Whether you want to stay close to home or venture abroad, taking a bike for a spin is an ideal way to get the lay of the land in a new destination. And May is National Bike Month, so there's no better time to relax on two wheels. The cities highlighted here include impressive bike-path networks, bike-sharing systems, or city centers that are easy to navigate on two wheels. Read on to find out where it's best to skip the tour bus and pedal instead.
Burlington offers a lot for bike riders: covered bridges, charming New England architecture, and views of Lake Champlain. The Burlington Bike Path is an eight-mile route through the city that connects to the Lake Champlain Bikeways, offering 1,600 miles of routes through Vermont, New York, and Quebec.
This is the quintessential bike paradise -- nearly a third of traffic movement in the city is by bike, according to the city. You can even bike right through the city's famous Rijksmuseum on a cyclist-friendly underpass. To combine biking and sight-seeing, iAmsterdam recommends dozens of tours that focus on all parts of the city and its environs.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Montreal boasts more than 450 miles of bike paths. Visitors can pedal on the De Maisonneuve Boulevard bike path for a taste of downtown's skyscrapers, shops, and museums, or opt for the Lachine Canal bike path for a canal-side ride. Montreal's bike-share network, BIXI, offers 6,200 bikes at 540 stations, and tourists get access for just $5 a day for short rides.
There are 300 miles of bike paths in Boulder, and 300 days of sunshine a year, which means chances are good the weather will be ideal for riding on routes such as the scenic Boulder Creek bike path. There are also more than 40 B-cycle bike-sharing kiosks where tourists or locals can grab a bike. Passes start at $8 for 24-hour access.
Heading down under? Perth has been called one of the world's top biking cities. Whether you want mountain biking, a coastal ride, or an urban sightseeing trek, Perth has it all. Organized tours are available, but to go it alone, start with the short Swan River Windan Bridge Loop for river and skyline views.
The Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway is reason enough to hop on a bike in Minnesota's capital: It offers 50 miles of bikeways, including routes that circle several of the city's famous lakes. Don't miss the portion that skirts the Mississippi River downtown, where sites include the Mill City Museum and Stone Arch Bridge.
Kyoto's flat terrain and well-maintained roads make it one of the best cities in Asia to explore by bike, according to Inside Kyoto. Many of the city's famous temples are easy to glimpse via bike, and Cycle Kyoto maintains a long list of routes that let sightseers take in the sites, including some of the city's oldest streets, Nijo Castle, and Kiyomizu Temple.
The Capital Bikeshare is the nation's largest, according to Lonely Planet, with more than 350 stations. For just $8, take as many 30-minute trips as you want for a day, easily hopping between museums and monuments on the National Mall. For a scenic 22-mile loop, follow the Capital Crescent Trail from Georgetown to Bethesda, then ride back into Washington through leafy Rock Creek Park.
There are no time limits with Copenhagen's bike-sharing program, Bycyklen Kobenhavn, and the bikes even have electric motors to provide an assist for tired tourists. Reservations can be made in advance, too. Hop on the city's eight-mile Harbour Circle bike path for a taste of all the city has to offer, including historical architecture, houseboats, and more.
Few cities are more bike-friendly than Portland, where The Oregonian offers a detailed list of recommended rides in each part of the city. To admire Portland's skyline and public art, bike the city's Eastbank Esplanade. Extend the ride to Waterfront Park, which hosts several city festivals and the Salmon Street Springs fountain.
Bogota is the undisputed king of South America when it comes to bike-friendliness: The city has more than 217 miles of paths, according to the BBC, and several main roads become car-free every Sunday, a tradition called "Ciclovia." Road closings allow bike riders to safely enjoy the sights in Bogota's La Candelaria district, home to some of the city's oldest architecture.
Named one of North America's 10 best bike cities by Outside magazine, Chicago boasts more than 200 miles of bike lanes. Visitors can't miss the 18-mile Lakefront Trail, which allows sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. It also connects with some of Chicago's biggest attractions, including Grant Park and the Navy Pier.
Berlin's Call a Bike program makes grabbing a bike as easy as dialing a phone. Prices start around 6 cents a minute, and there are bikes on most major streets. For a tour of one of the city's most recognizable landmarks, Visit Berlin suggests a route along remaining sections of the Berlin Wall that includes Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall Memorial.
You can't beat the weather in San Diego, and the biking is pretty great, too. For an introduction to the city, check out the Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile route that includes Downtown, historic Coronado, and Silver Strand State Beach. The seven-mile San Diego bike loop includes Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter, and Balboa Park, home to the renowned San Diego Zoo.
Paris' impressive Velib bike-sharing program includes more than 23,600 bikes and 1,800 bike stations. One-day tickets are only a couple of bucks, but trips are limited to 30 minutes if you don't want further charges. For a quintessential Paris experience, SmarterParis.com recommends biking along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame Cathedral on Sunday, when riverside roads are closed to cars.
One of the best routes for visitors to Austin is the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, a 10-mile path along Lady Bird Lake with great views of the downtown skyline. The city also has a bike-share program called B-cycle -- $12 gets 24 hours of rides up to an hour long with no extra charge. And don't forget the surrounding Texas Hill Country, which is teeming with scenic rides.
It's easy to see some of Glasgow's best attractions via bike. Sights to see including the Gallery of Modern Art, Glenlee Tall Ship, and Victorian-era City Chambers are all a stone's throw from bike-sharing stations, and there are at least 186 miles of bike paths throughout this mostly flat city. One popular route is Kelvin Walkway, which passes the city's Botanic Gardens.
NEW YORK CITY
Famously chaotic New York City has plenty to offer visitors on two wheels, including the popular Hudson River Park Bikeway, which stretches 11 miles and includes some top-notch skyline views and sites including Battery Park, the George Washington Bridge, and Chelsea Piers. It's also hard to beat the six-mile loop through Central Park, which is car-free on weekends.
Many streets in Seville's labyrinth of a city center are too narrow for cars, but perfect for exploration by bike, according to CNN Travel. Bike tours of the city abound, and Seville also has a bike-sharing program called Sevici. The weather is great for biking, too -- this historic city is reputed to average 300 days of sun per year.