Summer cycling 2014: A road trip for beginners


Warm weather is back, so it's time for another summer road trip. Last year we mapped out three summer cycling adventures for you to try, and we're doing it again this year. If you enjoyed pedaling down to Minnehaha Park and Sea Salt, you should consider taking our new beginners' trip to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory.

The route is simple, short, and, with plenty of things to do at the zoo, it makes for a perfect impromptu bike trip to take with friends and family.

Beginner Trip: Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Path: Como Avenue Southeast

Distance: Five miles from Dinkytown (one way)

Estimated Time: 30 minutes


[jump] How to prepare:

Don't stress too much about prepping for this trip. Just make sure you're hydrated and your bike is in working condition. If you're unsure whether your bike can make the ride, there are a few bike shops to choose from in Dinkytown, which is right in the heart of the University of Minnesota campus.

While you're there, consider picking up a spare tube or patch kit in case you get a flat, but even if your bike does break down, you can always catch a bus back into town. The 3 route runs regularly all along Como Avenue.

How to get there:

For simplicity, we'll start the trip from Dinkytown. From there, you can hop right on Como Avenue, which has a bike lane that will take you the entire way to Como Zoo. Some patches of Como Avenue, particularly in the beginning of the ride, are a little torn up. So expect bumpiness at points and watch out for potholes.

If you're traveling with younger kids, or just want to avoid traffic in general, you can also take the University of Minnesota Transitway there. The road is reserved for buses, bikes, and emergency vehicles, and is well-paved and removed from regular traffic (there's also a bike path along the sidewalk for part of the way).

You can access the Transitway from Oak Street, where you'll pass by one of the new Green Line stops and the construction site of the new Surly Brewery. But the line only goes about two-thirds of the way to the zoo, so make sure to hang a right on Como Avenue when you intersect it.

What to do there:

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory offers almost too much to do in one day. The park has a slew of trails for biking or walking. There are tables and gazebos for picnics, and the kids can play at one of the many playground facilities that Como Park recently installed.

At the zoo and conservatory, you can check out the animals and exotic plant life for free. Attend one of the zoo's presentations in the edible garden to learn how you can begin growing your own food, or head to Como Town where you can partake in some good old-fashioned carnival rides, mini-doughnuts, and cotton candy.

On the way home, we suggest grabbing a gourmet sandwich or salad at Nelson's Cheese and Deli on Como Avenue and Snelling. Or, you can commemorate your trip forever by getting matching tattoos across the street at Beloved Studios Tattoos. Don't worry, if you immediately regret it, they offer laser tattoo removals next door.

Next trip: Summit Brewery (intermediate)

Ditch the kids and grab your drinking buddies. For our next trip we're going to Summit Brewing Company, which is located about 13 miles outside of downtown Minneapolis via bike trails. This trip will take more prep work, but once there you'll be able to kick back and have a beer, or even take a tour of the brewery.

Do you have suggestions for a good summer bike trip? Let us know in the comments below.