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:

  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!