This 32- to 38-mile ride, depending on which route you take, is a beautiful and solid workout taking cyclists east of Austin to the town of Bastrop and through the oaklands and savannas of the state’s blackland prairies.
Adventure Cycling’s Southern Tier route, guiding riders on transcontinental rides in the U.S., includes one of the longer versions of this ride on its official map set.
The trade-off for taking the shorter route is that it utilizes about 30 miles of a road known as FM 969, which can be a bit treacherous and uncomfortable with no shoulder and plenty of traffic rushing past. It’s the most direct, however, and because it’s also the most challenging, we’ll focus on that one here.
What Makes It Great
The variety and directness make this a popular route for those looking to get some miles in and take on a few hills.
The route literally takes you from the bustle of downtown Austin to the scenic and much-photographed Bastrop State Park, a charming destination for a nice day.
Exiting Austin on Martin Luther Kind Boulevard, the road starts with some challenging climbs with plenty of shoulder as you leave the city.
Once out of the limits, MLK turns into FM 969, which you follow for the next 30 miles through some gorgeous farmlands until the road reaches Texas 71 in the blackland prairies on the outskirts of Bastrop.
A few more miles will get you into Bastrop State Park and the Lost Pines area, a favorite destination for cyclists and the site of Pedal Through the Pines, a springtime supported ride with routes ranging from 24 to 70 miles long.
An alternate route heads out of South Austin on Burleson and Pearce roads before joining up with FM 535 in Cedar Creek and taking it out to Texas 71. The road is a little friendlier than FM 939, if not quite as direct, with small shoulders, long and flat views of farmland, and lots of quiet beauty.
Who is Going to Love It
People with plenty of time to enjoy a peaceful, rural road featuring farmlands and piney woods will get a great kick out of this ride.
More experienced riders will be able to handle FM 969 better than those with fewer miles in the saddle, given the traffic and lack of shoulder in many parts, but the alternative route through Cedar Creek can alleviate some of that issue if you have time to kill.
Some riders call the 969 route a “pedal to the metal” type of ride, but for any level of rider, the destination is a real treat - no matter how you get there.