With its lack of bike lanes and frenetic drivers, some might consider Rome the least bike-friendly city in the world. As a cyclist myself, I’ve certainly had my fair share of close encounters of the two-wheeled kind. And without the proper shocks and tires, riding on the cobblestone streets can be challenging. But with Rome’s sparse and all-too-often unreliable public transportation, the freedom that a bicycle offers you in this city simply cannot be beat.
Not to mention the views! A sunset pedal through the Villa Borghese to the Pincian Overlook offers you a breathtaking view of Piazza del Popolo in a stunning pink light. Or for those fit enough for a longer excursion, ride your mountain bike or bring it on the train (don’t forget to buy a ticket for your bike as well!) to Castel Gandolfo at the top of Lago Albano and follow the Old Appian Way all the way back into the city center, with no bothersome cars to clog your air. Nearly all regional trains have a designated car, either the first or the last carriage, where passengers can use bungee cords and locks to secure their bicycles in place and out of the way for the train ride. If you’re hoping to take your ride on a Freccia fast train, you’ll need a folding bicycle like a Brompton or Graziella or you can dismount your front wheel and pack your bike in a bag made for bicycle transport. To learn more about bringing your bicycle on the train, visit TrenItalia’s website.
If safety is first and bike lanes are a must, enjoy a ride along the banks of the Tiber River or out to the beaches of Ostia (a bike lane that starts in Rome’s EUR district will bring you almost the entire way). While bike lanes in the city are few and far between, that doesn’t mean that you can’t avoid car traffic by cutting through Rome’s multitude of parks and papal estates. For a complete map of bike lanes and safe routes for cyclists, check out Piste Ciclabili online (the actual bike paths are shown in green, while bike-friendly routes are drawn in magenta).
Whatever your preference, one thing you’ll need is the right gear. For a bike ride through the Parco degli Acquedotti, Gazebike is a wonderful, family-run rental shop located just inside the entrance to the Tor Fiscale Park on Vicolo dell’Acquedotto Felice. Gazebike also offers a variety of tours for all tastes within the city limits, but should your adventurous spirit propel you outside the confines of the Eternal City, contact Andrea at Roma Bike Tour. He’ll hook you up with a private or semi-private tour by Brompton, that neat little folding bike that’s oh so easy to bring on the train, that could take you and your party to the imperial ruins in Tivoli or the thermal baths in Civitavecchia. All of Andrea’s tours are customizable and begin at the convenient location of Metro Line A’s “Manzoni” stop, so whether you’re on vacation or a local looking for a fun escape from the summer heat, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Rome on the last Friday of the month, local bike enthusiasts congregate at Piazza Vittorio at dusk to set off on a road-clogging excursion known as Critical Mass. It’s an opportunity to turn the tables on car-congested Rome and show the city what it would be like if cyclists reigned supreme. While you might tick-off a few taxi drivers, it’s a great opportunity to make new friends and see the city from a protected wall of several hundred cyclists.
Last month, cyclists celebrated the Ciemmona, or “Giant Critical Mass”, which happens each May in Rome. Three days of biking, t-shirt making, and parties ensued, at locations like CSOA Ex-Snia and Ciclofficina Ciclonauti (a “bike kitchen” located in Monti where mechanics will teach you how to repair your bicycle for free), and concluded with a morning ride to the beach at Ostia. Guerilla mechanics like Giorgio Santilli, the “Frankenstein of bike mechanics”, and Lorenzo Ticci showed off their latest creations. Santilli’s bicycle was half machine, half monster – a child’s mountain bike with a larger back wheel and a small front wheel, a collapsible stem taken off a foldable scooter, and the head and handlebars of a stationary workout bicycle from the 1980s – while Ticci’s was a “fun bike” – a homemade tricycle with a low, free-hanging seat used to steer his recumbent-style ride. Dozens of cyclists on “tall bikes” – two-decker bicycles built by welding one frame on top of another – passed Peronis between themselves and to those of us on street-level below.
For the more stylish urban cyclist, in June there is Tweed Ride, an annual gathering of Rome’s most debonair riders, who parade duds and bicycles straight out of La Belle Epoque through the city streets and wind up in Villa Borghese for a picnic that Georges Seurat would have loved to paint.
For other fun cycling events in the city, add “Velorome” and “Skid Chicks” as friends on Facebook. These two urban entourages have been featured in magazines like Gino and Cykeln and plan all sorts of urban outings, alley cat races and fixed bike competitions. Into extreme sports? Try Bike Polo, a competitive sport that combines traditional Polo with customized bicycles. The boys (and girls!) of Roma Bike Polo are happy to host you and lend you a bike, helmet and mallet to join them for a match (their blog is constantly updated with the latest meetings).
Finally, if your trip to the land of Bianchi, Pinarello and the Giro d’Italia has left you as crazy for cycling as The Bicycle Thief, take some parts back with you from Bicilettaro in Monti or Zio Bici in Pigneto (these guys also do repairs for fair prices), some vintage cycling shirts, hats and jackets from Maurizio at Stili di Strada, or the full monty: a customized bike by Alessandro of Bike Porn Garage. Whatever you decide, wherever you may ride, let this article be your guide!
Rates: 3,00€ per hour (or part of), 10,00€ half day (10am-2pm/2-6pm), 15,00€ one day
Address: Tor Fiscale Park – Vicolo dell’Acquedotto Felice snc; Aqueducts Park – Via Lemonia, 256
Bici & Baci
Rates: 4,00€ per hour (or part of), 12,50€ per day, 21,00€ for 2 days
Address: Via del Viminale 5 or Via Cavour 302
Contact: email@example.com (Marco), (+39) 3398542889
Rates: from 20-25€/person (includes city bike, helmet & guide)
Roma Bike Tour
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrea), (+39) 0693574093
Rates: 39€/person (includes Brompton bicycle, helmet, lights, guide, water & snack)
Contact: email@example.com, (+39) 3337744114
Parts & Repairs
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, (+39) 064885567
Address: Via Urbana 122
Hours: Tues-Sat 10:00-14:00/16:00-23:00
Contact: (+39) 0693574093
Address: Via Adriano Balbi 2/b
Hours: Tues-Sat 10:00-13:30/15:30-19:30
Bike Porn Garage
Contact: email@example.com (Alessandro)