Who would have thought that Reno, Nevada, once the home of legal prostitution and still the national address for drive-in wedding chapels and cavernous gambling casinos would offer the best road biking infrastructure in the USA? Hardly also would one expect fitness to be a high priority in what had been long known as Sin City? Who would have even begun to imagine that the efforts of cyclists would also be supported by the city’s Public Works department and even by a large preponderance of Reno residents themselves?
Meet Reno 2016! The Biggest Little City in the World, as the moniker on the world famous Reno Arch reads, has come a long way in the last decade. It has even begun to take some of its lead from the University of Nevada at Reno which even named its football stadium after the man who always welcomed our Mayors’ Ride visits with open arms, Bob Mackay, next to me at left here!
When you start exploring its roads, you will begin to realize why its most famous bicycle native son, Greg Lemond grew into the legend he has become by riding them. Long before Reno even began building the 226 miles of brightly striped bike lane miles that get repainted every year, he was using its asphalt roadways to train for his dominance as a world class racing cyclist. His being the the only American to win the prestigious Tour de France, speaks volumes about the biking turf that helped to put his prowess on the world stage. At almost one mile above sea level, 4500 feet, LeMond’s legendary lung strength, his is the highest VO2max of any American athlete ever recorded, had a lot to do with his training at the altitude Reno provides.
The Procrastinating Pedalers are doing a great job of showing LeMond’s riding turf off to the world. They have compiled this well rounded menu of rides, over 200 and growing, complete with cue sheets and altitude profiles that start from many different locations all throughout the Reno area.
If you want to give yourself the ultimate bicycle vacation, one that explores nearby Lake Tahoe, the rustic mountain town of Truckee and the wonder of the pine tree covered Sierras, you will do well to make Harrahs Resort & Casino your base of operations. This is a wise way to go because the gamblers on the first two floors make the room rates surprisingly affordable and the hotel sits in the middle of a wide smorgasbord of worthy bike rides.
If you want to get there without your car, the Amtrak station is right next door. The Amtrak station you will have left from can even sell you a huge bike box for $15 that you can easily fit your bike into. It then travels at an additional $10 charge as a part of your luggage. Come by Greyhound bus and add two blocks to your distance from the Harrahs front door.
And believe it or not, Reno International, is not in the middle of nowhere like most big city airports. It is only 3.7 miles from Harrahs!! And Bell Airport Shuttle will get you there for $6 in 15 minutes time!!
Based on my stay at Harrahs for two weeks last August, I got to experience the virility of this small city teeming with the genius of youth. Here, then, is how you can make it a worthy home away from home.
To get yourself set up, since there is a lot to see and do, you will want to have all the comforts of home at your doorstep. If that’s not enough, I am even going to show you the nearby Reno restaurant where you you can even barbecue your own dinners! So let’s begin by getting a feel for the Harrrahs Reno lay of the land.
At the hotel’s intersection of Virginia St and Commercial Row, the 1987 version of the world famous 1927 Reno Arch (the other one is two block away at this Wikipedia entry ). Festooned with 2076 LED light bulbs, during the summer months at the annual concert series they host, its many colors make festive all the events that take place on the hotel’s huge plaza and outdoor stage.
It is also across the street from this part of Harrahs, its 950 rooms takes up an entire city block, that the highest commercial climbing wall in the world stands. And you do not have to stay at Whitney Peak hotel to use their world class climbing gym. If you are an experienced climber they will even let you climb the Whitney Peak outdoor wall which stands at 164 feet.
If you are a baseball fan and want to watch some minor league baseball, the well groomed Reno Aces stadium is right behind the hotel. You will see it every day when you begin pretty much all of your journeys .
On your first day, you will want to familiarize yourself with all the the Reno Bike Project has to offer. At half a mile from the hotel (directions), since there is very little traffic in Reno’s inner core, your trip there should be an easy one. If your bike got the least bit roughed up in transit or your derailleurs or brakes need adjusting, for five dollars, you can rent a workstand and have full access to all the tools you will need. And if you didn’t bring a bike, you can buy one there for less than a hundred bucks. They even have rentals.
I suggest you get to know them. They have a greeter on staff committed to making you feel welcome. And if you want to accessorize your own bike or one you buy from them, they have a large stock of recycled bike parts that they have also taken the time to categorize and stock. It was at RBP that I scored the kickstand and rear saddlebag that I am still running on my Advanta!
On the same block, 50-100 steps away is the Thrift Depot. One of the best thrift stores I have ever experienced anywhere, it is made up of three floors of other peoples junk. Here you can bag anything you may have forgotten, or those comforts of home that were not worth lugging around. I, for example, got a toaster there for $2.50 that I gave away to the cleaning staff when I left.
From here you can back track to the hotel and then using these directions make your way 1.5 miles away to Carter Bros Ace Hardware. In Reno’s Midtown, it has an open ceiling, wood floors and its downstairs is a wonderland of fasteners, tidbits and every kind of whatchamacallit. If you need tools, or nuts and bolts of any kind there is a good chance their super helpful staff will help you find the things you need.
On your way there, on Lake St, once you soon go under the 1928 Reno Arch and then the cross the Truckee River, just after you do, the National Automobile Museum will appear on your left.
You can get on the Truckee River Bike Trail here that takes you all the way to Sparks and I-80 almost ten miles away. When I HiWheeled from San Francisco to Salt Lake City (per this link), I used this trail to get across Reno.
As for the car museum, it features some of the first cars to drive America’s roads. Several hundred vintage and antique vehicles are all on display in a single story building that looks small from the road but continues for many hundreds of feet along the river.
As you keep going, you will be running parallel to S. Virginia St, a road that stretches for miles almost all the way Washoe Lake, 24 miles away. Besides the hardware store on S Virginia St, which was not built wide enough to accommodate bike lanes, unlike most of Reno’s other travel ways , there are lots of other fun things to do in this part of town. If you follow the routes we suggest on our Reno attractions map by clicking on any of the places we suggest, you will be able to safely get to any of them.
In Midtown, there is the Laughing Planet Cafe, a popular health minded diner with a bicycle theme.
Not far away, maybe 150 feet, is the Great Full Garden Cafe, a popular also always packed eatery that features mostly organic vegetables from its own greenhouse.
As you head back towards Harrahs, College Cyclery is also here on S Virginia in this part of town.
A fun place to drink coffee as you watch the Reno world go by is the tiny Bibos Coffee Company at the corner of California and Plumas, a block from S. Virginia St. Here, most of the tables and chairs are on the patio, separated from the street by maybe four feet of sidewalk.
Also on this side of the Truckee River as you make your way back in the direction of the hotel, and three or four blocks from Bibos, is the Great Basin Community Food CoOp. A beautiful store, a huge two story home repurposed for healthy food, it is here that you can also satisfy your Kombucha or healthy chocolate fix as did I. The store is also chock full of beautiful organic produce and other health food,
Several doors away on the opposite side of the street, also in a mammoth two-story home, is the Pignic Pub & Patio.
Here is where you can use their barbecues to cook your own nightly meals. Here you can play chef on your choice of high quality commercial-grade grilling equipment, and do so with all the necessary cookware and utensils. The only charge is a $10 drink order .
If you want to come back to Pignic for your evening dinner, you can stock up at Great Basin where you can also pick up items for a picnic stop at Wingfield Park which is at the bottom of the one block hill below. Set in the middle of the Truckee River, rapids flow on either side of it. During the summer, all the bridges, car and pedestrian, that access the park are festooned with brightly colored flower arrangements. While in the park, the neatly manicured lawns and walkways all lead to a stage usually occupied by a wide variety of performing artists.
It is also here that the several blocks on either side of Wingfiled Park will begin to feel magic as the little shops along the River Walk call out to you. One of the these businesses that looks down on the Truckee River rapids is Sierra Adventures. Run by a former bike racer named James Bell, during the summer they run bike tours and rent bikes as well.
Called the RiverWalk District, its business development group calls this area Reno’s new downtown. Vibrant and alive, for three or four blocks here along the river or vey close to it are cafes and restaurants, art galleries, taverns, museums, even theaters all within a pleasant evening stroll from Harrahs. As you can see then, both sides of the Truckee are booming..
As you make a mental note to come back at night, our overview will next take you up the river away from Harrahs to Riverside Drive, Reno’s fledgling bike boulevard.
And just before you get ready to enjoy its richly tree shaded road and path, you can refresh yourself with on tap kombucha at the Hub Coffee Roasters, run by an ardent cyclist named Mark Trujillo. As the name implies, they also sell coffee and are a popular local destination.
If you’re still with me we’re going to head to the coffee shop Mark used to own on Mayberry and S McCarren another popular road bike vortex. Called Walden’s Cafe, it is right next door to the Buenos Grille,
To get to some of the best Mexican food I have ever eaten, by following these directions that you can also find on their icon at our Reno attractions page, you will flank the Truckee River paths most of the way. On the way to the eatery, your ride will be pleasantly interrupted by a beautiful neighborhood, then a city park before you reach the Colin Ranch Greenbelt.
Maybe half a mile in length, you will not want to miss this little slice of Reno!
A winter time river flow, during the summer, the moguls that the bike path cuts through are all lawn covered! And it is all this you enjoy as trees shade a lot of the way along which you pedal!.
The intersection of Mayberry and S McCarren, where the restaurant and coffee shop are located stands out as important bicycle cross roads. The brightly striped, wide bike lanes on deep black asphalt make this statement to all the motorists in the area. Cyclists know this as the gateway to Verdi.
For about 8 miles, the road cyclist wanting some training miles can let it all hang out without driveways or stop signs or stop lights all the way to the tiny 1500 person town of Verdi. Passing through sage brush covered hills as the Truckee River meanders in and out of view, there is only 300 feet of climbing work that needs to be done, In this tiny town, scattered about is the Verdi Grill & Pizzeria, Sasquatch Tavern & Grill, Bar-M-Bar , and the Outlaw Coffee Shop.
Instead of going on a road ride to Verdi on Mayberry, you can grocery shop instead at the beautiful Raleys Market. To do so, use S McCarren to cross over the Truckee River to a right on 4th. For a mile and a half of the always conspicuous Reno bike lanes, a turn on Stoker and then 7th will get you to your destination at the 2.7 mile mark. Here you will also find the Purple Bean Cafe, Pizza Hut, and the Bighorn Bar & Grill. HERE are the directions back to Harrahs from Raley’s. It’s any easy 2.1 mile ride.
If you want to see the University of Nevada, Reno since it is only 1.4 miles away from the hotel and set apart from any of the fun Reno places to go, you might want to make that a stand-alone trip.
The campus is huge and sprawls up the hill it lives against. Near the bottom, near where you will enter, you will find the shade tree lined Quad
while its bike friendly pathways will take you to its nationally famous sports complex at the top of the school grounds. There you will see the Wolfpack’s football and baseball stadiums, as well as the arena that hosts it basketball games. To give you an idea of how giant this learning institution is, HERE is a map of the campus.
Since they are farther away, other days rides can take you to the massive Whole Foods Reno complex 6.2 miles away using this route. You can even build a stop at Virginia Lake,
even Trader Joes or REI into such a ride. There will a few more cars and a lot less shade, but the Reno city traffic fathers have made such two wheel conveyance in these areas, with the exception of a couple small hiccups near Whole Foods, very pleasant indeed.
I’ve just shown you what I feel are the highlights of city poised to explode in bicycling popularity as more people learn about what I have just shown you here. I suggest you put Reno on your two wheel recreation map soon! You will be happy to know you did so before it becomes too pricey due to its popularity.
If you choose to see it the way I am suggesting here, by staging your week or weekend out of Harrrahs, not only will you be able to luxuriate in their well below market rate rooms, there are other ways they pamper their guests. Before a day on the road, you can take advantage of their first rate gym facilities and upon your return, you can swim in their huge outdoor pool and further invigorate yourself in the dry heat of their top class sauna. There’s even a good chance that Barry Rusin, one of their bell men pictured at the left below with Pat Cringle who also assisted me immeasurably, will help you get you and your bike up to your room. Barry has been commuting all year round to the hotel for 30 years. On a bike!!