What sweeter time to explore New York than in spring, and what more intimate way to see the city than on a bicycle? Two unusual, if not downright eccentric, guided cycling tours, new this spring from Bike the Big Apple, take in attractions on and off the beaten track. First, the "Blessing of the Bikes" tour takes cyclists on a 12-mile ride through Central Park and Harlem, with a stop at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine for those who would care to have their bicycles blessed by an attending minister. Other stops include the tombs of "an amicable child" and Ulysses S. Grant, topped by a soul-food lunch at a local Harlem restaurant ($15 extra). The pace is easy and family-friendly, say licensed guides from Bike the Big Apple, who ride at the head and tail of the pack. The Blessing tour is scheduled May 1, 8 a.m.--1 p.m.
Tour number two, billed as "The Intriguing Tale of Terror and a Garden of Beer," takes riders past the scene of New York's greatest tragedy before 9/11, in which more than 1,000 people perished when a sightseeing steamboat, the SS Slocum, caught fire and sank off Manhattan a century ago. Since most of the victims were German immigrants, the tour honors them with a stop at the city's only remaining outdoor beer garden, where bikers can down a brew or two if they desire. This 10-mile tour is scheduled on two Saturdays, June 5 and 19, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Each tour costs $69 per person, which includes bicycle, helmet, and two licensed guides. (Subtract $10 if you bring your own bike.) For information and to reserve a spot, visit www.bikethebigapple.com or call 201-837-1133.