After spending a day on a bus trip from Madrid to Segovia, I was eager to stretch my muscles and get back on a bicycle. And, although there are plenty of electric power-assist city bicycles for rent as part of the BiciMad (Madrid’s Public Electric Bike System), I wanted a human-powered bicycle to explore the parks and trails beyond the city center and along the riverbanks of Madrid.
Luckily, I remembered a bicycle rental/tour shop, Alquiler Rental located next to the Mercado San Miguel. That would be my destination.
On a quiet Sunday morning, I took a suburban train and subway to Sol, a huge plaza with shopping radiating from the nine streets that intersect this area. Tourists were lined up and around the block at a delicious looking pastry/coffee shop conveniently located across from the metro entrance, but I was neither willing to wait in the long line or pay the tourist prices for the pastry. I decided to a few steps farther away from the plaza where I found a delicious, authentic, less touristic, and much less expensive breakfast.
In addition to saving 10 euros or more, I had the pleasure of dining with locals and enjoying their camaraderie and relaxed Sunday demeanor.
I arrived at the bicycle rental shop just after it opened at 10:00 am. I spotted a medium-sized 10 speed bicycle that appeared to be in good condition. (9Euros for 3 hours.) I paid an extra 3euros for a lock just in case I needed to leave to bike and explore.
I had a bicycle map and my phone for Google maps, but I didn’t want to be bothered stopping all the time so I just started riding to see where my bike took me.
It’s been my experience in European cities that bike lanes or white bicycle logos and arrows printed on streets often lead to the perimeters of the city center and to interesting places.
Within minutes I was winding downhill past the Palace Real and towards the Manzanares River . Heading west along the river I came to the Plaza de Espana. I then crossed the river along one of the many bridges and spent the next few hours cycling through the Casa de Campo.
I love Sundays in urban parks. There is usually lot of activity and today was no exception. I pedaled into the middle of a Madrid Triathlon. Sections of the park had caution tape marking race lanes for both cyclists and runners.
The lanes were empty but protected by race volunteers in high-vis vests. Cycling further into the park brought me to a lake that was filled with swimmers completed the first leg of their race.
I left the race crowds and continued deeper into the park. The spring wildflowers were in full bloom and entire fields sparkled with the bright yellows and whites of wild daisies, my favorite flowers.
Casa de Campo is quite hilly so many cycling clubs, easily distinguished by their matching shirts and shorts, were training on the hills. There were also mountain bikers, joggers, skateboarders and walkers.
Returning to the city center, I cycled east along the river past the large Atlético Madrid soccer stadium, beautiful parks, and modern pedestrian bridges that were artwork in and of themselves.
By now the Sunday crowds were thickening and I was having to stop often for toddlers on bicycles, and scooters, groups walking side-by-side in solid lines like a dam in blocking a reservoir, so it was time to return the rental bike.
Using roads and cycle lanes back to the rental shop, I enjoyed the thrill of navigating through traffic and around large groups of Sunday strollers.
If you don’t mind a few hills and you have the time, riding a bicycle to explore Madrid is a very pleasant way to sightsee.