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Old 09-17-13, 01:19 PM   #1
shona
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Winter Road Cycling in Florida

If my husband and I were to choose a place in Florida to go this winter to ride bikes where would we go? We want to stay in one place for about 5 days and ride from that location. We have already been to Sanibel and would like something different.
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Old 09-17-13, 01:53 PM   #2
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Ocala, Gainesville, Inverness area is great. Ocala- lots of quiet roads through horse farms; Gainesville - Gvl/Hawthorne Rail trail; Inverness - Withlacoochee Trail; Chiefland - Nature Coast Trail. All the trails are terrific! Everything mentioned is within about 30-40 miles of Ocala. A little further is the Suncoast Trail, Palatka Trail and more.

RonH... jump in here - you know some of the other good places to ride nearby.
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Old 09-17-13, 04:40 PM   #3
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I must agree with lookinUp about the Withlacoochee Trail. We moved here last November so we could be near the Withlacoochee and other trails year round.
I've ridden the entire length of the Withlacoochee, most of the Nature Coast, and most of the Suncoast. If you want "hills" you'll find them on the northern end of the Suncoast Trail. Others can tell you about hills around Ocala, Gainesville, Sebring, and other areas.
Lots of shade on the Nature Coast and Withlacoochee. Most of the shade on the Suncoast is on the northern sections. But during the winter months the warm sun feels good.
You'll see lots of wildlife along the trails (tortoises, snakes, wild turkeys, deer, etc.) and lots of really scenic lakes, rivers, horse farms, etc.
Most trails have plenty of water and food stops and lots of friendly riders if you get lost (is that possible??) or want info about the area.
There are lots of quiet, low traffic back roads to ride. And a group ride can be arranged with little notice as many of us are retired.

To be near most of the places I've mentioned I'd recommend the Inverness area.
We stayed in Hernando (5 miles north of Inverness) in February and March of 2012. We were 1.5 miles from the Withlacoochee Trail. I rode past farm land and pastures going to the trail.
Floral City is 7 miles south of Inverness. The Withlacoochee Trail goes through downtown Floral City.

Let us know if you pick a location in Florida and we can do a group ride or two if you're interested.
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Old 09-18-13, 09:00 PM   #4
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Actually folks, there are hills at the north end of the Withlacoochee too, just not on the trail itself. The annual Rails-To-Trails ride, (coming up Oct. 5th), adds an 8 mile section of some rolling hills on a parallel rural road, then returns to the trail almost at the north end. Ask any regular or at the bike shop in Inverness for directions.

Shona, you don't mention what "ride bikes" means to you. Do you two like to ride 5 miles, 55 miles or 105 miles at a clip? Are you looking for training ride territory, or sight-seeing territory? And what do you like to do when you're off the bike? Are fine dining, night life, and upscale hotels in the requirements, or do you ride hard all day and just need a decent greasy spoon and a bare-bulb-on-a-wire room at night? We really need to know these things in order to make any satisfactory recommendations.

Also, how old are you two? If you old enough, The Villages will rent you a house for about the cost of an upscale hotel room, and they have 100's of miles of brand new roads that were designed to accommodate golf carts and bicycles. They have their own bike club and are the defacto headquarters of the Florida Tandem Club.

On the other hand, if you're in your 20's .....

More info please.

Bill
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Old 09-20-13, 08:38 AM   #5
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The annual Rails-To-Trails ride, (coming up Oct. 5th)....
Correction: Oct 6, 2013
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Old 09-20-13, 11:29 AM   #6
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And if you wish to play tourist central Fl offers a number of nice trails in the area.
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Old 09-20-13, 12:37 PM   #7
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Oops!
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Old 09-20-13, 06:19 PM   #8
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Bill, we are in our sixties. We like to ride 40-60 mile rides. We eat healthy and don't eat fast food or at greasy spoons so we need access to decent food - not necessarily fancy but fresh. We don't need a party atmosphere - just good riding and pretty scenery. I hope that helps. I was looking at the Crystal Springs area and it looks nice. We just need guidance on which town to stay in. Thanks.
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Actually folks, there are hills at the north end of the Withlacoochee too, just not on the trail itself. The annual Rails-To-Trails ride, (coming up Oct. 5th), adds an 8 mile section of some rolling hills on a parallel rural road, then returns to the trail almost at the north end. Ask any regular or at the bike shop in Inverness for directions.

Shona, you don't mention what "ride bikes" means to you. Do you two like to ride 5 miles, 55 miles or 105 miles at a clip? Are you looking for training ride territory, or sight-seeing territory? And what do you like to do when you're off the bike? Are fine dining, night life, and upscale hotels in the requirements, or do you ride hard all day and just need a decent greasy spoon and a bare-bulb-on-a-wire room at night? We really need to know these things in order to make any satisfactory recommendations.

Also, how old are you two? If you old enough, The Villages will rent you a house for about the cost of an upscale hotel room, and they have 100's of miles of brand new roads that were designed to accommodate golf carts and bicycles. They have their own bike club and are the defacto headquarters of the Florida Tandem Club.

On the other hand, if you're in your 20's .....

More info please.

Bill
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Old 09-20-13, 07:00 PM   #9
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So, where should we stay if we want to be near the trail, stay in a decent hotel and eat decent food? Hernando? Inverness? Ocala?
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Old 09-21-13, 06:36 AM   #10
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Bill, we are in our sixties. We like to ride 40-60 mile rides. We eat healthy and don't eat fast food or at greasy spoons so we need access to decent food - not necessarily fancy but fresh. We don't need a party atmosphere - just good riding and pretty scenery. I hope that helps.
That's me (I'm 68) and ride 30-50 miles most days. We live a healthy lifestyle and try our best to eat healthy.
The Withlacoochee runs thru Hernando and Inverness so either location would be good.
There's a nice fresh fruit and vegetable market right on the trail in Hernando. There's another one in Floral City right on the trail that's run by the mother of the Hernando market owner. Most of their produce is local and much is organic. Some is local meaning from the co-op farm that's less than 1/2 mile from the market.
There are many seasonal rentals in the Hernando and Inverness area listed online. That's how we found the lovely place we stayed at in Feb-March 2012.
Let us know when you'll be here. Group rides are fun.
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Old 09-21-13, 06:47 AM   #11
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RonH thanks for your helpful reply. Did you find the seasonal rental on VRBO or was it a hotel? We will look to stay in either Hernando or Inverness.
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Old 09-21-13, 07:51 AM   #12
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If we stay in Crystal Springs will we be close enough to the Withlacoochie trail?
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Old 09-21-13, 08:30 AM   #13
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I was looking at the Crystal Springs area and it looks nice. We just need guidance on which town to stay in. Thanks.
Crystal Springs or Crystal River? Two different areas. Believe it or not, Crystal Springs feeds into the Hillsborough River and is nowhere near Crystal River. Go figure!

To be honest, (unless you know something I don't), there is very little in the Crystal Springs area OTHER than the springs. Don't get me wrong, the springs are gorgeous, and if you kayak or canoe and take off on the river afterwards, it'd probably be a good day. But I'm a saltwater guy, so I'm kind of underwhelmed by freshwater springs. And the cycling in that area is lacking, to be sure. Route 39 has a decent shoulder in that area, but it's a high speed, two lane road for the most part, and that's pretty much it as far as I know. Most other roads around there are either 10 or 12 foot pavement with no shoulder or unpaved.

The only other interesting thing to do from that area would be to head east a bit over the the James A. Van Fleet Trail. Now, the Van Fleet trail skirts/passes thru the Green Swamp which forms the headwaters of the Withlacoochee, Hillsborough and Peace rivers. Between it and the TECO/Auburndale Trail that joins it at the south end, it's a 35 mile trail, so a round trip is 70 miles. You will see more native Florida wildlife riding this trail than anywhere else in the state, unless you take an airboat trip thru the Everglades. (Yes, you're likely to see gators, too. Just keep riding and they'll ignore you! If they're sunning themselves on the trail, stay AT LEAST 100 yards away. While keeping your bike handy and pointed in the opposite direction, do some jumping jacks and shout wildly. They'll usually crawl off casually.)

I also want to warn you that there are no resources on this trail. Let me say that again. There are NO RESOURCES AT ALL on this trail. Bring everything you need to repair flats and broken chains, everything you need to eat or drink, and if you have space bring a little extra for the hapless, bonking, pushing-his-bike cyclist whose friends didn't bother to give him this same warning.

If you are considering anywhere in the Withlacoochee Trail area, I agree with Ron that it is a beautiful trail as well, and the views are more varied than the Van Fleet. It's 46 miles long, and for my money, the ideal place to stay is Inverness. It's still a small town, but it's big enough to have some resources, plus, from there you can get in a decent ride north or south depending on which way the wind blows.

Hernando, on the other hand, is tiny. To the best of my knowledge, there's not even a bike shop in Hernando. To me, it's kind of a wide spot in the road on the way to somewhere interesting.

Hope some of this helps. Keep us in the loop.

Bill
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Old 09-21-13, 08:39 AM   #14
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If we stay in Crystal Springs will we be close enough to the Withlacoochie trail?
By car, you'd be a half an hour away from the very south end of the Withlacoochee Trail, 40 minutes away from the Van Fleet Trail, and about the same from the Suncoast Trail. Kind of in the middle of all of them if you don't mind driving to ride.

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Old 09-21-13, 09:51 AM   #15
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Bill, your post was very helpful. We will look for a place in Inverness. Thanks
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Old 09-21-13, 10:50 AM   #16
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Bill, your post was very helpful. We will look for a place in Inverness. Thanks
Well, I've never stayed there, but since Inverness is the starting point for so many Withlacoochee Trail organized rides, I know lots of people who have stayed in the Central Motel. They all agree that it was a pleasant experience. I take it the rooms aren't the biggest, but they're certainly adequate, clean, well equipped, and the price is right. The trail is right behind it, and when you're done you can take a dip in the pool. Might want to start your accommodations search there.

And again, keep us in the loop. Ron and I are both retired, so getting together a social ride when you get here is easy for us.

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Old 09-21-13, 11:55 AM   #17
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Thanks. We just started the process of booking a place through VRBO. Is there a bike shop in Inverness or nearby?
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Old 09-21-13, 12:06 PM   #18
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I'll mention Google Maps for locating bike trails. Click the Bicycling option, then start zooming in. The trails will appear as dark green lines. Zoom all the way in to see the name of the trail repeated along the green line.

For instance, central Florida google map.
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Old 09-21-13, 12:17 PM   #19
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Thanks. We just started the process of booking a place through VRBO. Is there a bike shop in Inverness or nearby?
Suncoast Bikes, right on the trail at the starting point of many rides. I've never been overly impressed with them, but they can certainly adjust your derailleur, sell you a tube or fix your flat.
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Old 09-21-13, 12:32 PM   #20
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Thanks - Google Maps is a great idea.
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Old 09-21-13, 03:22 PM   #21
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RonH thanks for your helpful reply. Did you find the seasonal rental on VRBO or was it a hotel? We will look to stay in either Hernando or Inverness.
VRBO didn't have anything that wasn't already rented so we used a site similar to VRBO. We rented in Hernando for 2 months.

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Thanks. We just started the process of booking a place through VRBO. Is there a bike shop in Inverness or nearby?
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Suncoast Bikes, right on the trail at the starting point of many rides. I've never been overly impressed with them, but they can certainly adjust your derailleur, sell you a tube or fix your flat.
Like Bill I've never been impressed with the folks at Suncoast Bicycles. All I've ever dared buy from them was a Primal Wear jersey and some Clif bars.

There is a good shop (Blue Run Bicycles) in Dunnellon about 3-4 miles north of the north end of the Withlacoochee Trail. There's also Hampton's Edge Trailside Bicycles in Floral City.
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Old 09-21-13, 04:50 PM   #22
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There is no winter cycling in Florida.

Maybe dry season.

Or cooler season but no winter cycling.
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Old 09-21-13, 04:54 PM   #23
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There is no winter cycling in Florida. Maybe dry season. Or cooler season but no winter cycling.
Correct, which is why people want to come here during THEIR winter! But Florida DOES have 4 seasons .... Heat, Hurricane, Tax, and Tourist!
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Old 09-22-13, 10:40 AM   #24
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Bill, you missed two other seasons -- Lovebugs and Snowbirds.
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Old 09-22-13, 01:51 PM   #25
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Bill, you missed two other seasons -- Lovebugs and Snowbirds.
You got that right! Particularly the lovebugs part! I just drove an 80 mile round trip, and I had to stop and clean my windshield off twice before I got home, and it needs it again!
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