City Guide: Austin
City Guide by Kelly Krause
How long have you have you been riding in Austin?
I bought my first road bike in February 2014 and it’s been the best two years of my life.
What do you wish people knew about cycling in Austin? What makes it different than other places you’ve cycled in?
It’s beautiful. A quick jaunt out of town and you’re on some of the most incredible rolling hills in the country with nothing in sight but a big Texas-sized blue sky and fields grazed by longhorns. We also have some of the best and quaint small towns to roll through, complete with mom & pop taco stands and donut shops.
But more than anything, we’ve got a tight-knit community of cyclists who are inclusive and encouraging -- and the women’s scene is growing by the minute, which is so rad to watch and be a part of.
What's the best part about riding in Austin? What’s the worst part?
You simply cannot beat an early-morning ride around Austin. It’s quiet, calm, yet full of cyclists with the same idea. There’s an unspoken camaraderie with those who are up before the sun.
I love to take a moment to myself in the morning to cruise over to Lady Bird Lake and watch the sunrise peek through the downtown skyline.
The worst part? Texas summers can be brutal. I’m pretty sensitive to the heat and even proper nutrition and hydration can make a ride drag. I try to stick to early morning rides as much as possible in our hot months.
What is your favorite long distance route?
I love this 70-mile loop around and outside of Manor, TX. It’s inspiring, full of small rollers and gives you a glimpse of the countryside. I trained on this route all summer and we used it for this year’s Rapha Women’s 100, so it has a special place in my heart. And, on the way back you can hop on Walnut Creek Trail, which is our first urban trail in Austin.
There’s also a fairly flat 40-mile route out to Buda, TX. I love using Old San Antonio Road for interval training. But really, I think most of us just ride there to make a stop at Donut Palace.
What is your favorite route for short distance?
Every Tuesday & Thursday morning, I ride the Balcones loop and it’s hands down my favorite. From my place downtown, it’s about a 17-mile ride with 1k+ feet of climbing. Part of the route gives you the option ride up the side of Mount Bonnell, which is killer but great for hill repeats. When I’m not in a rush, I like to take a little extra time, walk my bike up the stairs and watch the sunrise at the top. It’s arguably one of the best views in Austin, overlooking the Colorado River. Bonus: going early in the AM allows you to beat the tourist crowd.
McKinney State Falls is another great and easy 25-mile route, especially during the summer. Bring some extra cash, grab a popsicle before you head into the park and cool off in the Falls.
What’s the best part of commuting by bikes in Austin?
I live and work downtown and while my commute is less than 2 miles round trip, it’s so much faster than driving in the city! Plus, our weather is fairly mild year-round, which makes it more enjoyable.
What’s your favorite bike shop?
That’s tough, we have a lot of great bike shops in the city who do a lot to support the local cycling scene. But out of all, Mellow Johnny’s is my jam. It’s in my neighborhood and the quality of service is always top notch. They fix my bike, I bring them donuts. They feel like my extended family!
Favorite pre/post ride coffee shop or meet up spot?
Most mornings, we head to Juan Pelota inside Mellow Johnny’s. Not only do they make a good latte, but it’s become the “Cheers” for a lot of cyclists. I guarantee you’ll run into someone you know or have seen on Instagram. (Make sure to say hi, remember, we’re friendly!). Plus, if you need to pick up an extra tube or snack, they’ve got you covered.
When I’m in a fancy post-ride mood (it happens. . . a lot), I head to Josephine House in Clarksville on my way home. They’ve got bike parking, outside seating, and one of the best brunches (get the strawberries with burrata and the huevos rancheros).
What’s the most practical insider tip you’d give anyone visiting and cycling in your city?
Don’t underestimate our climbs. We’re not mountainous like our friends in Cali or Colorado, but you can do some decent climbing. If you’re looking for someone to ride with, stop into Mellow Johnny’s, they’ll take care of ya.
And, it goes without saying, but you cannot miss a Texas sunrise or sunset. They’re soul-cleansing and romantic. #TexasForever.