The Naples area is a hotbed for cycling on all levels. Through the efforts of the local bike club, Naples Velo, as well as citizens, enthusiasts, government and the Naples Pathway Coalition, we have an excellent system of bike paths in Collier County and into Lee County, too. The roads are smooth and safe with courteous drivers. We are also fortunate to have one of the best bike shops in the country, Naples Cyclery, which serves customers ranging from beach cruiser rental clients to World Champion riders. Having a warm climate makes every day a great riding day, all year around. On top of that, we have a lot of scenic routes which can include water views of the bay and the Gulf of Mexico as well as some beautiful homes. All of this helps to set the stage for some well organized group rides and training rides. Although there are numerous regularly scheduled recreational rides in the Naples and Bonita Springs area, this posting will focus on the Naples Velo club rides and the evening rides from Naples Cyclery. You’ll find a few other alternatives and suggestions in this article, too.
All of the Naples Velo group and training rides start @ 7am from the parking lot in front of the Wilford & Lee store in the Marketplace at Pelican Bay shopping center. The street address for the starting point is 8787 Tamiami Trail, N (Naples, Florida 34108) if you need to plug it into your GPS or navigation for the first time out to join one of these rides. Although the rides start here for historical reasons, the coffee and conversation takes place after the rides across the street at the Fit & Fuel Cafe located at 819 Vanderbilt Beach Road (near the Naples Cyclery bike shop). Some riders will park cars in the lot for Fit & Fuel and then ride over to the starting point so that their cars are conveniently parked for the coffee session.
The evening rides on Tuesday and Thursday are well organized by Naples Cyclery and they gather in the parking lot immediately next to the bike shop. That street address is 813 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, Florida, 34108. These rides attract good numbers and are divided between “A” and “B” rides. If you have questions either on the phone or in person before the rides, ask for Peter Marsh (phone number for the bike shop is 239-566-0600). He is the manager of Naples Cyclery and he’s usually the one to get everyone started safely out of the parking lot.
Riders form a pace line and take turns pulling on all of the rides listed below.
Look for a map of the routes on www.MapMyRide.com and search for Naples Velo or Naples Cyclery.
This is the “active recovery” ride for Naples Velo and therefore, is the most relaxed and tame on the schedule. It’s just 20 miles at about 20 mph and stays in the Pelican Bay neighborhood doing four laps within the development. Any sprint finish is totally optional.
The Naples Velo ride on Tuesday morning is a demanding ride that has earned a nickname of “The Hour of Power”. This one is not a leisurely ride through the park so, warm up and lock on your wig. Depending on the cast of characters on any given Tuesday, this ride can be every bit the effort of a full out race. No speed limit. Guaranteed there will be riders dropped well before the sprint finish. The ride is four laps around the Pine Ridge neighborhood across the street from Pelican Bay. Riders warm up as they leave the parking lot, cross over Route 41 and head south on Trail Boulevard. As they make the left hand turn onto Ridge Drive to start the first lap, it’s full speed ahead.
Plan “B” for the morning Naples Velo ride starts at the usual time in the usual place. However, when we cross over Route 41 towards Pine Ridge, the group goes left as the “Hour of Power” riders turn right. The ride goes east on Vanderbilt Beach Road to north on Livingston Road (similiar to the Thursday morning Naples Velo ride) but makes a U-turn at Bonita Beach Road to head back south, retracing the route along Livingston Road and then heading west on Vanderbilt Beach Road. Tack on a single lap around the traditional Pine Ridge circuit with a cool down through Pelican Bay. This is a “tempo” ride with a posted speed limit of 24 to 26 miles per hour. Coffee and conversation at Fit & Fuel Cafe after the ride.
Naples Cyclery has well organized rides that leave their parking lot next to the shop @ 6:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. There are two groups : “A” and “B”. The “A” group is an open ride with no speed limit. The “B” group is a controlled ride with a speed limit of 24 mph and gets assisted by experienced ride marshals. The route crosses over Vanderbilt Beach Road and turns right onto Pelican Bay Blvd. to a right on Crayton Road. This little section of Crayton Road appears to end as you pass the Bay Villas cluster of Pelican Bay but, we cut through the parking lot for the tennis courts (Naples Grande Beach Resort tennis courts). Take caution here because of cars maneuvering in the parking lot and the parking bumpers on the asphalt. On the other side of this cut through, the ride goes south on Crayton Road. The route continues south through the Park Shore neighborhood, through The Moorings and Coquina Sands neighborhoods and goes all of the way through Port Royal to the end of Gordon Drive. Go around the little island at the end of the cul-de-sac and head back to Naples Cyclery the same way that you came. This ride is very popular and well organized. Call the shop at (239) 566-0600 and ask for Peter Marsh, the store manager, for more details and information.
Cambier Park Ride is an early morning, slower paced ride (14 to 16 mph) that goes for an hour. It is a good ride for cyclists new to group riding or a recovery ride for more experienced riders. This bike ride is led by Matt Ready from Leapfrog Running and leaves Cambier Park at 6:30 am. You will need front and rear lights for safety as it is dark at the departure time.
The Wednesday Naples Velo ride is a controlled 24 mph ride that follows the common route south to the end of Gordon Drive in the neighborhood of Port Royal. The difference on the Wednesday ride is that on the way back north along Gordon Drive, the route turns right on Kings Town Drive, left on Treasure Lane, and right on Galleon Drive to the end of the street around the traffic island and back on Galleon Drive directly to Gordon Drive. If you hear someone referring to “doing the finger” on the ride, this is what they are talking about. Once you make the right turn back onto Gordon Drive, you are headed back home to the starting point following the normal route. Post ride coffee and conversation at Fit and Fuel Cafe.
Another moderately paced ride is the “Everyone Spins” ride out of the Trek Store of Naples. It leaves promptly at 6pm from the Trek bike shop parking lot on 91st Street, goes south on Vanderbilt Drive, east on Vanderbilt Beach Road and then enters Pelican Bay at the first right turn. The ride turns left onto Pelican Bay Boulevard and makes three loops in Pelican Bay (six miles each) and returns to the starting point by retracing the route. The pace is 16 to 18 mph.
As always, the speed and complexion of a ride is influenced by the cast of characters on any given day. This ride warms up along Vanderbilt Beach Road and then kicks up a couple of notches as we head north on Livingston Road. Officially, the turn around point is the intersection with Corkscrew Road. However, there is a regular group of us who add some extra mileage by continuing north and making a circuit through the campus of FGCU (Florida Gulf Coast University). Depending on where you started riding from before meeting at the usual parking lot, you’ll end up with about 50 miles with this little extra added on to the ride. The average speed is going to be mid to upper 20’s mph. Attendance for the all important coffee session after the ride at Fit & Fuel Cafe is encouraged.
The evening ride is a repeat of the Tuesday ride starting out of the Naples Cyclery parking lot. See the Tuesday evening notes above for the route and commentary about the ride. Same start time, same route, same division of “A” group and the “B” ride.
There is also an early morning, non-competitive group ride that leaves from Lowdermilk Park (located at the intersection of Banyan Boulevard and Gulf Shore Blvd.) on Thursday mornings at 6:30am so this ride requires lights, too. The ride is marshalled at a 17-20 mph pace and heads up to Pelican Bay and returns to the park. Laurie Rose (of Olde Naples Chocolate fame) leads this ride.
The Friday Naples Velo ride is a 24 mph group ride that starts at the usual spot @ 7 am. The route crosses over Tamiami Trail (Route 41) for two laps in the Pine Ridge neighborhood. Then, it crosses back over Tamiami Trail into the Pelican Bay neighborhood for three and a half laps in Pelican Bay incorporating 3 sprints. The sprint zone is along Pelican Bay Boulevard, at the north end past the Bay Colony neighborhood and goes to the four way stop intersection.
The Naples Velo Saturday training ride heads north to Fort Myers Beach and returns on the same route. It warms up to the left hand turn onto Vanderbilt Drive and then the pace line forms to raise the speed up a notch headed north. After the left hand turn onto Bonita Beach Road, the group settles in at a mid-20’s average speed. Some riders will get frisky, particularly over the bridges. When we reach Fort Myers Beach, the riders have the option to (1.) cross over the bridge at Matanxas Pass, go down the other side and then turn around or (2.) turn around at the top of the bridge and come back down to the bus stop area or (3.) just wait at the bus stop for the rest of the riders before we head back south. As we make the right hand turn from Bonita Beach Road onto Vanderbilt Drive, things will sort out as the speed increases and it becomes more clear who is interested in sprinting at the end of the ride. The sprint zone is immediately after the right hand turn onto Bluebill Avenue with the finish line at the top of the bridge. Cool down after the sprint along Vanderbilt Beach. Total distance just for the ride route is about 42 miles. Coffee and conversation at the Fit & Fuel Cafe after the ride to recap the highlights and talk about options for a Sunday ride.
One of our Naples Velo members leads a group on Saturday at a controlled pace of 22/23 miles per hour. The route varies from week to week and the idea is to get at least 65 miles or more on this ride. The ride starts from the same parking lot as all of the regular Naples Velo rides at the same 7 am start time. Ask for Rich Crouse before the ride starts to make sure that you are headed in the right direction with the right bunch of riders.
Also on Saturday, there is a controlled ride (22 to 24 mph) that starts out at 7:30 am from the public parking garage for Fifth Avenue South (known as the Parking Garage Ride or the Kitchel ride). The ride leaves the parking garage on the Fourth Avenue side and goes west to intersect with Gulf Shore Blvd. before heading north. It makes a left onto Harbor Drive, continues north to a right at Park Shore Drive before reconnecting with Crayton Road. This ride uses the tennis court cut through into Pelican Bay before crossing over Route 41 into the Pine Ridge neighborhood for one lap around. Then we cross back over Tamiami Trail into Pelican Bay at the north end of the development, back through the tennis court parking lot, down to the end of Gordon Drive in Port Royal and looping back up to end the ride at the parking garage. Total distance is 33 miles.
This ride is a little bit longer than the other Naples Velo rides with a total mileage of about 60 miles. The route heads south through Pelican Bay, south on Crayton Road through the neighborhoods of Park Shore and The Moorings to the end of Gordon Drive in the Port Royal neighborhood. After rounding the end of the cul-de-sac, the ride retraces the route with a straight shot past Lowdermilk Park (this is where you would jump off to assemble with the Lowdermilk Park ride that leaves the park at 8am) and onto Mooring Line Drive. After crossing over Route 41, we take Golden Gate Parkway straight through to Collier Blvd. (Route 951). After crossing over Collier Blvd., you enter the “feed zone” where everyone slows down for a little break, catches up on fluid intake and maybe digests a gel. The pace is resumed through some straightaways and 90 degree turns in Golden Gate Estates. For God’s sake, don’t get dropped here if you are new to the ride because after you’re done going every direction and being blocked by dead end streets, you’ll want to call for the sag wagon but you won’t even know where you are on the planet. If you get lost here, your bike computer read out will look like “Etch-a-Sketch” by the time you get home. Speeds are pushed higher in a few sections on this ride before heading north on Livingston Road. We make a U – turn at Bonita Beach Road to come back south on Livingston Road and then a right onto Vanderbilt Beach Road for a straight shot to Fit & Fuel Cafe. It’s not unusual for the peloton to be reduced to 5 or 6 surviving riders by this point after starting with more than 20 riders. Aside from the “Hour of Power” on Tuesday morning, some regard this ride as one of the more challenging rides because of the surges, sections with elevated speeds and the distance. After all is said and done, the average speed on the Garmin for the whole ride in the front group might be in the 23 to 24 mph range. However, there will be sections in which the speeds flirt with 30 + for several pulls.
If you want a change of pace from the “regular” Naples Velo ride on Sunday, there is a group that will ride out to Sanibel Island and back on the first and third Sundays of every month. The mileage is about the same as the regular Naples Velo ride but, the speed is a controlled pace around 24 mph, more even, and with fewer surges. There is a “no drop” policy on this ride so, if you fall back because of the extra effort over a bridge then somebody will come back to pace you back up to the group. This Naples Velo ride tries to put the “group” back into “group ride” and has become a very popular option to the regular Sunday route. Some take this option for the scenery, some for the social aspects and some for the less punishing pace after a hard day in the saddle on Saturday. Also, we stop at Huxster’s Store on Sanibel for the turnaround to refuel and fill up the water bottles for the trip back to Naples. As always, there is coffee and conversation at Fit & Fuel Cafe after the bike ride.
Periodically, the Naples Velo group will opt for a Sunday route that goes to Marco Island and back. Never planned more than a day in advance, it’s usually for a change of scenery and a little more mileage than the regular route. This route is about 75 miles, includes a couple of bridges and rates about the same effort as the regular route for Sunday. Generally speaking, there is less enthusiasm after this ride for a sprint finish so a truce is called amongst the survivors. If you’ve got something left in your legs, please be our guests and go for it.
There is also another regular ride led by Rich Crouse at a reasonable pace that starts and ends at the Fit & Fuel Cafe on Sunday mornings. That one hugs the coastline up to Fort Myers Beach and back. The ride leaves the parking lot in front of Fit & Fuel at 7am on Sunday morning (not the regular Pelican Bay departure location for other Naples Velo endorsed rides).
There are other options on Sunday mornings including two “hook ups”. One that a number of riders enjoy is to start with the Naples Velo group on the regular Sunday morning training ride but, on the way back up Gulf Shore Blvd., N they pull into Lowdermilk Park to hook up with a ride that starts out of that park @ 8 am to make a loop in a northerly direction. Another one adds onto a ride out of the Trek store in Estero by meeting at the intersection of Vanderbilt Beach Road and Livingston Road early in the morning (ask for Tony at the Publix parking lot) in order to intercept the Trek group as their ride is starting. Call the Trek store in Estero for details @ (239) 390-9909 and ask for Doug.
Even if you are not yet a member of the Naples Velo club, you can check the website and participate in discussions or ask about rides. You’ll find scheduled ride events, benefit rides and other people at your riding level looking for company. The website is www.NaplesVelo.ning.com . Feel free to join up as a “community” member on the website to stay in the loop and communicate with other riders in the area. We would most definitely encourage you to become a full fledged member of Naples Velo so you can benefit from all of the social activities, ride events and the opportunity to sport one of our very cool looking kits. Believe me, your life will be enriched all around by associating with the club and its members. You can find out about membership by visiting the club website.
When you’re out on the road, you will definitely encounter different groups of riders at all levels. Don’t be bashful about asking if you can join their group for that ride and, if it’s suitable, exchange some information so that you might be able to intercept them in the future. Other good sources for finding group rides and training rides are www.MapMyRide.com and the bike shop, of course. The route details for the Naples Velo and the Naples Cyclery rides are posted on Map My Ride (search Naples Velo or Naples Cyclery). There are plenty of local recreational rides and numerous impromptu “Do You Want to Go to Sanibel Tomorrow” type of rides, too. Stick your head into Naples Cyclery and ask for Peter, Dave or O. C. to find out what some of the other riders are doing on any given day. There are training rides specific to the local triathlete competitors as well as the road racing athletes. Regarding the triathletes in the area, many of them join the group rides mentioned above but usually on their road bikes. Typically, if a rider joins a group training ride on their time trial bike they will hang at the back of the pack for safety reasons. The routes that are longer and more straight with a minimum of sharp turns are more sutiable if you are riding a T. T. bike. Regardless of your specialty or preference, we have some elite level riders in the area so, you’ll find some riding partners at your level even if you take things very seriously. Many riders from northern states will come down to the Naples area during the winter to get some good training rides and a jump on their spring training prior to race season starting back home.
Feel free to call Tim Cranch @ (239) 272-4848 with any questions about rides, routes, the Naples Velo cycling club or suggestions about which rides might be most suitable for you.