Bike Week in Daytona – The Biker’s First Sign of Spring

To the Harley rider, or to any stouthearted motorcyclist regardless of affiliation, it’s the first official sign of Spring.

No, it is not the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher flying north to summer nesting grounds from it’s yearly respite in Mexico. Nor is it the Canadian Snow Bird, holstering the sandwedge for the last time and steering the big Buick across the bridge at Sanibel for that long trek home to Quebec.

To the snow weary two wheeler, the surest sign that Spring is just around the corner is the sight of fellow bikers flocking south. South from the frozen flatness of the Great Midwest. South from the dreary gray of the cold North East. From all points of the compass they are drawn like magnets down interstates I-75 and I-95 and I-Whatever. As bugs to a light they are heading for Daytona Beach and Bike Week.

The yearly pilgrimage that makes these cc riders as giddy as young children on Christmas morning all began back in 1937 and it continues today. In almost seventy five years it has paused only for WWII.

In those early days, in the 30s and 40s, it was a great place to watch motorcycles race along the packed sand in the Daytona 200, affectionately dubbed, the ‘Handlebar Derby’.

With the release of “The Wild One” in 1953, it was a great place to watch Marlon Brando wannabes roaring up and down Main Street on black Triumph Thunderbirds. Posing cooly in black leather jackets and rolled up blue jeans. Smoldering cigarettes dangling from their curled and defiant lips.

When the herd of wannabes was thinned of it’s weekend warriors, the motorcycle gangs of the 60s and 70s were begot and Bike Week then became a great place to get your ass kicked.

It is still, no doubt, a celebration of chrome, leather and testosterone, but it has also toned down a bit from those heady days of yesteryear. Some would say a bit too much.

Along with baseball players on steroids and pop singers on autotune, our current culture has produced a new breed of ‘biker’ who more accurately resembles a Trick or Treater gone wild.

Like men cooking before an open fire, the veneer of danger here can be a thin one. For many, the greatest peril they’ll face is when they return home. Trading the chardonnay for PBRs is a small cross to bear. Canceling an appointment with the hair stylist and setting the beard trimmer to 3 is a piece of cake. But referring to ones spouse as “my old lady” for an entire week carries a hefty price tag.

For me though, the saddest part is that the actual migration itself has changed.

I have been traveling up and down both I-75 and I-95 through Georgia and Florida for more years than I care to remember. At all times of the year. I have personally witnessed this yearly ritual from eye level. Unfortunately over time, I have also witnessed the sad regression of the once proud road warrior to the dubious station of mere passenger.

Once was the time when you were stirred from the mind numbing trance that is interstate travel by a low rumble coming from somewhere unknown. A sound you couldn’t quite identify. And then… before you could make any sense of it, a roaring, thundering pack of chrome and rubber, straddled by wild and dangerous looking men and women would engulf your car. A vision to remember and an unexpected thrill to race the adrenalin. Sure to keep you awake and between the lines for at least another seventy five miles.

And it was worth the the years it took from your life. That sudden jolt of reality. That glorious pageant of Americana.

Sadly those sightings have all but disappeared, and non de-script trailers pulled behind expensive and unsoiled pickup trucks, travel vans and shiny motor homes have taken their place. The only clue as to their contents is the occasional Harley sticker on back of a clean and carefully sealed trailer. No flashes of chrome. No vests embroidered with club emblems. If anyone is flying their colors, it’s out of sight and behind shatter proof glass. Gone is the noble roar of the big bikes. Just more vehicles joining in the flow and adding to the hypnotic hum of the highway.

There is even a bumper sticker that says

“I just got back from Trailer Week in Daytona”

So imagine my delight as I drove south along I-75 last week. I pulled off into a rest stop just north of Atlanta, and there they were. Like candy to a child. Row after row of big, beautiful, gleaming motorcycles. A crowd of unkept looking men and women milling about the parking lot and filling the lobby of the rest area completed the tableau. All clad in leather and denim. Bandanas, large leather wallets secured by long chains, oily boots with scuff marks on the toes. Everything old and used. Nothing new and shiny.

These were bikers committed to the act. Bikers who actually rode their motorcycles to Bike Week. All the way from the upper midwest. The entire route to Florida in the last week of February.

Who knows? There was probably a support van accompanying them. I don’t want to know. There may have even been an accountant or a lawyer in the bunch. For all I know they were all wearing clean shorts.

But they were riding their bikes. Not a trailer to be seen.

God bless them one and all.

I never would have believed that my faith in mankind would be renewed by a loud and scruffy bunch of bikers.

Top 10 Paved Bike Trails in Florida

Thanks to the growing popularity of bicycling, Florida now offers some of the finest off-street, paved bike trails in America. For recreational cyclists who enjoy smooth, safe rides, with clean air in a natural environment, here is our list of the Top 10 Florida bike trails — listed geographically from north to south.

1. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail

Although just outside Jacksonville, Florida, this is an enjoyable 14.5 mile rural trail and very well maintained (kudos to the Florida Department of Transportation and Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail volunteers). While there are some open areas at either end, most of the trail is tree-lined, with little or no traffic noise.

2. Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

The trail stretches 16 miles from the City of Gainesville’s Boulware Spings Park through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area and ends in the small town of Hawthorne. Mostly wooded and quiet, one small section includes a few winding curves and mildly challenging hills (for Florida). A paved spur leads to a scenic Paynes Prairie overlook.

3. Town of Cedar Key

This is our top choice for small town bike rides. Listed on the National Historic Site Register, Cedar Key is what Key West was 75 years ago. For the laid-back traveler, this is the perfect stop – a step back into Old Florida. Bikes are a great way to get around.

4. Withlacoochee State Trail

This is a 46-mile paved rail trail that goes through small towns, the Withlacoochee State Forest and other natural areas. It offers a variety of recreational opportunities, with parks, river and lake views. Food and drink is available in the small towns along the trail. For a taste of “old Florida,” stop at the Istachatta General Store, south of Floral City.

5. West Orange Trail

Popular for all types of biking, the West Orange trail is a world-class rail trail through urban and suburban sections of Orange County, FL. Winter Garden is a prime example of how a well-maintained rail-trail can revitalize an “old Florida” downtown. Bike rentals are available at a Trail Outpost, and at this writing, two bike shops in Winter Garden. This trail is close to Disney and other area attractions.

6. General James A. Van Fleet State Trail

Totally rural and mostly within forest, the Van Fleet trail 29 miles with one curve and no hills. The rail-trail runs on an old Seaboard Air Line Railroad right-of-way through the Green Swamp, the headwater of Florida’s aquifer. While crossing three bridges over the headwaters of the Withlacoochee River, check for alligators and other wildlife.

7. Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail

An urban rail-trail with about 100,000 users each month, this popular 38 mile bikeway links some of Pinellas County’s finest parks, scenic coastal areas, and residential neighborhoods. The Pinellas Trail is a member of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.

8. Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail runs from south Sarasota to Venice along an old Seaboard Air Line Railroad corridor. The bike trail passes through Oscar Scherer State Park, continuing on to Venice, where it connects near the historic Venice Train Station to Venetian Waterway Park. Popular with bikers, joggers, walkers, and rollerbladers, together these recreational trails have something for everyone – scenery, forest, waterways, parks, beaches and history.

9. Sanibel Island Bike Paths

Sanibel Island features 22 miles of paved trails, including the Rabbit Road Trail, Dixie Beach Road, Middle Gulf Cemetery Route, and Bailey Road-Dunes Circle. Cyclists also can ride Wildlife Drive, a 4.3-mile limestone road through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Stop at the Sanibel Visitors Center and pick up a biking brochure. Trails lead to the lighthouse, beaches, restaurants, and shopping. Rental shops are popular. Sometimes there are more bicycles than cars plying the Sanibel Island.

10. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

The American alligator is a symbol of Florida. On this ride, you literally bike with (and around) many of these awesome symbols. You’ll also see a variety of birds, turtles, and small fish. Located off the Tamiami Trail (US 41) near the Miccosukee Indian Reservation west of Miami, Shark Valley is a 14.5 mile paved loop. Bikes can be rented at the information center, or bring your own.

Picking just 10 wasn’t easy. Our criteria include paved surfaces, fresh air, unique scenery, and wildlife. Most trails listed are ideal for comfort bikes and cruisers, hybrids, recumbent bicycles, and tandems. Other than occasional road crossings, most avoid motor traffic, noise, and fumes. Bicycle repair shops and rentals have sprung up along many of Florida’s urban bike trails, along with restaurants catering to hungry bikers. Enjoy the ride.

Tips And Hints For The Purpose Of Selecting The Ideal Bike Carriers For Cars

It seems like like a straight forward issue to wish to carry your cycle on your car. If you’ve ever started the procedure of choosing a bike carrier, you already know just how many choices that you have. Here are a handful of ideas to help select the best cycle or bike carriers for cars.

Certainly, there is a great selection of bike carrier varieties and range of prices which are often used to your advantage. First you really do need to do a little analysis reviewing the selections of cycle or bike carriers for cars to make sure you obtain the one that will be best suited to your preferences.

The best bike rack needs to fit your car or vehicle properly. If not the carrier would not only be considered a safety threat but it can also cause damage to your vehicle. There is always the possibility that if the bike carrier doesn’t match your vehicle, it could make it easier for anyone to take the bike, or you’ll drop it whilst traveling which also brings about harm to your bike. So this is an important consideration when purchasing a bike carrier, it may be an extremely important judgment. Here are a couple ideas to make your choice a lot easier.

Contemplate The Needs You Have for your Cycle or Bike Carrier

1. How frequently will you you will use the bike rack
2. How many bikes will be carried
3. Can the bike carrier fit all your existing automobiles
4. Budget for your Bike Carrier
5. Security and safety of the Cycle Carrier
6. Can your bike or bikes be picked up comfortably to put up onto your carrier
7. Is the cycle a tandem bike or other unusually sized bicycle
8. Does the vehicle have a rear-mounted spare tire rack
9. How many other sporting activities would you have a carrier for to combine use together with costs

Varieties of Bicycle Carriers

Cycle or bike carriers usually fall under about three specific designs:

* Strap-on trunk rack
* Hitch-mount carrier
* Rooftop rack

There are actually advantages and disadvantages to all the different kinds and not all sorts are suitable for every automobile. Although it may be the most economical, a strap-on rack can be the least secure.Then you’ve the most costly currently being the hitch-mount carrier but the pro is that it will be the most basic to operate. Plus last of all is a roof rack carrier which can be the most versatile, but in addition probably the most tricky to utilize.

To be able to dig a little bit further there are several several other options to take into account. Specialty bike rack carriers that should suit pickup trucks or additionally that are placed inside a van or Suv. You will discover pickup truck cycle racks that are used above the bed, giving more storage area underneath. While some include custom made brackets intended to affix to rear-mounted spare tires along with the rear ladders which are typically situated on conversion vans. Regardless of the kind of auto or truck you might have, there is without doubt a bicycle rack which is the perfect fit for your personal automobile as well as way of life.