Bermuda is near the top of my list for “Island Biking”. It may not offer the most difficult terrain, the most extensive roads, or even the least traffic; but it is still one of the best. Bermuda is unbelievably scenic. You are almost never out of sight of turquoise waters, pink sand beaches, green golf courses, and colorful homes with white roofs. Unlike many Caribbean Islands, it is not a poor country and as a result it is relatively safe. Every part of the Island is accessible by bike, about 35 Km from tip to tip. Rail Trails totaling 25 Km make Bermuda a unique biking experience. You can almost totally avoid riding on busy streets if you like. The roads are constantly rolling and inland there are some surprisingly steep hills. Finally, there are ferries that connect Hamilton, Dockyard, Somerset, and Southampton. They all accept bikes so you can create many interesting tour routes.
Delta Airlines and American Airlines often offer cheap airfares in the $200-$250 range. Flights from Boston take as little as 1.5-2.0 hrs. Every time we take one of these short flights we ask ourselves the question, “Why don’t we go to Bermuda more often”? Answer…..the cost of everything other than the flights!
Delta has increased their charge for taking a bike to $125 each way! This really pissed off the pro riders who came over for this year’s Bermuda Grand Prix. American is charging $75 each way. Only two years ago there was no charge at all. My S&S coupled Co-Motion flies for free in its 20x20x10 inch case. With it, however, I am limited to road riding.
The cost of renting a bike is far less than the cost of bringing your own. The rental bikes are mountain bikes, which means that you can ride both roads and Rail Trails. Riding the Rail Trails is far more fun than sharing the roads with cars, taxis, and mopeds!
In Bermuda they are called “Pedal Bikes”. If you inquire about renting a “bicycle” or “bike” they will give you information about mopeds. The two bike shops in Hamilton do not rent bikes. However, two of the moped rental companies do, “Wheels” and “Oleander Cycles”. Generally the charge is about $20 for the first day and $10 for each day after that, up to a maximum of $50 per week.
These bikes are set up for rather upright riding. They also vary greatly in condition so you have to look them over. Oleander bought a large shipment of Trek 800’s last year…. $250 mountain bikes with rigid forks. Sometimes I have had to trade a wheel with another bike to get one well-working steed. You may have to tune the bike yourself….adjusting the brakes and derailleurs only takes a few minutes. Rotating the handlebars forward gives a little more stretched out cockpit. The folks renting these bikes deal with motorcycles know virtually nothing about “pedal bikes”.
We bring our own pedals and helmets. The seats that come on these bikes can be a bit uncomfortable so you might want to consider bringing your own. We also bring water bottle cages, water bottles, seat packs, tools, tubes, pressure gage (shraeder), and lube. Also bring a full-sized pedal wrench. This may sound like a big hassle but it beats paying a King’s ransom to the airlines. You may find that the pedals on you bike have never been removed so they may need a lot of applied torque. Air pressure of about 60 psi will work well for a combination of road an off-road riding. Each bike comes with a cable lock. I recommend using it whenever you leave the bike, particularly in Hamilton.
I highly recommend actually going to the rental shop to inspect the bike you are renting. Then, when you are done with the bike, the shop will pick it up at your hotel free of charge.
Riding on the Left
This deserves some discussion. Despite the fact that I have ridden in a number of countries that drive on the left, it certainly is not second nature. Every time I have done it, whether in Ireland, England, or some Caribbean Island, I make at least one potentially serious mistake per trip. The most common mistake is looking to the left at intersections to see oncoming cars (when in fact they are coming from the right). The second most common mistake happens when you take a left hand turn at an intersection. If you don’t pay attention you end up on the right side of the road after you make the turn. My advice is to take lots of time at intersections, and never step off a curb without thinking about what you are doing.
Road riders get into the habit of looking over their left shoulder to catch glimpses of oncoming cars and riders behind them. It is worth practicing looking over your right shoulder before heading to a country that drives on the left. When I first tried this, it felt very awkward.
Called the “Old Rattle and Shake,” Bermuda’s only train made its first run on October 31, 1931 and was gone by 1948. In 1984, as part of the 375th anniversary of Bermuda’s discovery in 1609, the Government opened the Bermuda Railway Trail as a public walking trail and bridle path. There are scenic stretches of railway trail in nearly every parish.
It is possible to ride from the roundabout near Hamilton to Somerset using 90% Rail Trails. Many of these are dirt on the Hamilton end and paved towards Somerset. There are also trails on the north side of Harrington Sound. These trails are better marked in recent years, but still it takes some poking around to link all the sections together. During the last couple visits I believe I have found some sections previously unmarked. At road crossings you will find metal barriers that have been constructed to keep out mopeds. These are a bit of a pain since they are just high enough that they cannot be easily ridden over on your mountain bike. They are good practice for cyclocross!
There are several places where railroad trestles used to span ravines. These sections are fun as you get to ride some rather steep ups and downs. I highly recommend walking down the steps at the base of the Southampton Princess. While you may try to ride along the steep steps, your path is blocked near the bottom by vegetation and tree limbs. You will often see singletrack leading from the rail trail. Try some of these! Many are dead ends but occasionally you will be rewarded with a great view or some spectacular riding.
There are about 66,000 people in Bermuda and there are 600 taxicabs. Add to this private cars and thousands of motorbikes and the roads can be a busy place. Just like any city, you should avoid traveling in the direction of Hamilton (except by rail trail) during the morning rush hour. Likewise avoid traveling out of Hamilton during the afternoon rush hour. I find that the cars and taxies are fairly careful when passing a bike on the roads. The speed limit on the whole island is just 25 mph so often the speed differential is not that great. Drivers have to pass so often that they get fairly skilled at it.
A bigger problem is the mopeds. Most of the locals are very skilled riders but often are driving with just one hand (no kidding). Virtually every local motorbike is modified beyond the government limit of 120 cc. When they pass at high speed it can be a bit of a shock if you do not hear them coming. Tourists on mopeds can be deadly, especially to themselves. There is a loop at Dockyard used by Oleander Cycles to rent motorbikes to tourists from cruise ships. This loop is to be avoided! I have seen multiple crashes there. So many tourists crash their mopeds that they sell “I swizzled my moped in Bermuda” T-Shirts at the airport!
When you watch local bicycle riders in Bermuda, they seem to ride a bit farther out into the road than in the US. This apparently makes oncoming vehicles slow down and make a more deliberate pass. Often when two people are riding together, they ride side by side. I don’t recommend this but it seems to be a local practice.
There are two ferry systems running on the Island. The public ferries cost $4 and run hourly. These ferries are quite modern and sell refreshments. There are also private ferries provided by the Fairmont Princess Hotels that run between Waterlot (Southampton), the Hamilton Princess Hotel, and Dockyard. These are free for guests (they do not check that you are actually staying at one of the hotels).
It is fun to make the ferry crossings. You will see some of the expensive waterfront homes, get a unique view of Hamilton, as well get a close up look at some of the cruise ships. During this last visit we were able to watch some of the large sailboats racing in the harbor.
Winners Edge is only bike shop worth mentioning. It is located in downtown Hamilton. They are a Trek, Gary Fisher, Lemonde dealer. The shop is tiny but you can get the basics such as tubes and tires. They are not overly helpful when it comes to repairs unless you want to leave your bike. One time they turned me away with a loose crank rather than tighten it for me. So, I have mixed feelings about this shop. But since many islands I have ridden on have no bike shop at all…..I am happy they are there but expect to pay top dollar for everything.
The Bermuda Bicycling Club has been around for 28 years. They organize a number of events including the Bermuda Grand Prix that attracts many pro riders. Most of their rides and races are on weekends as you might expect. I have found these guys to be friendly, even to the point of offering me bikes when I come to visit.
In addition to rides and road races, they sometimes hold a hill climb up the backside of the Southampton Princess. When I first looked at this hill, I thought this surely must be a joke because the climb is only about .4 miles. Once you try it you realize that it is an out-of-the-saddle sprint to the top, with three switchbacks that will max your heart rate. What makes it tough is that you may have to ride it several times in elimination heats.
The Bermuda Triathalon Association is very active, holding many events on two courses; one in Hamilton and the other at St. David’s. It is fairly unique that a capital city would allow swimming in its harbor and bike racing along its main streets. Many local residents come out to watch these events.
The many websites on Bermuda are full of sightseeing suggestions. Here are just a few not to be missed.
The entire length of South Road is worth riding. You will see one magnificent beach after another. There are ten golf courses on Bermuda and you will pass right by several of these. The eastern end of the Island around the Tuckers Point Golf Club and the Mid Ocean Golf Club gets fairly hilly.
A trip to Dockyard either by Rail Trail or Ferry is a must. Many shops and restaurants have been added to the old buildings as well as a major Maritime Museum. It is a fun place to spend a few hours. Don’t miss the Bermuda Rum Cake factory that gives out free samples of at least ten different varieties.
St. Georges on the eastern end of the island is like stepping back in time. Quaint houses and narrow streets are virtually unchanged since 1600. You can see fortifications built by the British Empire over the course of nearly 300 years. Great little shops, restaurants, and museums abound. You can park your bike and walk the whole town very easily.
Hamilton must be one of the most colorful small cities anywhere. Along Front Street are many English (tourist) shops selling china, jewelry, and so forth at outrageous prices. One street back, Reid Street has a whole different flavor. It is bustling with people shopping at stores where the locals go. There are coffee shops, Internet cafes, and shops featuring International fashions. If you make the trip to Hamilton without your bike, you may take one of the late ferries to the city for dinner, then return to your hotel by taxicab.
The Gibbs Lighthouse sits atop the largest hill in Bermuda so you should ride your bike there. Completed in 1846, the lighthouse has been in continuous operation ever since. You may climb the steps to the top of the 117 foot structure to enjoy an amazing view of the entire Island and surrounding waters.
Nothing on Bermuda is more expensive than food but with a little planning you can keep things reasonable. If you eat in hotels or at downtown restaurants expect dinner to cost $30-$40 pp. Basic side salads are typically $6-$8 as are soups. Pizza generally is $16-$20 as an entrée. Making things worse, the portions at some restaurants (such as the Whaler Inn) will leave you hungry. Even Continental Breakfast can run $20 in the hotels. Check out the following places.
Speciality Inn- (Devonshire) They have served customers like Jimmy Carter and family, Clint Eastwood, and Patrick Rafter. They offer full breakfast, pizza, fresh bread, and a variety of daily specials, including local cuisine. Typical meals are $10.
Ms. Softees -(Warick)- Full breakfast, cheap prices, and waitresses similar to Durgin Park. Good pancakes.
Café Rock- (Hamilton)- Great coffee and baked goods. I stop here on every ride through Hamilton.
Lighthouse Tea Room (Southampton at the lighthouse)- English breakfast including scones with clotted cream. Nice sandwiches and soups for lunch. You can work off the calories by climbing to the top of the lighthouse. We love this place.
Paraquet- (Paget) They have a bakeshop with delicious banana bread, cinnamon rolls, and muffins. Take some back to your hotel.
Spots- (Hamilton) Best bet for a quick lunch in Hamilton. Good French Fries.
Portofino’s- (Hamilton) . Great Italian pasta dishes and pizza at moderate prices. This is our favorite restaurant. Try the Linguine Portofino.
Tio Pepe’s (Southampton)- Good Italian food and seafood. Roast pork and lobster are their specialties. They also have some Bermuda dishes. Try the pan-fried fish cakes!
Jasmine’s (Southampton Princess)- They offer few entrees but they are all tasty. The salmon is consistently good. If you want to splurge on desert this is a good place to do it. Try the fresh baked chocolate chocolate chip cookies smothered with ice cream and caramel sauce.
Heritage Court at the Hamilton Fairmont Princess. You should give this a try, at least once! According to their website…
“The Heritage Court provides the perfect stage for Afternoon Tea at The Princess. A signature event for The Fairmont Hamilton Princess, our afternoon tea incorporates old English charm with the tropical setting of the island paradise of Bermuda. From the British silver tea sets and Belgian fine china to the Italian fine woven linen, everything about afternoon tea spells elegance and luxury.”
Mickey’s at Elbow Beach Resort - These guys padded our bill.
Pickled Onion- They serve catsup for salsa.
MR Onions- unless you like HoJos
Port of Call- Pretentious and pricey
Whaler Inn- Where’s the food?
Newport Room- Unless it is your anniversary.
Waterlot Inn-Unless you just won the lottery.
“Shoulder Season”, late spring and early fall, seems to be the best time to visit Bermuda. I prefer late May or early October. May is the driest month. In September you often must contend with tropical storms. When the temperatures are in the low 80’s you will have many of the beaches to yourself. Even though water temperatures may also be close to 80 degrees, the locals consider it too cold to go the beach.
A word of caution. Use the link above when checking Bermuda weather. US based weather sources such as weather.com and wunderground.com are not accurate for Bermuda.