The 35-mile ride south to San Marcos from Austin is a popular day trip for experienced riders - both for cyclists who are training and those just looking for a social cruise. The length is not above average for habitual riders, the terrain - while occasionally rough and a little treacherous in some spots - doesn’t take a lot of technical skill.
The best news for the route is that much of the vehicle traffic that would normally be on these farm-to-market roads on the way to this college town (or through it to San Antonio another 60 miles down the road) now uses Interstate 35 - giving riders on two wheels a little more room to move safety.
What Makes It Great
It’s a solid workout with a fun destination - San Marcos, home of Texas State University, famous retail outlet malls and river rafting - and not a ton of traffic if you go at the right time of day.
What once was a rural area between two major cities, Austin and San Antonio, the route through San Marcos is now almost entirely developed with suburbs, a water park, and shopping malls.
But although it rolls through a fairly highly developed area of the state, sticking with the FM roads just east of the freeway keeps it manageable.
Head out of Austin on South First and cross Onion Creek on Old San Antonio Road. That connects directly to Main Street through downtown Buda - where you can find gas stations with bathrooms and water refills - before heading back across the creek a few more times on FM 1626.
Take Jack C. Hays Trail south through the small town of Kyle and stick with it as it turns into Old Stagecoach Road to pass Five Mile Dam Park and cross the Blanco River.
That’s where it turns into Post Road, which you’ll take all the way in to San Marcos.
Who is Going to Love It
Experienced cyclists with the chops to take distance, stress and a few climbs will appreciate the challenges of this route. Some of the roadways between towns are curvy with small shoulders - keep your wits about you and don't delay, and keep the earbuds in your pocket.
But more leisurely riders who can cover 40 or more miles in a single day will be able to handle it, too - particularly if they take advantage of the breaks offered by the towns of Buda and Kyle, as well as breathers at the various parks they’ll pass along the way.
Perhaps the best thing about this route - and what makes it popular for a wide cross-section of riders - is the variety: Big city riding, small towns, hills, flats, lakes, rivers, parks. This route has it all.
As a bonus, San Marcos is also a great place for a SAG vehicle full of friends and family (who are non-cyclists) to meet up at the end of a day or riding. The area is a great jumping off point for even longer rides into the Texas Hill Country, to be sure, but it’s also an opportunity for excursions to bat caves, swimming in the San Marcos River, and some Texas-style nightlife in the area’s historic dance halls.