Florida has a reputation for bad drivers and leads the nation in deaths of cyclists, so finding a good route was important. Unfortunately, this trip was sort of a last minute thing and I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to research. Good routes seem a little bit difficult to find. Most of the information out there is related to "bike paths," which most of you might know as MUPs, which are really not much more than glorified sidewalks.
I flew into MCO and rented a bike from Bikes and Blades. The bike was a Raleigh RX 1.0, which was listed as a road bike but was actually a cross bike with slick tires. No big deal. It was worthy for the road. The crank was a 46/36, but (a) this is Florida, so there was no need for a smaller small ring and (b) I'm not a strong guy, so the 46 didn't hold me back. In general I hate renting bikes on vacation, but Bikes and Blades made everything easy and their hours actually fit my schedule very well. The price was reasonable, too.
|The rental bike and the rental car. They almost match.|
I came across the ICWC website and it seemed like a decent route. Often times when I'm out of state I'll just find a local organized century and ride the route solo. This has worked well for me in the past, but obviously isn't a foolproof solution. Just because a route is good for an event doesn't mean its good on its own. You never know if portions of the route have a police escort, are closed to traffic, have a ton of warning signs, etc. On top of that, there's an increased perception of safety when you're riding in a huge group. I say "perception" because there's no way of knowing for a fact that riding in a group is safer. However, there are portions of the RAIN (Ride Across Indiana) route that I wouldn't necessarily choose to ride on my own but feel perfectly fine on event day.
Anyway, I decided to just go for it. As bad as Florida's reputation is, I'm simply not one to be afraid of riding in traffic. The route ended up being a decent one. I would say it was good, but not great. For the most part I felt safe, but there was one section towards the end (somewhere around miles 60-70) on S Tropical Trail that was narrow and had a lot of traffic. Maybe I was just hitting it at the wrong time. Looking at the map, I doubt there's an alternate route that would have been any better.
My biggest complaint would be the portion of the ride near Cape Canaveral. Talk about a tease. There I was, riding on NASA Parkway on this neat little stretch of road in the middle of the river. It was super windy, but I could see these neat looking NASA buildings off in the distance. As I got closer I even saw an old rocket straight ahead. Maybe all of this riding in the wind was going to be worth it. All of the sudden there's a right turn and the route leaves all of that stuff behind. What a disappointment. I wish I would have kept going on NASA Parkway. Then again, maybe it just ends at a parking lot and you can't really see much. This is probably one of those places that's better seen off the bike.
The last 25 miles or so were great. Highway 1 had a bike lane and that final stretch on Rockledge/Indian River was very scenic and had almost no traffic. Best of all, the weather was fantastic. It's been a cold winter here in Reno, so I was happy to be riding in just shorts and a jersey again.
For some reason most of the pictures I took didn't get saved. Here are the ones I do have, plus a turtle and a gator I saw while riding west of Orlando the next day.
|Turtle (blurry phone image)|
|Gator. I was coming from the other direction and almost ran over its tail. I wasn't expecting a gator in the road.|