antidote for jetlag! Highly recommended. 😀

Like other cities, Vancouver has a public bike share system or you can just rent a bike from the many bike rental shops near Stanley Park. Plus it’s incredibly cheap to rent bikes (compared to Australia), we got ours from Bayshore Bike Rentals on Denham Street (basically because we had a discount coupon from the hotel but the bikes also turned out to be super comfy).

Check out these five ideas for bike rides around Vancouver for more inspiration, I’ve added a couple to my next Vancouver visit list.

3. San Francisco | USA

Riding a bike around the hills of San Francisco is probably not the thing that comes to mind but this city is actually really fabulous for cycling. And you don’t even have to be that fit to enjoy a day of bike riding as you can rent your two wheels from plenty of places around Fisherman’s Wharf.

From there it’s an easy ride to the fantastic Golden Gate Promenade, across the famous Golden Gate Bridge and onto Sausalito and beyond.

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From the archives: The Golden Gate Bridge on a grey-ish day in September some long time ago

Some ten years ago, mum and I rode around the bay for the day, taking in the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito for a cake stop (of course), and then all the way around Richardson Bay onto Tiberon. From there we took the ferry back to the San Francisco Piers, and called that a great (though grey) day out!

I think the best part for both of us was riding over the Golden Gate Bridge (a long-time bucket list item for mum) and then past the many houseboats. And since we’re sticky beaks, we got off our bikes and wandered around for a while admiring the clever houseboat constructions.

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But obviously you don’t have to be quite so nosy and can just enjoy the various bike routes around San Francisco. If I’m ever in San Francisco again, I’d love to explore the Golden Gate Park by bike, cycle around the Presido or head over to the Marin Headlands for some bike exploring.

Like other biking cities, San Francisco has a ton of bike trails on offer and also a bike-sharing system though it might be slightly more convenient to rent a bike from the many rental places along Fisherman’s Wharf if you’re staying in that area. They’ll also give you some ideas and maps of where to go riding.

4. Berlin | Germany

To be honest, I’ve never rented a bike in Berlin. I also haven’t cycled around Berlin for quite some years now but I spent my childhood riding the streets of Berlin so I do know a bit about bike riding there.

It’s fairly flat, there are many, many bike lanes, parks and forests waiting to be explored, and bikes are a ubiquitous feature on the streets. Perhaps it’s not quite like Copenhagen or Amsterdam but there are plenty of bikes all around.

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The wide bike path along the Spree River: I haven’t taken that path in a long, long time

Thing is though, I’m not sure I’d call Berlin bike-friendly. The dangers of cycling in Berlin are a constant topic in the news, and it’s often likened to cycling in hell.

For one, there’s a ton of intimidating traffic. To drive in Berlin you have to generally be crazy, and drivers often don’t look out for cyclists. And then cyclists can be quite mad too and think they always have right of way (they often do though). If you ever dare to step into a cycle lane or path, just be aware you may be risking your life as cyclists won’t take kindly to you being in their way.

That said, biking in Berlin is also wonderful. 🙂

You can cycle for hours along the River Spree: Explore it in the inner city by biking around the Regierungsviertel (Government Quarter) or cycle further south into greener and leafier realms towards the suburb of Erkner where you’ll be wondering if you’re actually still in Berlin. (Well. No, not really.)

Or if you’re into history, you could cycle the Mauerweg by basically following the traces of the Berlin Wall for some 6 km right through the city centre.

Then there’s the giant Tiergarten green oasis smack-bang in the middle of the city or you could explore the Grunewald parkland with Wannsee Lake as its centre southwest of the city centre. We spent countless hours cycling around the Müggelsee lake area in Berlin’s southeast when I was growing up.

Basically, there’s plenty of greenery to be had all over Berlin. Just pick a direction and off you go!

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Leafy Tiergarten is perfect for nude-y sunbaking but also cycling for people who prefer to remain clothed

In Berlin, you’ve got it all: Parklands, meadows, rivers and lakes if you want a dose of nature, or bustling sightseeing and city explorations if you’re hankering after some noise and action. And perhaps some scary traffic!

Check out these fabulous suggestions for bike tours around Berlin – I’ve added a stack to my ever growing Berlin bucket list!

5. Hobart | Australia

I’ve been to Hobart quite a few times but it hadn’t occurred to me to explore the city by bike until we literally walked past a bike rental shop one day and thought, ‘Hey, what a great idea! We should so do that!’ And so we did.

Hobart is absolutely gorgeous, one of the most picturesque cities I’ve ever been to. It’s quaint, it’s European, it’s got a stunning harbour and a mountain, and it’s nice and cool with four seasons, sometimes in a day. And it’s hilly so not immediately made for my kind of cycling.

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View of Mount Wellington from Battery Point neighbourhood

But the bike paths along the Derwent River that snakes through Hobart are just about perfect.

The most popular trail is probably the 12 km trail from the city out to MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. Of course, you could also take the ferry but cycling is so much more fun. We hired electric bikes for something different and zoomed right past everyone.

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Hobart sprawling out below Mount Wellington

You can also ride around the Eastern shores of the Derwent by crossing the Tasman Bridge, and then either heading north or south.

After riding along the Western shores, we headed across the bridge and south around Montague Bay and then Kangaroo Bay to Bellerive Cricket Ground. You ride on bike paths the whole way but it’s a bit more up and down on this side of the river. And on the way back we ran out of battery power and the rest was a real slog. Probably should have stuck with normal bikes but electric sounded so fun!

Greater Hobart Trails has a few suggestions for exploring Hobart by bike, including maps and distances. Or check out Hobart Bike Hire for crazy electric bikes or just stock-standard 21-gear ones. They also have a couple of handy, printable maps on their website, quite useful even if you don’t hire from them! 🙂

Other Bike-Friendly Cities on my Radar

Now I really want to get back into bike riding!

Some cities inspire you to get out there on a bike and explore, others not so much.

I’ve been to Paris twice and it didn’t really occur to us to hire bikes. I’ve since heard that it’s a fabulous cycling city but I’m still not convinced that it’s a great idea. I guess riding along the Seine would be really interesting but maybe it’s the crazy Paris traffic that’s putting me off?? They do have a popular public bike-sharing system so there must be something in it!

On the other hand, I can only blame the cold weather in Copenhagen for not getting on a bike in March. Didn’t stop plenty of Copenhageners though…

I’ve also hired a bike in Boulder, Colorado, and despite the hot day, I had a really fun day out and would definitely do that again if I ever found myself in Boulder outside winter season again. There are so many trails to explore.

When we make it to Canada’s eastern parts, I really want to ride around Montréal, I’ve heard so much good about it!

And lastly, Stockholm: flat, a million bike paths and shorelines, what more could you want?!

Do you have any other suggestions I should consider?

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Among the many cities I've strolled around over the years, here are five of my favourite bike-friendly cities that make exploring them by bike a real pleasure.

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2 Comments

  1. The longer I live in Melbourne, the more I think “gee, I should really invest in a bike”, but I am not a confident rider and I know once I get a car the whole notion of riding my bike will be out the window. Or maybe it won’t, haha. And definitely try biking in Montreal – everyone’s word is good for it!

    Reply
    • There are so many trails in Melbourne, you don’t need to be confident at all, I reckon! I’ve got the book “Where to ride” and it’s got a ton of trails that are easy and relaxing. There are bike trails in suburbs I would never ever have explored otherwise!

      And yes, definitely want to explore Montreal by bike – when/if I get there! 😀

      Did you ride around London? I keep reading that it’s great but I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever thought of London as “bike-friendly” (though maybe it is and I just don’t have a clue).

      Reply

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