There are generally three reasons for riding a bike: recreation, transport and sport. Mad cyclists like my husband will often use their bikes for all three. But what about us normal human beings?
Here are my suggestions for some quintessential Canberra rides for anyone with a bike and the ability to use it.
The family ride that everyone can enjoy
It can be difficult to find a weekend activity that suits the whole family, but bike riding can be adapted to most fitness and skill levels. Canberra’s bike paths are mostly well-maintained and networked, which makes our city perfect for families to ride together for fun and fitness.
Route 1: on the bike path outside your front door
Distance: as far as you like
Residents of the ACT are incredibly lucky to have an integrated network of cycle paths that cover huge swathes of most suburbs, and run alongside some of the prettiest scenery Canberra has to offer. You’ll discover things on the bike that you’d never find in a car.
Route 2: Lake Burley Griffin
Distance: 28km if you go the whole way around, but depending on your family you might prefer to do one of the shorter stretches.
Central Loop is the easiest route at 3.7km from Kings Avenue Bridge to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. Ride past the Parliamentary Triangle sights, including Old Parliament house, the National Gallery, and Questacon.
Eastern Loop is a 9km route through the Kingston Foreshore towards Fyshwick and Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve. Mostly flat, and with the added benefit of some excellent refuelling stops at Kingston’s cafes.
Western Loop is the longest stretch at 16km, and travels through Yarralumla, past the Governor-General’s residence and Scrivener Dam, and past the National Zoo & Aquarium.
Getting back into riding after a break
If you’ve been out of action for a while, cycling is an easy way to reclaim some physical fitness.
You can probably cycle further than you think, particularly if you already do other physical activity. While your muscle memory and respiratory condition won’t necessarily translate directly, you’ll adapt more rapidly and should feel comfortable riding for close to an hour.
Not overly confident about riding a bike? I recommend you take a skills course to reacquaint yourself with the basics.
Route 1: to the local shops
Distance: likely somewhere between 1km and 5km
Canberra’s town planning makes riding to the local shops a reasonable endeavour for most ACT residents. Don’t forget to take a backpack for any groceries you might need to carry home, and a lock for your bike.
Route 2: to work
Distance: depending on how far away your work is from home, your mileage will vary. NB this probably won’t work quite so well for those who work from home.
Make sure you plan your journey well, using cycle paths if possible. Give yourself plenty of time, and perhaps try the route on a day you don’t have a 9am meeting.
So you ride to work most days, but on days off your bike sits idle? You’re probably fairly fit, but have lapsed into routine when it comes to your cycling.
But why on earth would I ride my bike unless I wanted to get somewhere?
Okay, consider this: food. Also: drink.
Route: the ‘Produce Tour’
This is a ride that I initially discovered in Bruce Ashley’s Cycling Around Canberra book. It runs from Canberra (Ashley suggests starting in Green Square, Kingston, but you can start from your front door) to Queanbeyan through markets, vineyards and community gardens.
It might be worth investing in panniers for this one.
Push it – the best ride in Canberra for the hardcore rider
If you’re a serious bike rider you’ll have your own ideas about what the best ride in Canberra is. A very experienced rider once told me that the best ride is one that ends at a good café.
I myself am not a very experienced rider, so I consulted someone whose job title is pretty much Very Experienced Bike Rider: John Armstrong, CEO of Pedal Power ACT.
John’s suggestions went on for quite some time. Turns out Canberra is quite a good place for serious bike riders – who’d have guessed?
Between Stromlo reps, Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie for the punishing climbs, the Cotter-Uriarra Loop and the ultimate Canberra riding event Fitz’s Challenge, John was hard-pressed to pick a favourite.
He did seem particularly enthusiastic about the Federal Highway to Lake George ride – depending on where in Canberra you leave from, it’s around 100km all up.
What do you think the best bike ride in Canberra is, and why?