Jim Dodson: Good morning, it's Jim Dodson, the Florida Bike Guy. So why is the SpaceCoast IntraCoastal Century a ride for you? We're joined this morning by Jim O'Leary, who's the ride director of the SpaceCoast Freewheelers. We're gonna talk about their infamous ride, not infamous, but a well-organized and famous ride, the IntraCoastal Waterway Century. It's got some interesting features that you'll want to know about. Good morning Jim.
Jim O'Leary: Good morning, how are you?
Jim Dodson Where you joining us from?
Jim O'Leary: I am joining you from Cocoa, Florida, on the fabulous Space Coast.
Jim Dodson: I know that you've got interesting terrain over there that's unique to Florida, for a lot of reasons. It's not only Kennedy Space Center. So how many years have you has your club put on the IntraCoastal Waterway Century?
Jim O'Leary: This is our 30th annual IntraCoastal Waterway Century ride, so 30 years. We started in 1988 at organizing this ride, and it's been continuous ever since.
Jim Dodson: Just tell us a little bit about the ride.
Jim O'Leary: Okay, we start, and end, in the city of Cocoa. First, we go north. There's four different routes. They range in distance from 14 miles, up to a brand new edition, a brand new route, 200 kilometers, or 125 miles. They encompass the Intracoastal Waterway, which is a big feature of this area. We crossover three separate bridges. We go through some beautiful neighborhoods, some easygoing byways, and sightseeing. We pass by the Kennedy Space Center. So if you've got your eyes up, and looking around, you will see, off in the distance, the Rocket Garden. Certainly, you can come back and visit the KSC Visitor Center. So there's plenty of things to see and do while you're out here on the Space Coast.
Jim Dodson: So this 30th edition is being held on the Sunday, the 28th of October, right?
Jim O'Leary: That's correct.
Jim Dodson: Starting out, and it's gonna initiate from Cocoa. How many riders are you expecting? What are you planning for?
Jim O'Leary: At this point, not all of our registrations are in, but we're expecting somewhere between 425 and 475 riders. So that's quite a big crew. We're well-equipped to handle that number of riders.
Jim Dodson: So I know that the Double Metric Century is unusual. I'm not familiar with another ride that we've been involved in, that had that configuration. How many people are you expecting to join you on the 200.
Jim O'Leary: We already have more than 20 registrations for that ride, for that course. I'm thinking we're gonna have somewhere around 35 to 40 people. We have a lot of registrations that happen in the last couple of weeks before a ride. But, it is a new route. It's partly because, in the spring, we host the Cross Florida ride, which is about 170 miles. It's an ultra-distance event. We wanted to kind of shake things up in the Century ride department, our own Century ride included, and offer something for the ultra-endurance athlete. Those people who are looking for something new, and a little unique, and where they really have to be motivated to get out there and train for it.
Jim Dodson: What I really love about your event, and I love your enthusiasm, you have two aspects of this event, which are unusual. The first is the 200, which you were just talking about, and we're gonna talk about your Cross Florida ride here in a minute. But, in addition to the 200, you have a family-friendly ride in a really unique location, that's only 14 miles, or it could be as much as 28 miles if they want to make it. Talk to us about that a little bit.
Jim O'Leary: Sure thing. We have a most beautiful ride that goes along the Intracoastal Waterway, both north and south, from the city of Cocoa. If you go south, you go about seven miles, make the turn at the bottom of the route, and come back, another seven miles, that's 14. Going north, about the same distance. All the way, you're under a canopy of oak trees, right along the Intracoastal. You get the wind off the river, and I'll tell you, some days, when the wind is blowing nicely and the sun is out shining and reflecting off the water, it is magical. We've had a lot of people join us for our weekly ride. We make this a weekly event, as part of our club. But, we already have about 30 registrations. I'm thinking we're gonna have somewhere upwards of 40 riders this year. The interesting thing about this, the unique thing about this, is that in this particular ride, we assign ride leaders to help with those riders that are looking at 14 or 28 miles for the first time, and they're not quite sure that they're going to make it. So our ride leaders are very accomplished at helping them to get down the road safely and confidently.
Jim Dodson: I've lived in Florida all my life. Back in my college days, I had friends that were in Cocoa Beach. This road that Jim's talking about, the River Road, it's something special. It's got a 20 mile per hour speed limit for automobiles, right?
Jim O'Leary: That's right.
Jim Dodson: It doesn't have, doesn't have a bike lane, but it's a very narrow, slow-paced, residential road, that runs right along the river. And it is special, because it is so canopy covered. And it's, homes on the side of the road. It's just really, really beautiful.
Jim O'Leary: The one thing that I--
Jim Dodson: I applaud you--
Jim O'Leary: I'm sorry, go ahead.
Jim Dodson: I applaud you for this. It's a wonderful opportunity to introduce people to the concept of riding, and maybe pushing beyond their limits. If you have grandchildren, and you want to take your grandchildren on a ride, and you think they might do seven miles, or 14 miles, or 28 miles, it is a fantastic event, in my opinion, to try to introduce them to the sport.
Jim O'Leary: Perfect! You said it all.
Jim Dodson: I know that you've done this for 30 years, I'm sure you got the music and the food dialed-in, as well. Tell everybody what they can expect in that department.
Jim O'Leary: We took a survey after last year's ride, and we took a lot of the suggestions to heart. So we've implemented a PA system, with speakers and powered speakers, and there is going to be music at the start-finish, throughout the day, as well as, we intend on singing the National Anthem before the riders rollout. It's going to be an event for the city. As far as food is concerned, as riders arrive that morning, there's a continental breakfast that's being served. Very light, but something to give you that little kick in the pants. And, after the ride, we welcome you in. Give you the cowbell chime-in, so that you can be recognized, and introduce you to our post-ride meal. This year, we're catering it with Sonny's BBQ. We're gonna have pulled-pork sandwiches, plenty of salads, iced tea, sodas, all of the fixings. It's going to be quite a shindig, I think.
Jim Dodson: All that sounds really terrific. I think the riding is a big part of the event, the food also touches everybody. Everybody wants to look forward to something really good. And a well-run catering service at the end of the ride, makes a huge difference, and a big impact on how people feel about the entire event. I'm sure you're aware.
Jim O'Leary: Yes.
Jim Dodson: So you mention the cowbells. I'm a little curious about that. What are the cowbells, and what are they doing?
Jim O'Leary: This is a take-off from my bicycle racing days, when riders were going through tough elements of a racecourse. And the fans would get out there and ring the cowbells. So I said, oh hey, that is the greatest sound. That is emblematic of cycling, in my opinion. So I've got a bunch of cowbells that we're assembling, and they're going to be out at the start-finish. We've got lots of our members that will come out and welcome the riders, ring the cowbells, and welcome them in. So that they're not just finishing the ride, they're finishing it with pizzazz.
Jim Dodson: That's terrific. I know that the registration today is $60. Katie's gonna put on the screen a certificate, or a way to get a discount of 10% for registration. I would urge you, if you have any interest in a very unusual, unique place to ride, if you haven't been to the Space Coast, it's a easy place to overlook on your travel itinerary, I would personally encourage you to mix it up, with an opportunity to visit Kennedy at the same time, over the weekend. Make a weekend out of it. But, I think this is a great event. Hope you're enjoying the program. I wanted to just remind you that... You know, I'm the Florida Bike Guy, and I represent cyclists, and I'm always there for cyclists from a safety advocacy standpoint, to helping people when the unexpected happens in a crash. I always tell cyclists, you're more likely to be involved in a car accident than a bike crash, fortunately. I want to stand here for you, your family, and those that you know, not only for a bike crash, but if someone you know, has been involved in a car accident, or been injured in any way, needs an assistance of a personal injury lawyer, we're only a phone call away. And I'm always gonna be in your corner. Jim, let's talk a minute about the Cross Florida ride.
Jim O'Leary: Well, let's--
Jim Dodson: What's this... I think you've done this for what, 28 years, is that what I'm understanding?
Jim O'Leary: We've done this for 28 rides. There was a period, a while back, where we relinquished support for this ride, and the quality of it went downhill. So we took it back and we said, no, we're not going to let that happen. This is a very, very unique ride, and we wanna hang on to this. This is the 28th edition, actually the 29th, this next coming year. It's the Cross Florida. It goes from the Atlantic Ocean, to the Gulf of Mexico. Either in a one-day jaunt, which is 170 miles, or in a two-day jaunt. We help set up hotels at the half-way point, that accommodate riders, and just make it a fun two-day adventure.
Jim Dodson You leave from, I think it goes from Cocoa Beach to Weeki Wachee, basically, and following the mid-part of the state.
Jim O'Leary: That's correct.
Jim Dodson: I know that you do limit the number of people that can register. I know registration's open currently. How many people can ride in the two-day event, if that's what they would like?
Jim O'Leary: In the two-day event, we're limited to 200 riders.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Jim O'Leary: In the one-day event, we're limited to 350.
Jim Dodson: Part of that, you and I have talked about, is the fact that you have to have accommodations for everybody at the mid-point. So you limit the number of people, so that you know that you've got the right number of hotel rooms available for people to stay overnight.
Jim O'Leary: That's right.
Jim Dodson: If someone hasn't done this ride. They're interested in the Cross Florida. It sounds intriguing to them. Tell me why they should consider it, particularly if they've never done a ride of that magnitude before? You have a lot of people that do it regularly. I've got friends that ride ultra-distance rides, commonly. I don't. I know people who are, maybe they're used to riding 35, or if they ride 40, or they rode 60, or maybe even can do a hundred, but they've never done 170 over two days. Why should they come, and what should they look forward to? What's the expectation for them?
Jim O'Leary: I've got two words. Bragging rights I tell ya'-
Jim Dodson: Bragging rights?
Jim O'Leary: What's that?
Jim Dodson That's a big thing.
Jim O'Leary: It's a huge thing. The Crossing Florida, is the kind of thing that if you tell your family and friends, they are, "You're doing what? "You're crossing Florida?" Yes, I am. It's the kind of ride where we do stretch ourselves because there's five SAGs along the way. Some of them are on the other side of the state. But we rely on some other partners to help us do that. Once you get across the state, and you've done it on your own, on a bicycle, you have such a feeling of accomplishment. Every year, we give out a a custom patch of that year's Cross Florida. You can stick that wherever you want it. It's an embroidered patch, so you can stick it wherever you want to. I've done it twice now, both the one-day and the two-day, and I've stuck my patches on my little ditty bag that I take around with me on most of my rides. I also have a Cross Florida jersey that I acquired a few years back. People look at that, and they go, "170 miles? "Is this for real?" I say, yeah, and it's a lot of fun. It's worth it And you get those bragging rights.
Jim Dodson: Many people need the recognition for themselves. That yes, I was able to do it. I think a lot of people, a lot of retirees watch our program, a lot of retirees are involved in your club. A lot of people feel like, I need to do it while I'm healthy and can do it, and enjoy the adventure.
Jim O'Leary: I think that's an important aspect of this, is that you're retired. You have enough time to train and get ready for this thing. Most of the important aspects of this kind of a ride, are miles in your legs, and knowing what you can eat and drink, to keep yourself fueled, to continue going. Those are the big things. If you're able to dial all of that in for yourself, you can make it across the state, that's for sure.
Jim Dodson: We've got a comment from Mel Dee. Thank you so much. I appreciate your comment and encouragement there. I think when people think about riding across the state, the first thing that comes to my mind is what kind of roads are they? What's the speed limit? While I'm asking that, Mike Martin has a question about what's the date for the 2019 Cross Florida? Thanks Mike.
Jim O'Leary: It's the first weekend in April, always, every year. It varies, sometimes it's on April 1st, and it's April Fools' Day, but it's always the first weekend in April. On a Saturday--
Jim Dodson: So let me understand. Is the one-day on Saturday or is the one-day on Sunday?
Jim O'Leary: The one-day is on Sunday.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Jim O'Leary: The two-day departs on Saturday.
Jim Dodson: Okay.
Jim O'Leary: Everyone finishes on Sunday.
Jim Dodson: All right, so again, we were talking about, what kind of roads can you expect to ride on? People don't wanna think they're gonna ride 170 miles across State Road 50.
Jim O'Leary: No In fact, I don't think we're on State Road 50 for more than 25 or 30 miles anyway. A lot of it's on secondary roads. Some of it's on open secondary roads. You're crossing pastures and farmland, and things like that. Other places it goes through, are neighborhoods, and in some cases, I think we go on the old Miami highway. There's a little section on the old Miami highway, which hasn't been changed that much in the last 70 years. But that's kind of a, oh yeah, we don't wanna take that up, because it has some huge historical value. And once you've--
Jim Dodson: There is--
Jim O'Leary: Gotten through it, once you've gotten through it, you go, wow, that was pretty cool. So--
Jim Dodson: You're seeing things that most people will never see in Florida, 'cause they're never gonna travel off the beaten path, enough to see it.
Jim O'Leary: Yeah, yeah. These are the little-used back roads, as much as possible. There's a section, trying to remember the name of the area, but there's a section in the western part of the ride, where there's a lot of rolling hills. We often tell our riders, that we help train up for this ride, is look, you know what, as you're going down the hill, put it in your biggest gear. Get it going as fast as you can. As you're coming back up the other side, just keep pedaling, downshifting as you go. Keep pedaling, downshifting as you go. Back up the other side. And before you know it, you'll be up at the top of the next hill, and ready to go down another one People who have done this, they go, "Wow, that was fun! "That was easy, that was fun!" They were thrilled about it.
Jim Dodson: I don't engage a lot of hills around here. My big hills are crossing the Intracoastal Waterway Bridges a few times each ride. I found that it's like, for me, like timing in the gearing, makes all the difference.
Jim O'Leary: Florida hills aren't huge hills, but they're rollers, and you have to take 'em in a certain way.
Jim Dodson: Right, right. Also, you offer training for this ride, through your club, for the two-day rider, is that correct?
Jim O'Leary: That's correct. For the last couple of years, we have organized about a 2 1/2 to three-month training series, that helps people to prepare for the Cross Florida. We had 20 finishers this last year. Most everyone that joined us for the training, finished the ride. I think there was one person that wasn't able to finish. But they've continued on as accomplished riders. In some case, they came to us cold. They didn't have much experience either riding long distances, or even riding in groups. And knowing about pacelines, and ride etiquette, and how to deal with traffic. So, we take 'em from the ground up, and help them to accomplish something that's really huge.
Jim Dodson: This ride sells out every year.
Jim O'Leary: Yes.
Jim Dodson So, if you want to ride it, you need to register for it before it does sell out. You don't wanna be disappointed, once you've made the commitment in your mind, that you wanna do it. I think one thing that I wondered about. You're riding across Florida, so if you're not riding with a team, if somebody's a solo or maybe they have a friend that they may want to do it with. How often would you find yourself isolated, or by yourself, on this course, on the two-day event?
Jim O'Leary: There are enough riders that are coming through that unless you get off course, you don't stop seeing riders ahead or behind you. The course is well marked. We keep track of riders that we're not sure of. In fact, we have a helpline, a hotline that people can call into. A couple years back, I was maning the hotline and a man called me and said, "I don't know where I am. "I don't know where to go." But we walked him through it, he found his way back on course, and finished. At the end of it, he says, "Where are you, "are you at the end?" No, I'm not at the end, but you need to go talk to the ride director, at the time, whose name is Carlos. I said, go talk to Carlos and tell him how happy you are. He says, "I'm gonna do that." He was so thrilled.
Jim Dodson: It can make a big difference in people's outlook on their abilities to do something that challenges them beyond, a little bit out of their comfort zone. I think it's really great for all of us, to always be pushing the envelope on what we think our comfort zone is. Otherwise, life gets stale.
Jim O'Leary: I agree with that wholeheartedly.
Jim Dodson: If someone wanted to find out information about the Intracoastal Century, or the Cross Florida ride, where would you send them for information?
Jim O'Leary: We've scrolled the Register ICWC, on the screen for people. That takes you directly to our race-roster entry for the ICWC. If you wanna find out about the Cross Florida, go up to spacecoastfreewheelers.com, and there will be a link, out to our big events, and Cross Florida is one of them.
Jim Dodson: So the fallback is always gonna go to the club website.
Jim O'Leary: Yes.
Jim Dodson: Before we take off, I want you to introduce people to your club. Tell us about the SpaceCoast Freewheelers.
Jim O'Leary: Okay, I'd be glad to. The SpaceCoast Freewheelers has been a club for about 40 years. We're in Brevard County, primarily in Cocoa and Rockledge, although we have members from all parts of Brevard County, including Titusville, and Melbourne, and the beach communities.
Jim Dodson: And Clearwater.
Jim O'Leary: And Clearwater. Yes we do have some members from Clearwater, that's right. Thank you Jim.
Jim Dodson: Including Jim.
Jim O'Leary: Including Jim. We focus primarily, on road cycling. A really important aspect of our focus is safety, and skill development, and social activities. The safety aspect is quite important to us. As everyone knows, cycling is not without some risk. But it's reduced when you have cyclists who know how to ride in a group, know about crossing wheels and the effects of that, know about how to communicate while you're riding in a group, and what's accepted, and what's a no-no.
Jim Dodson: Right.
Jim O'Leary: Then, how to ride in traffic. How to help protect the other members within your group from putting them in a bad situation. For instance, one of the things that we always counsel all of our riders is, look guys, whoever is on the front of the group, is defacto, defacto, the ride leader. So if you're coming up to a stoplight, and it starts to change yellow, and you know you've got a group of 20 or 30 riders behind you, you need to call it out. Stopping, stopping! Get that hand up, let everyone know that you're stopping. And not think, oh, I've got time to go through. I can make it through. Because what happens is, each person behind the next person, is just following the wheel. Many times, they don't have their heads up to see what's going on. They're not going to necessarily make their own decision about it. So that person up front, is defacto ride leader. We instill that in all of our riders. Then we have some real rough ride leaders, that start to step forward and show themselves to be thinking all the time.
Jim Dodson: I really applaud you for that, because I think it's easy for people to fall at the habit of saying, "I'm gonna defer to so-and-so, he's the ride leader." And having all of us, have the courage, and the knowledge-base, to be the ride leader at any particular time on a ride, is really important. It just strengthens everyone's ability to ride safely. Also, the club is involved in the FBA Ride Marshal Ride Leader program. You already have people who have gone through the FBA training for that, and will have, or do have, a certified ride leader for every ride that you do. Is that correct?
Jim O'Leary: Not yet. We have the FBA training that's being offered to our riders in our club, in December, early December. At that point, we will have certified ride leaders.
Jim Dodson: Okay, your club, give me an idea about the demographics.
Jim O'Leary: I'd say--
Jim Dodson: Breaking out of--
Jim O'Leary: I'd say about a third of our riders are retired, and spend quite a bit of time on their bikes. The other 2/3 are members who just love to ride. One of the biggest rides that we have each week, is our Saturday Club Combo. We get out on Saturday morning at 8:30, in Cocoa Village. And we ride, usually the River Road. Sometimes we go out into West Cocoa. There's another course out there, that's very comfortable. We get out and go along at 14, 15 miles an hour, and just socialize. At that rate, you can talk, you can introduce new riders, who have joined for the first time, to riding in a group. We send one of our ride leaders to ride alongside them, and talk them through, what's going on, as they're riding along. We catch-up on the goings-on during the week. We fill each other in on big developments. I especially am tagging all of my captains, my SAG captains, in the last couple of months, to say, okay, what's the status, what's the status, tell me. So it's a good way for us to get reacquainted and up-to-date on things. We also have several different levels of riders. C riders, could typically go 15 to 17 miles an hour, average speed. And B riders, who typically go 17 to 19 miles an hour, average. That's an average. Sometimes you go a little faster if you've got a good tailwind, and sometimes you'll go slower if you've got a good headwind going. That's typically the two categories. During the week, we have a couple of training sessions. These are mostly attended by retirees, because we've got the time. I myself, am a retiree, so I help organize these jaunts. Sometimes, on those rides, we hit, I'd say, A minus speeds. We really cook along on our average speeds. But--
Jim Dodson: Do you have, do you have A rides, as well?
Jim O'Leary: Not full A rides, no. We don't have A rides. We're not a racing club.
Jim Dodson: All right.
Jim O'Leary: We're not a competition club. We're more, ride safety, riding for the pure enjoyment of it, and a social club. It's all about having a great time out on the bike.
Jim Dodson: In addition to riding, I know you are a club that has monthly meetings. And not that many club have monthly meetings any longer. You're getting 30 or 40 people at your monthly meetings, is that right?
Jim O'Leary: That's correct, yep. We hold our monthly meetings, it's published on our calendar, and we hold our monthly meetings at Sonny's BBQ on Merritt Island. We encourage all of our members to attend. Even those people who aren't members yet, and wanna find out more about the club.
Jim Dodson: I know you have social events, as well. One thing that you told me, that I really found interesting when we were talking the other day, that you encourage your members to be ambassadors of cycling, to the public.
Jim O'Leary: Yes.
Jim Dodson: Acknowledging drivers when they stop, and wave, that kind of thing. Why don't you just tell us, briefly, about that.
Jim O'Leary: I was out riding, this was a few years back, just before I became ride director, I'm also the ride director for the club. I was riding along with a competitive cyclist named Debbie Phelps. That name might ring a bell for some of you. She's a state, and national, champion in road racing and criterium racing, and time trialing, as well. And riding along with Debbie, she's very diminutive, she has a big smile on her face, but when she passed someone that was doing the right thing, she would wave. You couldn't help but see that the driver would tilt their head, and look at this, and then they'd smile and wave back. It occurred to me, I said, you know what, this is acknowledging to drivers, that they're doing the right thing. That they're recognizing cyclists out on the road, it's part of their recreational activity and choice. They're not out there to harass drivers. I started to do that a lot more regularly, within all of our club rides. I don't tell people they have to do that, but people are picking up on it, and starting to do it themselves. So, if drivers--
Jim Dodson: I think it's really--
Jim O'Leary: Do the right thing, it's like, thank you so much. You're doing the right thing. You're not pulling out in front of me. You're not giving me the right hook. You're not crossover hooking me. You're doing the right thing, thank you.
Jim Dodson: I think that so many drivers perceive us as being demanding. Demanding our place on the road, but yet not wanting to obey the rules that we expect them to obey. I think everything we do, as cyclists, and members of the cycling community, that overcomes that perception, is a big step in the right direction. Because we're not gonna get the respect of the motoring public, until we show some respect to them, as well.
Jim O'Leary: Exactly.
Jim Dodson: In my view.
Jim O'Leary: We're citizens, we're drivers too. We get to, and from, wherever we're going. But we're citizens of the road, and we need to act like respectful citizens, alongside pedestrians and other drivers.
Jim Dodson: Jim, it's been terrific. I appreciate you talking to us this morning about these two events of yours. I'm gonna be looking at the Cross Florida myself, this year.
Jim O'Leary: Perfect.
Jim Dodson: I wanna wish you the very best, for the best Century coming up in two weeks. Thank you for joining us. If you want more information, go to the spacecoastfreewheelers.com, and I wanna see you out on the road. Thanks so much Jim.
Jim O'Leary: Thank you.
Jim Dodson: And goodbye everybody. That's it from the Florida Bike Guy, take care.
Jim O'Leary: Bye bye.