City Guide: Boston
Introduction by Anna Maria Diaz-Balart, City Guide by Firefly Adventure Team
Just in time for CX season, some of the ladies of Firefly Adventure Team are sharing some of their insider cycling tips for riding in Boston. From their love of the dirt climbs in D2R2 to navigating the tangled net of Boston city streets, no one knows New England cycling like Firefly. Follow along as they take us commuting through Boston's rapidly expanding bike lane network, or perhaps just a enjoy a perfect donut. These year round adventure cyclists take full advantage of a gorgeous and challenging environment. We couldn't be happier to share their insights, along with a full gallery of great New England cycling photos.
How long have you have you been riding in Boston?
Cindy Behrtram: About five years, give or take. Since Boston is so small geographically, getting around the city is easiest done by bike. I bike to work, to the grocery store, out to see friends, everywhere. I've seen huge strides in cycling infrastructure in Boston. Most of the major cycling routes now have bike lanes, so cars give me more space than they did before. It's been amazing to see how much cycling has grown in the city, too. There can be bike traffic jams on busy routes during rush hour!
Cycling organizations like MassBike and the Boston Cyclists Union have been a great voice advocating for better, safer cycling in the city -- but we still have a long ways to go. We just lost a fellow cyclist in August, which was a sad shock to the community. I've seen huge changes in only a few years, so I hope that momentum will continue.
Whats your favorite bike shop?
Darcey Moore: Back Bay Bicycles or Ace Wheelworks or Bikes Not Bombs - all three are so friendly and helpful, especially to women.
What's the best part about riding in Boston? What’s the worst part?
Cait Dooley: I'm not sure if I can pick just one. One of the best parts of riding in Boston is how much the city has invested in cycling infrastructure in the last decade. A lot has changed - we've gone from zero bikes lanes to over 50 miles of bike lanes, a bike share program, and a seat at the table for infrastructure planning. Another great thing is that once you've been here for a while, it's nearly impossible to go on a ride without waving at someone you know. I love that you can ride to your favorite coffee shop, find a big green space to have lunch in, and then head into another part of the city very easily.
The worst part is probably trying to learn how to navigate here, and how aggressive everyone can be in traffic.
What do you wish people knew about cycling in Boston?
Cait Dooley: The cycling community in Boston is incredible and very close - I've made all my friends here through the love of bikes. Whether you're into bike polo, cyclocross, commuting, or making frankenbikes, there's a group of people for you to become friends with here. Boston is small and you can easily ride from one end to the other - but the information you need to navigate it well is pretty dense. Boston's roads were designed mostly by cows, and not by humans, so for the most part, we don't believe in a grid system or having logical placement of one-way streets. There's always a shortcut for where you're going, and if you ask three people how they ride from one spot to another, they will give you three different answers.
What’s the most practical insider tip you’d give anyone visiting and cycling in your city?
Cait Dooley: Always check the weather. If there's even a chance of the temperature dropping or rain, you have to pack the right gear! My other advice is: make sure you've got good locks and locking method when leaving your bike.
Darcey Moore: It can be easy to get turned around, since the roads are unplanned and not on a grid! But it's okay. Navigate by the town centers or "squares", especially in Cambridge: Central Square, Harvard Square, Davis Square.
What is your favorite long distance route?
Cindy Behrtram: The D2R2 is an annual dirt road randonée out in Western Massachusetts. Tons of Boston cyclists head out to the scenic Berkshires to tackle this absurdly hard ride every year. It feels like a huge family reunion! Everyone camps out on a huge field, wakes up before the sun, and starts riding. The routes are amazing, filled with dirt roads and really tough climbs. The ride is also a fundraiser for the Franklin Land Trust, which works to conserve open land and farms in the area. It's a wonderful escape from the city that preserves our ability to escape from the city, and definitely my favorite ride of the year.
What is your favorite route for short distance?
Cindy Behrtram: We're lucky in Boston to have lots of trails through conservation land and town forests all within riding range. It's possible to build cyclocross or mountain bike loops large and small that start and end in the city. There are aqueduct trails, old rail beds, and abandoned highways to throw in, too. The Firefly Adventure Team loves to explore these hidden adventures in and around the city - some of our favorite spots on cross bikes are in Franklin Park in Jamaica Plain, the Blue Hills, Rock Meadow in Belmont, The Great Meadows in Arlington and Landlocked Forest in Burlington.
Favorite pre/post ride coffee shop or meet up spot?
Cindy Berhtram: We'll often wind up at Trade, where the brick oven flatbread chefs all wear cycling caps and you might even see a photograph of a cycling friend up on the wall. It's not only cyclist-friendly, they also offer some of the best small plates in town. This spot is hard to beat!
If we're feeling indulgent, we might hit up Union Square Donuts on the way back to town from a trail ride. They always have a huge variety of new and interesting flavors, but the old-fashioned sugar raised donut is always my go-to!
What’s the best part of commuting by bikes in Boston?
Darcey Moore: Being by the water! Sometimes I catch an ocean breeze off the harbor on my way into work and it is just the best. And the unplanned, noodley roads make it easy to find different routes to get to work. It keeps it interesting!