I felt like a waterbug recently, pedaling my way up the center of Lady Bird Lake on what's called a hydrobike.
The bike looks like a single-speed bicycle mounted on a pair of skinny yellow pontoons. You crank the pedals, which turn a prop, which sends you gliding up and down the river.
The reward for your calorie-burning efforts? A new perspective on Lady Bird Lake — one that's higher than a kayak, more stable than a paddleboard, and, actually, not a bad workout.
It took me about 12 minutes to make my way from the Hyatt Regency up to the mouth of Barton Creek. Along the way, I bobbed alongside a trio of sleek white swans, sent several bewildered ducks flapping and caught the attention of numerous curious turtles. One kayaker asked if I built the contraption myself. (Clearly, this person hadn't seen me wielding a hammer or saw.)
The bikes are equipped with cupholders and a storage bin big enough to stash a small bag, cell phone, camera and snacks.
"It's exactly like riding a bicycle," says Todd Kirk, owner of Austin Water Bikes, which opened last month.
Well, sort of. I ride my bike to work every day, and I've never been able to drag my toes in the water. Or race a nutria.
With so many options for fun on the river these days, from stand-up paddle boards to kayaks, sculls and canoes, I'm hoping for some kind of multivehicle race.
Austin Water Bikes operates off a folding table set up near the hike-and-bike trail behind the Hyatt at 2008 Barton Springs Road. Business hours are 10 a.m. to dark daily.
Kirk's fleet currently numbers six hydrobikes, but more are coming, including a tandem hydrobike.
Children age 13 and younger must wear a lifejacket; they're optional for adults. Cost is $22 per hour or $13 per half-hour, but rates are $5 off now. For more information, call Austin Water Bikes at 200-6555 or go to www.austinwaterbikes.com.
Easter on two wheels
Every year since 1974, a Texas cycling club has organized a multiday riding tour through the Texas Hill Country. This year, it's the Austin Cycling Club's turn to host the annual Easter Hill Country Tour, featuring three days of pedaling the rolling terrain around Kerrville.
Each day Friday through Sunday, cyclists can pick from a short, medium or long ride. All are fully supported, with rest stops and support vehicles. Terrain ranges from gently sloping to steep climbs. There are no mass starts — cyclists are encouraged to team up with buddies who ride at the same pace and head out whenever they're ready. All the routes start from Schreiner University in Kerrville.
The toughest ride in the lineup? Probably the challenging 105-mile "three nest" ride on Saturday, which takes cyclists up Eagle's, Condor's and Sparrow's nests — nicknames for big hilltops in the area.
Other rides go through Medina, the apple capital of Texas, and Camp Verde, location of a War Department experiment to use camels as pack animals in the 1800s.
Online registration is $45 through Wednesday. On-site registration is $50. Part of the registration fee will go to supporting cycling access, safety and education in Central Texas. For more information or to register, go to www.ehct.com.
Go jump in a lake
If you're like me, you'd rather swim down a river lined with cypress trees, splashing past turtles and blue herons, than plug back and forth across a chlorinated cement pond.
That's what makes the Money Box Cap 2K one of my favorite races of the year. This year's ninth annual race is scheduled for May 1.
Swimmers will stroke 2,000 meters, from Red Bud Isle to the Texas Rowing Center dock near Austin High School. Race director Keith Bell likes to point out that it's a downhill course.
I love the brisk water, cruising past those gorgeous limestone cliffs west of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and looking up to see people on the Pfluger Bridge cheering on swimmers.
Swimmers get a swim cap, T-shirt, mug and picnic at Eilers Park, next to Deep Eddy Pool. To sign up, go to www.cap2k.com.
Check-in starts at 8:45 a.m. May 1, with a mandatory briefing at 9:40 a.m. at Red Bud Park. The race starts at 10:30 a.m. just off Red Bud Isle.
The race raises money for Swimability, which funds swimming lessons for at-risk children.
Track coach to speak
Need some running inspiration?
Former Arkansas Razorback track coach John McDonnell will speak at Rogue Running, 500 San Marcos St., at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The event is free and open to the public.
McDonnell racked up 42 national championships and 84 conference championships in his 36 years coaching at Arkansas.
He grew up on a farm in Ireland, then moved to the United States to run and earn a college degree. He narrowly missed a chance at the Olympics.
For more information, contact Scott MacPherson at Rogue Running at 493-0920.