This blog and photo are provided by the Cola Town Bike Collective.
First time visitors - and even longtime residents in the Columbia area may be surprised just how much we have going on in the area and how one of the best ways to experience Columbia, is by bicycle! One of the best parts of Soda City is the ease of getting around the various historic and business districts. Whether you want to explore our amazing urban trail system that navigates around the three rivers, tour the city’s entertainment and historic districts, visit the University of South Carolina, or experience some of Columbia’s wonderful dining, there is something for any visitor.
Before you Bike
Before we dive-in to where to visit, let's talk about the roads in Columbia. One of our great assets is the grid pattern of our streets. While there are certainly some busy roads that cut through Columbia, there are plenty of options - sometimes only a block over, that are fantastic for enjoying quieter rides. To help navigate the city, Columbia’s community non-profit bike shop, the Cola Town Bike Collective developed a web app, Sprocket, that helps unfamiliar visitors identify the best routes to safely ride a bicycle between the great attractions in Columbia. Sprocket also has info on where Blue Bike bike share bikes can be rented, bike rack locations for you to lock up your bike, and where you can find a network of bicycle repair stations.
Hit the Pavement
Now that you have some tools at your disposal, where to ride? The great news, if you are in the city center, you are surrounded by beautiful areas. Let's start smack dab in the center. The State House is a must for any first time visitor. While not a large area to ride, there is plenty of history to take in. The Main Street District, immediately north of the State House, has several opportunities to take advantage of the Blue Bikes, and offers a very safe and pleasant ride through shops, restaurants, and cafes. Main Street is a great experience any time of day, as it is one of the most well shaded and cool areas, even during our famously warm August weather. Just south of the State House is the home of the University of South Carolina. Once on the Historic Horseshoe, there are plenty of shaded trails to explore the university and take in the beautiful buildings and old oak trees. While we are talking about historic Columbia, the Robert Mills Historic District is a slow paced area just a few blocks from Main Street. You can see the beautiful antebellum homes of early Columbia. It's absolutely worth a stop to visit the Seibels House and Gardens. Only a few blocks from the Historic District, is the Bull Street District, which is another quiet area featuring a great park, Segra Park baseball stadium, as well as other shops. The Vista, adjacent to the Statehouse and Main Street is also very bikeable if you are looking for entertainment, restaurants, bars, and great art galleries. The best way to connect from Main Street and the Vista is using Lady Street. From there you can access any area in the Vista avoiding the busy Gervais Street.
Hit the Trails
If riding on surface streets isn't really for you, don't worry! Greater Columbia has the Three Rivers Greenway, which was acknowledged as Rails To Trails Conservancy's "Trail of the Month" for July, 2021. Columbia's oldest trail is Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park. The Canal trail is 4 miles long and is bordered on one side by the historic Columbia Canal (completed in 1801) and the Congaree and Broad rivers on the other. This is a very flat, straight trail. There are bathrooms and water fountains at both ends of the trail. Just across the river you will find the West Columbia and Cayce Riverwalks. These two trail systems connect, making about 4 miles of trails that are heavily wooded and border the western side of the Congaree. Just down the river from the Cayce Riverwalk is the Timmerman Trail. The Timmerman is a winding trail through woods, criss-crossing the Congaree Creek. The trail is well shaded, so it is perfect to ride any time of day. Columbia's newest trail is the Saluda River Greenway. This section of trail wraps around our award-winning Riverbanks Zoo and borders the Saluda River. The Saluda River Greenway has raised boardwalks adjacent to Millrace Rapids, and terminates at Boyd Island with a beautiful overlook point right at the convergence of the 3 rivers.
We love to ride bikes in Columbia, and we love it when new folks want to join! If you are looking for casual group rides, reach out to any of the bike shops in town- Cola Town Bike Collective, Outspokin' Bicycles, Dialed Bicycles, Summit Cycles, or Cycle Center, all of which host regular weekly rides.
Want something a little more adventurous? Harbison State Forest has 32 miles of fantastic trails for the MTB enthusiasts from beginners to experienced riders. For our road riders out there, every Tuesday and Thursday there is a 35 mile ride hosted by the Tri-City Cyclers rolling out of 808 Knox Abbot Rd. at 6pm. There are A, B, and C groups based on your skill level. During fall/winter months they do the "Urban Assault" ride, which is geared towards gravel and MTB riders. Lights are required.
Whatever type of cycling adventure you are after, Columbia has something for you. Always remember bike safety, and be aware of your surroundings. Above all, enjoy what the capital city has to offer.