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Bikertology: Which City is No. 1 for Cycling?

Like basketball? You’ve got to love March Madness. Like bikes? Then you should have fun with REI’s inaugural Cycling Town Showdown.

CTS is a bracket for bikers, an 8-city tournament that seeks to determine, in a wholly unscientifically way, which town in the group is most appealing for cycling.

The public determines the winners, and you and your friends are invited to vote at REI’s Facebook page. The tournament's opening first-round match tips off today. Got an opinion? Now is the time to make it known.


Here’s a look at this week’s daily first-round throwdowns:

Seattle vs. San Francisco (Today): According to Bicycling magazine’s 2012 list of America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities, San Francisco ranks No. 8, Seattle No. 10.

San Francisco, which has ambitions of having 20% of urban commuters riding two wheels by 2020, offers an annual Bicycle Music Festival. Seattle, home to the 14,000-member Cascade Bicycle Club, annually hosts the 200-mile Seattle to Portland (STP) Classic, which is already sold out for 2013 with 10,000 riders.

The 2 cities are already National Football League rivals, each led by 2 impressive young quarterbacks know for both their strong arms and their mobility: the 49ers’ bicep-flexing Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s cool, calm Russell Wilson. I wonder who’s faster on a bike?

Portland vs. Austin (Tuesday): Portland, with 180 miles of bike lanes and ambitions of making 25% of commutes into bike rides by 2030, is Bicycling’s No. 1 bike town for 2012. Austin ranks No. 13.

What will turn the tide in this clash of mid-major population centers that each cultivate a distinctive cultural vibes? Will it be Portlandia quirkiness or the reverb from Austin’s recently concluded SXSW music festival that attracted about 2,500 acts, from Justin Timberlake, Depeche Mode and Prince to indie acts such as Haim, Sohn and No Ceremony///?

Maybe it will come down to the local microbrews. In that case, watch out for (512) Brewing Company’s India Pale Ale from Austin or any entry from one Portland’s 31 microbreweries, claimed by the Oregon Brewers Guild to be the highest number in any U.S. city. Many of those brews, by the way, will be on display Friday and Saturday at Portland’s 19th Annual Spring Beer and Wine Fest (Oregon Convention Center).

Denver vs. Washington, D.C. (Wednesday): The nation’s capital ranks No. 4 in the 2012 Bicycling poll; Denver, one of 4 Colorado towns in the top 35, stands at No. 14.

Washington gets credit from the magazine for having created the nation’s first automated bike-share system and for building a bike lane between the White House and Capitol Hill. Denver also boasts an extensive bike-sharing program joins 3 other front-range cities on Bicycling’s list of prime cycling cities: Boulder (No. 3), Fort Collins (No. 11) and Colorado Springs (No. 31).

Pro football fans might note that this matchup comes 25 years after the Washington Redskins thumped the Denver Broncos 42-10 in Super Bowl XXII. Does D.C. pack a similar punch on 2 wheels?

Minneapolis vs. New York (Thursday): Minneapolis, a past No. 1 in Bicycling’s annual poll, earned the No. 2 spot in 2012. New York City placed No. 7.

Minneapolis, with 92 miles of on-street bike lanes and 85 more off-street, enjoys a sterling reputation as a bike-friendly city which, despite some tough winter weather, boasts a sizable community of year-round riders. Quite a few staffers at REI Bloomington are among them, including Jim Barbeau who in this 2011 REI Blog post described snow is not such a big deal to committed cyclists.

Minneapolis is also home to a hugely popular Nice Ride “green bikes” rental program, where cyclists grab a neon green loaner at one commuter hub and drop it off at another. New York City will introduce its far-ranging bike share program, Citi Bike, in May. It will involve 10,000 bikes at 600 stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

This should be some showdown.

Posted on at 3:38 PM

Tagged: Cycling

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