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Let's Ride!

By Tom Richardson; Photos by Benjamin Boynton
Boston's Esplanade Park is an amazing urban biking venue used by hundreds of commuters and recreational cyclists every day.

Bikes are blooming, all over the country, bursting forth like so many daffodils and tulips along our roads, paths, and trails. May is National Bike Month, after all, but there are other reasons we will likely see more cyclists among us this spring and throughout the year.

More Americans are biking, on a routine basis, since the two-wheeled contraptions first appeared in the early 1800s. They’re biking to work, to the store, to movies and restaurants, in cities and suburbs alike (although at still only a fraction of the number of people who travel via motorized vehicles). This is due in large part to the creation of bicycle-friendly infrastructure, such as public bike-sharing stations, bike lanes, bike trails, and bike racks, as well as the advent of electric-assist bikes and affordable models for riders of all income levels. But there’s also a growing sense among many people that biking isn’t just about staying healthy and saving money; it’s also helping the planet by reducing fossil-fuel emissions.

To celebrate National Bike Month (launched in 1956 by the Bicycle Institute of America), biking events are being held throughout the country, including many here in New England. On May 1, Explore New England’s outfitting partner, REI Co-op, kicked off its “Boston Pedals Together” campaign, designed to dovetail with National Bike Month, Bay State Bike Month, and Massachusetts cycling events that include the Bikes Not Bombs bike-donation drive on May 14 and Get Your Shift Together, a virtual bike-maintenance workshop hosted by REI on May 18.

In May and June, REI will also operate a series of mobile pop-up bike shops stationed at two group-ride cycling events in the Boston area and along popular bike routes. The shops are staffed by technicians who can perform free “quick-fix” on-site repairs or pre-ride checks. If you’re part of a group ride and would like the REI mobile shop to stop by the event, you can sign up here.

Biking along the Esplanade in downtown Boston.

Throughout Massachusetts, bike infrastructure is growing steadily, despite the challenges of redesigning roads and other infrastructure in urban areas like Boston. Recently, the League of American Bicyclists ranked Massachusetts first in the country in its 2022 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card. The League gives Massachusetts an “A” in the categories of Infrastructure & Funding, Education & Encouragement, and Policies & Programs.

Last June, I got a taste of urban cycling when ENE filmed an episode featuring one of Boston’s greatest assets: the Charles River Esplanade Park, part of the so-called Emerald Necklace of parks and other green spaces surrounding the city. The Esplanade is not just a slice of natural beauty in the city; its dedicated bike path provides a safe and convenient way for people to commute to work or simply get around Boston by bike. The park is also part of the much larger East Coast Greenway Trail—a series of interconnected bike trails that extend from Canada to Key West.

REI Co-op will have special bike shop pop-ups at cycling events in Massachusetts through May.

While filming on the Esplanade, I was able to test-ride REI’s then-new CTY 2.1 electric pedal-assist e-bike. E-bikes are becoming more popular in urban areas, in part because they make it easier to climb hills, increase a rider’s range and speed with less effort, and allow commuters to arrive at work without having to change their sweaty clothes. They also make it easier for a broader range of people of all ability levels to enjoy cycling.

As part of the month-long Boston Pedals Together campaign, REI Co-op will be giving away a brand-new Gen-E e-bike valued at $1,500. The e1.1 offer five modes of power, pedal assist up to 20 mph, and a range of up to 40 miles on a single charge.

So you see, there are a whole bunch of reasons to celebrate National Bike Month, no matter what your age or how much riding you do!

Explore New England