If you’re a cyclist who’s stumbled upon this post, you’re probably in a similar situation as mine. You’re faced with a family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but clearly the cycling takes a back seat to the theme parks. So what’s a cyclist to do?
Despite the strong disincentives (both the packing and the airline fees) to taking your road bike on the plane (because a loaner beach cruiser found locally won’t cut it), as well as hearing that the area may not be the happiest place on earth to ride a bike, you still want to sneak in early morning rides before taking the family to the theme parks. Perhaps you’re visiting from a winter climate where you can’t ride because of the snow, and some outdoor riding – ANY outdoor riding – is needed to restore your sanity.
Well, if that’s the case, I have some good news – I’ve done a couple of decent ~20 mile rides in the area straight out of my hotel room. Anything longer than that doesn’t meet my criteria of “sneaking” in a ride before a day at the theme parks, and if you have time for a longer ride, you probably have at least the morning free and can drive the bike out somewhere more rural for a more enjoyable ride.
In any event, don’t expect the riding in the immediate area around Disney (at least in the area of US192 west of I-4) to be as enjoyable as your favorite rides back home. As is typical for Florida, the two lane roads are usually narrow, and some carry high traffic volumes, giving the cyclist the choice between getting passed closely while hugging the edge, or claiming more space but leading a parade of motorists with little opportunity to pass. The US highways have four or more lanes with shoulders, but can be unpleasant with the morning commute and the numerous turnouts to the hotels and shopping centers. Although there appear to be plenty of alternatives looking at a Google map, many of these are part of gated communities or are unpaved.
OK, with that preamble out of the way – and with a disclaimer that conditions are subject to change due to rapid development in the area – here’s what I was able to string together:
On this ride I was looking for options mainly north of US192 and west of SR429.
Funie Steed is sand for part of the way between Formosa Gardens and Old Lake Wilson, hence the jog to Livingston before continuing on Funie Steed. (Update below from the comments: Road between Formosa Gardens and Old Lake Wilson is under construction soon to be paved.)
After crossing SR429, Funie Steed even has shoulders (rare for Florida)
The pavement on Funie Steed ends once again, therefore have to turn north onto Lindfields. (Update from a reader in the comments below: Funie Steed Road has been paved past Lindfields leading to Westside Dr.)
I used US192 to make a U-turn to a traffic light to get across from Lindfields to Strahan. On the next ride I went straight across – there’s no traffic light, but there is a gap in the center median. Here’s Strahan after crossing US192, before going through a small residential area around some lakes.
Although continuing further on CR545/Avalon Road showed promise with two lanes with light traffic, I turned onto Hartzog Road, riding it to the end of the paved portion and back. That was a nice route with no traffic, though with slightly rough pavement, as you can see below.
On this ride I was hoping to incorporate the parts of the first ride and make it a loop with new parts to the south, but there were a couple of obstacles. Old Lake Wilson Road wouldn’t have been much fun, as it’s narrow two lane with heavy traffic in both directions. As of this writing, it is currently being widened. Also, Goodman Road is sand from Westside to at least Happy Trail.
So instead I went out and back on Formosa Gardens and Sand Hill and then back to the north and west again. Sinclair Road to Happy Trail would also have been good riding, though Happy Trail is posted as a Private Road. There’s actually a hill on Sand Hill road, as you can see below!
This time I went straight across US192 from Lindfields to Strahan, stopping in the gap in the center median. By the time I got to the four laned Westside around 8:30PM, traffic levels had increased from non-existent to light/moderate due to a K-8 school at the southern end of Westside. The key cycling technique here was to claim the right lane so that motorists would change lanes to pass rather than inadvertently squeeze you to the curb in the same lane.
I was planning to further down Florence Villa Grove to US27, but I was running out of time. I had even considered heading north on US27 and east on US192 for a change of pace, but I thought retracing my steps would be better.
I found a frontage road to US192 between Westside and Legacy, and from Legacy I could carry the bike a short distance to a residential street connecting to Lindfields. Actually US192 would have been OK there, I just wanted to say I avoided the highway. 🙂 Then it was familiar roads back to the ride start.
I didn’t do this ride on this trip, but I rode it on my last visit two years ago. It’s a decent low traffic out and back along CR474 for a total of ~20 miles. The downside of this ride is that it’s a ~10 mile drive via US192 and US27 to the ride start, which would have involved extra time which I didn’t have on this trip.