Though the Veloway has been around for well over a decade, the first time I ever heard of it was seven or eight years ago during an episode of Rollergirls, the A&E reality show about the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls. On the show, a member of the Holy Rollers went out to the Veloway to practice her roller skating skills.
I remember watching that episode and wishing I had the guts and athletic skills to try out for the roller derby…and wondering about the paved track that looked like it was out in the country where Sister Mary Jane went for a workout.
These days, the Veloway is apparently world-famous among inline and roller skaters, and it’s certainly no secret here in town. Located just east of Mopac in Circle C, across from the Wildflower Center, the Veloway is open to cyclists, inline skaters and roller skaters only— foot traffic is prohibited, including walking alongside your child who is learning to ride a bike without training wheels.
If you check out Yelp reviews of the Veloway, you’ll see plenty of reviewers complaining about the number of children riding their bikes a bit slowly and clumsily along the 3.1-mile loop. But for those of us with kids, the family-friendliness of this place is a huge plus! Just be sure to keep your family on the right side of the track, and watch out for cyclists who are whizzing around the many blind curves.
The thing is, the Veloway is so popular precisely because it’s so perfect for what it is and whom it’s intended for. The fact that it is a closed loop, away from traffic, makes it a great, safe spot for a family bike ride as well as for cyclists and triathletes who are training to set a new PR in their next road race. It’s also good for people on eight wheels (skaters, that is) — although I must say, I can’t imagine navigating the curves and hills on skates.
|I saw only one other rider when I was there!|
For the most part, it seems like everyone using the track is pretty friendly, and as long as slower riders stay to the right, giving way to faster folks on the left, things go pretty smoothly. There’s definitely no reason to be intimidated by any lean, spandex-wearing cyclists who are zipping around in their high-tech gear. Just follow the usual rules of road cycling and you’ll be fine:
- If you’re going more slowly, stay to the right
- Pass to the left (or stay to the left if you’re a faster cyclist)
- When you’re planning to pass someone, call out to let them know you’re coming up from behind
|The sign explaining Mount Everest
is kinda hilarious…
Both faster and slower riders should watch out for signs along the track warning of upcoming challenges like Mount Everest — the steep hill that comes up immediately around the corner of a sharp curve. Ow, my thighs! Getting up that thing with a 20-pound baby in my bike trailer was no picnic, and the curve and steep incline really do come up suddenly.
Other than that hill, the track is mostly flat — perfect for daydreaming as you pedal along and take in the natural beauty surrounding you. If you go in the spring, there are wildflowers everywhere along with budding trees, everything awash in green…and pollen. Yep, this is nature, y’all. If you’re an allergy sufferer, I recommend taking your meds before you hit the trail!
Speaking of nature, keep an eye out for rabbits and snakes, the latter of which apparently like to sun themselves on the pavement on hotter days. I didn’t spot any snakes on my ride, which meant I didn’t have to swerve to avoid running over one — whew.
|Shady spot for a rest|
I went around 9 AM on a weekday morning, and saw only one other cyclist while I was there. While foot traffic is not allowed on the paved track, it’s perfectly okay to pull off the track and take a rest on one of several benches provided (just remember that picking flowers and pocketing interesting rocks aren’t allowed, per City Ordinance). There’s even a spot with several benches under a shade structure at the track’s entrance where you could enjoy a picnic or just a breather with your little ones.
Here are a few tips to help make your trip to the Veloway more enjoyable:
- Helmets for cyclists are required by City Ordinance, so be sure to bring yours, and your little one’s too
- Remember to bring water, sunglasses, a towel for when you get back to your car, and sunscreen — and remember to apply that sunscreen to the tops of your knees, forearms and the backs of your hands if you’re on a bike!
- The parking lot is small, but there should be plenty of street parking on La Crosse or one of the nearby cross streets — unless there’s a special event happening at the WildflowerCenter, in which case parking can be tough
- Especially if you live far from the Veloway, or if there has been any heavy rain recently, call ahead (512-974-6797) or check the Web site for info on closures
If you’re interested in some background about the Veloway from a rider’s perspective, this is an unofficial Veloway site that includes some of the track’s interesting, controversial history.
Enjoy your ride!
Address: 4900 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739
Hours: 5 AM – 10 PM year-round, except when closed for special events or due to heavy rains/other environmental conditions
Catherine A. Morris is a writer as well as a once-and-future teacher, musician, jogger and triathlete living in southwest Austin, Texas. Yes, most of her former passions and pastimes have given way, at least for now, to her current, main passion and pastime: caring for her two kids, toddler Pearl and baby Zephyr. Pearl and Zeph make Catherine and her husband laugh (and cry) on a daily basis, and give Catherine plenty of good reasons to seek out free, fun activities to keep everyone alive, engaged and happy from one moment to the next.