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Five Autumn Bike Rides

Taking in fall’s palette on two wheels

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The best way to appreciate New England’s foliage is on two wheels.

Each fall, thousands of leaf-peepers jump in their cars to explore NewEngland’s colorful back roads. It’s an efficient way to tour theregion, to be sure, but nothing beats the satisfying crunch of autumnleaves under a pair of bicycle wheels. So this fall, ditch thegas-guzzler and get ready to experience New England’s foliage moreintimately — on two wheels.

The five following autumn bicycle rambles will take you through smalltowns, past farms, orchards, and ice cream stands, over rivers, throughwoods, and along the craggy coastline. Best of all, each is accessibleby MBTA commuter rail. Bicycles are permitted on the trains any time except during weekday rush hours. Click here for more information.

Cape Ann Escape
The Cape Ann Escape circumnavigates the rocky peninsula that is part ofMassachusetts’ North Shore and follows the rugged coastline for nearlythe entire 22-mile loop. The ride begins in downtown Gloucester andpasses through the harbor towns of East Gloucester, Rockport, andAnnisquam. Opportunities for side trips abound; visit Rocky Neck Avenue— home to the Rocky Neck Art Colony, the Eastern Point Lighthouse, or Halibut Point State Park,a former quarry that is now a 54-acre park. Various coves and beachesprovide lovely spots for leisurely lunches, naps, or an invigoratingdip in the ocean.

Length: 22 miles
Terrain: Flat to slightly rolling coastal route
Click here for directions.

Topsfield Tour
This ride begins in Ipswich, a historic NorthShore community that boasts more examples of pre–Revolutionary Wararchitecture than any other place in America, and goes through thetowns of Wenham and Topsfield. The winding backcountry roads pass horsefarms, country estates, ponds, marshes, and the Ipswich River, home tothe state’s largest Audubon sanctuary. If you’re a history buff, check out the Heard House or the Whipple House,two First Period (built between 1675 and 1725) homes that wereconverted into museums during the late-19th and mid-20th centuries. InWenham, visit the Wenham Museum, which has an extensive collection of dolls, toys, and games from the 1800s.

Length: 23 miles
Terrain: Flat and rolling hills
Click here for directions.

South Shore Exploration
The South Shore Exploration begins along a rugged coastline dotted withhistoric seaside mansions, travels past grassy wetlands and through alarge state park, and ends at a popular swimming beach. Passing throughhistoric harbor towns, cyclists will have the opportunity to visit the Maritime and Irish Mossing Museum in Scituate, fill up their bottles with fresh spring water in the 3,500-acre Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, and ride the antique Paragon Carousel in Hull. Each town offers a sampling of 17th-century New England history — from the Scituate Lighthouse to Hingham’s Old Ship Church. Allow a full day to explore all of the area’s attractions.

Length: 26 miles
Terrain: Gently rolling coastal route, a few hills, suburban and rural landscapes
Click here for directions.

Great Brook Farm Ramble
A route rich in history, the Great Brook Farm Ramble takes riders past Walden Pond, into downtown Concord, and through Great Brook Farm State Park. Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau retreated from civilization in 1845 to write Walden, is a popular swimming hole and is now part of Walden Pond State Reservation, 462 acres of protected open space. In Concord, riders pass the Old North Bridge historical siteand the Concord Battleground, where, on the morning of April 19, 1775,British regulars clashed with colonial militia and minutemen, ignitingthe eight-year Revolutionary War. Halfway through the ride, cyclistscome to Great Brook Farm State Park, 935 acres of woods, fields, and wetlands. An interpretive dairy farm and ice cream stand are in the center of the park.

Length: 30 miles
Terrain: Rolling hills with no climbs longer than half a mile
Click here for directions.

Cranberry Country Adventure
This ride begins in historic Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed in1620, and cruises past cranberry bogs before weaving through the16,000-acre Myles Standish State Forest— an eerie pine barren made up almost entirely of small pine, scrub oaktrees, and sand. The second half of the route is along the coastline,past beaches and beach homes, before looping back into Plymouth proper.Numerous side trips are available, including Plymouth Rock, Plimoth Plantation, the Jenney Grist Mill, and the Mayflower II.

Length: 50 miles
Terrain: Rolling terrain, with no major climbs
Click here for directions.

Before setting out, consider purchasing a road map. Rubel BikeMaps, a Cambridge-based company, publishes regional bicycle maps thatinclude recommended bicycle trails and roads for cycling, as well aslocations of bicycle shops, bed-and-breakfast inns, swimming holes, andice cream stands.

Bicycles can be rented from Landry’s Bicycles, 890 Commonwealth Ave., for $35 for the first day, $15 for each additional day (includes helmet and lock). Call 617-232-0446 for more information. Bicycles can also be rented from BostonSki Market, 860 Commonwealth Ave., for $25 a day (includes helmet and lock). Call617-731-6100 for more information.

Photos by Vicky Waltz 

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Five Autumn Bike Rides

  • Anonymous on 10.02.2008 at 3:31 pm

    WHERE DO I RENT A BIKE??? I don’t want to buy one because I have no where to keep it, and I don’t want to just borrow a bike because I want multiple people to go on a ride with and they don’t have bikes either!

  • Anonymous on 10.02.2008 at 3:49 pm

    Bike rentals

    Bikes can be rented for $25 a day (includes helmet and lock) at Boston Ski Market, located at 860 Commonwealth Avenue. Phone number is 617-731-6100. You can also rent bikes from Landry’s Bicycles for $35 for the first day and $15 for each additional day (helmet and lock included). Landry’s is located at 890 Commonwealth Avenue, 617.232.0446.

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