The ride to the town of Elgin, about 20 miles east of Austin, is composed mostly of smaller rural roads and two-lane streets with some occasionally fast-moving traffic - but in some pretty idyllic surroundings.
There are several routes to Elgin, and most of them share this description: They start with some urban cycling in Austin heading east, meet with some hills pretty quickly before making a mildly hairy crossing under Texas 130 - or riding alongside it on its fairly comfortable access rode for about half a mile - and then hitting some great-looking farmlands and rural homes once you head east out of the city.
What Makes It Great
The best parts of cycling between Austin and Elgin are the long, rolling distances with no streetlights, the pastoral surroundings and the quiet, backroads feel of most routes.
This is unless you take U.S. 290 all the way in, which is inadvisable, since the shoulder can get iffy, the speed limits get high, the trucks love that road, and there are so many quieter, safer routes.
One popular route is more of a loop, about 44 miles long, that exits downtown Austin and heads up into Elgin from the south - then heads out of Elgin on a more northerly route without hitting 290 until just a few minutes when you get back into Austin.
The route takes Springdale from East Austin up to Loyola and out to Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park on Decker Lane. Either loop around the park will work - turning left and going north, or going straight ahead to pass by the park’s southern edge.
On the other side is Texas 130, an 80-mph expressway that is best avoided but has a fairly comfortable access road for the half-mile you’ll need to use it if you circle the park to the north.
Once across 130, you’ll head out east into some gorgeous blackland prairie - long, rolling, grassy views, tree-lined curves past homes with large front yards and picket fences, and fast, rural roads with small shoulders (or none at all.)
On Taylor Lane, for several miles, you’ll head north and encounter some fun downhills and at least one 3-percent climb before crossing Gilleland Creek and heading toward Elgin on Hogeye Road. That leads you past several small lakes and across Wilbarger Creek on Upper Elgin River Road and cruising into downtown Elgin on Central Avenue.
The route back is a bit of a straighter shot, heading out on Littig Road and Old Highway 20, crossing Texas 130 on Blue Bluff Road, circling around Walter E. Long on the park’s north side and cruising back into Austin on Loyola and Springdale.
Who is Going to Love It
Experienced riders and those training for longer Hill Country rides will enjoy the peaceful, traffic-free, tree-lined route with almost no interruptions after crossing the expressway.
Riders who can get out at dawn on the weekends will find the route to be friendliest at those times. Best to avoid nightfall, as there isn’t much in the way of street lights.
Also, heading out of Austin on Springdale is a fairly urban setting, with some high-traffic roads that, like much of the terrain on the city’s east side, features the occasional burner of a hill.
Combined with not much shoulder to ride on, the first leg of the ride heading out of Austin can be challenging, but doable for the powerful and experienced rider.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Free parking is available at the Arboretum on 183 and Capitol of Texas Highway on the north end of the loop, and along various points - including near the Greenbelt and Pennybacker Bridge - to the south.