BikeWalkLee Column ‘Go Coastal’
The News-Press, April 8, 2021
by Ken Gooderham
If you really want to see what a place is like, see it from a bicycle.
A bike lets you go slow enough to really take in the sights and sounds, but cover enough ground to get a larger sense of whatever you are covering – a neighborhood, a community, even the better part of a state.
That’s one of the allures of bicycle touring, a method of travel that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. From a few hours to a few days to a few weeks, and from guided and gilded to self-directed and self-contained, there are plenty of ways to put some pedaling into your travel routine.
The simplest, of course, is to rent a bike, grab a map and hit the streets (or bike paths) to explore on your own. You can pick your own pace and places, pedaling as long and as far as you wish. This is bike touring at its most basic – and, for many, most enjoyable (and certainly accessible).
A map isn’t essential, but can give you a sense of where to head and what to see – as well as a way to keep rides from going on beyond purpose. There are plenty of local options – Sanibel, of course, and Cape Coral, both with miles of connected paths and lanes. Lee County has plenty of choices as well, depending on where you live and what you want to do or see.
The next level is an organized and guided ride to help you learn some local lore and lessons. You’ll find these in most major cities (Fort Myers being the exception, although both Naples and Sarasota have tour companies at least online). These can be a great way to orient yourself to an area, learn about it from a local and break up your routine (whether on vacation or not).
These tours tend to be low (miles) and slow (speed), making them suitable for even the inexperienced rider. The rise of e-bikes is making these even more accessible for the cycling-challenged.
Then there are the multi-day tours, usually covering sights that are manageable in terms of distance and more bike-friendly in terms of traffic. Usually guided and supported, there are typically a few mileage options in the daily routes, making these more attractive to a range of cycling skills.
You’ll probably stay in unique venues and have some special experiences built in to the daily schedule. Even better for most riders, all you have to do is ride – luggage is transported from place to place by van, and those who don’t want to bike as much can shun the saddle and hitch a ride.
These tours include full support, meaning food, drink and repairs are usually someone else’s concern. (of course, they also provide the bikes.) And the offerings cover a full range of experiences (and even countries), making these a unique way to see the world.
But not Southwest Florida… you’ll have to look north, east and south to find multi-day rides, but nothing that includes our area. Maybe some day, once intra-state paths start making their way into our region – and once we have more bike-friendly roads (and drivers) that can make bike tourers feel more welcomed (or at least less threatened).
Finally, you have the long-haul tourers, self-sufficient and self-motivated, who pack all their needs on their bikes and head off to points unknown (except to them). These excursions are for the seasoned and skilled riders, and require a fair amount of planning and preparation to pull off well. You’re carrying everything you need on your bike, and you’re responsible for any repairs along the way… so clearly not a ride for novices.
However, the chance to see the countryside literally on your own as well as up close and personal can be a compelling experience offering unique memories and a strong feeling of self-reliance.
What each of these tour options offers is a chance to slow down and take it all in. Whether it’s a few hours pedaling around a tropical paradise or a few days cruising through a unique region, bicycle touring can be a great way to get out, get around and get in touch with an area.
EVENTS: Here’s the latest in organized running and biking events locally… but confirm with the organizers and be flexible in case conditions change and large-group activities are limited. Of course, wear a mask and act appropriate to your age, physical condition and medical concerns.
FORT MYERS TRACK CLUB (ftmyerstrackclub.com):
- Downtown Dash, 1-mile run/walk, in person in downtown Fort Myers Friday, April 16
- Head & Neck Cancer A Hard Thing to Swallow 5K Run & 2-Mile Walk (in-person and virtual), Saturday, April 24
GC RUNNERS (gcrunner.org):
- Run for the Music 10K, Saturday, April 10
- Tropicool 5K, May 8
- SNIP Collier 5K, May 31
ELITE EVENTS (runeliteevents.com):
- Naples Distance Classic, 5K/10K/half marathon, Saturday, April 10
- Publix Run to the Arts 5K run/walk – in-person is now delayed to Nov. 20, runsignup.com or runtothearts.com
The Caloosa Riders are offering member rides, but some are open to non-members (and it wouldn’t hurt you to join the club); check their ride calendar (caloosariders.org) for a description of the distance and speed, and to see if the ride is open to all.
SW Florida Critical
Mass is offering their usual slate of family-friendly rides. Check out their line-up
online (www.meetup.com/Biking-SWFL/events/) for details and times (and to make sure the ride is still rolling).
- SW Florida Critical Mass ride, first Friday of the month. A family-friendly slow night ride through Fort Myers. Front and rear bike lights required. Helmet and lights required, meet in the parking lot at 2180 West First Street, Fort Myers.
- Sanibel Critical Mass night ride, second Saturday of the month. Gathers at Jerry’s Shopping Center, 1700 Periwinkle Way, on Sanibel. Lights required, helmets recommended.
- NE Lee Critical Mass ride, third Friday of the month. Gather in the Winn Dixie parking lot on Palm Beach Blvd. about five miles east of the Interstate; gather at 7 p.m. and roll at 7:30 p.m. for a slow ride through Fort Myers Shores.
- Cape Coral Critical Mass ride, fourth Friday of the month. Gather at the Southwest Florida Military Museum parking lot at 4820 Leonard Street for a family-friendly night ride through the Cape; helmets and lights required.
- Saturday Morning Slow Roll, fourth Saturday of the month. Meet-up at 2160 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. Recommended for inexperienced/young riders. Distance is 6 miles, includes group ride instruction.
If racing is not your thing but you’d like to support their return nonetheless, consider volunteering to help out at the few in-person offerings ahead. With Covid concerns still confining some of the usual volunteers, a few new helping hand would certainly be welcomed.
- 2021 St. Anthony’s Triathlon, April 25, St. Petersburg. Olympic and sprint event
- 2021 Fitness Challenge Triathlon, May 2, Naples. Reverse sprint event
- 2021 Heartland Triathlon, June 12-13, Sebring. Kid’s event Saturday, adult Olympic and sprint triathlon, duathlon and aquabike Sunday.