Usually when Farid Salloum wants to go biking, the Riverside resident loads his bike - and all his gear - into his car and drives to Baltimore County, to Sparks or Loch Raven.
"It involves a half-hour of preparation and driving time and a half-hour driving back," said Salloum, a marketing director. "It's an hour wasted."
But yesterday morning, while searching on the Internet for information about the newly completed Gwynns Falls Trail, Salloum came across the Tour du Parks, an annual city bike ride that traverses 30 neighborhoods and 35 parks over 34 miles. He found it just in time to make it to yesterday's event, which began and ended in Carroll Park.
Before the ride, he said, he had no idea that Baltimore had such extensive and picturesque bike trails, even though he has lived here for seven years. But he intends to spend more time enjoying the city's trails - now that he knows where they are.
"Baltimore lags behind most 21st-century cities in city biking. This is a great step forward," he said. "I'm really enamored with what I've found."
And that's exactly the kind of reaction that organizers of the third annual event were hoping for.
"We want to promote bike riding in the city and use of green space," said Gloria Pestridge, president of Friends of Carroll Park, which sponsored a festival after the ride.
Event co-chairman Dwight Pinkney agreed. "A lot of people don't even know that a lot of these parks exist," he said.
The more than 200 participants in this year's Tour du Parks could choose between a 15-mile route and the 34-mile route. Most chose the longer ride yesterday, organizers said. The 34-mile path took cyclists around the Inner Harbor, past the pagoda in Patterson Park, around the Maryland Zoo and onto the Gwynns Falls Trail.
The ride was a good way for residents to be pleasantly surprised by their own city, participants said.
"You see a lot of history," said Frank Hogarth, 42, of Gardenville.
He and Connie Wheeler, 42, of Charles Village agreed that an area of the Gwynns Falls Trail near an old mill race was the most scenic.
"You wouldn't expect it," Wheeler said. "It was pretty rugged."
Shannon Twenter, a 28-year-old teacher, has lived in Baltimore for three years. Yesterday she participated in the 15-mile ride for the first time, after a friend told her about it.
"It was nice to see all the noncity parts of the city. There are more hills in Baltimore than I thought," she said. "The whole trail was really beautiful. It makes you think you can bike in Baltimore."
The Tour du Parks attracted serious bikers and novices alike. Even small children participated, some towed by their moms and dads. Organizers didn't know how much money was raised by the event - participants paid a $25 or $30 registration fee - but said that the money would go to city parks.
And although the organizers also didn't have the final tally of participants, they estimated it was more than the 240 last year, and more than the year before that.
"We're hoping it gets even bigger next year," Pestridge said.