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If you compare the cycling in the city of Philadelphia with other major citites of over 1 million in population, Philadelphia is one of the best places to bicycle, with plenty of bike lanes, bike clubs for racers and weekend warriors, regular group rides through out the week all over the Philly area.
With that said, you have to remember that Philly is one of the largest cities in the country and if your not use to riding in an urban enviroment you will hate riding in the city. My opinion is ride in the city and just get use to it if you want to ride. I actually enjoy it because it offers a whole new set of challenges and once you get use to tooling around the city you find yourself becoming part of the flow of traffic vs fighting it. I think it is safe to commute by bike in the city, I live in the NE Philly and commute to CC city area. I have bike lanes or bike friendly streets all the way in to CC. The dvantage of Philly being big and old is that the city is not cut up by high speed blvds and parkways like you find in more modern cities. Philly streets are smaller and more congested which means traffic moves alot slower thru the city. What I find most interesting is that I have more problems with suburban motorist than with urban drivers. The suburban drivers seem to be less patient and more eager to assert "their right" to the road over a cyclist.
Cycling in the Delaware Valley (the area surrounding the City in PA, NJ, and DE) is very diverse. NJ is flat but in it's south you have the pine barrens offering lo traffic roads and unique scenery. In its central and north you have gentle rolling terrain. In DE you have rolling to hilly terrain, lots of countryside with farms. In PA you have more hills but hills here are of the short steep variety. If you find a climb over a mile that's a hill. For the most part it's more anaerobic riding than long grinding climbs. In general if you drive 45 minutes outside the city you can find great countryside riding on very lo traffic roads. I prefer to ride out from the city than drive it takes me about an hour to get out to the edge of the urban sprawl, you learn how to pick your way thru the urban sprawl. Just another cycling challenge.
Philly has to be one of the best urban areas for Mountain Biking. Within the city there are 2 parks that have very good to excellent singletrack trails. The Wissahickon (a.k.a Valley Green) is very hilly and more technical with about 15-22 miles of trails. Pennypack is gentle rolling hills less technical singletrack with about 25 miles of trails. Both parks require a permit to ride there, the permit is free and obtained via mail-in application. Another park, Belmont Platuea has about 10-13 miles of trails they have MTB race training rides there every thursday night.
In the DE valley there are several excellent areas for MTB'ing, French Creek and Fair Hill are my 2 fav's. In the Poconos about 1.5-2hr drive north you have some of the best MTB'ing on the east coast according to the MTB rags. I spend alot of time MTB'ing in the Poconos, finding the trails can be difficult as there is no well written guide book to the trails. Once you find the trails they are "all that" and more.
Well that is all I can tell you, just come out and ride and see for yourself. Cycling in this area is great and you should have no problem finding the type of riding you enjoy (except for Mountains we don't have those).
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