Have You Ridden in the Gulf Coast Cyclefest? Hear About What You've Been Missing

Video Transcription:

Jim: Hey good morning, it's Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. We're joined this morning by Ian Tummon from the Sarasota Manatee Bike Club, and we're gonna talk about the big Cyclefest, which is a traditional big event for the Sarasota Manatee Bike Club, the first weekend in November on Sunday. They've done it for 44 years, and it is a fantastic event. We go down every year, I'll be there. So Ian, why don't you say hello.

Ian: Hello.

Jim: So what's your relationship with the club and what do you do in relationship to the Cyclefest, which we're gonna enjoy in November?

Ian: I'm an avid recreational cyclist. I'm indebted to Sarasota Manatee Bike Club for helping me gain skills riding and gaining the confidence and ability to have fitness and, while it's a joint-sparing activity and that's important as we go on in years to keep those joints fluid. So I'm a cyclist, number one, in terms of my happiness, I do it a lot.

Jim: And what is your responsibility for the Cyclefest?

Ian: Organizer and that's not a highfalutin term, but it means trying to get details together. The club has conscientious volunteers. They're hard-working and dedicated and the cost for riders at Cyclefest is relatively low. It's now $50 because many things are subsidized by volunteer labor, and that's for the good of the cause. The cause is cycling in general. We want cycling to be safer in Florida. The mortality for cyclists by state is the worst in Florida.

Jim: Yep, we're all following that story.

Ian: And can we improve the infrastructure to make it you can ride divorced from cars? Maybe, the mission for this year's 44th Cyclefest is support in Sarasota County only, you can do this only in Sarasota County is vote two days after the Cyclefest for the Legacy Trail Extension, which is amortized over decades, but will allow cyclists to go from Venice to downtown Sarasota and partake of the things that are available there, the cultural things, the gastronomical things, without getting on a hazardous road.

Jim: Alright, so let me just interrupt you for a second. So, for those who are not following that exactly, so on November 6th in Sarasota County, part of the election is a referendum on extending the Legacy Trail about six-and-a-half miles. This is something they've been working on down there a long time. The club's been active in that, the Legacy Trail Association's involved in that. It's a big deal in Sarasota County and part of the proceeds of Cyclefest is going to assist in the extension of the Legacy Trail. Is that correct?

Ian: Absolutely, yes, yes.

Jim: Okay, let's talk a minute about the ride itself. So those of you who aren't familiar with Lakewood Ranch, it's just east of I75, east of Bradenton off University, one of the big exits down there off 75 and Lakewood Ranch is an exploding area of growth, but they've got a real beautiful downtown, and this is where Cyclefest is traditionally kicked off. So talk about some of the things that people can expect when they come to the event this year, Ian. I know that you have, like you've got entertainment, you've got food, we'll talk about the rides separately.

Ian: Well, safety, I guess, that's the catchphrase no matter what. Cyclefest may assist riders in doing things that are more challenging than they might otherwise have done in terms of distance and why it might be appropriate to do something more difficult than usual is that routes are set out ahead of time with surface markings, for instance the 20-mile, let me just make sure I've got the color right here, the 20-mile is green arrows on the pavement and then signs stuck into the ground with Velcro arrows, as well as the Garmin file so that you could do it that way to follow the route. So there's safety in how the route is set out where debris that we can find the day before is removed. Occasionally, there's meteorite-like things from construction on the shoulders, they'll be removed as best we can. So it's a setup to give some security in a ride for those doing it and in addition, those who have been registered will get their lunchtime wristband but with the SAG number. So Support and Gear means you call Randy, who's the Coordinator, and he has four drivers now, three of them named Tom, one named Mike, and one cyclist SAG to come and help you if you know where you are. Occasionally, riders don't know where they are, and that's a bit of a problem. So, you know, we have to deal with that, but then that's good to know that help will be on it's way, either mechanical or if people are tired.

Jim: Four SAGS on an event like this is really good. I can tell you that the markings are very plain at Cyclefest. It's difficult to miss them. Nothing worse than missing a turn and being all by yourself on a road suddenly. That's not likely to happen down at Cyclefest if we all pay attention even a little bit. So talk to me about the food. I think one of the big attractions historically has been, well first off, you got a unique venue because you're in downtown Lakewood Ranch, and the area where you're set up for food, you've got this covered pavilion, which is a breezeway that's usually very cool, covered out of the sun, and you have a number of tables that are, of course, set up on the road down there. They've closed off the road, and you've got this entire road dedicated to the vendors and the tables, and it's a great place to have fellowship with old friends that are coming back, meet new people, meet the club. Some of the great vendors will be down there, like Kati and I will be there. So just talk about that if you would.

Ian: Well, we have a protected area. Lakewood Ranch is kind of upscale, and it makes you feel, boy this is pretty nice here. Things are all clean and spiffy, and there are no cars where you're assembling, and there's a visual spectacle even when you come to get your gear ready, you see hundreds of other people, some of them in Dodson jerseys, maybe, but all kinds from all over. It's kind of reassuring that there are a lot of other people riding bicycles. Getting together early with Starbucks coffee and a little bit of breakfast. Bananas are the big hit, I think, for most people and there are some sausages, although I'm not so sure that's really what we ought to be eating, but that's just my personal bias. So there's a little bit of fuel there, and then depending on what time you go, we hope that there'll be a careful reminder. This is a ride, this is not a race, and please be careful, obey the rules, watch for the signals, and there's been specific cautions for each ride that we get.

Jim: I will say this too, your ride is very well organized. The people who start each segment, and you have delayed starts.

Ian: Yes, so the long people start earlier, and the shorter people. Maybe we could compress the times 'cause when spouses are doing different distances, some people are doing this, however, we've had a good response for displays with a bit greater range of opportunities for people to learn things and we're on the mission to support the trail. So there will be a booth from the Friends of the Legacy Trail who will talk to you about how much is this really going to cost. In theory, it's a great idea. It's anti-couch potato to extend the trail. You'll be able to cycle to commute to buy things to get around better. So that's going to be there on Main Street and if you'd like, there's now a link to submit music requests. My thinking is that we should start each group with the Stones, Start Me Up,, and that'll get you going, and then if you have other things like Roy Rogers did ♪ Happy trails ♪ or is that Dale Evans, and yeah, I don't know. Happy trails to you, I could sing that a little better maybe.

Jim: So the point is you've got a sound system out there, which is really good, you've got a PA system to communicate instructions and the start times and instructions before you take off. It's all really well organized. It's a great event, I can't tell you enough. It's a great, great experience.

Ian: And riders can submit their request for sound to it's Music for Gulf Coast Cyclefest, musicforgccf@gmail.com on the Cyclefest information sheet and Wesley Culpepper from Bicycles International is going to work to put together an appropriate playlist. So we've got the senses going, the eyes and the ears, the nose, not too much, but the food, yes. Polo Grill folded, I don't know why.

Jim: So for years, Polo Grill had done the catering for the lunch. So the big meal is not the breakfast, it's the lunch?

Ian: The lunch

Jim: It's always been a big hit because they've had plenty of food, and it's been very, very good. So this year, you have a new caterer because Polo Grill isn't available.

Ian: Pier 22, those from Bradenton will know it, and I preferred their pasta salad. Mostly, it's wraps. It's nutritious and energy-supplying with micronutrients and I think people will be happy, and if not, I guess we're gonna have to hear from them. It's a trial.

Jim: If you haven't guessed yet, Ian's a retired physician. So he's got some retired physician things coming out in the conversation about our health and our diet and exercise. Sometimes you can't take the doctor out of the rider, right?

Ian: Well, it's who you are and we are what we eat. Are we digging our graves with our fork or our spoon, yes.

Jim: Alright, subject of another program. We've talked about the music, the venue, give us an idea about the route choices for people who haven't registered yet. You may be thinking this might be something they'd like to do.

Ian: Yes, there's 20, 20 is set up to avoid left turns, but the bad thing about that is there's a lot of right turns, and it's not just go straight. There's a lot of turns. There's really only one left turn I'm concerned with and that's from Tara Boulevard to Stone, but it is a light and that's good because left-hand turns are more hazardous. So there's a rest stop

Jim: Okay.

Ian: Jiggs Landing, which is an old fishing camp, and after that, we'll be kind of pleasant.

Jim: So you have a 20, what are the other ride options?

Ian: 35 and 35 goes into Sarasota County but doesn't get to the trail, and the 35 gets a bit of rural. Unfortunately, that rural nature is rapidly changing to suburban, but got it a little bit open this year. It'll be quite nice, that part.

Jim: Every time we go to Lakewood Ranch and ride, they put in a new field converted from a pasture to houses down there. It's growing too quickly, but the riding is safe and the riding is largely open, and if it's not open, it's generally in neighborhoods and things that are interesting to look at.

Ian: In the 35, there's a bit of rough road near Linger Lodge Bridge. We're going to highlight any really bad potholes, but that's the real world a little bit. So the 20s, they don't have that but the 35s have a bit of dodging to do on the 35.

Jim: So I've ridden the 35, I understand what you're saying but it's certainly not anything anyone should be concerned about. It's just something that we're looking at when we ride anyway. It's just there's an area out there before you go over the bridge that you have to be

Ian: Well, yeah, south of that on Linger Lodge Road we wanted to get a little extra distance. So it's rougher than usual but people who ride in northern states will be used to potholes and it's not the worst, by any means, but it's a caution.

Jim: Now you've got a 20, a 35, what else do you have?

Ian: The 62 is the most popular distance and the 62 this year is quite similar to last year but it doesn't go as far north as Hillsboro and across and down 301. It crosses 41 and 19 and once 301, but doesn't ride on state roads. So that's a benefit, but crossing is an area to be cautious about and it's done regularly but we have to be careful and going halfway is one of the best ways of making that safe. When you see there's nothing, just go halfway and keep unclipped and then proceed when it's safe the other way. It's Sunday morning, it shouldn't be too bad but it's always a worry.

Jim: So you have the 20, 35, 62, and you've got two other longer rides, don't you?

Ian: Back to the 62 for a moment, the benefit of going north and that gets rural and then it gets suburban again is as it gets to the bayous and Terra Ceia, some of that is really beautiful, that loop at the end of the 62 before they start coming back has homes with, some of them, and it's not cookie-cutter houses jammed up next to one another. It's special stuff, and it'll probably make people pretty happy to do that, to go on through, but there's crossings that are necessary, 19 and 41 and then back home with 20-mile rest stop and 38. So it's a little bit longer on the way back and then at the very end, we've done a series of right-hand turns to avoid a left-hand turn from Lakewood Ranch Boulevard into Main Street.

Jim: Alright, so you got a 20, a 35, a 62, and what do you have beyond that?

Ian: Well, my bias has always been the thought of what if the referendum passes? What can we do to get people to the coast from downtown without the threat of danger being as high as it is right now? So we've set up a counterclockwise loop and I don't know if my screen will be hard to see or not.

Jim: Okay. That gives everybody an idea of where they're gonna go.

Ian: The red dot is Lakewood Ranch and then counterclockwise, it's up north, Palmetto into Bradenton, then out to Holmes Beach with the second rest stop at Coquina, right by the water, and the third rest stop in Payne Park, the terminus of the trail if the referendum passes, and that's one mile, and then you can see Myakka down there, and then there's a little neck almost joining the two parks to the loop. That's for people who decide maybe I'll just do 79 and they won't get into trouble that way. So there's a cutoff. Riders who don't get to mile 69 by 1:45 are gonna be diverted into the more realistic, shorter distance.

Jim: So the full distance is what, a century?

Ian: 104.

Jim: 104, okay, so if at 1:45, if you're not there, you're gonna be cut off. So it's going to be an 80/79, is that right?

Ian: Yeah, yeah.

Jim: So I know that Cyclefest attracts a lot of cyclists. What do you reasonably think, how many do you have registered today?

Ian: I think I mentioned 476, October 1st and our registrars, it's hard to say. So I'm betting we'll exceed 650 and betting we'll get about 725 riders, but I don't know that for sure.

Jim: Okay, so the point is, it's a big event. You have really good parking on both sides of Lakewood Ranch downtown. There's parking lots on either side of the downtown. Parking is not a problem. There's plenty of spaces, even with 700 riders. You're not gonna have to walk very far from your car over to the event area. You can run back to the car and pick things up if you forgot something. So I think from that standpoint, it's really, really well laid out. So at this point, tell us about the registration fee and how someone can register for it.

Ian: It's $50 and it can be done in the old-school way, download the paper brochure and send it in and then you just pay your Forever stamp and you're in, or if you're a club member, you can register online with no electronic fee or Active, you can register with Active. I forget, if it's $2 or $4, the service charge.

Jim: At this point, it's $50 and there may be a service fee on Active to register.

Ian: Yes. So, we're gonna run at the bottom of the screen, you're gonna have a Bitly link at some point during our conversation. There it is, I think and you can go to that Bitly link and get information about registering for the Cyclefest. Ian, I want to take a short programming break and then we're going to come back, I'm gonna talk to you a little bit about Sarasota Manatee Bike Club.

Jim: Okay.

Jim: I just wanted to remind you, I'm Jim Dodson. Although I'm the Florida Bike Guy, I certainly have an emphasis in our practice to representing cycling clients, but we represent auto accident victims and falls and medical malpractice, the full range of personal injury in our practice. So if you know somebody that needs our help, I'd be happy to talk to you. There's never a charge to talk about your case just call us and we represent people statewide. As many people in the cycling world know, we have clients all over Florida. So if any time we can be of help to you, that's what we are here to do, that why we exist. So Ian back to our program a minute. Tell me a little bit about the club. I know the Sarasota Manatee Club has been in existence a long time. You've got about 600 members. Tell me kind of what is the diversity and makeup of the club.

Ian: Yes, we're older people, generally, not whippersnappers. The abilities range a lot from some people using eBikes now in some situations to highly-athletic people. So you can probably find a compatible situation, many different places to ride and speeds, but there are some expectations with that welcome in terms of etiquette and safety adherence, for instance, you're not supposed to say clear when you're turning or proceeding because that's your opinion and two seconds later, that may not be appropriate. So you could say rolling, which is true, you're rolling.

Jim: Now I see that a lot in many club rides now. A lot of people are used to the idea of the first person get to the clearing, to the intersection, if it's good, they yell clear and people behind roll through but the emphasis that you're making is that we all have to make that decision before we roll into an intersection, and I think that's the predominant view in most of the clubs where I've had an opportunity to ride, so I think that's a good thing.

Ian: And it helps to have an open mind to be in a club because you'll get advice and opinions that you may not agree with. On the other hand, if there's constructive criticism, maybe that's a good idea and when I came cycling here, I had ridden with a club in New York City, and that was congested and had sort of different expectations. We got out into Jersey a bit in pacelines but it's pretty standardized how things are done within the group, which is good 'cause you can predict.

Jim: So I know that you at one point when we were talking the other day said that the club members considered themselves ambassadors of cycling. What do you mean by that?

Ian: Well, we shouldn't cheat. No one is above the law, we hope and that means that we should stop at stop signs. Now do we always stop at stop signs, we should and if we are seen to do so and act in a predictable manner, that's the way drivers of cars should see cyclists acting. So that's what I'm repeating. I have a ride leader that I very much admire and he's very firm but gentle enough. Instead of saying something abruptly, he'll say "Nice and easy," instead of something more abrupt and it works very well for most everybody. So taking in new information and improving skills, that's something that's happened to me here and we've got not many potholes and it's smoother than up north and you can go more confidently because of that, although there are hazards and so passing down the hazard symbol, passing that down, even if you don't see the hazard, you're supposed to call it out because that way then you can more than likely avoid it.

Jim: So talk to me a minute about, I know that with a 600-person club, you have rides, I believe, every day of the week. We don't need to talk about the specific characteristics of each ride. I know that you've got on Wednesdays, for instance, you leave from the community center at downtown Lakewood Ranch and you've got a variety of rides for a variety of speeds and ability groupings. I've joined you on those rides. Just tell us briefly about what that entails.

Ian: Yes, the slowest group is 10-12 and the group consists of one member who's 88 and I asked him to be a starter this year, but he's got other obligations. You know, like you throw out the first pitch at the game, we're having honorary starters. So I asked him to be a starter next year when he's 89. So I hope he'll save the date for us, and he'll be able to do that at the 45th

Jim: Now that's a starter for the Cyclefest?

Ian: Yeah, for Cyclefest. Given the admonition of this is a ride, not a race, follow the law and know your arrow color and follow the signs and call SAG if you're in trouble, and we got a good safety record so far. Please, let's keep it that way.

Jim: Well, I know that you've talked about safety and I know from riding with the club that you do have a heavy emphasis on safe riding, calling out, obeying traffic signals and stop signs. I think the purpose of your rides is to have a good time but to ride back safely.

Ian: Fitness, of course, fitness is an antidepressant, and you could look at the world and say, oh my gosh, and it's so hard, but being athletic to your own ability is an antidepressant, and the fact that most people are not mean and nasty, that's also good for their well being.

Jim: So we talked about you have Wednesday morning rides that leave at 8:30, you've got evening rides, you've got weekends, multiple rides, including some 14-16. I know your most athletically, demanding ride is what you call Potter Park. So there's something for somebody who really wants to ride the higher end for longer distances every week.

Ian: Maybe that's not athletically demanding to 48-year-olds who are used to doing it, for relative geezers, that is. What might be athletically demanding is a 10-12. I know people past 85 have a harder time keeping up than they used to, oh. So that's athletically demanding and we're all custom built, as they say in yoga. So you can find something though that's probably good for you and inspiring and please have an open mind about what would fit, and evening rides get curtailed a lot in the winter because of the length of the day. I'm not sure how many there are now. On the weekends, we have one ride leader who's very creative at varying what he does up into Hillsborough, Pinellas, and gets views of the water that no other ride leader does and he has a devoted, deservedly, a devoted following of 14-16-mile-an-hour riders.

Jim: So if somebody wanted information about the club and about the ride options, where would you direct them?

Ian: www.smbc.us and that'll mention cycling workshops with the League of American Cyclists Leadership. The club has, I'm not sure how many certified league instructors but that's good for getting started if that's the right place you're at.

Jim: I think the club's also working with the Florida Bicycle Association on our Ride Leader Program as well. So we're in the process of getting Ride Leaders certified across the state through the FBA, and I know we've had involvement by your club with that, and I know that beyond us just cycling a big part of being involved in a club, I know one thing that you do a lot is social events. You have a good social committee. You have social rides periodically during the year, where they'll pick a ride and come back and have a picnic. It's all catered up by the club, and you have an annual Christmas party. So there's a lot of opportunity for social involvement, meeting friends, sharing stories. There's some amazing people in the club. They travel, they do interesting things, which is what I love about cyclists and just in the times that I go to the social events, they're really interesting, and I meet interesting people and I always walk away more informed about something and challenged in my own thinking that I had before. Would you agree?

Ian: A relative deficit now though is some educational events. We used to have that more frequently, and that's something that's I hope going to return so that that brings people together and gets you to consider issues, but socially, yes. We combine with Coastal Cruisers for one ride and they're tending to be more their membership from Venice and we work in conjunction with the Friends of Legacy Trail to put on Tour de Parks, which is heavily geared towards helping the chances of the Legacy Trail Referendum.

Jim: And that's coming up Tour de Parks down in Venice. It's a great ride, takes partly on the Legacy Trail and obviously goes much beyond the trail. So Ian, I wanna thank you for joining us today. Go ahead, I cut you off?

Ian: I think we're gonna have better SAG on Tour de Parks this year. We have the plan for tricyclists with their gear in their box behind their tricycles. So they'll be able to come to you if you break down on the trail.

Jim: Alright, terrific. So Ian, I wanna thank you joining us this morning. I hope people have gained information, not only about the club but I hope to see people that wouldn't have known about Cyclefest that'll join us. I will tell you that you will not be sorry to come down and join that race. It is fantastic, not a race but a ride. It's a fantastic environment. Nothing about the whole thing that's just uplifting and fun and bring a friend and have a great day down there and support the work that the club is doing with the Legacy Trail and other things supporting infrastructure in Florida. So check on the Bitly link for Cyclefest. Check out the club at the website, and Ian thank you and we'll see you next week on Facebook Live with Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. Thank you.

Jim Dodson
A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.