› Cruising in Comfort
Comfort bikes, also known as fitness or commuter bikes, are a hot new trend for urban commuters. Think of them as a cross between a mountain bike and a road or race bike. These bikes cushion the body with wide suspension seats, a frame and handlebars designed for an upright sitting posture to relieve strain on the back, wide tires to handle diverse terrain, and ergonomically designed handlebar grips that prevent hand tingling and numbness. Chris Levins, co-owner of Village Bikes in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, recommends Specialized’s Globe Carmel line (from $390). “With more people looking for alternatives to driving, these are becoming increasingly popular,” says Levins. Taking your work or groceries home with you? Levins is passionate about Topeak’s racks and snap-on rack bags and panniers (from $35). Features include fabric that’s both waterproof and insulated, and carrying straps for off-bike use.
3898 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota
(941) 366-7702 and 6279 Lake Osprey Drive
› Hybrid vigor
Brian Underwood, manager of SarasotaBicycleCenter, is a former BMX racer whose off-road love affair is still going strong. Today, his heart belongs to hybrid bikes that are equally at home on asphalt as they are on dirt. Hybrids combine the upright sitting position and thicker tires of mountain and comfort bikes with the high-flying gear ratios of road or race bikes. The hybrid’s tire is taller and slightly thinner than the comfort bike, allowing for quick acceleration and easy climbing. “They’re a great way to increase speed, comfort and cruising range,” says Underwood. A popular hybrid is the 21-speed Raleigh Route 3.0 ($399.99). “The rider’s posture is comfortable, and that’s key,” he says. “The more comfortable the ride, the more you’ll find yourself riding.” One accessory is not an option. “Bike lights are required by law. Front and back.” Underwood recommends a CatEye LED Light ($11-$40), the undisputed leader in LED lighting technology. And don’t forget a good lock. Underwood’s recommendation? The Avenir resettable coil combination lock ($19.99).
4084 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota
› Fast lane
When it comes to in-town commuting, Elaine Perangelo, owner of Fastrack Bicycle & Run, recommends a cyclocross road bike. It looks and is designed a lot like a race or road bike, but, like the hybrid, is fitted with heavier, more durable wheels for city commutes and off-road adventures. Her top seller is the Italian-made Bianchi, a bike that “will get you where you’re going and take more of a beating,” says Perangelo. ($999 to $7,000). Perangelo is also excited about a Dutch line of woven bike panniers and baskets made from European waterproofed wicker. Got a dog? Get the domed doggie basket with a caged covering that locks (fits dogs up to 45 pounds; $125). (If Dorothy had had one of these, Toto would have stayed put—end of story.) The same company makes covered waterproof wicker panniers that fit on the back of your bike; with a handy handle, they’re perfect for shopping excursions ($75).
Fastrack Bicycle & Run
1530 Dolphin St., Sarasota
› Bicycle built for you
For serious cyclists, Paul Tobio, owner of Ryder Bikes in Bradenton, recommends the professional racer’s favorite, the Serotta line of road bicycles. Like a good suit, the bike is custom-tailored to the rider’s physique, flexibility and injury history. “Slight changes can make a drastic difference,” says Tobio. Handcrafted in Saratoga, N.Y., these sleek, fast machines are made from titanium, steel and carbon for a smooth and resilient ride (from $7,000). And, if you’re serious enough about biking to own a Serotta, you’ll want an IBike power meter, which measures wind speed, hill gradient and bike speed so you can calculate the force you’re applying as you cycle (from $300). What to wear on your Serotta? Tobio recommends the Pearl Izumi line of cycling clothing and shoes. Pearl’s MicroSensor-Nano fabric and progressive design are both stylish and comfortable (prices vary).
1905 Cortez Road W., Bradenton
› Bike trails
The Sarasota-Manatee area is home to a host of great bike trails. The eight-mile-long Legacy Trail is a new favorite, stretching from Clark Road in southern Sarasota to Nokomis (when completed, it will stretch for 12.4 miles and end in Venice). Part of the Rails-to-Trails project, the former railroad corridor has 15 rest areas. Robinson Preserve, in ManateeCounty, is 487 acres of rehabilitated farmland with hiking paths, kayak and canoe waterways, and a three-mile paved bike path. The Venetian Waterway Bike Trail is a five-mile path that starts at the Venice Train Depot and travels alongside the Intracoastal Waterway with a trek through downtown Venice. Lakewood Ranch offers 100 miles of connecting bike and walk paths. The straightaway bike path on Longboat Key offers a 24-mile round-trip trek down Gulf of Mexico Drive
■ Coastal Cruisers Bicycle Club offers regular rides and maps. Get the schedule at www.coastalcruisers.net.
■ The nonprofit Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club is dedicated to bicycling for recreation, fitness, exercise, sport and transportation, and takes an active role to further the interests and safety of all bicyclists; www.smbc.us.
■ The Friends of the Trails is a nonprofit organization working to preserve open space and create a network of trails, bikeways and greenways in Manatee County; www.friendstrails.org.
■ Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocates works to make Sarasota and Manatee counties a paradise for biking and walking; contact Mike Lasche at (941) 544-7788; [email protected].
■ The Alliance for Responsible Transportation (A.R.T.) is a grassroots, all-volunteer organization that promotes bicycling and walking as viable forms of transportation in Sarasota and the surrounding areas; www.bikewalklive.org.