3 NYC Bike Rides: Get Away Without Leaving Town

Governors Island Biking

You don’t have to leave New York City to enjoy an “island” getaway this weekend. All you need is a bicycle and an appetite for leisurely exploration – or, in the case of City Island, a hunger for seafood savored on a sunny waterfront. Plot one of the following flat, easy-riding NYC bike rides using the included map links. Then enjoy the sense of discovery and revelation afforded by a journey on two wheels.

Today’s post is written by Lauren Matison, a cycling enthusiast and founder of offMetro NY, an online source of inspiration for car-free travel and adventure.

Governors Island (top photo)

You’re technically still in Manhattan—a seven-minute ferry ride from the dazzling skyline—yet Governors Island always feels like an escape from the city. The 172-acre former military base, which reopens on May 23, is one of the best places for a cyclist to celebrate springtime. Stock up on picnic fixings at the Union Square farmers market, then ride four miles down the Hudson River Greenway, through Battery Park and over to the South Ferry Terminal, where you’ll board with your bike ahead of pedestrians (and for free on weekend mornings) and ship out to the island, home to a Hammock Grove and a new 30-acre park. Explore the roughly five miles of smooth car-free roads, passing old barracks and the Figment festival’s art installations, before finding a sunny, grassy knoll to eat lunch and linger for a while. Free one-hour bike rentals are available every weekday from 10am – noon.

The total miles: 9.4

The ride maps: Ride to Governors Island

Ride around Governors Island

Noguchi Museum

Long Island City

If you’ve got two wheels and a day, this sprawling, culturally rich stretch of land in Queens is easy to explore at an unhurried pace. Begin a self-guided art tour by pedaling over the Queensboro Bridge bike lane to the Museum of the Moving Image, where bike racks are abundant and the Mad Men exhibit is on display until June 13. From there, cycle seven minutes to the Socrates Sculpture Park, which welcomes The Living Pyramid, a 30-foot-tall structure of grass and soil, imagined by Budapest-born conceptual artist and New Yorker Agnes Denes, and brought to life with help from volunteer planters on May 17 from 3 pm – 6 pm. Across the street is the Isamu Noguchi Museum (photo, above, which will complete a year-long museum renovation with the full reopening of its sculpture garden this spring. Continue 2.1 miles south to MoMA P.S.1. then over to Sweetleaf Café for a coffee and treat before biking to the East River Ferry landing to cruise to Brooklyn or back to Manhattan, where the ferry docks in Murray Hill. Read offMetro NY’s 12 Hours in Long Island City for more ideas on things to do in the area.

The total miles: 8.6 miles

The ride map: Ride to Long Island City

City Island Water View

City Island

The hardest part of this ride will come at the half way point, when you’re sitting at a picnic table at Johnny’s Famous Reef Restaurant, enjoying beautiful bay views and the best clam chowder you’ve had in a while, and you’ll realize it’ll be time to head home when the bowl is dry. The good news is, anyone with two wheels and an appetite for urban adventure can bike out to City Island, so you’ll want to come back to this unexpected slice of paradise in the Bronx to do more things, like hike the trails on Hunter and Twin Islands and go for a dip at Orchard Beach on a warm summer day. While you can take the 6 train to Pelham Bay Park Station and ride from there, it’s far more rewarding and freeing to roll out from Manhattan and experience sections of the city you’ve never seen before—at least not up close from your saddle. When you do arrive back in Central Park, it’ll feel like you were gone much longer than an afternoon.

The total miles: 41.5

The ride map: Ride to City Island

Photos: From top, Governors IslandLong Island City, City Island 

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