Suz Pathmanathan

World Bicycle Day: Best Mountain Bike Trails & Bike Trails

If you are an avid bike lover, World Bicycle Day is the perfect day to get out and find the best mountain bike trails in London, New York and Paris. And the benefits of getting out on the trails are vast. Not only does it allow you to enjoy the beautiful scenery and weather around you, cycling encourages:

  • A cognitive boost - Researchers at Illinois University found a 15% improvement in mental testing from a a 5% increase in fitness from cycling. What's more, it boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which activates and regenerates receptors. This explains how exercise helps ward off Alzheimer’s.
  • Stress and anxiety reduction - Exercising boosts serotonin. This neurotransmitter helps prevent depression and anxiety. While the vigorous demands of mountain biking stimulate natural endorphins - a feel-good chemical.
  • A better physique - We all know that defined leg muscles and tighter glutes are a benefit of cycling. But mountain biking also strengthens your abs and core through the effort it takes to stay upright. Climbing and manoeuvring also strengthens your arms. As biking is also a low impact sport it puts less stress on your joints than other popular aerobic exercises activities such as running.
  • Sleep - cycling decreases cortisol, the stress hormone. Doing it outdoors, instead of in a gym exposes you to daylight, which helps to maintain the body’s natural circadian cycle. Just make sure you avoid riding too late. As cycling promotes the release of endorphins, you may be over-stimulated if you ride in the evening.

But where should you go if you're looking for something a bit out of the ordinary? There are thousands of mountain bike trails and bike trails throughout the world. And if you live in a major city like London, New York, or Paris, head out of the city to experience the beauty of one of these top tier bike trails. Each of these trails provides something unique and exciting for all skill levels.

Trail blazers - bike trails

Sunrise Ride at Grand Army Plaza - US

Yes, you can take this ride at any time of the day, but it truly becomes something spectacular if you head out to take in the sunrise. It begins in Grand Army Plaza (Brooklyn) right at the northern tip of Prospect Park, passing Fort Tilden. Take this to Bedford Avenue and ride through some of the most beautiful, and often under-experienced neighbourhoods in Brooklyn. Along the way, you'll pass Brooklyn College and arrive at Sheepshead Bay. Time it right and you'll be able to see the morning boats departing the dock. Riding over Jamaican Bay in the morning is stunning and allows you to lean into the cooling breeze. This ride is longer at 27 miles, but it's not hilly, which makes for a comfortable ride. Plus, it isn't as busy as some of the other trails and parks throughout New York, which gifts you a sunrise to enjoy, virtually undisturbed.

Ocean Parkway - US

Ocean Parkway makes the list of top bike tours in New York City because it was the first actual bike path in the entire United States. Created in 1894, it is seven miles long and travels down Ocean Parkway, beginning (again) at Prospect Park and heading out to Coney Island Beach. This path is away from pedestrians and a shorter route. Plus, it ends at Coney Island, so make sure to stop off for a hot dog or a ride.

Tamsin Trail - US

Fancy an easy trail in London? The Tamsin Trail is perfect as it is 12km and an easier trail that has plenty of built-in stops. There are also a lot of ice cream shops, so if you want to go on a leisurely bike ride in the summer heat, this is the place to be. The Tamsin Trail is London's largest royal park, so you'll be riding through a stunning spectacle of nature, so enjoy the fawn (yes, you may spot a deer or two) and flora. If this path is too easy, hop off and take the National Cycle Route 4's hill climb. This will really work your legs, and is one of the most recognised bike paths in all of London.

Westminster Bridge to Box Hill - UK

This is a longer path of 42km. It's also more of a challenge, so only tackle this bike path if you've been riding road bikes for a while now. In fact, the "Zig Zag Road" portion of the path was part of the 2012 Olympic road cycling route. However, if you do take this longer trail it is well worth it for the views. The trail heads out of London along Richmond Park. You can take the hill, but with this path there's no need to. You'll hit plenty of hills during the path and it's best to not expend your energy at the beginning, as beyond Richmond Park you'll pass Hampton Court Palace and ride into Surrey. When you hit Box Hill you'll climb 120 meters over about the next 2 kilometres. Stop at the base of Box Hill and grab some refreshments at National Trust Cafe - a nice little spot to relax before you set off home.

Stalingrad to Bois de Vincennes - France

There are plenty of fantastic bicycle paths in and around Paris, so you'll have your pick. However, one of the best is Stalingrad to Bois de Vincennes. You'll start off at Canal Saint-Martin and head past Bastille as you take a left just after Opera Bastille. You'll take this until you hit Viaduc de Arts. You will need to carry your bike up the Promenade Plantee stairs, which gives you a fantastic view from the overpass. You'll then take your bike and finish at Bois de Vincennes. Thankfully, there will be plenty of chocolate shops along the way if you're feeling like rewarding yourself for this bike ride.

Rough riders - mountain bike trails

Lippman Park - US

A proud community asset to the Town of Wawarsing with a name that means "where the stream bends". Lippman Park is a well-maintained mountain bike trail for intermediate to advanced riders, with a singletrack of 14 miles and 301 ft elevation. This beautiful area features a park that plays host to both open and woodland areas, so be sure to stop off to relax once you're done. And look out for the brewery near the park's entrance.

Jura Mountains - France

The Jura Mountains, with its cool green pine forests, secret landscapes and immutable topography. It's the perfect place to get your adrenaline and your Zen, all in one go. The well-marked and maintained routes feature challenging and varied terrain to suit all levels. Find flatter terrain further south if you're a fledgling rider. Follow the trail out of the trees, to the Grande Traversée du Jura to enjoy stunning meadow-scapes, or if technical difficulty is your thing, the northern section skirts the Doubs gorge.

Epping Forest - UK

Just outside of London, Epping Forest is known for its varied and, let's be honest, muddy, mountain bike trails. The route is 95 per cent off-road and 90 per cent singletrack. The highest point is located at Pole Hill, at 91 metres. But be wary: navigation can be difficult due to the trail being largely unmapped. But you’ll never be far from a road or a landmark. The trail is never more than 4km wide and 19km long. Epping Forest is near several car parks located at the edge of the woods. Look out for the free weekend parking on the residential streets. These are just some of the few bike tours to consider for World Bicycle Day if you live in London, New York or Paris. Don't fancy leaving the city? No problem. Celebrate World Bicycle Day by taking a London bike tour! That and a number of other top London attractions are free with The London Pass.

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