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3 of the Best U.S. Cities for Bicycle Travel

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3 of the Best U.S. Cities for Bicycle Travel

By , Experience Life

“Maybe we should’ve rented some lighter bikes,” my sweetheart suggests over his shoulder. We’re huffing uphill on Harrison Street in Portland, Ore., pedaling a pair of elegant but heavy three-speeds. Evidently Portland has much steeper streets than our hometown of Minneapolis, and we’re beginning to wonder if our weekend visit might be torpedoed by my insistence on the prettier bikes.

Still, we’re gasping for air that’s perfumed with mint and roses, and we’re inching past bright bungalows up a quiet residential boulevard. It leads directly from downtown Portland and the Willamette River below to the top of an extinct volcano, Mount Tabor, at the edge of the city’s southeast quadrant. The sun is shining. The magnolia trees are in full bloom. And since there is no reason to hurry, we just keep climbing.

Most people want to feel less like tourists and more like travelers when they go on vacation. This distinction is measurable when one rents a bike. As a tourist, I look for big landmarks — the Eiffel Towers and the Taj Mahals. When I get home, I report on the two or three recognizable things I saw. But when I explore a city by bike, I’m not necessarily looking for anything — though I am seeing a lot.

Touring an urban area by car might be easier, but it keeps the experience under glass. Pedaling down an ordinary avenue reveals the intimate details of a city’s life, from plant varieties and porch culture to the way the community handles its trash.

You experience the climate like an everyday commuter; if it rains, you’re getting wet. But there are rewards for risking the elements. Case in point: returning from Mount Tabor, we pedal down a busy street and are seduced into stopping for lunch by the smells from a turquoise-painted taqueria. We learn later from local friends that this is a local landmark. Yet because we followed our noses rather than a guidebook, we never had to look for its perfect fish tacos; they found us.

Not every American city is as inviting to cyclists as Portland; many are sliced up by freeways or endless parking lots. But the City of Roses, New York City and Minneapolis are three prime places for a two-wheel tour.

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Molly, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

32 comments

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5:03AM PDT on Sep 21, 2012

thanks

8:57AM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

I love cycling but in order to enjoy it, I look for bike trails. When I lived in the city, bike riding to work was more stressful than any other form of transit.

9:31AM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

I love Portland. Thanks.

5:51AM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

Nice...

9:06PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

CHI-TOWN ain't to bad either!

8:52PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Mass transit.

7:05PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Bikes are great but here in Australia at least they annoy a lot of drivers who sometimes shockingly harrass cyclists when it will always be to the cyclist's detriment - and sometimes demise. We need lots of dedicated cycleways where cyclists can ride without such danger and breathing vehicular fumes and so drivers can have their roads and vent their anger on some other hapless victim.

4:52PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

fun

4:39PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

I adore Portland. Thank you!

2:23PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

I miss cycling. Glasgow is a great city in the UK for cycling with miles of cycle lanes in the city and great parks and off road places. It was always fun to go shopping with my bike and cycle home with a full basket.

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