Words by Jonathan Neve
Photos by Jonathan, Stephanie Pina, Fajar Hassan, Cayla Green and Bruce Layman
Come to Austin for whatever reason you please (BBQ, Elijah Wood sightings, cowboy hats) but please stick around for the great bike rides, even if you have to pin down a local or five to show you how to string this weird city and weirder trails together to make the most of your time (important, as time is scarce) and keep yourself safe (important, as it’s a dog-eat-squirrel world out here when it comes to cars and...everything else). Austin might be widely regarded as a bike city, but I don’t think it’s reasonably classified as a safe cycling city. You gotta watch your back because these elites are piloting their Teslas, hoverboards and $16,000 e-bikes across town at record speeds to close the next big deal in innovative software and wearable barcode scanners shaped like mice while tweeting about their workouts and drinking $14 wellness shakes that they're more than happy to throw at you if you slow them down for even a second. Anyway.
Most locals know their way around town pretty well and in recent years have become more willing to mix it up when it comes to getting out of their houses and out of town. You can find surprisingly good mixed terrain pathways if you know where to look, and that’s what we did recently on a muggy morning in Austin where coffee, donuts and some goddamn peace and quiet sounded like just the ticket. It gets REALLY hot here in a way that’s hard to explain unless you’ve been here in the summertime, it’s been later than 8 am, and you haven’t had your daily bottle of Pedialyte. Even if you have, it’s still a feat of bravery, boldness and foolishness to do so consistently during peak summer months.
Enter the swimming holes. There are tons of them, all over town, but the really good ones might not have signage, and might not always be accessible. They’re the key to cooling off any time of year, but summer almost makes them mandatory. So find a local, grab a hoverboard, and get the fuck outside.
We took some shaded bike paths through downtown to the main thoroughfare out, via Rollingwood and using 360 to connect to Bee Caves. Once you’re out of town and rolling down Bee Caves, baby you’ve got options. The terrain undulates a lot out here, and you can enjoy some sweeping descents like the one on River Hills and relax into a short but sweet little descent before climbing up again for a spell only to drop back down once more to a special place called Common’s Ford Ranch. You can access the mighty Lower Colorado River here and it’s as treaty as any treat gets. As good as a Snickers ice cream bar but without the calories. Unless you bring one with you and in that case the calories definitely count.
The water at Common's Ford is usually nice and cold in the summer and warm to tolerable in the winter, so bonus if it's not screaming hot and you still fancy a swim. On this particular day, we rolled in on the doubletrack down to the water and found the famous boat dock and swim area overrun with enterprising fishermen. We're talking ten reels and a constant rotation of bait and taut lines. This was as legit as a not-very-legit operation gets. We decided to just keep to ourselves and just put our feet in nearby, rather than risk getting caught up in a skirmish with our new friends and their questionable playlist. Don't fuck with anyone who gets down to fishing to Evanescence. That's my only rule.
Once we felt cooled enough, we got ourselves sorted and climbed back out. It's a bit of a slog back to the road, but you'll survive. Just remember that a pastry and a cute but aggressive goat awaits you just a few miles away.
Stop by Civil Goat on your way back to town for some toast, a cookie, excellent iced coffee and a few pets of the ole' goat--who, by the way, isn't all that civil most of the time. He did flip over a few cups of coffee during our stay, but fuck it. That's part of the charm. Not everything is roses and full cups of coffee in life, you know. Might as well have a goat teach you that lesson on a Saturday morning. Just don't try to snuggle with him. He's only here for your snacks.
After a satisfying stop at Civil Goat, we pedaled our way home. There was rain in very intense but scattered style, so we had to stop a few times under bridges but it was warm and we were full, so no harm was really done. Prepare yourself for this by making sure your hoverboard is fully charged, your nearest wellness shake place is queued up on your Maps app, and get it done. Thanks for reading, and if you come to Austin in the near future, watch out for the aforementioned hazards but please enjoy yourself!