Charlotte rarely tops lists of the best bicycle cities in the US. Actually, according to Bicycle.com’s recent top 50 list, Charlotte isn’t even the best cycling city in North Carolina. Charlotte was absent from the list while Cary and Greensboro placed 27th and 40th respectively. While Charlotte may be playing catch up in areas like cycling infrastructure, the Queen City isn’t lacking for cycling enthusiasts. Among the core of longstanding stalwarts is the Charlotte Cannonballs Cycling Team. Since 1993, the Cannonballs have helped make the sport of cycling more accessible to people of different backgrounds and experience levels.
The Charlotte Cannonballs are involved in all aspects of the riding community. “Cycling has become a way of life for our members,” says John Gordon, Vice President of the Cannonballs. “We even plan our vacations around a specific ride.” The team hosts 3 weekly rides with a variety of paces. All are no drop rides (the group stops and waits at intervals) because, as Gordon explains, “we want to promote riders of all levels with an emphasis on safety”.
On August 2nd the team organized the 18th annual Ride for Pride event in Charlotte. The fun ride offers an opportunity for riders of all abilities, from beginners and families to seasoned competitors, to ride together. The event raises funds in support of Trip For Kids Charlotte, who help young people in challenging situations enjoy the sport of cycling. Throughout the year the Cannonballs provide bicycle safety rodeos for children throughout the community.
Each year, the Cannonballs also host a family picnic to kick off the riding season. They encourage people new to the sport or the area to join and enjoy the cycling lifestyle. Since knowing where to ride is key to getting started, here is a list of popular routes in Charlotte with some valuable input from John Gordon.
For Fitness and training
- For a bit of a challenge with less traffic than some other routes, Gordon suggests this 25 miler in Harrisburg, north east of Charlotte. This is the typical Tuesday Night Ride for the Cannonballs.
- Another 25-mile loop just north of Charlotte takes you through Huntersville and near the shores of lakes Norman and Mountain Island. This is the Cannonballs typical Thursday Night Ride.
- For a short loop training option, try the Huntersville Business Park. The well-lit 3 mile loop sees cyclists all year but is most popular during winter when dark after work hours make city riding less safe.
For the Family
- Gordon suggests greenways as the perfect place for the family to ride safely. His suggestion is the Little Sugar Creek Greenway near Kings Blvd. It’s close to uptown and plenty wide to allow the whole family to have space.
Two other bicycle friendly greenways
- In the University area, Mallard Creek and Clarks Creek Greenways connect for a total of 7 miles of riding. Most of the greenway is paved with one section of crushed gravel.
- Expect about 4 miles of bike path at McAlpine Greenway. The wide path takes you through McAlpine Park. Have a jog on the cross-country trail for a bit of cross training.
For the Fun of it
- The Plaza Midwood Tuesday Night Ride is the largest organized weekly ride in and around uptown Charlotte. Each week the group travels 10 to 15 miles starting at Common Market in Plaza-Midwood with stops at various locations from bicycle friendly shops and breweries to civic points of interest. All levels of riders are welcome and the group meets at 7:30, ride begins at 8 pm.