Stationary bikes serve their purpose during the winter and on rainy days. But, historically, bicycles have been best used outside. And outside in NYC means you’re pedaling past world-famous monuments and cultural institutions, through ethnic enclaves and gorgeous parks, and even to stunning beaches with great tacos. So stop cycling in place and get out there!
BATTERY PARK TO THE MET CLOISTERS
Distance: 13 miles
Everything about this nearly straight-shot ride is supremely photogenic. Wave goodbye to Lady Liberty before you pedal onto the Hudson River Greenway that will take you all the way up the West Side—past the World Trade Center, Hudson River Park’s revamped piers, the Whitney, Chelsea Piers, the Intrepid, the Boat Basin Cafe, Riverside Park, Fort Washington Park, and countless playgrounds. Translation: There are plenty of spots for a scenic water break, picnic, or carousel ride.
Once you pass under the George Washington Bridge, the path will veer right under the Hudson Parkway and dip south again before heading back north. Cross Riverside Drive on the overhead bike/pedestrian path and turn right on the other side before turning left on Plaza Lafayette. Take another left on Cabrini Boulevard and follow Cabrini all the way to the beautiful Cloisters (the road becomes Margaret Corbin Drive as it nears the medieval compound). When you’re done strolling the grounds, contemplating in the central cloister, and admiring the unicorn tapestries, you can hop on the A train or bike back the way you came. Does your stationary bike come with river breezes and ancient art?
PROSPECT PARK TO CONEY ISLAND
Distance: 6.4 miles (9.75 miles with park loop)
Lengthen this ride by a tough 10 minutes or so by completing the 3.35-mile Prospect Park loop (the hill parallel with Flatbush Avenue can be killer), then exit at Machate Circle at the park’s southeast corner. Turn right onto the Ocean Parkway Service Road, which will then veer left so that you’re riding alongside the parkway. Cross to the south side of the four-lane parkway at Beverly Road, then follow the paved, flat Brooklyn-Queens Greenway nearly five miles all the way to the Cyclone, the sand, and the surf (oh, and Ruby’s for your post-ride beer).
The ride isn’t perfect: You have to stop for traffic lights nearly every two blocks or so, there is little shade, and some of the path is potholed. But there is no better payoff to a hot, hard ride than walking your bike up the ramp to the boardwalk and seeing the ocean laid out in front of you. Lock your bike on the boardwalk fence and get a soft-serve ice cream cone at Paul’s Daughter or a beer at Coney Island Brewery. Beats a yogurt from your fridge.
CONEY ISLAND TO JACOB RIIS BEACH
Distance: 6.8 miles (11.1 miles to get to Rockaway Beach)
If you’ve still got gas in your tank after your ride to Coney (the fried clams and cold beer should help!), extend the trip to Rockaway. This ride has it all: an ultraurban experience as you head east on Neptune Avenue (which turns into Emmons Avenue) with its Georgian bakeries, sari stores, halal meat markets, mikvahs, laundromats, and car dealerships; a seaside-town jaunt as you pedal past the Sheepshead Bay Piers; a windswept stretch along Plumb Beach and across the Gerritsen Inlet; a long and satisfying straightaway on a surprisingly green bit of Flatbush Avenue, past Aviator Sports and Floyd Bennett Field; a gorgeous ride over Jamaica Bay on the Marine Parkway Bridge; then, finally, the wide-open views and sandy expanse of the beach. Refuel with tacos, cervezas, and Ample Hills ice cream at Riis Park Beach Bazaar, then take the NYC Ferry back to Sunset Park or Wall Street. You can’t take a ferry from your bedroom to your bathroom, now can ya?
RED HOOK TO DUMBO
Distance: 3.1 miles
For a shorter excursion that you can ride there and back with the kids, start at the Red Hook Fairway at the very end of Van Brunt Street. Enjoy breakfast or lunch at the store’s back-patio café right on the water overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Then tool down Van Brunt all the way to Degraw, turn right, then left again onto Columbia Street, which has a dedicated bike path starting after Congress Street. Follow the path down to the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park. (We won’t blame you if you make pit stops at Pier 6’s Slide Mountain, Water Lab, and Swing Valley or get lost in Pier 3’s labyrinth.) When you get to Pier 1 (where Shake Shack and River Cafe are), hop onto Water Street and look for Jane’s Carousel, the lovingly restored merry-go-round perched on the East River, to the left. It’s the perfect spot from which to explore Dumbo…or to head back after a few scenic spins for an early dinner in Red Hook.
WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE TO ASTORIA PARK
Distance: 6 miles if starting from Brooklyn side of bridge; 7.4 if crossing from Manhattan
Called the Great Hipster Silk Route, this ride facilitates the flow of people and goods between the two primary NYC cool-kid habitats: B’burg, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens. So the people-watching, naturally, is way better than anything you’ll get in a darkened spin room. And the ride is quite pleasant, with dedicated bike lanes the whole way. Head up Kent Avenue to Franklin Street, turn left on Eagle Street and then over the Pulaski Bridge to Vernon Boulevard. On Vernon, you’ll pass by Queensbridge Park, the Noguchi Museum, and Socrates Sculpture Park (and a two-block detour will bring you to MoMA PS1, too!) until you make it to Astoria Park, where there are tennis and basketball courts, a running track, a skate park, and a gorgeous pool to round out your workout.