The truth is that we live in one of the best places for bicycling in the U.S. While the local landscape may not match the drama of the mountainous West, our coastal region offers its own unique mix of sweeping ocean views, bucolic farms, serene woodlands, rolling hills, dirt roads, country lanes and protected bike paths. The bonus is that because our region is not so widely heralded as a cycling mecca means that we have it all to ourselves.
In this section:
— Where to Ride
— Riding Safely
— Bike Equipment
— Local Shops
— Places for Bicycling
Where To Ride
One of the easiest ways to bike around Buzzards Bay is to take advantage of the more than 40 miles (and growing) of bike paths in the region, including the multi-use paths that run along the Cape Cod Canal and the 10-mile Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth. These paved paths, mostly built on old railroad beds, offer smooth, level surfaces for easy pedaling without the distraction and danger posed by cars. It’s a particularly good place for younger children to learn the rules of riding safely.
The popularity of bike paths, however, means that you are never cycling alone. Even without cars, there are potential hazards presented by other riders as well as walkers, parents with strollers, joggers, skaters, and pet owners. There are rules for riding on bike paths, most of which can be boiled down to the simple reminder to be respectful of others.
Those looking to get away from the crowds will find plenty of options, too. There are hundreds of miles of trails in local reserves and parks for mountain bikers, riders into gravel cycling and the casual bicyclist just seeking to commune with nature. Freetown-Fall River State Forest and Myles Standish State Park each boast dozens of miles of dirt roads, fire lanes and single-track paths, offering options for riders at every level. You can find plenty of other local trails below.
Serious mountain bikers also may head to the Otis Trail Network in North Falmouth, a complex of single-track that winds through sandy hills between Route 28 and the Frances Crane Wildlife Management Area. It’s not uncommon to find riders from across the country, testing their skills on the network’s more challenging trails.
Photo: John Phelan
Bicyclists also will find plenty of great options right outside their door. Within a few miles of any spot within the Buzzards Bay watershed, you will find your way onto quiet country roads that are rich with scenery and light on vehicle traffic. The Coalition’s annual Buzzards Bay Watershed Ride traverses some of the finest roads for cycling on its 100-mile course from Sakonnet Point to Woods Hole. You can ride some or all of it at any time, though there’s nothing like doing it with a group of like-minded cyclists in early fall. With a little creativity, you will find plenty of options of your own, but we can offer six tried-and-tested routes to get you started.
Finally, if you are a regular bicyclist looking for the fun of a crowd, you might want to connect with a local bicycling organization. The Narragansett Bay Wheelmen is a venerable active club that organizes weekly rides and special events throughout the year. Many local bike shops (listed below) also organize weekly rides. The South Coast Bike Alliance works to advocate for bicyclists and the extension of a bike path connecting all the South Coast communities. Friends of the Bourne Rail Trail are a like-minded group working to create paths that will connect Sandwich, Bourne and Falmouth.
No matter where you choose to ride or when, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Bicycling can be a wonderful pastime, but there are plenty of hazards that can ruin the ride, from other cyclists and pedestrians to poor road surfaces and aggressive or inattentive motorists.
Safety begins with riding a bike that fits you and that works properly. It’s difficult to control a bike that is too big for you, or too small. And before taking off, be sure to perform a quick pre-ride check to ensure brakes are working, the quick release levers on wheels are closed and tight and tires are properly inflated, etc.
When you are sure that the bike is ready, put on your helmet. You should always wear a helmet that fits you properly. Numerous studies have demonstrated the difference that a properly fitting helmet can make, should you have an accident. It’s also important to know that helmets degrade over time, losing their protective capacity. If yours is from the flip phone era, it needs to be replaced with a new one. A helmet needn’t be expensive, but not wearing one can be.
You can substantially improve your safety by ensuring that you are visible. In part, wearing light, bright clothing helps. Blaze yellow vests and anything with reflective stripes are excellent. Studies also have shown that bicycle lights, even used during the daytime, can aid motorists in spotting cyclists more quickly and exercising caution. There are many options out there, but this is a case, where whatever you have will be a good thing.
Finally, all the equipment and clothing in the world will not make up for careless riding. Ultimately, safe cycling depends upon riders following the rules of the road and staying alert. In Massachusetts, bicyclists are expected to abide by many of the same rules that govern automobiles. Beyond that, there are a number of riding tips that can make an important difference. The League of American Bicyclists offers an extensive array of resources, including videos, that review tips for safe cycling, including navigating common road situations such as traveling through busy intersections and using painted bike lanes in urban and suburban areas.
The Right Bike
The best bike to ride is the one that you have. If you haven’t taken it out in awhile, you would do well to make sure to do a basic check for road-readiness—the tires are pumped up to the proper pressure, the brakes work, the seat is adjusted to fit you comfortably and that both the seat and handlebars are straight and tightened. Of course, you can do more than that, if you know how. In particular, cleaning and lubing the chain (with drivetrain lube, not WD-40 or some other lubricant not intended for bikes) will do a lot to improve your ride and protect your bicycle for the long haul. If you have real questions about the safety of your bike, you should bring it to a local shop (see list below) where a trained technician can perform comprehensive maintenance or refurbishment.
Now, new bikes are great, too. Sometimes, they can be just the thrill you need to get excited about riding. While bikes are sold at big box stores, local bike shops can provide a level of service and expert guidance that will help you make the right choice. And there are a lot of choices when it comes to bikes these days—road and racing bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, cruisers and more. Every type has its strengths. The right choice for you depends upon how you think you will use it—where you intend to ride, how fast and far you want to go, and whether you want to use the bike to get somewhere or simply zip along.
The Bike Den in Wareham, MA: https://www.facebook.com/bikedenbikes/
BikeWorks in Swansea, MA: http://www.bikeworksma.com
Buzzards Bay Bikes in Buzzards Bay, MA: http://www.sailworld.com/
Corner Cycle Shop in Falmouth, MA: http://www.cornercycle.com
Serious Cycles in Plymouth, MA: http://www.seriouscycles.com
Spark Bike Run Sports in Lakeville, MA: http://sparkbrs.com
Yesteryear Cyclery in New Bedford, MA: http://www.yesteryearcyclery.com