Joel’s Ride Around the Mainline

Cycle Philadelphia, Sightseeing & Road Ride, Joel’s Ride Around the Mainline

Take this bike ride! The mega-hilly loop runs from West Fairmount Park out to Bala Cynwyd, Bryn Mawr, and Gladwyne. Then follow the Schuylkill for a bit before crossing the river and riding through Manayunk on your way back to the city. This ride comes to you care of my dear friend Joel Flood, a longtime Philadelphia cyclist and lover of bringing vintage bicycles up insane inclines.


This ride is mostly on-road, with a few paved paths sprinkled in between. It’s super hilly and makes for a great workout.


The roads you’ll take are very amenable to bicycle travel, including the roads in Fairmount Park and those out farther on the Mainline. There will be a bit more car traffic along Route 23 and through Manayunk.


The starting point for this ride is just behind the Art Museum – Septa bus routes 7, 32, 38, 43 and 48 serve the museum area. If driving, you’ll find ample parking behind the Art Museum and Boathouse Row.

Food and Drink

You’ll ride by a convenience store every few miles, and there are lots of lunch options in Manayunk. Of course, we waited until Boathouse Row for a fresh soft pretzel from Chief Ride. A new spot – Cosmic Foods – just opened at Lloyd Hall.

Side Trip

Take some time to explore West Fairmount Park – you’ll be very close to the Please Touch Museum, the Whispering Bench, the Horticulture Center, the Japanese House and Garden, and the gorgeous lookout from the Belmont Mansion.


More Details

This bike ride is hilly and terrific. Along the way, you’ll see what feels like the hidden side of everything. It almost seems like a secret. You’ll start out along Martin Luther King Drive and wind your way through West Fairmount Park. With just a few turns, you’ll find yourself riding through the shady residential roads of Bala Cynwyd and Bryn Mawr. Some streets will seem to go on for days, among them are Bryn Mawr Avenue, Old Gulf Road, and Youngsford Road.

There will be a handful of forks along the way, so unless you are positive that it is time to turn, be sure to follow the signs and stick to the riding log on these roads. The highlight of this loop comes right around mile 12: a long downhill that brings you all the way from the ‘burbs to the edge of the Schuylkill. You’ll then be treated to about a mile and a half of flat pedaling alongside the river, a stretch that offers a gorgeous quiet view of the water. Then you have to snap to – and fast – you’re about to go up the most challenging hill - Hollow Road.

Hollow Road is a beast. You’ll head uphill for close to a mile, make a left on Route 23, and then crawl up another half mile incline. After Hollow Road, the rest of the loop is pretty much downhill. You’ll cross the Schuylkill and find yourself surprised by just how close you’ve been this whole time to Manayunk. You’ll ride on through Main Street and then pick up the Schuylkill River Trail off Ridge Avenue. Hoofing it back to the Boathouse Row via Kelly Drive, you’ll be ready for a massive lunch! 


Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start out behind the Art Museum where the Schuylkill River Trail meets Schuylkill Banks. Hop on MLK Dr and head up river.
  • 3.1 Left on Greenland Dr, and follow the switchback.
  • 3.6 Left on Chamounix Dr.
  • 4.5 Bear right on Belmont Mansion Dr and cross Belmont Ave.
  • 4.7 Left on Parkside Ave.
  • 5.0 Right on Wynnefield Ave.
  • 5.3 Right on Bryn Mawr Ave.
  • 6.4 Cross Montgomery Ave, continue on Bryn Mawr Ave.
  • 7.4 Follow the curve left in Bryn Mawr Ave.
  • 8.5 Right on Old Gulf Rd. Continue to follow Old Gulf for a ways.
  • 10.0 Bear right on Merion Square Rd.
  • 10.8 Right on Youngsford Rd. There will be a few forks, but just keep on Youngsford.
  • 11.6 Right on Waverly Rd.
  • 12.11 Bear left to continue on Waverly. You are about to hit one of the best downhills – all the way down to the river.
  • 12.8 Right on River Rd to follow the Schuylkill.
  • 14.3 Right on Hollow Rd – one of the hardest uphills around.
  • 15.4 Left on Rt 23. And, there’s a little bit more hill ahead.
  • 17.0 Left on Rock Hill Rd.
  • 17.6 Left on Belmont Ave.
  • 17.7 Bear Left at the fork to follow Old Belmont Ave.
  • 17.9 Cross the Schuylkill.
  • 18.0 Right on Main St Manayunk. Follow Main St until it becomes Ridge Ave.
  • 19.5 Make a right just past the Septa transfer station to pick up the Schuylkill River Trail.
  • 20.0 Pass Falls Bridge and ride on home.
  • 23.8 Hang a right at the end of Boathouse Row to head towards the Waterworks.
  • 24.4 Ride under the Spring Garden Bridge and bam! You are back to where you started.
  • Trail map

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    38.865 km / 24.15 mi

    Total Distance

    498 m / 1,633 ft

    Total Ascent

    498 m / 1,633 ft

    Total Descent

    121 m / 395 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Advanced (Black)
    Ride Duration: 2-4 hrs
    Fitness Level: High
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 24.4
    Elevation Gain: 425
    First Aid
    Bike hire
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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