The first real “road” ride I did when I started biking last summer was Mopac.
Mopac Expressway (also known as Loop 1) runs south-to-north through Austin, west of the downtown area. By the time it gets down to my part of town, traffic has thinned out considerably, which makes it an attractive ride venue. It’s still a divided four-lane highway. It also has wide shoulders.
On weekend mornings, Mopac south of Slaughter Lane hosts many bikers. The ride along this section of the expressway is simple: Go south a couple of miles until Mopac turns west. It becomes Texas 45 at this point. There’s still a marked shoulder, but the paint line that defines it presses toward the curb as you approach some entrances to residential subdivisions. The road here has some long uphills. Stay on the wide shoulder all the way out to Ranch Road 1826.
Just before you get to 1826, check traffic and cross into the left shoulder. At the junction, you can turn left, and stay on the shoulder for the northbound 1826 traffic. It was recently resurfaced. In about 100 yards, you’ll reach the eastbound lanes of Texas 45. Cross the traffic lanes and pick up the shoulder. This is the start of a downhill section, which features two or three nice descents. It’s fairly easy to top 35 – even 40 mph along this stretch.
Once Texas 45 reaches Mopac, you follow the curve around to the north, and several uphill climbs to the stoplight at LaCrosse. Here, you have the option to turn right and head for the Veloway – just a quarter-mile down – or turn left on LaCrosse to the southbound lanes of Mopac, and do another Mopac loop.
From my house, it’s about 2.5 miles to Mopac. The out-and-back loop is 8.12 miles. If I do three “Mopac Loops” I’ve done 29+ miles.
It’s not my favorite ride in the area, but it’s convenient if I want to get out on the road.
Noticed your Mopac / 45 route and you should let people know that they’ll be forced to ride in the lane of a 70mph highway with no shoulder – this is as opposed to the “wide shoulders” you noted. Also, the shoulders don’t merely “press toward the curb as you approach some entrances” but rather dissappear for half mile stretches. Your advice will not only get bicyclists killed but also people who swerve to avoid a bike going 20 mph in a 70 mph zone. Or don’t swerve and are taken out by the biker going through her windshield.
I agree totally with Justin’s comments. I commute this route often and it gets exciting during weekday rush hour traffic on the occasion when you can’t change into the left lane when the right lane shoulder goes away. Plus, there are many cars turning right into the subdivision. I understand that this is an attractive road ride. But for God’s sake folks, this is a highway with 70 mph traffic and more and more traffic everyday. I just don’t see the common sense in this ride. Good luck and stay safe. I hope you don’t get killed.
Yes, they disappear several times during the route. However, my experience is that motorists usually go to the left lane when they are passing cyclists. Even where the marked shoulder disappears entirely, the lane is still wide enough to accommodate both cars and bicycles. Still, the point you make is the reason Mopac is not among my favorite routes.