Bike Training in Florida

The good thing about living in Florida, well … one of the good things, is that we have the ability to train year round. Despite what some think, it does get cold here, but nowhere near the cold other feels in the arctic sections of the United States (and why anyone chooses to live blanketed by snow is beyond me) but cold is cold ya know? A 40 degree day on a bike going 20 mph is still cold, no matter where you are from. 

All that being said we do enjoy an abundance of time throughout the off season to ride and run, and even swim, outside the confines of a protective environment, so along with that comes the choices we share in the Tampa area of where to actually meet the planned rides. The “bad” thing is just where to train.

With the choices we have here it really comes down to what the training plan is geared toward that day. At times we will have a speed workout, so that will mean finding a route that is flat and long. At other times we will have a shorter workout where hills and climbing is paramount, so we go looking for an area in Florida where that is possible (no easy task). It also requires us to think about the bike we will use; Scott Road Racing Bikes, Scott Tri Bike, Litespeed, Quintana Roo … which ones are best for speed and which are better for control and climbing. It’s an arduous process!!

So where do we like to go in each of these cases?

Long Miles for Speed
You have a few options here. Flatwoods Park, located in New Tampa off of Bruce B. Down, is a 7 mile loop (with a 2 mile in and 2 mile out access). It gives you a safe environment for riding and a water stop every two miles, but it can be crowded on the weekends with recreational walkers, kids riding bikes, runners, and in-line skaters. There no real way to crouch down and power through the loops because you have to be a bit alert, as evidenced by the nice gash on Jennifer’s head from clipping a walker.

A great option for straight power riding is the Withlacoochee Trail. We normally get on at Ridge Manor from where you can go for 50+ miles if you desire. It is tree lined and well maintained. There are a few water stops but along with that a number of road crossings that you have to keep an eye on, but it’s a beautifully kept up area and a great ride (and if you’re so inclined about 18 miles in you pass through Floral City and a nice little restaurant/diner with great breakfast … including pancakes).

There are a few other options as well, Sun Coast coming to mind, that have limited water but great rides with minimal climbs. I should also say that some of these (Flatwoods, Sun Coast) require $2 fee’s (cash only) so be prepared for that also.

Florida Hills
Yeah I know, we all are aware of the joke that Florida is flat, but there are a couple of places you can get some decent hill work in without driving to far. The route of choice in Tampa is taking a drive about 20 miles north to a small town called San Antonio. This is sort of a mecca for hill work in the area, and can get crowded on the weekend with group rides. There are a number of routes, from 30 miles to over 100, with plenty of challenging climbs, all with nicknames like The Three Sisters, The Three Bitches, Ice Cream Hill, and Powell Road (which needs no name other than it’s actual name … it kills me every time). The thing to watch out for here is that the locals aren’t always welcoming when it comes to cyclists. You will get beeped at, yelled at, and stopped by cops and ticketed of you roll through stop signs. It is also a place the motorcycles love to ride through, and not the respectful Harley riders, the crotch rocket kids treating the winding roads as their own private race track. Keep your head on a swivel, and ride with a pack. To be honest some of the locals complaints are well founded. There are more than a few groups that ride out there that forget the rules and take up the entire road. My group has been overtaken more than once by these “pseudo pro’s” that forget it is not the Tour.

So if you’re local and haven’t tried these please check them out. If you know of other hidden gems let me know, and if you ever want to hook up with my group for a ride we are always open to new people joining. Just remember that I am slow and fat … so take it easy on me. 🙂

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