Thursday, October 24, 2019

BikeWalkLee: Maybe it’s time for a tour

BikeWalkLee Column
The News-Press, October 24, 2019
by Ken Gooderham

Courtesy Photo
A lot of people like to bike as part of their vacation. But have you ever considered doing your vacation on a bike?

Of course, I mean bicycle touring… which offers a unique and (for some) very enjoyable break from the routine. The options are endless, as are the choices of how much (or how little) time you want to spend in the saddle.

By touring, I mean the multi-day, go-from-place-to-place tours… not the tour-the-town tours, which can also be a great way to see the sights (particularly in places where you’d be smarter not to drive). Vacation tours are where the bicycling is the vacation – along with the experiences you find (or are shown) along the way.

Tours are big on almost every continent (probably not Antarctica, for obvious reasons), but most common in Europe, Asia and America. They also range from the rugged (you carry everything you’ll need for the trip) to the luxurious (somebody else carries everything and you just ride from place to place).

You can have the choice of a number of distances per day, with many tours offering 2-3 distance options depending on how vigorous you’re feeling (but always starting and ending in the same places as everyone else). The pace can vary, but usually is (again) based on what you want to do.

There will be instructions to guide you, and someone to sweep the route and keep an eye on all the riders (but particularly the slowest ones). Some tours use more hands-on guiding, where cyclists of similar skills and speeds stay together with a leader to traverse the countryside.

And that’s one of the real draws of bike touring: Seeing the country up close and personal. Wandering a back road at an easy pace, stopping to look at something you find interesting, getting a feel for how a place looks – and smells and tastes and sounds – can be a very unique experience, even for seasoned travelers.

If this idea appeals to the cyclist in you, here are some ideas to get you started:
  • Where would you like to go? With so many locations to choose from, you’ll want to narrow them down to a country or region. You should also ponder whether you want to try somewhere new or see somewhere you’re more familiar with from a new perspective.
  • How many days would you like ride? Most tour last at least a week, and many can exceed two weeks. There even are people who will do two tours in a row (or more), although they are the exception. Nonetheless, think hard about how much you really want to ride (particularly for your first time out), and book accordingly.
  • How much work do you want to do? If you like camping for days at a time, a self-contained tour is for you. If you like the idea of riding, but want someone else to schlep the bags and have a cool drink and hot meal waiting for you at the end of the day, then an inn-to-inn or van-supported tour is more your speed.
  • How good a cyclist are you – in terms of stamina as well as skills? Be realistic, this is not the time for bike bravado. If going more than 10 miles at a time is too much for you, your choices may be limited – or you’ll need to build up your stamina to match the demands of the tour, and that includes elevation skills as well (so if your idea of a hilly ride is crossing the Sanibel Causeway, you should plan on working on your climbing). Most tour companies will be honest about what you’ll need to be able to do, and most also include an assessment of your skills as part of the introductory process… so they know what to expect. As fa as skills, the ability to fix a flat tire is almost essential, particularly if you’re riding more independently during the day. Obviously, basic road skills are expected.
  • What kind of traveler are you (and everyone who’s coming with you)? If you’re pretty self-sufficient, you’ll be good with almost any tour type. If you’re more high maintenance, needing someone to stick close to make sure you’re OK, look for an easier, heavily guided tour. Making this a family affair? Make sure the tours have kid-friendly (at least for your kids) options and plans. Want to pack in more education and experiences? There’s a tour for that, too.
If you’re looking for a local tour option, not much is out there – which is surprising in an area that’s warm (at least in winter) and flat (all year long). The lack of bike infrastructure might be part of the issue, as well as a reputation as not always being bike/ped friendly. There is one tour this November that starts in Fort Lauderdale, rides to Key West, ferries to Fort Myers and rides back across the state… but as a self-contained tour topping 380 miles over 10 days, it’s for the serious cyclists.

But if the idea of biking to get away sounds appealing, there’s bound to be a tour that suits you to a tee.

Be bright, less light

With the time change still over a week away, morning bikers, runner and walkers face less light (meaning less visibility). Remember to work harder to see and be seen – bright colors, bright lights and a little more awareness. Once we wave goodbye to Daylight Savings Time Nov. 3, evening exercisers will need to up their visibility game to stay safe.

Ready to ride or run? 

Run? Runners have a number of distance options available… this weekend brings the FISH 10K on Sanibel, the LCEC Goblin Gallop 5K in Cape Coral and the Monster 5K in Naples, followed by a Naples and Cape Coral 5K the following weekend. Details at, and

Ride? Critical Mass has these regularly scheduled rides on tap:
  • Friday, Oct. 25: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at 7:30 p.m., start at 8 p.m. at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly ride through the Cape.
  • Saturday, Oct. 26: Saturday Slow Roll 8 a.m. meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction.
  • Friday, Nov. 1: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. A family-friendly slow ride through Fort Myers gathering at 7:15 p.m. and starting at 8 p.m.
Lights required for night rides, helmets recommended for all, details at

For something different, Nov. 3 brings both a Trek Poker Ride (distances of 10, 40 and 80 miles, all starting from the Fort Myers Trek store) and the Gulf Coast Cyclefest (distances of 20, 35, 62, 79 and 100 miles, all starting from Main Street At Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton). more formal ride, consider the 10th annual Tour de Northport, with distances of 15, 35 and 65 miles. Details at and

Both? The lone local-ish event is the Longboat Key Triathlon/Duathlon, with both Olympic and sprint distances on Nov. 17; details at or


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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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 


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