Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia

Ride Through History in Richmond

A cycling tour of Virginia’s capital city offers a unique view to a storied past.

Want to experience a bike tour with a little more depth? If you’re looking for a varied ride that covers miles beyond just captivating scenery and interesting geography to a layered cultural story of the past, look no further than Richmond, Va. Whether you go by yourself or with an outfitter, numerous route options exist that will have you pedaling through parks, gardens, downtown murals, historic monuments and vineyards. Link the following top historical stops to roll through the region’s rich culture and historical legacy that lie at the core of Virginia’s ever-active capital city.

Jackson Ward  

Previously known as the Harlem of the South and “the Black Wall Street of America,” this Richmond neighborhood has a long history of thriving African-American businesses. It’s home to the Black History Museum, Maggie Walker House (as well as her statue), the Hippodrome Theater, the Bojangles Statue, and more. While you’re pedaling, also take in the area’s many art murals. When you’re ready for a break, restaurants abound for a relaxing place to refuel. Hint: Try an energy-replenishing coffee at the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café

Maggie Lena Walker Statue  

Feel good about your own altruistic efforts? That’s peanuts compared to those of Maggie Lena Walker, an activist who devoted her life to civil rights advancement, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities for Jim Crow-era African Americans and women. As a bank president, newspaper editor, and fraternal leader, she served as an inspiration of pride and progress for the region, which you can absorb by visiting the statue and historical plaque placed downtown in her honor (located on the corner of West Broad Street and North Adams). 

Virginia State Capitol  

What bike tour would be complete without a stopover to explore the state capitol grounds, which includes the Barbara John’s Monument and the Virginia Women's Monument, both of which pay homage to many incredible women of all races from Virginia. Tour the grounds and hop on a guided tour (both free) to experience the past of this storied neoclassical building, designed by Thomas Jefferson and housing North America’s oldest elected legislative body. 

Civil Rights Monument Historic Capitol Square Richmond Virginia

Shirley Vineyards/Virginia Capital Trail 

Biking through Shirley Vineyards just outside the city takes you through the history of the Charles City County area and the beautiful James River, aka Yeokanta in Algonquin as well as ‘The River Where America Began’ for its role in bringing together the area’s disparate inhabitants, which included: early English settlers; enslaved Africans, who bore the brunt of the work building the cotton and tobacco industries; and the aforementioned Algonquin people, who’d called it home for some 15,000 years before European arrival. 
You can start and finish a 14-mile (or shorter 6-mile) tour along the Virginia Capital Trail at Upper Shirley Vineyards, perched above one of the most beautiful bends on the James. You’ll ride through cotton fields and the past plantation land of Westover and Berkeley, as well as Rice Rivers Center (Virginia Commonwealth University’s environmental research field station) and the historic Westover Parish Church, established in 1613 and still in use today. Afterward, you can return to the vineyard on what was once the original tobacco grounds of Shirley Plantation, America’s oldest working farm, before grabbing a glass of wine and lunch at Upper Shirley Vineyards Winery Restaurant, wrapping up 400 years of our nation’s history with soup and a sandwich. More trail info:

Go Guided 

Want to leave the route-finding (and possible tire repair) to a guide? Bike and Brunch Tours offers a 10-mile, three-hour Richmond History Tour that will touch your mind, heart, and belly (all tours end with a brunch, if the outfitter’s name had you wondering). You’ll pedal and coast through neighborhoods steeped in culture and history, with visits to such landmarks as Jackson Ward, Brookland Park, and even the work of Hamilton Glass, an artist whose murals depict stories of area trailblazers, residents, and organizations. BYOB(ike) or get a rental from the local, Black- and woman-owned business.

Basket & Bike also offers guided rides on the Virginia Capital Trail and other parts of town, with a portion of sales donated to a rotating conservation cause (Capital Trees, James River Association, VCU’s Rice Rivers Center, and BridgePark RVA). Favorites include its Quirk Street Art & Secret Garden Bike Tour, showcasing some of Richmond’s garden and artsy must-sees. The outfitter also offers tours departing and ending at Upper Shirley Vineyards along the Virginia Capital Trail. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.