Our Must Do Rides series features some of the best routes around the world. This ride comes from New York City-based photographer and cyclist Donalrey Nieva.
The City's Best-Kept Secret
New York City may not have a reputation as a cycling destination, but the city’s best-kept secret is what you can discover just across the George Washington Bridge. While dreaded by motorists, the renowned bridge is a cyclist’s “gateway” to quieter roads, rolling hills, and scenic views—a sharp contrast to the traffic-jammed and pedestrian-filled city streets.
This route covers a little over 65 miles, mostly on roads, with a sprinkling of dirt. You can shorten the route and cut out all of the dirt sections if you'd like, but then you'd be missing out on some of the fun! There's about 3,900 feet of elevation gain and it'll be a full day of riding. Fortunately, there are lots of stops for snacks.
One of the most popular cycling destinations for New Yorkers is the small riverside town of Nyack, NY, located roughly 33 miles north of Manhattan. There are multiple ways to reach the town, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Either hammer it out on the 9 West highway (often called 9W) for a straightforward, five-hour workout, or take your time to explore the hidden gems along the way. This route is all about the exploration and includes dirt trails, extra climbs, and a sweeping view of the Hudson Valley. In total, it's 66 miles with 3,825 feet of elevation gain and could take you up to 6 hours. But, because the route is an out-and-back, you can always adjust to your preference.
The route starts at the Rapha Clubhouse in SoHo— a place to get your pre-ride caffeine fix with easy access to the Hudson River Greenway Path, which takes you directly to the bridge. Once you cross the bridge (welcome to New Jersey!), take a sharp left and turn onto Henry Hudson Drive, better known as “River Road” to the locals. There’s even a hashtag: #bikeriverroad! River Road is a rolling nine-mile stretch of tree-covered tarmac that ends with the famed “Alpine” climb, a good opportunity to get spirited with your pals if you wish.
From there, you exit onto 9W, where you’ll cross the New Jersey state line back into New York, before taking the first fun detour of the route: a short gravel segment that takes you to the town of Piermont, NY. Piermont can be your turnaround point if you wish, or you can take the steepest pitch out of town on Ash Road for some bonus climbing in the Nyack College Hills. If you’re following the route, you’ll be about 33 miles in now – just about time for a snack break. So descend into town for coffee and donuts at Boxer Donuts, or—if you’re looking for something more substantial—take the elevated rail trail all the way back to 9W for a stop at “The Market" which comes about 40 miles into the route.
“The Market” has everything you could want, from an exemplary egg sandwich to a seasonal barbecue stand called “The Filling Station” that serves burgers and fries. You’ll probably have some extra energy if you’ve stopped here for a bite, so veer off of 9W once again to tackle “The Observatory Climb,” a short, steep, winding climb named for the Columbia University Earth Sciences’ Research Center that you pass through along the way. This detour will take you back to 9W, but if you’re still game for adventure (and some views), don’t miss the “Old 9W” climb, an out-and-back that will take you to a stunning overlook point with sweeping views of the Hudson Valley. (Beware, it’s called “old” for a reason: The road is choppy and broken up at parts, with overgrown weeds poking through, but it’s not open to cars so you can easily find a good line.)
Once you’ve gotten that Instagram ride #content, it’s a straight shot back on 9W to the bridge, and back to the buzzing energy of New York City. But now, you can approach that energy with a newfound serenity— after all, you just experienced a secret getaway over the bridge, gravel detours and stunning views included.