Bike Curious? Here’s the Perfect Pedal for a Slow Sunday Cycle in Austin

Years ago, I was pedaling past the World War II era airplane hanger at Austin’s former Robert Mueller airport, which I recall flying into right over where I lived. (Not the recent special investigator.) Now, Mueller is the one-word name (like Bono, Prince, or Sting) for the new urban, high-density (and high-cost) neighborhood that now sits on the former airport. Back then, somehow I’d been able to rent a room in pretty new row house owned by a nice gentleman from Ethiopia. That’s another story.

I biked but not much. On that night, I found the ride quite by accident and joined in. It was fun and easy, but soon I went on my way and didn’t go back. Skip ahead many years in time to a couple of weeks ago, and I ran into a fellow rider at the grocery store, Jason. He reminded me about the ride, and since I was on a bike and curious about Bike Curious, I showed up. Needing a recovery ride from Saturday’s hot and tiring 45-mile Mamma Jamma training ride, I went again a second time. Lemme tell ya’ all about it.

Small Is Beautiful

Bike Curious route and photos as the sun started to set

It’s not really part of Social Cycling Austin, though it may was at one time. It’s not a Bike Austin ride either. They have a Facebook page and an entry on the user-unfriendly, clunky old ride listing site called Thea, but otherwise, they aren’t seeking attention. They’re the quiet little wallflower of social rides, and I think they like it that way. I do too. Small is beautiful, and manageable. Here’s the description on Thea:

Grab your bike and a friend and join us as we ride bikes around Austin briefly viewing art in public place on our quiet streets and trails Sunday evenings. We’ll visit parks, parking garages, bakeries, convenient stores as we ride around appreciating art. We typically ride about 10-15 miles, not too many hills. Note this ride is a no drop ride, meaning everyone sticks together and no one gets left behind. All skill levels are welcome.

First we headed east, finding a dead end with a government building. Climbing the floors of the parking garage might be a bit much for a brand new rider (or if you’re A Dude who’s tired from a long ride with too much sun and not enough rest of food). But it wasn’t that hard, and getting some nice views and photos made it worthwhile.

Who knew the Region 7 Educational Service Center had such a nice view?

That said, the leader Karol and Jason seemed glad for my participation. The four other dudes had their own thing going on, one with a music box, which is fun if you like his musical tastes. I mostly chatted with Jason so didn’t get to know the other guys, but they seemed nice if a little quirky. We waited to see if anyone else might show. We set off at 7:10 pm with the sun — and temperature — still up enough to get our sweat on.

Nature and Stuff

Our fearless leader Karol is a water quality engineer, so at the detention pond (not retention, that’s different due to drainage), she stopped to school us on the design. Basically it allows for more development by preventing erosion and flooding. The level can be reduced if needed based on rainfall. While not built for wildlife, it has the added advantage of providing refuge for birds, aquatic life, and a most curious bipedal animal. I think it’s called a runner? Most bizarre.

Circling back around and through Mueller, the ride tends to meander at a very manageable pace and leaves no one behind. While I was stopped taking a picture, more wildlife was approaching. A woman with a border collie was approaching but then also stopped because her dog was acting a bit skittish. I thought she was saying hello, but no. It turned out that Jason was waiting for me to go ahead, and he was blocking their way. So I ended my chat early and didn’t get to pet the cute dog.

The point is that having a sweeper on a ride is a good thing in case you have a flat tire or other issue. And being in nature is good — especially when it’s not 100 degrees. Sunday evening is a pleasant time for riding, and perfect for recovering from either weekend morning to flush the lactic acid out of the legs before returning to the daily grind on Monday morning. If you’re fortunate enough to have such a grind to return to. Never grind your gears in cycling, though. Burns up the legs. Spin them in an easier gear.

The Art of Riding

The route only passed on mural on a fence, which Jason and I noted but we didn’t stop for. Often, though, the ride will go to a place of public art for photo opportunities. That’s a cool way to approach a ride. Austin, especially the east side, has a long history of public art and E.A.S.T. – the East Austin Studio Tour. With the unfortunate pace of gentrification, has however both brought in new art as well as displaced more established artists.

The ride is slow enough that it’s reminiscent of just exploring your neighborhood with buddies during summer vacation. And it turns out that there is a mindset and art to such a ride. For me at least, the urge is to go faster, which means I do not notice as much. So tooling around, wandering hither and yon, retracing our steps in some cases, all in a leisurely fashion, is relaxing. I found myself really enjoying the non-competitive nature of the ride. Of course you have to pay attention, but we took sidewalks and backroads through the still being developed Mueller.

After about 10 miles, Karol takes us to a new site of a popular Austin neighborhood eatery. In this case, the famous Kerbey Lane Cafe, known for it’s queso and pancakes. I had decided not to stay due to my increasingly dire poverty as an unpaid blogger and book writer (so far). Karol thanked me for my participation, and said I could come in and drink water if I wanted. I had yoga to do and words to write, though. Not many miles before I slept, but always plenty of stuff to do.

So, You’re Bike Curious — Now What?

If you are in Austin and want to check out Bike Curious, here’s their Facebook link, which is more reliable times. Note the start changes with the sun as the seasons change. Maybe I’ll see you there if this becomes a regular Sunday night ritual for me. I’m thinking this is a great ride for my new bike gang I started. We shall see. Well, I hope I satisfied your curiosity! Wherever you are and whenever you can, get curious, get on your bike and ride it!

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