Positive Spin

5 Great Local Bike Rides

Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike--especially on one of these routes.

By Hannah Wallace April 5, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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1 For Knobby-Tire Daredevils

No mountains to speak of, but Alafia River State Park (just an hour’s drive northeast in Lithia) ranks among the Southeastern U.S.’s most popular mountain biking destinations. Built on a former phosphate mine, the park’s 17 miles of well-maintained bike trails boast wicked elevation changes—60-foot hills, whoop-dee-doos and jumps—in addition to rooty/rocky paths, hairpin turns and other gnarly features winding through beautiful forest and marsh. Plenty of flatland rides for the newbies, too. floridastateparks.org/park/alafia-river

2 For Families of All Ages

A pillar of the national Rails-to-Trails project, the Legacy Trail occupies a former railway (once used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) stretching 10 tree-lined miles from Palmer Ranch to the Venice Train Depot. With seven trail heads and 15 rest areas in between, it invites leisurely excursions of any length, and the 12-foot-wide paved path accommodates riders of all levels. Kids will love the wildlife: Keep your eyes peeled for tortoises, hawks, armadillos and plenty more. scgov.net/parks/pages/legacytrail.aspx

3 For Hardcore Road Racers

Longboat Key’s smooth, ample bike lanes stretch from one end of the island to the other—22 miles round trip—past beautiful beach vistas and impressive real estate, and with few major intersections to slow your ride. Colorful flocks of serious, sponsored riders come here to put their $10,000 road bikes to the test. Start at Overlook Park on the south end, and if you need a break at the 11-mile mark, swing down Broadway Street for a gander at historic Longbeach neighborhood’s famous peacocks. longboatkey.org

4 For Early-Rising Zen Masters

Before the crowds come, Siesta Key Public Beach at sunrise makes for one of the most magical rides around. That famous flour-soft sand is hard packed by the shoreline, so fat-tire beach cruisers can wind easily among the gulls and terns, the calm Gulf waters on one side and expanse of beautiful white beach on the other. Fellow early morning warriors greet each other like neighbors, but mostly you’ll hear nothing but the wind and the waves. 

5 For Laid-Back Nature Lovers

Twisting through nearly 500 acres of salt marsh in west Manatee County, Robinson Preserve’s bike trails—pavement, shell paths and some wooden gangplanks—offer miles of all-natural coastal wetland, over lagoons and under mangroves, and sometimes revealing breathtaking views of the Skyway Bridge across Tampa Bay. You can ride here again and again and still not explore everything. Stick to designated biking trails and watch out for pedestrians. mymanatee.org/home/government/

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