North Texas on two wheels: The bike trails to explore (and what to bring when you do)

Drawn outside by the allure of light, space and air — and a big dose of vitamin D — folks from Fort Worth to Dallas and everywhere in between are taking to the trails. Here, a primer on bike routes in five areas, plus an expert’s opinion on what to buy, drink and do if you are joining the growing ranks of the pedal pushers.

DALLAS

There are currently more than 150 miles of hard-surface bike trails and 17 miles of dedicated bike lanes in Dallas County, including Dallas, Richardson, Irving, Addison and Farmers Branch. The trails make it possible to reach major employment centers; to connect with DART light-rail stations; to enjoy views of White Rock Lake, Bachman Lake and the Trinity River; to see concerts and sporting events at the American Airlines Center; to reach SMU or the University of Texas at Dallas; and to travel from beyond the county’s border to downtown Dallas. One popular example: the Katy Trail, “an ideal bike path for those who like to ride with a purpose,” says CultureMap. “Start at the northernmost entry at Dedo’s Place near SMU and ride just east of Cedar Springs Road to Katy Trail Ice House, where you can sit on the shady patio and knock back a summer beer or an iced tea before riding back.” For information about each of the Dallas trails, including maps, distances, key features and destination points, see dallascounty.org.

FORT WORTH

With more than 112 trails covering 461 miles, you will find trails of all kinds in and around this one-of-a-kind city. In fact, Fort Worth is so bike-friendly that is has established BikeFW, a comprehensive plan for promoting bicycling as a safe and attractive transportation alternative by working toward impressive goals, including tripling the number of bicycle commuters and attaining official designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community through The League of American Bicyclists. Two standout trails: Gateway Park, with both flat and hilly terrain (a 3.5-mile loop on the west side of the Trinity River is relatively level, while hills scatter the eastern 5-mile loop) and Trinity Trails, 40 miles that serve as a central artery and connect with many other trails throughout the city. Insider tips: Start at a popular trail head such as the Fort Worth Botanic Garden or Log Cabin Village, or park at the quieter Trinity Strand Trail.) Information fortworthtexas.gov

LAKEWOOD

Charming Lakewood has the very good fortune of being sited alongside spectacular White Rock Lake, a 1,105-acre reservoir approximately 5 miles northeast of downtown Dallas. The lake is a wildly popular destination for residents and visitors, because it is one of the best places, anywhere, to experience natural areas, wildlife, kayaking and sailboating in an urban setting. White Rock Lake Trail is a 9.3-mile pedestrian/bike loop around the lake, great for all skill levels and accessible year-round. The trail is paved, smooth, typically at least five feet wide and mostly gentle, and there are multiple parking lots around the pathway. Information dallasparks.org

SOUTHLAKE

The City of Southlake is always working to ensure local cyclists are able to enjoy an increase in mobility, safety and convenience. There are currently seven signed bicycle routes in the city, with additional routes called out in its Mobility Master Plan. If there are no dedicated bicycle lanes, some bicyclists, including children, may prefer sidewalks to roadways. Cyclists may utilize sidewalks as long as they travel slowly, look out for potential hazards and always yield to pedestrians. For locations of existing and upcoming bicycle facilities, and to see Southlake’s Mobility Master Plan, visit cityofsouthlake.com.

PLANO

With more than 150 miles of on-street bicycle routes, nearly 100 miles of shared-use paths and more than 10 miles of unpaved soft-surfaced trails, biking in Plano is a fun, safe, convenient and connected form of transportation and recreation. The city’s Parks & Recreation department continues to build and expand Plano’s bike network for all ages and abilities — whether riding for fun, to work, running errands or dropping kids off at school. A great riding spot is the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, a 200-acre park with about 3 miles of paved trails and 2.8 miles of off-road trails. The diverse animal and plant life that call the park home might convince you that you’re far from civilization, even though the park is only about a mile from the Dallas North Tollway. Learn the rules of the road, explore Plano’s trails and get a bike map at plano.gov.

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SPECIALTY TRAILS

OFF THE CHARTS “Adventure starts right here,” says the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association’s dorba.org, loaded with information about off-road and mountain-bike trails across North Texas, for both experienced and novice riders. Get the scoop on about 20 all-terrain trails, plus competitions, educational programs and DORBA itself, founded in 1988 and now about 1,800 mavens on mountain bikes.

ROCK ON Pedaling across pavement? Too easy. Step it up with gravel on the ground. Gravel trails are more work, more unpredictable and more fun, say their devotees. “Plan to get dirty,” says planobicycle.org, which organizes a first-Saturday monthly gravel ride. Other gravel groups: Shawnee Trail Cycling Club (stcycling.com) and Northeast Texas Trail (netexastrail.org).

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THE WHEEL THING

Woody Smith is pedaling as fast as he can. The president of Richardson Bike Mart — a go-to since 1962 for two-wheelin’ North Texans — says the Covid-19 pandemic “has as much as doubled the bicycle riders in the past year, especially families riding in groups.” With that many wheels whirring all over the metroplex — the mart now has locations in Richardson, Frisco, Dallas and McKinney — we put some essential questions to the expert.

What are people looking for in bikes now? 

“I look at bikes like they’re automobiles. There are truck-like bikes, performance fast-car bikes, road bikes. The most popular bikes folks want are like an SUV, of sorts.” (One Woody recommends from bikemart.com: Trek FX 1 Disc, with lightweight aluminum frame, disc brakes and sturdy wheels.)

What are ways to beat the Texas heat while biking?

“Ride early. Start from 5:30 to 7 a.m. Find trails or streets that have a lot of trees. That helps a bunch. If you do ride in the heat, the No. 1 rule is hydrate: Drink at least 16 ounces of water before you start. Then, drink 20 to 24 ounces of water or hydration mix every hour.” (He likes Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix.) Another alternative? “Ride your bike inside. An indoor trainer converts your outdoor bike to an indoor stationary bike.” (One Woody recommends: Saris Fluid2 Smart Equipped.)

How should you equip a bike for North Texas riding?

“A water-bottle holder, a water bottle, a cell-phone bag and a good helmet that is five years old or newer. Look inside the helmet for a date when it was made.” (Insider tip: Shop Richardson Bike Mart here.)

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