Biking Florida

From the Panhandle to the Keys
Gorp.com

Bicycles and Florida make a pretty good team. There's lots of natural beauty: cold springs (Fountain of Youth, remember?), rivers, lakes and forests. And if it's the beach you're after, next to California, Florida has the most miles of beach-accessible roadways. Florida offers good roads and a transportation department that takes bikes into consideration. Plus Florida gets only vaguely hilly, which means that while the state may not offer a lot in downhill thrills, you'll also have very few agonizing uphill plugs.

And of course there's that famous climate. Winter is probably the best time for serious bike touring. Temperatures south of Daytona are in the 70s to 80s; north of Daytona they're in the 60s to 70s. Rain is infrequent. In the summer it's multiple water bottle weather, with humid 80 to 90 degree temperatures all over the state.

Florida has an enlightened bicycle policy. Which is not to say that you can just cycle anywhere. Cyclists must hand pick their routes to avoid congestion and to keep out of the way on the farm to market routes. Which means you should have a good set of maps. And understand Florida's on-road set-up. Off-road options are legion, and include rail trails and dedicated bike trails on state parks and national forests.

South Florida is a little too crowded for comfort. Still, if you want to give it a go, try the two day Everglades to Keys Tour. Central Florida is much less crowded, and north Florida is best of all. The 6-day tour of Florida Springs Tour in the north central part of the state, and the Seven Hills Tour in the panhandle tour can be done as one stretch, or in pieces. If you're in the area, but don't have seven days, it's hard to beat the day trips at Gar Pond and Big Shoals.

What bike to use? You'll see more mountain bikes than anything else-- though maybe All-Terrain Biking (ATB) would be a more appropriate term for Florida . The fat tires and upright position make it an ideal around-town bike, as well as offering an exhilarating trail experience. Most any bike will do for short rides of under 30 miles per day. Even if you prefer a touring bike, consider more standard or wider touring tires, or even mountain bike tires if you're going to venture into the quieter rural areas. This change will open up many other roads and trails. Many people are discovering the value of hybrid bikes, which combine the softer and more comfortable ride of mountain bikes with the efficiency of a touring bike. Hybrids are ideal for getting out on Florida backroads, where other traffic seldom ventures.

"Where other traffic seldom ventures." Bikes offer the perfect way to get off the mainstream tourist conveyer belt, and discover the hidden corners of a state that is a major travellers destination for many good reasons. No packaged experiences here . . .


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