Art in the Streets

New choose-your-own-adventure bike tour pedals past Austin's best murals

New choose-your-own-adventure bike tour pedals past best Austin murals

Daydreaming mural Austin
"Daydreaming." Photo by Melissa Gaskill
Mermaid mural Austin
"Mermaid." Photo by Melissa Gaskill
Before I Die mural austin
New Orleans-based artist Candy Changki's “Before I Die…” project. Photo by Carol Jackson
Daydreaming mural Austin
Mermaid mural Austin
Before I Die mural austin

Some of the great things about Austin include the city's amazing street art, bike-friendliness, and good food. Texas Bike Tours recently combined those into customizable, guided bike tours that Austin visitors will want to add to their must-do list.

Every TBT tour begins with riders filling out a detailed form about riding abilities and desires. And almost anything goes. In the past, the team has provided overnight tours and even one that ended with a multicourse dinner overlooking Lake Travis.

Guests can bring their own bikes or TBT arranges rentals. The team personally tests every route and creates a detailed proposal and price, along with special additions such as keeping a rental bike another day or having TBT pick up and return bikes to the shop.

TBT founder Deaton Bednar teams up with various bike shops and guides, based on where a tour starts and what riders want to see and do. “The overriding thing in all this is that I want people to ride bikes,” says Bednar, an avid rider. “I try to remove any barriers to making them happy while they ride and give them something they can talk about while making good memories.”  

No two Texas Bike Tours are exactly the same, and our recent mural tour is no exception.

“I create the experience you want to have, whatever you want to have happen,” says Bednar. “In this case, a guest let us know she was interested in a tour with some friends of murals around the city, and a bike is one of the best ways to see some of these works of art. We selected some of the murals she was aware of and others that she wasn’t, plotted out the best route and then tested it out.”

Our customized tour began at Mellow Johnny’s and Bednar served as the guide for the six riders. She gave a brief history of each piece and explained the difference between murals, street and yard art, and graffiti (no spoilers, sorry). The group crossed the river to ponder a set of murals on Barton Springs Road including "Guide Me Home" and a piece depicting a mermaid and a whale by Yoskay Yamanoto and Tatiana Suarez. 

The route then wound through Travis Heights with stops at the “Welcome to Austin” postcard mural on the wall of Roadhouse Relics, a mural on Mi Casa Gallery, the "Willie for President" mural on Stag Provisions for Men, and Vicki’s Wall, part of New Orleans-based artist Candy Changki's “Before I Die…” project, which debuted during SXSW 2014.

At the Larry Monroe Forever Bridge in Stacy Park, the driving force behind the mosaic project, Ave Bonar, greeted the group while TBT culinary experience director Barbara Gibson served slices of homemade quiche before riders headed to the east side.

Stops in East Austin included a mural on Oni Tattoo called "Woman in Waves" and "Girl with Coffee," both by Austin-based Roshi K, and the latter of which appears on the side of the former Fast Folks Cyclery (commissioned during SXSW 2016). We then pedaled past mosaics on East First Grocery, done as part of the Pay Phone Revival Project, and "Day Dreaming” by Seraphim-One (Sarah Ponce) and Levi Ponce on the side of Cenote.

Gibson served a snack before the group headed back downtown, making a stop at the Native Hostel and Bar & Kitchen’s "These Walls Bring Us Together" along the way. The mural at Fourth Street and I-35, commissioned for SXSW 2018, is part of the HOPE Outdoor Gallery relocation campaign. The tour ended with dessert at Republic Square Park.

While the tour lasted more than three hours, the murals it included represent a mere fraction of the many gracing Austin walls. This could be the beginning of something beautiful.