Lately, there are more reasons to hop on your bicycle than there are spokes in a wheel – it’s good for your brain, your body, and your behavior, but the best incentive might be the inspiration from Islanders’ favorite fall rides.
The view from Chappy’s big hill
I love to ride my bike. I discovered an old orange Schwinn “Traveler” — a great, simple road bike — in the cellar of the little cottage I moved into this spring. It has totally changed my riding experience. All of a sudden I feel like riding from Chappy to Vineyard Haven is no big deal; on my mountain bike it sometimes felt like the trek of the century. I think that impression was probably left over from my experience as a kid; the time I missed the bus and attempted it seemed never-ending.
I have a few favorite places to ride on the Island…depending on where I am living and what I have for time. I discovered how beautiful North Road is for cycling when I was living in West Tisbury. The countryside is gorgeous with its huge trees and rolling fields, and there is a nice combination of hills and flat. It also feels the widest and safest of the three roads that make their way up Island. And Menemsha is a fun destination.
Beach Road is another favorite — I like that there is a bike path, and it is wide open with water on both sides, and flat. Sometimes challenging if there is a head wind, but it makes me feel very much alive to ride that road. It reminds me of when my family took a bike trip up to the Magdalen islands in Canada and we had to traverse a similar stretch of open beach road to get from one end of the island to the other; even with multiple stops I was pretty convinced we were never going to make it. We did, though! And it felt so satisfying.
My last, an old favorite, is the (only) road on Chappy. I get out on my bike pretty much every day, and I never get sick of the scenery on this ride. My house is centered in the island, so sometimes I will ride west toward the ferry, past Slip Away Farm with its beautiful fields of veggies and across the street, the beetlebung trees at Brines Pond, which will soon be showing their vibrant autumn orange and red. I love the view from the top of the big hill above the outer harbor, when the ocean first comes back into view, and just after that starts a bit of new pavement, which is always a treat. Other times I will take a left and head out to East Beach, or all the way to the end of the road where it turns to dirt, and wind my way out to the tip of Wasque…a ride that is getting shorter by the day! That route is not really feasible with a road bike — much too sandy for skinny tires; even with the fat tires of my mountain bike, the sand traps at the bottom of the biggest hill provide a certain amount of perilous excitement.
-Lily K. Morris, writer/photographer, Chappaquiddick
To the woods in winter
My favorite bike route is to go down Beach Road along State Beach in the early morning. Too windy in the winter…so then I like to go up County Road and go into the trails in the Southern Woodlands.
-Alan Schweikert, realtor, Oak Bluffs
Counter-clockwise around the Island
My dream Vineyard bike ride would be a counter clockwise overnight ride around the Island, with a stop at an inn or two.
I would take a right just out of town on Lambert’s Cove Road, a short, several mile stretch of oak canopied rolling hills. Along the way, I might stay the night at the Lamberts Cove Inn. I would continue the next couple of miles west on Lambert’s Road, right back to State Road, and on to North Road. North Road is another one of those idyllic Vineyard roads, winding gracefully beneath spreading oaks, lined with moss encrusted stone walls and fields of wild grasses. I might stop in Menemsha for a snack and a ride across the Menemsha Pond inlet on the bike ferry (in season) or continue around on the Menemsha Cross Road through Beetlebung Corner back to State Road and on to Aquinnah. A right onto Lobsterville Road takes you down a great downhill run to the West Basin (Lobsterville), past Dogfish Bar and Lobsterville Beach. Reversing direction, I’d head for the Outermost Inn — it would be a good place to spend the night.
By this time I would have covered a little over 20 miles from the Vineyard Haven. Back around Moshup’s Trail, windswept beaches, and dunes on the Atlantic to State Road and on to Chilmark’s Beetlebung corner. From there it’s a toss-up — the hills, farms, and sylvan beauty of Middle Road or the hills, farms, and ocean views of South Road, through West Tisbury center then on to Edgartown, a 20-mile ride, and a stay in one of the many inns, B&Bs, or hotels. The Harbor View, with its panorama of the Edgartown Harbor, would be a good choice.
A morning ride along Beach Road to Oak Bluffs and back to Vineyard Haven. Two or three nights, 60 miles, and a circle around the Vineyard; do that and you’ll remember why we like living here so much.
-Tony Omer, reporter, West Tisbury
Fair winds to Edgartown
My favorite bike route is the beach path from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown, provided I have “fair winds” as they say in old sea lore. I’m usually knackered by the time I get there, though, so I put the bike on the bus to come home.
-Holly Nadler, writer, Oak Bluffs
Clockwise in the early morning
Here is my daily bike ride, all year long:
From my house in Vineyard Haven, I turn left on Lagoon Pond Road, then right onto Beach Road at Five Corners, then over the drawbridge, then around East Chop. Then left at Our Market, then right when you hit the water, past Oak Bluffs, along the Inkwell, then Sengekontacket. At the Triangle coming into Edgartown, cross the Edgartown/Vineyard Haven Road, and turn left. Turn right at Al’s Package, and cut through to the Edgartown/West Tisbury Road. Follow that bike path to Barnes Road, and turn right after you cross it. Take that bike path straight, to the blinking lights — I mean, roundabout.
Turn left onto the Edgartown/Vineyard Haven Road. Then I turn right on Winyah Lane and follow that back down to my house. It is about a 20-mile loop.
Here are the reasons I like it:
1. It is a loop, so I can’t turn back early if I don’t think I have enough time.
2. It intersects three towns, which helps me feel somewhat connected to the world, as my work is quite solitary.
3. It has water views and forest views.
4. It is mostly on bike paths.
I like to ride first thing in the morning. I always go clockwise, because I like to get the water views first, with the early light rising across the water.
-Jennifer McCurdy, artist, Vineyard Haven
Bike to scones and a walk on the beach
I do Jennifer’s ride with her whenever I visit from Seattle. I prefer a destination ride, so where, in her ride, we would turn right at Al’s Package, I continue straight and follow the sign to Katama — the right hand fork as you ride toward Edgartown.
Then I follow the signs for the bike route to Katama, turning right and left through the quiet, tree-lined streets of Edgartown, ending with the right on South Water street, which leads out to the bike trail to Katama Beach.
When my husband takes this ride with me, we usually stop at the Katama General Store for coffee and a scone. It’s open through Columbus Day. (Confession: sometimes we make this our destination and don’t even go out to the beach. But when I ride alone, I always continue.)
Then head out to the beach, enjoying the scent scape of the trail — the wind smelling like what it’s blown through — pine and oak and drying grasses, farm smells…when you smell the ocean depends on the wind direction.
I generally lock my bike and lose myself for a while, walking on the beach.
Going back, you can reconnect up with the loop of Jennifer’s ride. But I tend to go back just the way I came, to enjoy how different it looks and feels in the other direction. So I ride up the Edgartown Road just past the triangle where the car traffic is routed right; there’s a crosswalk there for the bike route that delivers you right back to the trail.
The wind along Sengekontacket will be from the opposite direction now, and you’ll notice it — either battling headwind or enjoying an unexpected almost-free ride. With the sun now behind you, all the colors are more saturated. You catch different views of the water — the Sound emerging suddenly from behind the seawall as you enter Oak Bluffs, your eyes sweeping towards the Cape as you round East Chop.
The ride takes me almost an hour longer than doing Jennifer’s loop, not counting the time with coffee or the walk on the beach. But definitely worth it, for me.
-Wendy Mulhern, poet and Vineyard visitor
My favorite bike ride: the route through the Farm Pond woods from South Circuit Avenue, past the Oak Bluffs School where I went to first grade, out to Trade Winds then on to Farm Neck, then back through the dusty roads of Harthaven, and finally Beach Road. It has a special place in my heart.
– Ian MacCormack, student, Oak Bluffs
The MV Commission and Safe Rides to School has produced a great bike safety brochure with a detailed map: MVCommission.org; search for biking.