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  1. #1
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    Winter training in Florida

    I live in Chicago area and wish to make a bike training vacation in Florida.
    I do not want to do roads. Looking at Rails to Trails I found "Withlacooche State Trail" in north-central Florida.

    Questions:
    Is that trail suitable for 20 MPH++++ higher speed training? How crowded is it? Facilities?
    I like to go in January or February, how is that for biking?
    There is a town called Inverness. I am thinking to stay there in a motel. Any comments?

  2. #2
    Pat
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    The Withalacooche Trail is an excellent trail. It has very little traffic on it. But like any trail, it is crossed by quite a few roads, all of which have the right of way over the trail. So everytime one comes to a road, you have to slow way down to check for the traffic. I have not seen any trail that I would say was suitable for sustained high speed training. If you want sustained high speed training, you will have to ride on the roads.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat
    The Withalacooche Trail is an excellent trail. It has very little traffic on it. But like any trail, it is crossed by quite a few roads, all of which have the right of way over the trail. So everytime one comes to a road, you have to slow way down to check for the traffic. I have not seen any trail that I would say was suitable for sustained high speed training. If you want sustained high speed training, you will have to ride on the roads.

    Thank you Pat.
    I will slow down as you say. We have the same set up in Wisconsin. Hopefully there are long stretches where one can move fast.
    The slow down at intersections is not all bad. Gives opportunity to accelerate and sprint. I do not like road biking. Too many of my friends got hit and it takes only one hit for life to be ruined. I bike on trails and park roads without a single close call.
    But, yes, I have to stop or slow down at intersections.

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    Pat
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne
    Thank you Pat.
    I will slow down as you say. We have the same set up in Wisconsin. Hopefully there are long stretches where one can move fast.
    The slow down at intersections is not all bad. Gives opportunity to accelerate and sprint. I do not like road biking. Too many of my friends got hit and it takes only one hit for life to be ruined. I bike on trails and park roads without a single close call.
    But, yes, I have to stop or slow down at intersections.
    Well, then you understand the limitations. The Withalacoochie trail is an excellent trail and Inverness is a lovely little town. Also, if you are willing to take a short drive, you can go down and do the Van Fleet Trail. The Van Fleet Trail is incredibly boring but it has some long parts that are not interrupted and you could get up to high speed on.

    Pat

  5. #5
    FloridaFlats Bob Gabele's Avatar
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    The Wighalacooghie trail is a really great ride:

    http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide...with_state.htm

    It's a 46 mile paved old railroad bed with undulating terrain (Undulating in Florida means very gentle grades). Being an old rail road bed, it goes through a number of small villages, giving the rider lots of flexibility. I'm a 20+mph rider when solo and have found this trail to be really great. Yes, there are intersections where you must slow for crossing a road (like any railroad track, right?) but the flip side is that you are riding through some very rural areas and do not see a bunch of walkers, rollerbladers etc. to have to maneuver around. The stretches between intersections are long and you have plenty of distance for interval training, spinning etc. I like it early in the AM when I have the whole trail virtually to myself and a few riders.

    I live in Ft. Lauderdale and found this trail because it is close to my mother-in-law's place in Ocala. Now I finally have a reason to enjoy going up to Ocala!!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Gabele
    The Wighalacooghie trail is a really great ride:

    http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide...with_state.htm

    It's a 46 mile paved old railroad bed with undulating terrain (Undulating in Florida means very gentle grades). Being an old rail road bed, it goes through a number of small villages, giving the rider lots of flexibility. I'm a 20+mph rider when solo and have found this trail to be really great. Yes, there are intersections where you must slow for crossing a road (like any railroad track, right?) but the flip side is that you are riding through some very rural areas and do not see a bunch of walkers, rollerbladers etc. to have to maneuver around. The stretches between intersections are long and you have plenty of distance for interval training, spinning etc. I like it early in the AM when I have the whole trail virtually to myself and a few riders.

    I live in Ft. Lauderdale and found this trail because it is close to my mother-in-law's place in Ocala. Now I finally have a reason to enjoy going up to Ocala!!!!!
    Bob:
    You guys are great and this post of yours saves me time which I rather spend biking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat
    Well, then you understand the limitations. The Withalacoochie trail is an excellent trail and Inverness is a lovely little town. Also, if you are willing to take a short drive, you can go down and do the Van Fleet Trail. The Van Fleet Trail is incredibly boring but it has some long parts that are not interrupted and you could get up to high speed on.

    Pat
    Thanks, Pat.
    I hope that I can return the favor if you come up to Wisconsin. I know those trails as well as you do yours.

  8. #8
    starting pistol means war YMCA's Avatar
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    The Withalacoochee Trail is beautiful, with some long stretches with no intersections.

    The Van Fleet trail is really awesome as it has no intersections for 30 miles, but you better be selp reliant as there is nothing along the way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by YMCA
    The Withalacoochee Trail is beautiful, with some long stretches with no intersections.

    The Van Fleet trail is really awesome as it has no intersections for 30 miles, but you better be selp reliant as there is nothing along the way.
    YMCA:
    Thank you for the information and tip.

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    The Withlacoochhee trail is great! However, the Van Fleet trail is also good. Most of Central Florida is great riding. Also the Suncoast trail!!!!! Florida is great riding in the winter months.
    Keep on trying-perseverance pays off! Stan

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    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Hi again William! :wave:

    As I had stated before (in the other thread), I have not ridden the Withlacoochie myself, but I have ridden portions of the Suncoast and know it has some decent stretches with no road crossings.

    I've never heard of the Van Fleet trail....but may have to check it out now.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingTermite
    Hi again William! :wave:

    As I had stated before (in the other thread), I have not ridden the Withlacoochie myself, but I have ridden portions of the Suncoast and know it has some decent stretches with no road crossings.

    I've never heard of the Van Fleet trail....but may have to check it out now.
    Great, I will go there over the Holidays. Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by netso
    The Withlacoochhee trail is great! However, the Van Fleet trail is also good. Most of Central Florida is great riding. Also the Suncoast trail!!!!! Florida is great riding in the winter months.
    Thanks and I will see you Christmas through New Year if you are on one of those trails.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeeTL
    I live near the Suncoast Trail, but I've never been on it. I'm changing that Sunday.

    Check it out:

    http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide...s/suncoast.htm

    By the way, all of the Florida Trails can be researched on this site.

    BeeTL: I did check your posted URL as well as the Webb site of Rail to Trail.
    These descriptions do not address such insights as I got above from users. The nice thing about this forum is our passion for biking. Therefore, if one states the reason for the thread (as I did) some users of these trails have useful tips. I am training for a relatively fast and demanding cross country tour. I got useful information if some biker has done that kind of training on these trails.

    I am giving this long reply as a form of thanks for bikers who replied.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BeeTL
    Will:

    I missed the prior link post. Sorry to be redundant.

    Anywho, the Suncoast is pretty amazing. Today was beautiful, and the trail did not disappoint. I rode 23 miles starting at the southernmost trailhead. I rode north past SR54 and (apparently) into the park you see on the west labeled Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park. There were miles of trail within this park alone. I don't think I came at all close to SR52.

    It was amazing. By the way, I'm aware of your long distance training goals. I beleive you could easily string together a 60 mile ride without crossing a road. No real hills though.

    If you make it this far south, I highly recommend the Suncoast.


    BeeTL: The information you are giving me is much appreciated. A 60 mile ride without crossing a road sounds like heaven for bikers. We have no such thing up here in "Gods country". (That is what they call Wisconsin in some quarters)
    I like the map. A picture speaks a thousand words. I am looking forward to this visit. Looks like a lot of good biking in Florida.

    I have a question please: Assuming someone like me moves to that part of Florida,
    what about summer? Say May through September. Is the heat such that one can bike in mid day or not? Forgive my ignorance. I made a summer vacation in Arkansas once. It was ridiculous from a heat standpoint. I cannot imagine biking in that heat.
    What is your experience please?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeeTL
    The heat is not to be taken lightly. That said, group rides exceeding 30 miles run all summer long. They usually start at 8:30am. Early morning starts make nearly every day tolerable. I've been told by some that summer here is no worse than anywhere else. Californians or Hawaiians might disagree.

    Also, there are hills about an hour north of here in San Antonio. There are lots of group rides up there as well. Living in Florida doesn't suck.

    Thanks, I am thinking about it. The looong winters up here do suck.

  17. #17
    Elite Fred mollusk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne
    I have a question please: Assuming someone like me moves to that part of Florida,
    what about summer? Say May through September. Is the heat such that one can bike in mid day or not? Forgive my ignorance. I made a summer vacation in Arkansas once. It was ridiculous from a heat standpoint. I cannot imagine biking in that heat.
    What is your experience please?
    Believe it or not you can acclimate to the heat and humidity in Florida, at least around Gainesville where I live. The one thing that you have going for you is how dependable it is. Every afternoon from June through September it will be in the low 90's F and humid with a chance of a thunderstorm. A heat wave will put the afternoon highs into the mid 90's. Upper 90's are unusual, but brutal with our humidity. May is much nicer in a normal year: Highs in the mid 80's and relatively dry.

    Summer riding in the AM is the usual option as it normally will get down to the low 70's every night inland and the chance of rain is much lower. Also it helps to plan routes with a fair amount of shade.

    The local rail trail (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide...ille_hawth.htm) that I ride on is suitable for 20+mph training either solo or in a small group of two or three riders most of the time. I know it is OK for 20+mph training because that is what I do on it. Sometimes on weekend mornings there are too many trail users near the trailhead so it will slow you down some for a mile or two. The trail is 15 1/2 miles long and crosses three highways that you must slow way down for and occasionally come to a complete stop if there is traffic. One nice feature of this trail is that it leaves the old RR right-of-way for two miles and winds around and goes up and down some hills for a nice change of pace from the relatively straight and flat path that the old railroad took.

    The more central part of the state that has been discussed earlier has some very nice cycling both on and off the rail trails. The riding between Clarmont and Ferndale is very nice if you like rolling hills. This ride would be a good introduction: http://www.floridafreewheelers.com/f...rrible2005.pdf

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mollusk
    A heat wave will put the afternoon highs into the mid 90's. Upper 90's are unusual, but brutal with our humidity.

    The local rail trail (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide...ille_hawth.htm) that I ride on is suitable for 20+mph training http://www.floridafreewheelers.com/f...rrible2005.pdf
    Thanks Mollusk
    The temperature you list is no worse than up North in Mid-Summer.
    I thank you also for the riding tips. My plan is to train there this winter with possibly having a second residence around there later if we like it. Looks as if I am hooked on biking for the forseeable future.
    Biking is marginal in my area from now to late April.

  19. #19
    Senior Member dagna's Avatar
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    I'm in Florida, and I often ride in the middle of the day, even in summer. I don't have any problem as long as I stay hydrated and use a really good--and sweatproof--sunblock. I used to run, and I have to say cycling is much more pleasant in the heat, as it creates its own cooling breeze. YMMV, of course. I also used to run on my lunchbreak in Hawaii, so maybe I'm just acclimated to heat.

    By the way, much of the Suncoast Trail has cold water stations. I can't vouch for them on weekdays, but they seem to be restocked pretty regularly on the weekends. They're beverage coolers with iced water, locked in boxes on poles so they're a comfortable height to refill your water bottles; there are also those little cone-shaped paper cups for those without water bottles.

    Additional info: the main 'leg' from the Suncoast Trail into Starkey Park is 6.5 miles one-way, and there's a nice restroom & picnic area almost at the end, down a narrower, marked access path.

    Hope some of this info helps,
    Dagna

  20. #20
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Hi Dagna.

    BeeTL...if you got to the JB Starkey Wilderness Park, then SR52 was only about another 6 miles give or take.

    Maybe some can acclimate to the heat...I don't (and I've lived here all my life). In summer I try to ride either early am or late afternoon (prefer afternoon). I find that I can tolerate the heat better if I start in the am and it builds up on me, but its hard to start in the middle of the afternoon for me.
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by dagna
    I'm in Florida, and I often ride in the middle of the day, even in summer. I don't have any problem as long as I stay hydrated and use a really good--and sweatproof--sunblock. I used to run, and I have to say cycling is much more pleasant in the heat, as it creates its own cooling breeze. YMMV, of course. I also used to run on my lunchbreak in Hawaii, so maybe I'm just acclimated to heat.

    By the way, much of the Suncoast Trail has cold water stations. I can't vouch for them on weekdays, but they seem to be restocked pretty regularly on the weekends. They're beverage coolers with iced water, locked in boxes on poles so they're a comfortable height to refill your water bottles; there are also those little cone-shaped paper cups for those without water bottles.

    Additional info: the main 'leg' from the Suncoast Trail into Starkey Park is 6.5 miles one-way, and there's a nice restroom & picnic area almost at the end, down a narrower, marked access path.

    Hope some of this info helps,
    Dagna
    Yes it helps "dagna". They treat you guys well, never heard of "iced water on comfortable height poles".
    It is time for me to check all this out.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingTermite
    Hi Dagna.

    BeeTL...if you got to the JB Starkey Wilderness Park, then SR52 was only about another 6 miles give or take.

    Maybe some can acclimate to the heat...I don't (and I've lived here all my life). In summer I try to ride either early am or late afternoon (prefer afternoon). I find that I can tolerate the heat better if I start in the am and it builds up on me, but its hard to start in the middle of the afternoon for me.
    KingTermite: We have 100 degree and 100% days in Chicago area also. Not all the time but we have them.
    This summer I made a point to do a century in this weather just to see what happens. Well, it can be done with a bottle of water every 20 minutes. (not iced water!) Of course not at top speed. About 90 minutes for 25 miles.
    Next a lunch in a cold Subway. Repeat four times. It was tough but not impossible.

    I am going through CA desert next spring. I wonder how that compares? Anyone done that?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by BeeTL
    The heat is not to be taken lightly. That said, group rides exceeding 30 miles run all summer long. They usually start at 8:30am. Early morning starts make nearly every day tolerable. I've been told by some that summer here is no worse than anywhere else. Californians or Hawaiians might disagree.

    Also, there are hills about an hour north of here in San Antonio. There are lots of group rides up there as well. Living in Florida doesn't suck.

    BeeTL: I am redundand because I realy like to know.
    Do the conditions in Florida resemble conditions going east from CA through the desert? Perhaps you do not know but another reader may.

  24. #24
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne
    I am going through CA desert next spring. I wonder how that compares? Anyone done that?
    Never been in a desert, but I doubt it would be like that. Deserts are dry....Florida is HUMID...and that is the problem more than the heat (we never get to 100F, but its usually higher "feels like" because of Humidity).
    Quote Originally Posted by coffeecake View Post
    - it's pretty well established that Hitler was an *******.

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    I ride in San Antonio (hills), withlacoochee trail, suncoast trail, and around my area in Thonotosassa Florida all the time. The temp never hits 100, but the humidity is usually high in the summer. I ride nearly every day!!!!!
    Keep on trying-perseverance pays off! Stan

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