The News-Press, December 6, 2018
by Ken Gooderham
You may be a recent transplant or a newly arrived snowbird… ready to ride, but looking for good routes. Or perhaps you’re just starting your cycling, drawn by the fitness, fresh air and freedom to roam on two wheels… looking to expand your cycling horizons or just build up your skills.
Either way, the first question you should ask yourself: Are you looking for places to ride, people to ride with, or both? Your answer will affect the resources you need.
If you just want ideas on where to ride, there are a variety of options. From online maps to in-person suggestions from your local bike shop, you should be able to find the rides – with both the right locales and distances – you want… and enough to offer some variety once you start hitting the trails with purpose.
For an easy place to start, the BikeWalkLee website (bikewalklee.org) has a selection of Lee County bike maps, including the most recent guide to facilities throughout the county – a great option if you want to make up your own routes but need to know the conditions to help you make decisions. (Note: Remember that bike maps become out-of-date the minute they are printed, and that roadwork and other issues can impact the ride-ability of any route on a temporary [or not so temporary] basis.)
Click here for all our online bike maps.
Click here for an updated guide to biking resources in Lee County.
If you live close to a bike path, you can start from home and meander as far as your legs are able. If you’re not so lucky, there are a number of places you and your bike can drive to that can serve as a start/finish point for your bicycle excursions. Either way, the big overview maps will give you lots of options.
In other Southwest Florida counties, look for local resources that offer the same options. In Collier County, check out the colliermpo.org site for county bike facilities. In Charlotte County, traillink.com has a few routes listed. You can also find a lot of different options via Google, of course, with the usual warning about accuracy… for example, mapmyride.com pops up on many local searches, but most of the rides shown are five years old or older and thus may not reflect current conditions.
If you prefer the more social aspect of cycling, then you’re looking for fellow enthusiasts with which to share the road (or path or lane). Here; you also have plenty of choices.
The most accessible and plentiful group rides (at least in Lee County) is Critical Mass… less a bicycle club and more a bicycle social hour (or two). Offering five different rides a month and an easy-to-ride pace, it’s a great introduction both to riding and riders. Note: Most of the rides are at night, so you’ll also need lights (helmets recommended as well). If you’re looking for some paceline practice and faster speeds, look elsewhere… this will be far too relaxed (and probably festive) for your taste. Interested? Find out more at http://www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/.
For more serious riders (and rides), you’ll want to check out some of the local bicycle clubs. Here, where you live will probably determine who you’ll join:
- Lee County: Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (http://www.caloosariders.org/)
- Sanibel: Sanibel Bicycle Club (http://sbcsite.altervista.org/SBC-Site/Home.html)
- Bonita Bay: Bonita Bay Bicycle Club (https://bonitabaybicycleclub.com/)
- Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte: The Peace River Riders Bicycle Club (http://www.peaceriverridersbicycleclub.com/)
- North Port: Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club (http://www.coastalcruisers.net/)
- Naples: Naples Velo Community (https://naplesvelo.com/)
What does joining a club get you? Plenty of rides (usually multiple rides/multiple distances are scheduled each week, especially in season) and people to ride with; great skills-building opportunities, very useful if you want to become a better bicyclist; discounts at local bike shops and other businesses, and more. Most of all, if you’re interested in getting to know other people who love cycling, a club is a great place to look.
So, grab your maps or submit your membership… and get out and ride!
Ready to ride or run?Run? Tis the season to be running, with plenty of seasonal events during the lead-up to the holidays (which are another good reason to grab those running shoes). You’ll find Xmas 5Ks on the calendar the next two weekends in Babcock Ranch, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples… and if you need more distance than that, there’s a half marathon in Sarasota this Sunday as well. Details at 3dracinginc.com and eliteevents.org.
Ride? Back-to-back Critical Mass rides ahead, with the big downtown ride Friday night and the Sanibel ride Saturday night; front and rear bike lights required. Grab your helmet, bring all your friends. The regular Sunday morning rides continue as well; details on all at meetup.com.
Both? Upcoming events include:
- Sunday, Dec. 16: Christmas Sprint Triathlon/Duathlon, Sugden Regional Park, Naples (eliteevents.org)
- Jan. 6: HITS Triathlon Series, with sprint, Olympic and half-Ironman distances. Nathan Benderson Park, Sarasota (hitstriathlonseries.com)
- Willing to drive? Check trifind.com or active.com for tris around the state.
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.
# # #
Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, 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 www.BikeWalkLee.org.