Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Moser Column: Mark your calendar, make the most of cycling season

Dan's column reviews the many great biking events coming up this Fall in SWFL and beyond.
2014-09-17 / Outdoors  Florida Weekly
Dan Moser
As the end of the bike touring season and post-summer blues begin to set in for our neighbors to the north, Florida’s bicycle touring season is just about to start in earnest. Granted, there are some excellent rides even during our hot and wet months, but the major touring events get going in October and run through April. Some are in our own backyard while others require a bit of travel and advance planning if you want to find a decent place to stay.
The first of the season in Southwest Florida is a new one for our area, Project 10 Ride for Wishes, a Make-A-Wish Foundation event being held in Cape Coral on Saturday, Oct. 11, from Cape Harbor ( The very next day, Sunday, Oct. 12, is the Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride in Port Charlotte ( awareness-ride-pg444.htm). Then, on Sunday, Oct. 26, the annual Tour of North Port stages from the Imagine School north campus ( php). None has a century ride as part of the options, but they’re each an easy daytrip. A local ride that offers a 100-mile route happens just after the new year: Tour de Cape takes off from Cape Harbor on Sunday, Jan. 18 ( Later in 2015, the Caloosa Riders host the Royal Palm Ride in March and Immokalee Ride for Literacy in April to wrap-up the season (
Away from Southwest Florida, Ride 4 Ronald, a Ronald McDonald House fundraiser, is the first, and it happens on Sunday, Sept. 21, in Orlando ( Next up, on Sunday, Oct. 5, two Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Ride for Life events take place simultaneously, one in Lake Mary, just north of Orlando, and the other from Fort Desoto Park, located just south of St Petersburg. All three of these events include century ride options. But one that allows you to choose your own distance also happens on Oct. 5: the Withlacoochee Rail-Trail Ride begins and ends in Dade City, just northeast of Tampa, and takes riders on the 46-mile trail (meaning a century is possible) ( Another unique ride that actually starts in Fort Myers but doesn’t end here is 72 Hours to Key West (, a fundraiser for Sarasota-based Tiny Hands Foundation ( Riders return to Fort Myers via motorcoach.
Florida’s major bicycle events include Mount Dora Bicycle Fest (Oct. 10-12), Gainesville Cycle Fest (Oct. 24-26), Suwannee Fat Tire Fest (Oct. 24-26) and Horrible Hundred (Nov. 15-16). If you’ve only been to smaller, less established rides you should consider experiencing at least one of these.
Mount Dora ( is the granddaddy of them all but has waned somewhat in terms of participant numbers since its glory days but still an excellent multi-day event.
This year’s Gainesville Cycle Fest ( is actually a combination of rides and related activities that also includes the Share the Road Celebration of Cycling, with workshops, seminars and an awards banquet being part of it. There are two different rides that offer century options (Santa Fe Century on Saturday and Horse Farm 100 on Sunday), with many other distances being conducted each day.
For mountain bike enthusiasts, Suwannee Fat Tire Fest ( is, unfortunately, happening on the same weekend as Gainesville’s event. (The very ambitious have been known to participate in both).
Finally, this year’s Horrible Hundred ( is celebrating its 35th anniversary and will include its usual impressive expo, a bike club leadership workshop, and plenty of challenging hills (century ride participants will climb more than 4,000 feet over the course of their ride, with Sugarloaf being the highest and hardest climb). In prior years more than 2,000 cyclists took part in the 100-, 70- and 35-mile rides.
Any of these events include options for all fitness and cycling skill levels and for folks of all ages. None are races, although it’s common for the leaders of the longest distance ride to challenge each other to be the first back to the finish. Unfortunately, that usually means breaking many traffic and safety rules since roads aren’t closed, so laws still apply. Perhaps if ride organizers incorporate a mini-race into their event it would encourage good behavior among the more competitive types. They could take the lead from Peace River Riders ( which includes a “Gentleman’s Ride” (which incidentally includes women) and “Speed Trap” at its annual Wings & Wheels Ride, both which allow those who choose to take part to engage in full-out cycling with little chance of running afoul of the law or putting themselves in unnecessary risk. Based on feedback Wings and Wheels organizers receive, participants seem to agree that these ride add-ons make for an excellent event that lead to even more cyclists really challenge themselves in ways they otherwise wouldn’t do. The beer, Beef O’Brady’s chicken wings and Tour de France watch party (and speeding citations handed out at the post-party) also help make this ride one of Florida’s best small rides, and one that’s sure to grow.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways.
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly.

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