Day rides from a big city are always a challenge. Urban sprawl means riding for many miles before the city even starts to fade. A ride from Center City Philadelphia to New Hope is the answer, and will expose you to a different side of the Commonwealth while still getting you home in time for dinner.
This ride takes an hour and a half of road time each way, and will give you decent stretches of twisty roads and vistas without taking you too far from civilization. Although there are decent stretches of open asphalt, there are enough villages and stop signs to make this a non-technical ride that is comfortable for beginners who want to rack up some miles, or those who just want a leisurely pace without the stress of highway traffic.
Start the ride by picking up Kelly Drive at the Art Museum. Kelly is a well-known enjoyable ride, and its twists along the Schuylkill never disappoint. The views of Boathouse Row and the public art displays set a great tone for any ride.
At the end of Kelly, pick up Lincoln Drive. Lincoln is the most technical part of the ride, and requires attention. The first 1/8th of a mile is grooved concrete which will wake up any complacent rider. The turns come quickly, are sharp, and there is usually a fair bit of car traffic with which to share two lanes. Concrete jersey barriers separate oncoming traffic, but they were simply placed in what was previously a four lane road. The result is that the inner lane is a bit tighter than normal. Because the road runs along the Wissahickon Creek, it tends to flood. To keep the roads drained, the outer lane has large drains. So the choice is to watch for the drains, or watch for the concrete. Even though it’s a bit of a challenge, it’s a beautifully tree lined, fun ride.
Follow Lincoln until it dead ends at West Allen’s Lane. Hang a right, and then a quick left onto Cresheim Road. Another right takes you onto Cresheim Valley Drive for some more twists along Cresheim Creek.
Cresheim Valley Drive crosses Germantown Avenue. Take a left here and you’ll be at the lower end of Chestnut Hill. A charming street lined with shops, cafes, and bakeries, it’s worth a stop for coffee if the traffic on Lincoln got your legs shaking.
If you don’t stop in Chestnut Hill, continue on Cresheim Valley and take a left onto Stenton Avenue. If you do go to Chestnut Hill, make your way back down the hill. From either direction you’re looking to head east on Willow Grove Avenue.
Another of Pennsylvania’s pleasant tree-lined two laned roads, follow Willow Grove Avenu— uninterrupted except for a stray stop sign—for a couple of miles. It will intersect with Edge Hill Road. Stay on Edge Hill Road for about 10 miles until you find PA-63 (East Welsh Road). PA-63 will let you twist your wrist and cool the radiator with rolling hills and open country.
Once you take a left onto PA-232 North, there will be a few towns to slow things down. The first will be Bryn Athyn. The Bryn Athyn Cathedral is an historic landmark worth a stop.
The cathedral was built in 1919, and is the home of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, an offshoot of the Swedenborgian teachings. Religion aside, the building is magnificent. Immaculate grounds, impressive stonework, a high tolerance for visitors, and excellent bathrooms make this an almost required visit. There is ample parking.
PA-232 is dotted with small towns which will exercise the brakes, but is otherwise a rolling road with plenty of agriculture and horse farms to entertain a city rider. The roads are two lane, but any farm vehicles courteously allow traffic to pass, ensuring you’ll make quick work of the 26 miles to New Hope.
PA-232 ends at the Delaware River (and an aptly named River Road). A left turn reveals the main street of New Hope. Situated at the confluence of the Delaware River and the Aquetong Creek in Bucks County, New Hope is home to quaint shops and pub-ish restaurants. A frequent destination for New York and New Jersey riders, there are plenty of bikes present in New Hope on any given day.
There are two places claiming the “Best Burgers in Town.” I picked one of them based upon their outdoor seating. The atmosphere was pleasant, and was more reminiscent of Florida than Pennsylvania. They may very well have the best burger in town, but it wasn’t the best burger I’ve had. However, the tater tots were crispy and hot, and the cheese whiz flowed over them like lava.
The main strip of New Hope along South Main Street is several blocks long. Two hours on the parking meter is enough time to stroll the length, get something to eat, and to walk across the 100+ year old New Hope-Lambertville Bridge into Lambertville, New Jersey. If you plan on shopping, though, bring more quarters: parking times are enforced, and there are no motorcycle-specific parking spots.
New Hope is a great destination. Two lanes of good blacktop all the way, this route will get you away from the city and into the country with plenty of sightseeing. No matter the skill level, it’s a ride worth taking.