Hugging Martha’s Vineyard

For cyclists looking for a getaway there’s really few better spots than Martha’s Vineyard. The popular tourist destination is actually a mecca for roadies, thanks to the countless miles of bike paths, numerous small farm shops and acres and acres of park land.

In four days of riding my wife and I have only really repeated the same stretch of road coming into and leaving Oak Bluffs, which is one of the more happening of the main towns on the island. (Edgartown is more upper-crust, Vineyard Haven is more working-class fishing-village and Gay Head is a cliff.) Thanks to the craptacular economy ,this week has been really deserted. We’ve been able to walk into just about any restaurant and sit down without reservations.

The roads, generally, have either massive shoulders or supreme bike paths astride them, and the roads without the big shoulders have courteous drivers. There’s a massive state-park trail that’s paved and beautiful, and there are great roads heading in all directions. It would be incredibly easy to do a century here without climbing more than 1000 feet.

On the downside, the island–as is the case with many water-bound tourist areas, is often expensive, though the low-cost crab shacks and ice cream stands abound. It’s also extremely easy to run out of new roads. The whole island is just ten miles wide and twenty long, so it’s like riding Manhattan, only with fewer avenues.

Off season riding is great here too, though there’s not as much call for eating ice cream after a ride when it’s chilly out.

Some must-do things while on the Vineyard include the requisite stop at Black Dog for snacks (there’s only one Black Dog cafe, one Black Dog tavern, and a ton of the clothing stores), a trip to Jimmy Seas , where the dishes come out in the pans in which they were cooked (try a cheese or olive oil based pasta, the tomato sauce ones are weaker), and a late-night run at Back Door Doughnuts, the clandestine operation of MV Bakery that turns out the best doughnuts and apple fritters anywhere–but they only do it from about 9:30pm on. As the name implies, the doughnuts are sold from the back kitchen door of the bakery, and they’re incredibly good.

The best bike shop on the island is Edgartown Cycles, with a sprawling inventory, rental bikes (including tandems) and a nice clean bathroom.

If you’ve got some time to kill and want to live like the rich-and-famous (or are rich and/or famous) then head over to Edgartown’s Harbor View, nestled along the coast. They have rows of rocking-chairs on the porch, and it makes a nice spot to just sit with a paper and think about your day.

For ride recommendations we picked up Discover Martha’s Vineyard, which is full of great rides albeit with directions that tend toward the overly verbose.

All of the main towns maintain bus services, and the busses all have bike racks on the front, so even if you’re too full on lobster rolls and clam bellies to ride, you can get home easily.

When you’re done with your day, settle in for a movie at one of the cozy, musty, decrepit movie theaters on the island and catch a quick flick before heading back out and watching the sunset on the beach.