How's Cycling in Philadelphia?

My girlfriend is a veterinary resident prospect and Penn is one of her top options. So selfishly, I’m curious about the cycling culture in Philly.

I’m predominately a mountain bike racer, but I do want to start road and crit racing, and of course I spend a lot of training time on the road bike.

Penn is in West Philly and we would most likely live pretty close to there.

  1. What’s the race scene like? Road and MTB
  2. Are there trails close?
  3. Are there some decent safe roads?
  4. What about some good group rides?
  5. Depending on how this road racing season goes, I want to join a team. Are there some good team options, open to CAT 4s? (hopefully after this up coming season)

Any info and advice is greatly appreciated!

Philly is great for riding and it is really big here. I know there is definitely a dirt scene here but I can only comment on the road experience. There are a bunch of great group rides everyday of the week once daylight comes back in our favor. Here is a link to the most popular ones: https://www.qcwcycling.org/qcw/area-rides/

They all start in the city and are easy to get to from Penn.

The roads are safe and the city has a lot of bike lines. Roads outside the city are safe too and that’s where you would find the hilly stuff and the better riding. For dirt stuff, I know Wissahickon has great MTB trails but I am sure there are others. The Schuylkill River Trail is a paved trail that starts in the city and follows the river to beyond Reading (https://schuylkillriver.org/schuylkill-river-trail/about-the-trail/). It’s pretty wide and smooth so it’s a frequent route for a lot of riders for training and getting to Valley Forge Park.

There are crits and races within an hour and half drive on both days of the weekend during the season. It’s also not a rare occurrence that there is a race within riding distance. Philly has a bunch of teams and all have cats 1-5. Here are a few:

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  1. The race scene is great. The MASS mtb series has 8+ XC races within an hour or 1.5 hours tops, plus plenty of endurance racing as well as a growing but already not insubstantial number of enduro races. The road racing scene is also robust. Like MTB and cyclocross, you’ll have no shortage of crits close by.
  2. You’ll be within riding distance from two fantastic trail systems–the Wissahickon and Belmont. From West Philly, you’ll be very close to Belmont. Both trail systems have their own pluses. The Wissahickon has more elevation change and some rocks, although it is more crowded. Belmont (which I absolutely love), is lots of tight, turny trails with lots of logs. You can often ride there and never see anyone else on the trail. There’s an informal race every Thursday evening from late Spring to Fall that attracts all levels of talent. There’s also a lot of great options outside of the city if you’re willing to get in a car.
  3. It takes a little bit of knowledge, but there are fantastic roads for riding. There’s also a multi-use path that allows for a 50+mile ride without traffic, which is a good way to get comfortable riding in the area as you explore more roads.
  4. Lots of group rides: Tuesday morning sprints, a fast-paced road ride on Tuesday as well, a Wednesday morning hill ride, a Thursday evening hill ride, a Friday morning ride, as well as others on the weekend.
  5. There’s plenty of teams that would be happy to have a CAT 4, and there also plenty of mtb and cyclocross teams and in some cases teams that do all three. Also, if it’s of interest, there’s track racing up in Trexlertown.
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Thanks for the detail and the links. Seems like Philly would be a great option. The river trail sounds fantastic.

Wow that’s awesome! I’m definitely interested in that. They run those at Belmont?

Thanks for all the info! Very helpful.

Watch out for the old trolley tracks in Chestnut Hill / Germantown. I rode across them at a shallow angle and got my front wheel stuck in it. Went over, sideways, bonked my helmet, scraped up my hip and shoulder pretty good (still have the scar), and got a huge adrenaline rush that left me shaky and nauseous.

The trails are nice, but stay off the streets :frowning:

Almost a decade ago I did the (first in the US?) Colnago Gran Fondo leaving from in front of the Rocky statue at the museum and then out eventually through Valley Forge and much more I don’t remember. It was a lot of fun. A Ferrari/Ducati leadout from down town is definitely the way to go.

I remember it being one of those very hot days where I had salt all over my jersey and the rest stops started running out of water so they started topping off bottles with a garden hose, and man did that water taste awful, and not cold. But outside of that Philly was a lot of fun, I’ll have to go back.

And for me, I can’t think of many places in the US I’d rather be/ride on the weekend than out in central PA say headed down toward Gettysburg, that’s just beautiful country.

HA! Good advice. Don’t want to end up on my head in the middle of the street.

That’s what I want to hear!

If they are still running that Grand Fondo I’ll have to sign up just for that leadout.

Thanks!

@137james This is a pretty old thread but I’m moving to Philly in a month and I’m wondering how the move turned out and if most of these suggestions still hold true post-covid

Also moving to a NE Philly suburb from Colorado next week. Have been able to get some miles in prior to the official move, but still haven’t found any solid routes with decent bike lanes or at least wider roads (other than MUPs). I rode NE side of Philly, a bit better for biking, but definitely felt the roads were still a bit sketchy. Maybe Denver has spoiled me, but I’m open to hear good routes.

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Just an observation from me that locals are often very poor judges of the cycling quality of their own city. You can hear some say that their city is great because their minds reflect on that one really good bike path, and others from a cycling paradise like Utrecht say that their city seems alright and people seem to get by. And some will say their city is dreadful whatever the case.

Nice, I’ll be living in center city so probably less ideal than a suburb.

Not sure what CO is like, but IME with riding in the mid-atlantic it’ll be nearly impossible to find a route that has a majority of bike lanes and wide shoulders. Outside of town centers you’ll most likely just be on a road with little to no shoulder.

Have fun with rail road tracks. Also you just missed PNBR

There is a new hub on strava “Cafe Mussette”. There are rides of different levels (but I would say nothing less than a B ride) up to A, drop style, race rides. People post rides they are doing on there but those have little traction - the mods post rides. In the winter there is a Sunday afternoon A ride in the hilly suburb called “Gladwyne”, a morning social Tuesday morning ride, and some night rides of varying levels in the summer.

There are also multiple fast rides in the suburbs as well on the weekdays in summer. In Bucks county (outside of NE) there is the “Instigators”, there is a fast ride in Flourtown, and others west of the city as well.

Every Saturday morning (going back 30-40 years) there is an A ride (that has a B+ “tail” behind it) called Vino Velo that is a drop ride that leaves from the city and does the same loop every saturday morning all year long.

QCW/Tempo rides still exist on the weekends, there is the Wissahickon for MTB (single track that is technical and not flowy. Flowy XC style stuff is not plentiful around Philly without a decent drive), and there is also Belmont in west fairmont park (technical as well but some flowy stuff you can do on a gravel bike).

If you want more info, routes, or anything else, DM me, @mwglow15 and @Kscottblackwood

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Huh, only just learning about Cafe Mussette. Cool, thanks for that. @mwglow15 feel free to DM me as well, I live out in the burbs a bit but meet up to rides with friends who live in the city frequently.

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Do you mind giving more of an explanation for cafe mussette? I’ve never heard of it and I’m confused! Thx

Im in Philly too. Aside from the excellent advice that jreinfeld gave you I think it’s worth mentioning that while a bit farther from NE Philly there is really good riding to be had in the Willistown area west of the city. Kind of in between Bryn Mawr and out west to Westchester. Also love some of the roads in the Kimberton area a little farther north. There’s a bike path from center city out to valley forge and it’s a decent (stress free) way to get out to some less trafficked roads and make your way to more rural settings.
Gladwyne was mentioned and is one of the places I like to go “hide” from traffic and ride some hills on shorter rides. Its accessible from the city and hilly and peaceful!
I live near the Wissahickon and I just love the riding there for MTB!

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Willistown is A+ best riding in the Western suburbs in my opinion. Once your past Darby Paoli Road it’s amazing before you hit Westchester.

Phoenixville is my personal favorite area to ride. Some awesome hilly gravel routes and just amazing rural roads.’

DM me for routes once you’re out here

Reviving a little bit of an old topic because I never got to respond. I lived in Philly for four years (moved from Boston and since moved back to Boston for work). Riding in Philly is great. If you go out MLK, you can be on decent suburban road in 20-25 minutes, and riding up MLK isn’t awful (the best was during Covid when the road was closed to cars 24/7/365). Lots of good hills in Lower Merion, and you can pop over the river to the Manayunk Wall very easily. Additionally, driving out the western, northern, or eastern suburbs (in Jersey) has the opportunity for very nice scenic rides (note that riding east to Jersey will be pancake flat). I used to make routes that started/ended at ice cream stands and reward myself for big days.

In terms of MTB, Belmont and the Wiss offer good variety and fun lines. The trail stewards are doing a good job of maintaining and creating new trails. There are also trails along the river to whet your appetite while getting to Belmont/Wiss.

Here’s my collection of routes in the Philly area. Most start from my old apartment, but almost all of those go out MLK: Ride with GPS | Bike Route Planner and Cycling Navigation App

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