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5 Bucket List Rides Across the Country

Cycling is a sport that quite literally takes you places. Whether you’re strapping your bike to the car and heading out for a destination-ride, or simply pulling the bike out of the garage and leaving your driveway, most riders know full-well that some roads are simply better than others for two-wheeled touring. Listed here, by RootsRated, is a handful of rides across the country, with no particular rhyme or reason, other than the fact that locals love ’em.

1. 360 Loop | Austin, TX

Courtesy of Roy Niswanger
Courtesy of Roy Niswanger

The Capital of Texas Highway is a roughly 14-mile loop highway on the western side of Austin that connects South MOPAC with North MOPAC. It’s a scenic highway in the rolling Texas Hill Country that is wide and split and has generous shoulders for cyclists to feel safe as they get a solid workout. The rolling hills of Westlake, TX will provide a great workout, while simultaneously offering pretty memorable views along the way — like when crossing the iconic 360 bridge over the Colorado River.

2. Cades Cove Loop | Great Smoky Mountains, TN

Courtesy of Lee Edwin Coursey
Courtesy of Lee Edwin Coursey

Cades Cove is one of the wonders of the national park system and the single most visited part of Great Smoky National Park. Iconic for its majestic quiet and seemingly never-ending beauty, the valley has touched millions upon millions of visitors. As you ride this 11-mile loop, it’s not uncommon to see deer and bear wandering through the open meadows of dense grasses and vibrant wildflowers. And the road itself is relatively flat, so you can ride it again and again and again… you’ll probably want to.

3. Mount Diablo | San Francisco, CA

Courtesy of Oleg
Courtesy of Oleg

Sooner or later, a cyclist has to challenge his or her legs. When that time comes, most Bay Area riders head to Mount Diablo in the East Bay. This lung-busting, leg-burning climb is just about 11 miles, depending on whether you head up North Gate or South Gate Road. The fastest riders can do the climb from bottom to top in around 40 minutes when racing all-out, but be prepared for it to take much longer. An hour is considered a good time for an athlete in competition! Once you’re at the summit, the prominence of Diablo gives one of the most all-encompassing mountain views in the country.

4. Lefthand Canyon | Boulder, CO

Courtesy of Alex Kehr
Courtesy of Alex Kehr

The 28-mile loop from Lefthand Canyon to Jamestown is one of Boulder’s most popular road biking rides. The combination of shady wilderness, a wide and paved shoulder, the steady rumbling of nearby creeks and the chance to end your ride in one of Colorado’s authentic mountain towns make this a great day out for riders of all abilities. The sustained grade is enough to get a workout but never overwhelming (even for beginner cyclists).

5. Around the Block | Jackson Hole, WY

Courtesy of Dina Mishev
Courtesy of Dina Mishev

Being the kind of extreme outdoor town that it is, when people in Jackson talk about riding “around the block,” they’re not talking about a short lap through the neighborhood. A ride around Jackson’s block is a 100+ mile endeavor and includes ascending two mountain passes and more rolling hills than you can count. But it’s beautiful. And you can stop for square ice cream, among other food and drink items, along the way.

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