Self Guided Bike Tour

Self guided bike tours are a great way to visit a foreign country. It takes a certain spirit of adventure to attempt a self guided bike tour, but many riders already have this kind of confidence and adventuresome spirit.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of this type of tour versus one that is guided? Of course not having the guides along with a support van is certainly the most obvious drawback. The guides can essentially “take care” of the guests during the sejour. They can up to a point, that is. If they have a large group it is hard to give everyone individual attention. For people who do not wish to ride their bicycle the entire route or for part of a day, for example, they can hitch a ride in the support van, if there is room. Also, some people just like to be part of a group and follow along behind whoever is in front without having to try and read directions and figure out where they are on the day’s itinerary. Normally the guides will speak at least a bit of the language of the country they are in, so having someone available to translate can come in handy from time to time. Also, if you are single, especially a single female in a foreign country, a group tour is probably a better choice.

The biggest fear when taking a self guided cycling tour is getting lost. But here is a secret known only to bike riders who have gone on guided tours. People get lost on guided bike tours as well! This happens all the time, and it is unusual for an entire day to go by without someone taking a wrong turn and having to double back and find the rest of the group. On the other hand cyclists who know they themselves are responsible for following the directions they have been given and who have nobody else to rely on in any case are more likely to be attentive and normally won’t make too many wrong turns.

On self guided bicycle tours you will be given a suggested itinerary, and of course you are free to go wherever you like. You can stay as long as you want visiting quaint villages, wineries, interesting shops, castles or museums, and you aren’t obligated to keep up with the group if a few people have other interests and want to move on before you do. You can eat all your meals whenever you want and don’t have to worry about meeting times with the group.

But the biggest advantage of self guided biking tours is the cost. The price will typically be about half that of a similar guided tour. In these days of the weak U.S. dollar, that is a big advantage, as some guided bike tours cost upwards of $5,000 per person or even much more. With self guided tours you can stay in the same luxury hotels, eat the same great meals, and see the same sights. If an adventurous vacation experience sounds appealing, self guided bike tours are worth considering.

Ford Release E-Bike Concept

The Frankfurt motor show takes place each year and attending motor companies often use the exhibition to showcase new releases and even concept models to delight the crowds. The Ford motor group are often behind many of the new releases at the show and this year has been no exception. Alongside the many additions and new models at the car giants stall in Frankfurt, a very different sized prototype was on show, with Ford’s latest concept, an “E-bike”.

The project has been designed to show how Ford as a company can translate their design language to a bike rather than a larger 4 wheeled vehicle. Sadly, Ford have stated that they do not have any plans to produce the bike but will continue to study and work on the concept as it may well help with future mobility issues.

The design of the bike was undertaken by a team of people led by Martin Smith who is the executive design director of Ford and ran in partnership with the company “Cyber-Wear”. The bike is designed to appeal to both male and female riders by the team behind many of Ford’s top lifestyle collection ranges. The frame is a trapezium profile and is constructed from both aluminium and carbon materials giving it a lightweight mass but with also an impressive strength. The wheel design features six spokes that give the appearance of them floating around the frames body,

As mentioned the bike is powered by electricity and utilises cutting edge technology to deliver a very minimalistic profile. The drive system is hidden within the workings of the front wheel and is powered by a lithium power cell that is stored within the bikes frame. The e-bike has been tested and is noted for being able to travel 85 kilometres (50 miles approx.) before requiring to be recharged.

Not only have Ford developed their concept bike using engineers and designers from the motor sector, they have also incorporated hardware from already leading cycling companies such as Shimano.

Electric bikes have become extremely popular and are overtaking traditional bicycles in some markets. With over 120million e-bikes in china alone you can certainly see how fast and rapidly the market is developing. Depending upon which country you live in you will find that laws differ when it comes to e-bikes; in some countries they are classed as just normal bicycles meaning they do not have very much legislation attached to them regarding road use.

Van Fleet State Trail – Top Florida Eco-Bicycling

The General James A. Van Fleet State Trail is one of the jewels of bicycling in Florida. Built on an abandoned rail bed, the bike trail is entirely paved in asphalt approximately 12 feet wide. Except for a single curve, the trail runs straight for 29 miles, crossing a few unpaved forest roads and only two sparsely traveled paved roads. The Van Fleet Trail is one of the most rural bike trails in Florida – isolated and quiet.

Because of its length, remote location and straight path, the Van Fleet Trail is a destination for serious cyclists to train and ride uninterrupted by traffic. Those same attributes make it an attractive ride for the recreational biker or those with small children who don’t want to deal with car traffic. Hikers, joggers, in-line skaters, and horseback riders also enjoy the trail.

For those who are willing to slow down, the Van Fleet Trail goes through one of the most diverse and abundant wildlife habitats in Florida. On any given day, the rider might see gopher tortoises, alligators, snakes, bobcat, deer, otters, osprey, wild turkey, quail, eagles, butterflies, squirrels, and more.

The trail traverses several ecosystems along its 29 mile path, including swamp, cypress and hardwood forests, pine flatwood, prairies, and sandhills. On private land along the trail, cattle can be seen grazing. The trail runs through a portion of the Green Swamp, the headwaters for the Withlacoochee, Little Withlacoochee, Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, and Peace Rivers. Second only to the Everglades in its environmental importance, the Green Swamp is critical to the maintenance of Florida’s aquifer and groundwater supply.

Facilities along the Van Fleet Trail are limited. There is one water fountain and one restroom between the two terminuses. During the mid-day, the trail is mostly unshaded. This is Florida and even in winter the ride can be hot, so riders should use sunscreen, bring lots of water, and pack food. Since the trail runs through the Green Swamp, insect repellent is also important. Covered benches are located along the length of the trail, offering both shade and scenic views.

From the southern-most trailhead at Polk City (junction of routes 33 and 655), the Van Fleet Trail runs north to the tiny hamlet of Mabel (route 50, west of Clermont). The Polk City trailhead offers plenty of parking, picnic tables, and restroom facilities. The first five miles north are the busiest sections of the trail, passing farms and pastures. Near the 5 mile marker is the lone curve in the trail.

At the Green Pond Road trailhead, near the 10 mile marker, are parking, restrooms, a covered picnic pavilion, and water fountain. While gopher tortoises can be seen along the length of the trail, they seem particularly abundant along the trail north of the Green Pond trailhead. The habitat here also changes, from pastureland to pinewood forest and cypress swamp.

Slightly less than two miles north of the Green Pond trailhead, the trail crosses the first of three short bridges spanning the headwaters of the Withlacoochee River. This is a great area for spotting wildlife; a big gator can usually be seen at the second bridge. Particularly scenic here are the cypress strands draped in Spanish moss lining both sides of the trail. Late afternoon is probably the prettiest, with the sun shimmering off the moss and reflecting in the water (during rainy season).

At the Bay Lake trailhead, near the 20 mile marker, full facilities are planned for the future. Presently however, this trailhead only offers parking. From here, a scenic ride brings the rider to the Mabel trailhead at 29 miles; here are parking, a picnic pavilion, restrooms and water.

Whether a casual bicycle rider or a serious cyclist, the Van Fleet State Trail is a Florida treasure that holds a myriad of wonders for to all.