Switch Gears in Austin

1. Where to Stay

Inside the Saint Cecilia.Photo: Courtesy of Hotel Saint Cecilia

Explore lively South Congress Avenue on a Gary Fisher bike from the Hotel Saint Cecilia (rooms from $250). The fourteen-room sanctuary opened in December 2008 with Mexican Coke in the minibar and Geneva turntables to play in your suite. (Borrow LPs from the front desk.)

Soak sore muscles in the rooftop pool of the Hilton on East 4th Street (from $149), an ideal base for bar-hopping downtown’s live-venue and warehouse district. The newly opened Lance Armstrong Bikeway is blocks away.

Your room at The Four Seasons (rooms from $295) comes with an Electra-Townie beach cruiser. Ride it along the Town Lake bike path to get a close-up look as 1.5 million Mexican freetail bats begin their sunset surge into the big Texas sky. Head back in time for the hotel’s cut-rate happy hour (half-price wines and apps) on the back patio.

2. Where to Eat

Enjoy dining alfresco at La Condesa.Photo: Courtesy of La Condesa

Refuel at the Mighty Cone, a standout among the South Congress Avenue food vendors beloved by the city’s bikers. Hot and crunchy cones—fluffy flour tortillas stuffed with deep-fried avocado or sesame-seed-battered shrimp—are topped off with a dollop of mango-jalapeño slaw and won’t run you more than $6.

Grab a table on the dog-and-bike-friendly patio at La Condesa, the new spot opened in spring 2009 by former La Esquina chef René Ortiz. Try Mex-forward creations like green-apple-and-crab guacamole ($8) washed down with an icy michelada (beer, lime juice, and salt).

Park your bike in the racks next to Olivia, the sleek newcomer on the South Austin foodie scene designed ground-up by local starchitect Michael Hsu. Sidle up to the limestone-and-glass bar for some Taylor Bay Nantucket oysters or spoon into foie gras and grits with maple syrup.

3. What to Do

Inside Lance Armstrong's bike emporium.Photo: Courtesy of Mellow Johnny

Visit Lance Armstrong’s new one-stop bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s, which has everything from commuter showers to rentals to a bike valet who’ll watch your wheels as you shop. Grab a breakfast taco at the adjacent Café Juan Pelota (that’s slang for “one ball”) or a strong cappuccino made from the locally roasted Ghisallo espresso beans, named for the patron saint of cycling.

A series of sticky Texas peach stands awaits you in rolling Hill Country, ideal riding terrain just outside the city. Leave Austin early in the morning to avoid church traffic (yes, it exists) and get on 290 toward Fredericksburg. Double back on the Greenbelt and stop at Tacodeli off the popular Barton Skyway on Spyglass. The chicken frontera fundito and a fresh-squeezed OJ make for excellent road fuel.

Join Austin’s divergent bike scene by meeting up with one of the different group rides; there’s really something for everyone. Choose from full-moon jaunts, naked cycling, critical-mass events and swap meets found on the Austin on Two Wheels Cycling Events Calendar or tag along with Derek Yorek (derekyorek@gmail.com) from Jack and Adam’s Bike Shop to be led down some of Austin’s most protected paths. Pick a side with one of two competing bike groups, WAR and Team Hump, both of whom offer combo bike ride and bar crawls.

4. Insider’s Tip

Just a normal day on the Austin biking scene.Photo: chainsawpanda

Though Austin seems casual and friendly, this is a serious cycling city. Bikers tend to favor speed over leisure, so be prepared for fast-paced traffic on the bike paths. When renting, always specify that you’re a casual rider lest Lance-worshipping staffers outfit you with an uncomfortable racing bike and Day-Glo spandex. By law, children are required to wear helmets.

5. Oddball Day

Take a refreshing afternoon dip at Barton Springs. Photo: rutlo

Lock up your wheels and be lazy. Start with a heaping breakfast platter of chilaquiles verdes ($5) or migas ($5) at downtown’s El Sol Y Luna before popping over to grab a few complimentary cupcakes at Kristin Bolling’s kooky and haute design shop, IF+D Austin, where you can also score some boxy Singgih Kartono wooden radios ($200) and a couple of grenade-shaped neoprene shopping bags ($16). At midday cool off at Barton Springs , a three-acre pool in Zilker Park fed by underground springs that are about 68 degrees year-round. Get dinner at your seat at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, where waiters will bring you another beer mid-movie. Finally, no Austin trip would be complete without some live music, so throw back a few Lone Stars on the back patio of the Mean Eyed Cat, a derelict Johnny Cash–tribute dive where a different band plays every night but Friday.

6. Links

Don’t be fooled by the broken links on the homepage. The Austin Bike Culture Archive remains a testament to the city’s prolific, divergent biking scene, and illustrates a vast, though not always maintained, cycling subculture.

Check out the snark fest at Austin Texas Bike Shit Stuff to read up on Austin’s counterculture cycling gossip.

Austin Cycling Association has an informative website with exhaustive links to local Austin bike resources, including maps, and an updated users’ forum.

Austin on Two Wheels is a friendly site that features a great calendar listing organized rides, in addition to news, reviews, opinionated columns, and contests.

Switch Gears in Austin