After a very, very, VERY long wait, New York's bike sharing program is finally preparing to launch. Earlier this month, Transportation Nation reported, "New York City has installed the first of 600 bicycle docking stations, which will house 10,000 bikes in much of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn." This is awesome. Bikes are now everywhere! Or they will be soon. And even if your neighborhood wasn't among the first to get a docking station, they're just about all over the place now. Plus, they're pretty much impossible to ignore. Just last week, I spotted my first docking station on Front Street in front of DUMBO deli Peas & Pickles and, let's just say, it was not unobtrusive. By which I mean, of course, that is was fucking huge. These docking stations—even more than the now-ubiquitous bike lanes—seem to be a real signal to cars that bikes are not going to go away. Cycling is here to stay, and it's taking up parking spots, you guys. But so, now that we are about to have all these bank-endorsed bikes at our disposal, where should we ride? Or, for that matter, where should we go on our regular old bikes that we've had all along? I'm glad you asked! Here are five bike day trips that every cyclist—professional or amateur, bike-owner or bike-renter—should make this spring.
Crown Heights to Red Hook
Start your ride off at Gueros (605 Prospect Place) and fill up on breakfast tacos before setting off on your way. Then head up Franklin (that hill is a killer, but is the toughest part of this trip) to Eastern Parkway, where you'll head toward Grand Army Plaza (make sure to hit the farmer's market for more provisions if it's a Saturday—you're exercising, after all), past all the stately apartment buildings and the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and then go right onto Union Street. Coasting down Union all the way from Prospect Heights to Red Hook allows you to take in the sights of several Brooklyn neighborhoods, from Park Slope to Gowanus to Carroll Gardens. You might want to take a pause at Runner & Stone (285 3rd Ave) for some freshly baked bread, and just to rest your legs. From there, you're going to want to head over to Van Brunt Street in Red Hook, where you can stop off at any number of places—I highly recommend hitting up Fort Defiance (365 Van Brunt St) for a drink or two—before heading down to the water where you can cycle along the shoreline, taking in all of New York Harbor before heading back home.
This ride is approximately 4 miles. Difficulty level: 1.5/5, in other words, you really ought to be able to do this one
Greenpoint to the Rockaways
This ride is not for the weak or weary! It's for a weekend day, a beautiful weekend day, when you want to feel like you've accomplished something and are getting the most out of this thing we call life. So where to begin? You begin with brunch, of course. Load up on pizza frita al uovo at Adelina's (159 Greenpoint Ave) before hitting the streets on your bike. Now, you'e going to ride. This trip will take you through Williamsburg via Kent Ave and then, eventually, up Vanderbilt Ave in Prospect Heights. This is where your legs will start screaming and you'll understand why it's called Prospect "Heights" and you'll curse the glacier that passed through this area so many thousands and thousands of years ago. So, by the time you reach The Islands (803 Washington Ave) you'll probably want to pause and get some of the housemade lemonade to quench your thirst. Do that, because you're not even halfway to the beach. However, you are in luck because the rest of your ride slopes downhill, so these next ten miles (ten!) will be a breeze. You'' get there eventually, though, and then you'll be in the Rockaways and able to marvel in the fact that just a few short months ago, this area was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Sure, Fort Tilden isn't open yet, and there's tons of work left to be done, but progress has been made. And you made it all the way out here on your own steam. Collapse in the sand. Smell the ocean air. Enjoy.
This ride is approximately 16 miles. Difficulty level: 4/5, in other words, prepare for your hamstrings to be singing for, like, days.
Cobble Hill to Coney Island
Start off the ride right with something healthy at 61 Local (61 Bergen St). Instead of coffee, what about genmaicha tea? You might never want coffee again! Well, you probably will, but you will also quickly become a genmaicha addict, as some of us who shall remain nameless have. While you're there, grab a breakfast-y bite like a granola cup or a "yeti" Danish. And then set off on your trip! While this trip does involve a rather punishing struggle up 3rd St (curse that glaciar once again) it also features a trip through Prospect Park, which will take you right past the Prospect Park Lake and all of its watery glory. I'm serious, actually, flying down Prospect Park Drive (at a safe speed, please) and curving around so that it looks for one second like you could go flying right into the lake is a beautiful thing. Then, of course, you leave the natural beauty of the park but get to ride through the Victorian mansion district of Ditmas Park and take in some man-made marvels. Stop off at Olympic Pita (1419 Coney Island Ave) for a little falafel or schwarma pick-me-up before shooting down to Coney Island. Once there, chain your bike up and walk down the boardwalk, go on some rides and, I don't know, shoot the freak? You'll figure it out, I'm sure.
This ride is approximately 11 miles. Difficulty level: 3/5, in other words, your mom will be impressed that you pulled this ride off, but be careful not to sound too braggy about it to people who aren't impressed with literally every single thing you do.
Fort Greene to Bay Ridge
As long as you're being all environmentally friendly by riding your bike all over the place, why not support Habana Outpost (757 Fulton St) which employs solar power and generally does a lot of good for the community? Plus, you get to eat great food, so win/win, you know? This ride is a pretty gentle one in that you're not going to be riding anywhere with a "heights" or a "slope" in its neighborhood name. Well, you will be going through Park Slope, but not up any major hills. Celebrate this fact by grabbing a pint or two at South (629 5th Ave) and relish the atmosphere of a real local pub. Then head off down 5th Ave to Bay Ridge's Owl's Head Park—one of the most beautiful parks in the city. While in Bay Ridge, grab dinner at Tanoreen (7523 3rd Ave) because this restaurant has some of the most amazing Middle Eastern food outside of, well, the Middle East. And the bonus here is that you get to enjoy all the bounty of Bay Ridge without having to bother with the annoying R train. That is a really significant bonus.
This ride is approximately 6 miles. Difficulty level: 2/5, in other words, you're not even going on any significant hills. Tough it out.
Williamsburg to Bed-Stuy (with a lot of detours along the way)
Thomas Callahan of Horse Cycles and the Urban Tour Project put together his perfect bike day trip for you guys and it's really special. Thomas makes incredible, custom-made bikes with Horse Cycles, but started working on the Urban Tour Project in an effort to bring exceptional bikes and accessories to more people at fair prices. Everything in the Urban Tour Project is made in the US and features the same high-level of design and craftsmanship as the custom-made Horse Cycles products. Check out where Thomas would go...
Leaving from Horse Cycles HQ (321 Rutledge Street) with the lady and the all new Urban Tour (hand made in Brooklyn, of course!) we would head straight up to Dough (448 Lafayette Ave) for a yummy treat and then to Scratch Bread (1069 Bedford Ave) for a delicious stoop brunch and coffee. It's then straight up Franklin and it's time to get your heart rate pumping with a few quick laps of Prospect Park. Feeling good, maybe stop by the Prospect Park farmers market to pick up a few healthy snacks. Lucky we brought the Urban Tour with it's awesome brooklyn made wooden box.. just the thing for carrying all organic deliciousness.
Next stop is Fort Greene as a little shopping may be in order. Tried and true, we may swing past the Flea Market for a few vintage finds. Nothing you can't fit on the bike though! And then to French Garment Cleaners (85 Lafayette Ave) our favorite clothing store of all time, just a few blocks down Lafayette. Don't be fooled by the sign - it's no longer a dry cleaner, it is where you'll find the freshest new threads. And maybe, just maybe we'll stop by for a Bloody Mary at Walter's (166 Dekalb Ave). They do it right, and it is the weekend!
Next stop is DUMBO. A long ice coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company (25 Jay St), enjoyed in the sun at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Then its the new riverfront bike lane all the way to Red Hook. Swing past Fairway for one or two bits the we head straight to Valentino Pier for a picnic lunch on the waterfront, with views of the Statue of Liberty to remind us of our freedom. The other thing that's going to remind us of our freedom is chocolate dipped mini key lime pie from Steve's (204 Van Dyke St)... and don't worry about the calories cos of all the great exercise we've already done today.
Riding back through Cobble Hill there's always time to pick up a few more things. A quick stop Barney's to look but not touch! Then maybe Steven Allen...We'd stop by the Black Swan (1048 Bedford Ave) for a few drinks... drop the bike off, unload all the goodies and get ready for the night's festivities. What a day. Love BK!
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen