Brisbane Cycling Route: The River Loop

If you’re new to cycling, new to Brisbane, or have been living as a hermit for the last 10 years, you may not have heard of Brisbane’s most famous and popular ride: the River Loop. Throughout the week, but particularly on weekends, a veritable peloton of riders of all abilities pedal furiously around this popular recreational cycle route. And there’s no better way to join Brisbane’s cycling culture than connecting with one of the many local social cycling groups, getting your bunch on with matching kit, and having a shot at the highly competitive River Loop leaderboard on Strava. You never know – you could be looking at the next King of the Mountain on Cemetery Hill!

A number of factors make this loop hard to beat. The exact length of the ride is quite flexible and can be altered to suit each individual rider by choosing from a range of variants. The River Loop can also be started, finished, and ridden from any point along the route and in either direction, making this ride extremely accessible to all cyclists. Generally, the route is a pleasant 30-40km ride over and around the Brisbane River; however, the Mini River Loop, at approximately 16km long, cuts this in half by riding over the Eleanor Schonell Bridge, through Dutton Park, and back to South Brisbane – perfect for little or inexperienced legs.

Additionally, the majority of the River Loop is concentrated on dedicated bike paths or lanes and on residential back streets. Brisbane City’s bike infrastructure has had a number of changes over the recent months, and several of the River Loops former ‘hot-spots’ now have greater and safer access. The installation of dedicated bicycle lanes along Gladstone Road between Hazelwood Street at Highgate Hill and Lochaber Street at Dutton Park have been designed to improve safety, traffic flow, and to encourage cyclists of all abilities to utilise this stretch of road. If you’re a nervous road rider, try this loop on weekends when traffic is reduced and swarms of cyclists take over the roads instead.

Whether you’re a sprinter, a climber, or a general all-rounder, the River Loop has something to interest everyone. You call yourself a climber? Dominate the pack on the leg-shatteringly short and sharp climb up Cemetery Hill. Like to get your sprint on? Make like Sagan and go full gas along the Brisbane Corso (bearing in mind the speed limit, of course). From rolling hills around St. Lucia to the long flat stretches through Tennyson and Yeronga, the loop has a great mix of flat and hill cycling.

If you’re feeling a tad spontaneous or just plain jaded by the same-old same-old River Loop, why not try a variant or two? Shun the left-hand turn onto Dornoch Terrace and continue down along Gladstone Road (It’s downhill, promise!) and stop in for a cheeky coffee at Lucky Duck Cafe and Bar. Perhaps your legs have flat-out rebelled after Cemetery Hill and need a bit of coaxing before they cycle any further – skip the incline of Gladstone Road altogether and head down Annerley Road until you reach the Goodwill Bridge. If you’re a tad impatient with the hordes of wandering tourists or meandering locals around South Bank, utilize the wide streets of Grey and Little Stanley instead, and fuel up at Espresso Garage or Lost Bean while you’re at it.

Click here for the River Loop map, directions, and GPS data.

Not sure if the River Loop is for you? Check out the Brisbane Bike Rides cycling group riding the route. If you’re ready to get out and start exploring Brisbane by bicycle, consider joining this welcoming cycling group, who are more than happy to assist new riders find confidence in group cycling. The friendly bunch at Brisbane Bike Rides offer a range of rides for every ability and always sit down to a post-ride coffee and chat afterwards, so if you’re new to cycling or Brisbane itself, this is the group for you!

Finished a circuit or two of the River Loop? It’s time to sit back with a well-deserved cup of coffee at any one of these top spots​​ or park your pushy for a leisurely breakfast at one of Brisbane’s most bike friendly cafes. If you’re not yet ready for the legendary River Loop, try a relaxed Saturday morning ride from South Bank Parklands to New Farm Markets

Image credit: Cycling Brisbane.

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