Sep 9, 2014
Beyond Brooklyn: The 5 Best Bike—and Eating—Trips In New York City
Big news, New York: Bicycling magazine recently named New York City the #1 urban area for biking in the country! As little as two years ago, New York was a lowly #7, but with hard work and perseverance (aka hundreds of miles of additional bike lanes and the introduction of Citibike), we’ve reached the number one spot. So, it’s time to celebrate? Sure, it is! Because even if New York hadn’t just been named the number one biking city, we’d be remiss in not reminding you that this is the perfect time of year to leave public transportation to those who, we don’t know, hate fresh air and self-determination and maybe even life itself. Ok. That’s a gross exaggeration. But, our point still stands that this is the best time of year to get out there and ride—and if you’ve never ridden a bike before, no worries, we’ve got the answer for you. So, you know, use these late summer/early fall days wisely and tour Brooklyn and beyond with these five great citywide biking day trips.
Williamsburg to Coney Island (22 miles round-trip)
A couple of weekends ago, I rode with the group Bike New York on one of their tour rides from Williamsburg to Coney Island. The ride was done in partnership with Tiny Empire, and so all the riders (there were maybe about 30 or so?) met in front of the juice store, all on our own bikes, and got to pick out two juices before the ride. (I got watermelon/lime, which was amazing, and also pineapple/turmeric, which was AMAZING.) From there, we set off down the Kent Avenue bike path; past the old Domino Sugar Factory, where the air smells like a decaying tooth; onto an industrial, bike-pathed stretch of Flushing; up (and up and up) Vanderbilt Avenue, lined with gracious, old brick buildings; into Prospect Park so that we could go flying down the Loop past the glittering, glorious lake; and all the way down Ocean Parkway, to Coney Island. This particular ride was great for novices and experts alike (though if you are a complete novice, consider taking some lessons with Bike New York, which offers classes on everything from Citibike riding to winter biking tips), but you don’t need to be with a group to do it! I’d still recommend starting out at Tiny Empire, the two juices supplied gave me enough energy to where I wasn’t even that hungry by the time I got to Coney Island, but if you have a bigger appetite than me, once you hit the beach, you could partake in anything from a classic Nathan’s hot dog and fries (which are the best and come with little red tridents) to pancakes at the Coney Island-outpost of Prospect Heights’s beloved Tom’s Restaurant to the perfect pizza at Totonno’s to fresh, hot, delicious (and cheap!) chorizo tacos at Dona Zita. Once full, start the long ride back to the northside, and, if you’re anything like me, curse yourself for not wearing sunscreen. Uh, wear sunscreen. Trust me. My skin is still peeling two weeks later!
Bike New York: Check out Bike New York’s website for info about upcoming group rides, including the Twin Lights ride on 9/28 and next spring’s 5-Boro Bike Tour.
Tiny Empire: 142 N. 6th Street, Williamsburg
Totonno’s: 1524 Neptune Avenue, Coney Island
Nathan’s Famous: 1310 Surf Avenue, Coney Island
Tom’s Restaurant: Boardwalk West, Coney Island
Plaza Mexico Dona Zita: Bowery St & Henderson Walk, Coney Island
Windsor Terrace to Rockaway Beach (31 miles round-trip)
This is actually a pretty intense ride, despite not involving any major hills (other than the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, which you’re technically supposed to walk over, but, well… ), however, it is well worth it, because it takes you through many different parts of Brooklyn (and Queens!), many of which contain worthwhile sites to see, sure, but also, really good food to eat. And so! Start off your morning with an iced coffee/rocket fuel at Brancaccio’s Food Shop, where—if you’re smart and they’re available—you’ll also get a cheese Danish or croissant. Then, you know, hit the road. Ocean Parkway is pretty much a breeze, then just jog over to Avenue Z (it’s like you’re at the end of the universe!), make your way over to Emmons Avenue and ride by all the boats in the marina till you get to the beach-side bike path (do not, I repeat, do NOT go onto the Belt Parkway by mistake) and head past the always-fragrant Plumb Beach, up over the Gil Hodges, and then you’re there! You’re at the beach. Run the fuck into the water. It’s really warm this time of year! And then after you dry off? Back on your bike and head the couple extra miles down to Rockaway Taco for an insanely refreshing pineapple-mint juice and the perfect fish taco. You need to get strong for the long ride back, upon which, we wouldn’t blame you for making a pit stop at Randazzo’s in Sheepshead Bay for some of their famous red sauce or shrimp diavolo. Do it. You won’t regret it.
Brancaccio’s Food Shop: 3011 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Windsor Terrace
Rockaway Taco: 95-19 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, The Rockaways
Randazzo’s Clam Bar: 2017 Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay
Brooklyn Heights to the Cloisters (30 miles round-trip)
This ride is easily one of the most beautiful—if occasionally annoying due to tourists on the Brooklyn Bridge—bike trips that any New Yorker can take. After having a hearty, late breakfast at Iris Cafe (we recommend the avocado toast or shakshuka), you’ll get to take in the never-fails-to-take-my-breath-away view as you crest over the Brooklyn Bridge. Stop. Take a picture. Be a tourist for a second. No one’s watching. (Seriously, they’re not. They’re all too busy taking their own photos.) Then sail into Manhattan, onto Chambers Street, and head over to the Hudson River Greenway. From there, you’ll have nine miles of relatively flat riding alongside the river. Then you’ll hit some hills. It’s not called Washington Heights for nothing. But no matter! You can do it! Because once you reach Fort Tryon Park, you’ll be at one of this city’s loveliest museums, full of unicorn tapestries and medieval art that just begs for quiet contemplation. Take some time to sit in the courtyard garden. Explore the parapets of this reconstructed monastery. Stare out at the Palisades on the other side of the river. And keep your eye out for the eagles that, rumor has it, live in rocky outcropping that is Inwood. When you’re done there, you’ll probably be pretty hungry. So ride down to Washington Heights before getting back on the Hudson River Greenway and get some roast chicken or pernil with rice and beans at El Malecon. Easily the best rotisserie chicken in the city. Once full, head back down the Greenway, and congratulate yourself on being smart enough to have timed this ride perfectly with the sun setting behind New Jersey. You did that, right? Right. Smart!
Iris Cafe: 20 Columbia Place, Brooklyn Heights
El Malecon: 4141 Broadway, Washington Heights
Bay Ridge to Governors Island (16 miles round-trip)
So, Bay Ridge is an interesting place from which to start an inter-borough bike ride. After all, it’s right by Staten Island. Go there! Except, you know, you can’t. Because the Verrazano Bridge doesn’t have bike lanes. Boo. So instead, I’m going to recommend you got to the 6th borough aka Governors Island on a bike trip. Begin by carb-loading at Robicelli’s with the fall-inspired Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcake, made with pumpkin cake, espresso mascarpone buttercream and chocolate espresso beans. Then make your way over to 5th Avenue for a long stretch, wending your way over to the Columbia Street Waterfront District, where you can hop the ferry (bike and all) to Governors Island aka a cycling paradise. Governors Island will close soon to the public, but there are still a few more events going on, so check out the calendar here and plan your trip around it. Once you’ve had your fill, take the ferry back to Brooklyn, make your way back to Bay Ridge, and end your evening at Tanoreen, where you can fill up on lamb and rice and salad and ohmygod that cauliflower. Eat the cauliflower!
Robicelli’s Bakery: 9009 5th Avenue, Bay Ridge
Tanoreen: 7523 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
Bed-Stuy to College Point (30 miles round-trip)
Well, this ride is one that you’ll want to make a day of, because you’re not just going to College Point for any old reason. No, you’re headed there to go to Spa Castle. So haul yourself out of bed bright and early and go over to Scratchbread for Nonna’s Breakfast Sandwich (soft egg, slow-roasted chicken, and a schmear of salt cod, all loaded onto rosemary focaccia) and then start to make your way out to Queens. Your destination, of course, is the estimable Spa Castle, where you can while away the day soaking your sore limbs, relaxing in the various saunas, and, well, soaking your sore limbs. Sure, all that relaxing will leave your limbs feeling like you’re a not-too-distant relation to a jellyfish, but no matter. You will get up on that bike and ride. The ride back, after all, is relatively flat. You can totally do it. Reward yourself at the end with a stop at Do or Dine and an order of the deep-fried, devilled eggs. And, you know, a drink. A stiff one. You’ve earned it. Good for you.
Scratchbread: 1069 Bedford Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Spa Castle: 131-10 11th Avenue, College Point
Do or Dine: 1108 Bedford Avenue, Bed-Stuy
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen
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