The News-Press, January 30, 2020
by Ken Gooderham
If you like to bike, Southwest Florida is right for you. Great weather (especially if you like it hot), flat terrain and a growing list of bike facilities all make this area a great place to ride.
You see plenty of cyclists taking advantage of these advantages this time of year, with cooler temperatures drawing more people out of the house and onto their bikes. (It can also be a great way to run your errands without getting tied up traffic, if you’re willing to plan ahead a little.)
But what a lot of cyclists may not know is that Southwest Florida is also a great place to ride with other cyclists. No matter what your skill level or location, there’s a good chance you can find a group ride to join.
Why ride with a group? To push yourself outside your usual routine, either in where you ride, at what pace or for what distance. There’s also strength in numbers, both in safety (easier to be seen in a group and people who can help if you break down) and in speed (if you’re willing to learn how to ride in a pace line, you’ll find you can go farther and fastest as a group than you ever will alone).
But the real draw for most is riding with other cyclists… the social interaction, the camaraderie, the food and drink (did we mention how many rides include a stop for dining and/or drinking?). It’s an easy way to find a group of like-minded people and a ready-made social calendar – good for your body and mind alike.
Rather than just talking about it, you should take a look for yourself. The following club websites will give you a great sense of what each offers – even down to recommendations as to who should join which ride based on pace and distance. (This list is by no means complete, and don’t forget to check if you live where there’s a neighborhood bike group you could join.)
- Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org): The most rides and riders in Lee County, and literally something for everyone (except on Friday). The ride list is extensive, each with maps, cue lists and downloadable details.
- SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL): The Critical Mass headquarters, with rides in downtown Fort Myers, downtown Cape Coral, Sanibel and Northeast Lee. Definitely entry-level riding, easy on both speed and distance and big on camaraderie.
- Sanibel Bicycle Club (sbcsite.altervista.org): Great for Sanibel-Captiva cyclists, but more seasonal and fewer rides.
- Naples Velo Bicycle Club (naplesvelo.com): Rides every day of the week and, like the Caloosa Riders, lots of work to support more biking, more education and more safety (as well as more fun).
- Peace River Riders Bicycle Club (peaceriverridersbicycleclub.com): Not as many organized events, but a lot of opportunities and outreach for Charlotte cyclists.
- Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org): The home for trail riders, with two maintained trail areas – Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva and Pepper Ranch Preserve in Immokalee.
This area also offers the option of a range of rides – everything from the slow roll of Critical Mass to the fast pace of the Caloosa Riders, from an easy eight-miler to a ride covering 100 miles or more in a day.
The Critical Mass ride list is both online and included in this article, a great starting point for riders interested in trying out an organized ride. When you’re ready for more, check on the clubs listed above nearest you to see where you fit on their ride calendar; the descriptions are usually very honest and explicit, because the clubs want you to fit in and come back – not be discouraged when you can’t keep up.
|Critical Mass Riders (courtesy photo)|
Another entry point for organized rides can be the “something for everyone” events, with a variety of distances and paces all starting and ending in the same site – and, thus, usually tied to food and drink as well. They are also usually SAG supported – SAG for “support and gear,” meaning a vehicle that will ride the course for the entire ride (usually with a cutoff time) offering help to cyclists with mechanical or fatigue issues. This is another major plus for the newbie rider, to know that help will be on the way if something goes wrong.
Aside from the just-completed Tour de Cape, some other upcoming multi-mileage rides are:
- Saturday, Feb. 8: Ride for Tiny Town, 10-, 30- and 60-mile rides, around Arcadia to benefit Desoto Cares; helmets required (www.ridefortinytown.com).
- Sunday, Feb 23: 10th annual Tour de Marco, 15- and 30-mile rides, to benefit Marco YMCA (www.marcoymca.org).
- Sunday, March 8: 22nd annual Royal Palm Challenge. The Caloosa Riders offer a fun-filled day – and rides for everyone, at 15, 40 and 62 miles. Starts and ends downtown at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation Collaboratory, so make a day of it! Online at www.caloosariders.org.
Not everyone is up for group rides all the time, but it’s a great chance to try something different and an even better chance to meet some fellow cyclists. Give one a try!
Ready to ride or run?
Run? Saturday brings two 5Ks – Strides for Education at Florida SouthWestern in Fort Myers and Running Water at Jaycee Park in Cape Coral. Sunday, come downtown for the Publix Run to the Arts 5K (tied to ArtFest in Fort Myers). Feb. 8 has the Rotary’s Run for the Rose Garden 5K in Cape Coral, followed on Sunday by the Edison Junior Races in downtown Fort Myers. Yes, that means the big Edison 5K is the following weekend on Feb. 15… so plan accordingly. Details at ftmyerstrackclub.com, 3dracinginc.com and runtothearts.com.
Ride? Critical Mass has these regularly scheduled rides on tap:
- Friday, Jan. 31: Cape Coral Critical Mass ride. Gather at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly night ride through the Cape.
- Friday, Feb. 7: SW Florida Critical Mass ride. A family-friendly slow night ride through Fort Myers.
- Saturday, Feb. 8: Sanibel Critical Mass night ride, gathers at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel.
- Saturday, Feb. 15: 2020 Edison Festival of Light Parade Ride. A cyclist awareness ride, so they’re going for lots of riders and not a lot of speed. Gathers after 4 p.m. at the Edison restaurant to ride over to the Fort Myers high for the parade.
For more mileage look to the Ride for Tiny Town on Saturday, Feb. 8 – 10-, 30- and 60-mile rides, around Arcadia to benefit Desoto Cares; helmets required (www.ridefortinytown.com).
If you’re looking for a good ride and some cycling camaraderie, look no further than the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club. Check out their ride calendar and you see a ride for almost every day of the week (never on a Friday, but even more on weekends), all mapped and planned for your enjoyment. The Riders even tell you how fast (or not) you’ll need to be to keep up… click on the ride of your choice for all the details and even a map. All at caloosariders.org.
Both? If you’re planning your tri schedule, here’s what is on tap in the next few months:
- Saturday, March 28: Escape from Fort Desoto Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon, plus Aqua Bike (https://www.thunderboltmultisport.com/Events/Escape-From-Ft-Desoto)
- Sunday, April 26: St. Anthony’s Triathlon, sprint and Olympic distances, St. Petersburg (https://satriathlon.com)
- Saturday, May 30: Sarasota Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon, Siesta Key (trisarasota.com).
- Sunday, June 7: Naples Fitness Challenge reverse triathlon, Naples (http://www.thefitnesschallengetriathlon.com)
- Saturday, June 13: Heartland Triathlon, sprint and Olympic triathlon, duathlon and Aqua Bike, Sebring (runsignup.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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 www.BikeWalkLee.org.