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From cyclist to bike tourist: How my boyfriend may yet make the leap

Natalie head circleWe sometimes see people who define themselves as “cyclists” being so focused on personal records and training programs that they have a hard time thinking beyond the horizon of the next race – much less to the horizons of lands unknown!

While we offer some challenging tours that do indeed focus on the ride as much as the travel experience, most of our catalog appeals to the more casual rider who enjoys the tour more than the bike. This distinction really hit home for me recently….

“You know, I really shouldn’t treat this like a workout.”


This dialogue occurred between my boyfriend, Roger, and me while biking in Everglades National Park during a winter-sun-seeking trip to south Florida last Valentine’s Day weekend. He made this observation about needing to slow the pedals about 3 minutes into our planned 15-mile ride.

A ride divided

Bike touring the Everglades

That’s us!

Roger is an avid recreational road and mountain biker who insists he’s a “guy who rides bikes” rather than a serious “cyclist.” The dividing line between the two is surely a gray area. He rocks the spandex and cycling jerseys and does his own bike repairs….but I can vouch he’s not the hard-core, single-focus dude I know so many of.

I road and mountain bike myself, mostly for fitness and to enjoy the outdoors. But my approach is that of a bike tourist rather than a serious cyclist, pursuing the sport at an unrushed pace.

Since we have this overlapping interest, we do ride together sometimes. (More like me joining him for recovery rides after his actual training rides!) It works well, and seemed the obvious way to cover some miles exploring in the Everglades without the sound of a car engine to scare away the abundant wildlife to be viewed during the winter dry season in the swamplands.

Applying the brakes

“It’s nice being able to see so much detail at a slower speed. Makes spotting gators much easier!” he said. After his earlier epiphany that this shouldn’t be a training ride, we’d slowed to a leisurely pace and were stopping often to take pictures or closely study something that caught an eye. We were, in fact, bike touring the Everglades. And he liked it!

I was excited to see him appreciating the benefits of slowing the bike down to experience a destination more intimately – it’s the gospel I preach from my laptop’s pulpit daily. The reason BikeTours.com exists. He ‘got it!’

Right up until he didn’t. After a rest break at an observation tower mid-way through the loop ride, the “Cyclists’ Itch” must’ve kicked in as he started power pedaling. I maintained my unhurried touring pace, knowing he’d wait for me eventually before riding ahead again, much like we ride together at home.

Oh well…at least he enjoyed a taste of the kind of travel experience my company peddles even if it didn’t stick just yet!

Bike touring: Take 2

The next day we visited Key Biscayne, a lush little island just south of Miami Beach and home to Bill Baggs State Park. We had intended to hike a bit, but we noticed bikes everywhere and were quickly drawn to a little bike rental stand. Walking up, we fully intended to snag a couple of hybrids.

Instead we left with this:

Miami Quadcycle

It’s called a quadcycle, and the opportunities for hilarity were just too much to pass up on. And it did not disappoint! The best part, though? It’s impossible to confuse riding a quadcycle with working out. You CANNOT be fast or nimble. It’s truly a Sunday ride.

And that’s how we got to spend an afternoon actually bike touring the island. We stopped often. Watched for manatees in No Name Harbor (that’s not a lack of research, that’s its actual name). Learned about the connection between the 1855 lighthouse and our homestate of Tennessee. Ate (entirely unnecessary but yummy) energy gel blocks overlooking a quiet mangrove. Walked on the beach.

Even took the quad (briefly, and probably illegally) on a mountain biking trail….choosing a good line for two sets of parallel wheels is tough on rooty stretches! Oh, and we laughed. A lot. How could you not?

Quadcycling Key Biscayne

Roger trying to “figure out the line” through some rocks

It was a lovely, relaxing day in the warm winter sun of south Florida – everything a bike tourist could ask for, even if on a not-so-conventional bike. Best of all, my cyclist boyfriend seemed to enjoy every moment of it too. Saved from himself by taking away the performance-focused two wheels, we had a blast on four instead. I think I converted him! Maybe I’ll get him on a leisurely bike tour after all!

“You know, I was thinking on the quadcycle today,” he said that night. “We really should rent a tandem next time. We could haul some serious ass on one of those together!” 

Perhaps I spoke too soon.


DIY: Ride South Florida

Biking the Everglades: Shark Valley and gators galore >
Get the nitty gritty on biking in the Everglades in this related post. Includes tips for an independent day ride like we did to my suggestions for a 10-day self-contained tour or a 7-day luxury guided tour.

Natalie Cook is the vice president of BikeTours.com. E-mail her at natalie@biketours.com.

2 thoughts on “From cyclist to bike tourist: How my boyfriend may yet make the leap

  1. Gino Capogna

    I am a bike tourist and a cyclist.

    would you tell me more about the Everglades by bike.

    I am a solo rider willing to ride with others if that what it takes.

    By the way, is Bob still active?


  2. BikeTours.com Post author

    Hi Gino, Check out my other recent post on a few different ways to explore the Everglades by bike. There’s info on doing a solo day ride in Shark Valley (near Miami), as well as suggested tours (including a group guided trip you can book through us, from the Everglades through the Keys, plus a group self-contained tour with a similar route run by our friends at Adventure Cycling Association). Another post, Two approaches to the Florida Keys by bike, compares the style of the latter two tours.

    I hope these posts may give you some guidance on finding a trip that’s right for you in South Florida! I adore the area and have dreams of riding A1A from Miami to Key West one day myself!

    Happy pedaling,
    (VP of BikeTours.com)

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