As the days start to cool, the biking scene locally begins to heat up. Not only are there more rides on the calendar, there are more cyclists on the paths or roadways and more people looking to get back into a meaningful relationship with their two-wheeled friends.
However, if it's been a while since you took the bike out for a spin, there are a couple of things you should do first to ensure that ride is more fun than infuriating.
First and foremost, make sure your bike is ready to roll. That means checking the air pressure in the tires (too low and you're inviting a flat – plus you'll be working too hard because of additional resistance) and the lube on the chain (and elsewhere). Nothing wrecks a ride faster than a breakdown on the road or path far from home.
In fact, unless you're handy with a wrench and well versed in the mechanics of your bicycle, this would be a good time to visit your local bike shop for a tune-up – or make their acquaintance if you don't have a local shop to rely upon.
• Experienced bike mechanics know what to look for to keep you rolling rather than stuck by the side of the road, with the preemptive protocols and eye for looming problems that we mere mortals rarely possess.
• They can also show you the quick and simple steps you should take before every ride to keep things pedaling smoothly — and get you the right materials to tackle your own daily or weekly maintenance easily.
• Visiting your local bike shop is also a way to support the local bike community — which is often centered around shops – as well as to check out new gear, find out about rides and clubs, and much more.
There are plenty of good shops locally, populated with fine upstanding cyclists, skilled wrenchers and all-around good people. Pick one that's convenient to the way you ride (meaning nearby if possible), or be prepared to haul your bike to them (which isn't a bad idea in general).
If you're new to the pathways, or looking to trade in your current model for something different, a bike shop can be a major asset. Not only will you have people who can describe the differences and details in a variety of models, but you have the ability to try them out for yourself – and probably have someone who can fit you to your bike and get you ready to roll out the door more quickly and more comfortably. If you're purchasing a new bike, remember that they are assembled where they're sold – so having a qualified mechanic do the work instead of big-box store employees who likely have little skill and experience makes a world of difference.
• As the days get shorter, so does the time you can ride — unless you throw in the necessary lights to let you keep rolling beyond dawn to dusk. When it comes to illumination, more is almost always better – both to help you see and make sure you're seen. At a minimum, you need a strong headlight and tail light (one that flashes is more visible), and putting additional lights on both you and your cycle is wise.
Again, a bike shop will have an array of choices that are designed just for this purpose, so you can see what works best for you. Even if you don't plan to ride after dark, having lights helps protect you if you get caught out too late… and many bicyclists use tail lights all the time to help others to see them on the road.
• Similarly, good bike clothing is even more critical then it's cooler and/or darker. Something you can throw on to keep warm is a good idea if the weather is right on the edge (but at least your chances of rain aren't as high as in summer). Make sure that something is bright or reflective, the better to see you in the more angled light of winter. Layers are a must, so you can add and subtract as needed to stay in your comfort zone.
• Finally, more riders mean more chances for problems – and more need for courtesy and calm when riding on paths crowded with other cyclists and pedestrians. Know your rules of the road and pathway, and obey them diligently (while you hope your fellow riders do the same). Be patient with your fellow roadway users (both two-wheeled and four), and ride to arrive safe. Bicycling is meant to be fun, not fatal – so we ALL need to act that way.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County—streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at BikeWalkLee.org.
· Saturday, Nov. 1: 7th annual Race the Roof 15K run, 5K run, 5K walk and tot trot. Verandah Community, 11571 Verandah Blvd., Fort Myers. All proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity, Lee and Hendry Counties. Race starts at 7:30 a.m. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
· Sunday, Nov. 9: Kids Helping Kids 5K and Fort Myers Marathon/Half Marathon. Based in downtown Fort Myers with three different courses to cover 5K, 13.1 miles and 26.2 miles. 5K benefits Kids Helping Kids Festival in Centennial Park and the Golisano Children's Hospital. Details and pricing at www.kidshelpingkidsswfl.com or www.fortmyersmarathon.com
· Tuesday, Nov. 11: Veteran's Day 5K Run across the Midpoint Bridge. Proceeds to benefit YMCA Youth programs. Race starts at 7 p.m. Registration: Before Nov. 1 veterans an youth $15, adults $20; Nov. 1-10 veterans and youth $20, adults $25. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
· Thursday, Nov. 27: 35th annual Turkey Trot, Cape Coral Wellness Center 609 SE 13th Ct. Cape Coral. 5K run/walk, 1-mile fun run and tot trot, starts at 7:30 a.m.; registration opens 6 a.m. Proceeds to benefit Golisano Children's Hospital. (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
· Saturday, Dec. 6: 36th annual River Run, 10K run and 2-mile walk, across bridges from downtown Fort Myers (www.ftmyerstrackclub.com)
· Sunday, Dec. 7: Everybody Rides/Runs. A family-friendly, non-competitive multi-distance bike ride. Choose from routes of 15, 30, 62 or 100 miles. 7:30 a.m. start time for the 62 and 100 milers. 9:30 a.m. start time for the 15 and 30 milers. Choose a family-friendly chip-timed 5K or half marathon. All finishers will get to run into JetBlue stadium and run right across home plate! 7 a.m. start time for the half marathon. 7:45 a.m. start time for the 5K. (http://www.everyonerides.org/)
· Sunday, Jan. 11: 12th annual River, Roots & Ruts Trail Run, Caloosahatchee Regional Park, Alva. Half marathon and relay 8 a.m., 5K Fun Run 8:15 a.m. (www.rrrtrail.com)
· Saturday, Jan. 17: Tour De Cape 5K Run/walk, is designed for advanced and novice runners. Check in begins at 6:30 a.m. Race time is 8 a.m. Starts at Cape Harbour in Cape Coral. (tourdecape.net)
Cycling and other events
· Sunday, Nov. 2: Streets Alive returns to downtown Fort Myers 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Activities for the entire family focused on active and healthy lifestyles. Details at www.streetsalivelee.org.
· Sunday, Nov. 9: Caloosahatchee River Ride 2014. 15-, 30-, 40- and 62-mile rides starting from Caloosahatchee Regional Park, 19130 North River Road, Alva. Staggered starts at 8 a.m. Register in advance or day of. (http://crca.caloosahatchee.org/events/?event=calendar&mon=11&details=1&id=350).
· Saturday, Nov. 15: Bicycle Bully Busters, Trek Bicycle Store of Estero, 8001 Plaza del Lago Drive #101, Estero. Get on your bike, make a stand against bullying and raise awareness about safe cycling in SWFL at this fun family event. 40-mile ride starts at 7 a.m.; 25-mile ride starts at 7:30 a.m.; 10-mile fun ride begins at 8 a.m. (www.caloosariders.org)
· Friday, Nov. 29: Black Friday Century. Fort Myers to Naples and back. Details at www.caloosariders.org
· Sunday, Nov. 30: Iron Joe Turkey Ride. Begins and ends at Naples Cyclery, Pavilion Shopping Center, Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41. Fully supported rides: 7:30 a.m. breakfast; 8 a.m. Metric Century (100 km); 9 a.m. 30 Mile; 10 a.m. 14 Mile Family Ride; 10 a.m. Beach Walk. (www.raceroster.com/events/2014/2892/9th-annual-iron-joe-turkey-ride)
· Sunday, Dec. 7: Everybody Rides/Runs. A family-friendly, non-competitive multi-distance bike ride. Choose from routes of 15, 30, 62 or 100 miles. 7:30 a.m. start time for the 62 and 100 milers. 9:30 a.m. start time for the 15 and 30 milers. Choose a family-friendly chip timed 5K or half marathon. All finishers will get to run into JetBlue stadium and run right across home plate! 7 a.m. start time for the half marathon. 7:45 a.m. start time for the 5K. (http://www.everyonerides.org/)
· Sunday, Jan. 18: Tour De Cape. Routes from 15, 30, 60, and 100 mile courses in the west and north sections of Cape Coral. The event provides a continental breakfast, lunch, on route rest stations with snacks and beverages, SAG vehicles, Police support, and route maps. All rides start from Cape Harbour in Cape Coral. (http://tourdecape.net)
· Sunday, Dec. 21: Christmas Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon (run/bike/run), Sugden Regional Park, 4284 Avalon Drive, Naples. (www.active.com)
· Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 10-11: HITS Triathlon Series, Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples. Open, sprint Olympic half and full (www.HitsTriathlonSeries.com)
Tell us about your ride
Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you'd like to share with others? Tell us about it at email@example.com, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.