Legacy Trail leads the way
This is your best Sarasota cycling bet, either there-and-back or linked with other rides. The 10-mile path reaches Venice and the Venetian Waterway Trail, which carries riders all the way to Caspersen Beach. Pretty cool. The trail runs through some pretty country behind Oscar Scherer State Park before crossing two lovely trestle bridges. The fifth anniversary of the trail will be March 24, with riders welcome to the Tour de Parks Fun Ride. legacytrailfriends.org. -- By Thomas Becnel
Boca Grande Trail, Gasparilla Island
For years I’ve been telling people that this island south of Englewood is the best day trip on the Gulf Coast. This trail is a short island ride, less than 7 miles, but the view includes sunny beaches and shady Banyan Street in the lovely town of Boca Grande. Make sure you stop for lunch.
Alafia River State Park
Mountain bikers drive an hour north of Sarasota for 17 miles of easy and expert trails dug into an old phosphate mine near Lithia. This is Alafia River State Park, home to the annual Fat Tire Festival each November. A gung-ho group of Florida riders — SWAMP, the South West Association of Mountain bike Pedalers — maintains the trails and offers regular rides. swampclub.org. By the way, Alafia is pronounced "AL-uh-fi-uh."
Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve
Mountain bikers also race to this woodsy trail system in Hillsborough County. It’s just a few miles from Alafia, but there are no park fees. The bad news is that you have to pedal 2 miles before you even reach the first up-and-down trails. The good news is that these are some BIG ups and downs. Here's a Balm Boyette column and photo gallery from awhile back. For more info, check the bike club called SWAMP: swampclub.org/boyette/.
Longboat Key draws group rides
This tony island has been a local cycling favorite for decades. There’s more traffic now, but lots of riders and groups of riders still pedal the length of the island — it’s about 11 miles — so motorists are used to sharing the road. Bridge climbs break up a flat trip. Check for regular rides with bike shops and the Sarasota-Manatee Bike Club. smbc.us/
Casey Key narrows the field
This island is about the same as Longboat, only shorter, with sharp turns and unexpected views. It's part of the grand tour on the Gulf Coast. Manasota Key to the south offers the same kind of views and quiet, especially on weekdays. Ditto for Caspersen Beach. Lots of local cyclists make an island loop part of longer rides that take in the Legacy Trail or other routes.
Cape Haze Pioneer Trail
This Charlotte County path starts behind a shopping center where State Road 776 and 771 meet east of Englewood. It’s only about 4 miles, but it’s quiet and there’s no car traffic. Some day this trail will get a better link to the Boca Grande Trail on Gasparilla Island.
A string of mountain biking trails runs along Myakkahatchee Creek in North Port. Parts of these trails are “technical,” which means difficult, apt to throw you into a palmetto bush. Most riders start at Oaks Park, which is hidden away on Mandrake Avenue, off Sumter Boulevard, just west of I-75.
B. Careful Trail
OK, there is no 10th item here, but I did want to remind you to wear a helmet and ride safely.
Top 10 Bike Rides Near Sarasota
/ Wednesday, March 6, 2013