Now that the weather seems to be leveling out here at a real comfortable level, I tend to get out a lot more and ride. This is the time I also like to venture out and find new bicycle routes and also return to a few riding areas that I rode in the past. There are also a few rides around the area that hold “supported rides”. They are well put together and you get the bonus of meeting a lot of nice people. Most supported rides have routes and distances for all levels; this is what makes them so enjoyable. So whether you want to do as little as 15 miles or as much as100 miles, or anything in between, these rides are for you.
Here are some of my favorite riding areas:
Shark Valley; Located about 60 miles South on US41, Shark Valley is at the entrance of Everglades National Park. This is a great way to view the Everglades at your own pace, the path is nicely paved and flat, which makes it easy to ride for any style of bicycle and is good for any level of bicycle rider. The ride can you take you from about 2 to 3 hours, or even longer, depending on how often you stop to enjoy the nature. They also rent bicycles from 8:30 am to 4:00pm. On your way back from Shark Valley you can head into Everglades City for a nice casual ride or even lunch.
Biking in Olde Naples; I have found that riding in Olde Naples and the 5th Avenue area can be very relaxing, and you can also put in a lot of miles. I start the day by parking at the garage off 8th St. South (I believe it’s free) and get my bike unloaded and head out from there. I usually head down 5th Avenue to Gulf Shore Boulevard and go south. At the end of Gulf Shore I take a right on GordonDrive all the way to the end and then turn around. On the way back on Gordon Drive I like to take all the streets on the right (I call them finger roads). I then go to 3rd Street South, and stop for a cup of coffee at Tony’s off Third, or get something at one of the many restaurants along 3rd Third. What a perfect way to end a great day of riding!
Some upcoming rides that may be of some interest:
The Royal Palm Classic. March 6, 2011. This ride starts at Buckingham Park in Fort Myers and has all riding distances including 15 miles, 30, 62 and 100 miles; they also have a “no one left behind” ride, which is a 15 mile guided loop. Check it out at www.royalpalomclassic.org.
Stay ‘N Play Everglades Ride sponsored by ROGG (River of Grass Greenway) Sunday April 17, 2011. This ride starts at McLeod Park in Everglades City and has distances of 16, 23, 50, 62 and 80 miles. Check it out at www.evergladesrogg.org.
There are many other bicycle rides and events all throughout Florida. I suggest using different websites. One is Active.com, bikeride.com, and another is floridacycling.com. Another great site to check out is Mapmyride.com. This website is great because there are a lot of rides listed and mapped out by other cyclists. If you have a ride you enjoy, you can sign up and map your own. They even have an application for your smart phone.
Now you are armed with a few events and rides that may pique your interest and fill your weekends with some healthy, casual activities. So, get out and ride, and see some new sites in Florida, or revisit some old forgotten places and revive pleasant memories!
Matt Walthour, a Marco Island resident since 1985 is a graduate from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and is the owner of Island Bike Shop and Scootertown on Marco Island and Naples. He is also a member of the Marco Island bike path ad-hoc committee.