Biking, or cycling if you may, is an amusement for some and a lifestyle for others. Along the beach area, you’ll see a variety of enthusiasts rolling through town. The fierce road biker zips down Highway 182 on his carbon fiber, custom-built masterpiece. The leisurely rider sits upright on her iconic beach cruiser, hair blowing gently in the breeze. You may even see a unicycle; it’s been known to happen. Scientists, engineers and innovative entrepreneurs continue to introduce and apply new concepts to the biking industry. Electric bikes have been around for over a century, and they’re gaining in popularity. An interesting alternative to a mountain bike is the ‘fat bike’, whose thick, rubber tires allow you to smoothly maneuver loose conditions like sand or snow. And it doesn’t stop there; from handmade, bamboo bikes, to dapper, double-rider tandems, comfort hybrids to traditional trikes that hold large baskets filled with beach supplies or even trailers. You’re teacup pooch may prefer a ride in the trailer, but if your dog is more athletic, there are now attachments for your spokes that can hold your dog’s leash, ensuring a safe bike ride with minimal tangling.
Alabama and Florida laws biking laws vary slightly, but it’s important to note that they’re in place for your safety as well as the safety of others on the road. For the sake of simplicity and your well-being, we’re going to recommend the same setup for both states. Any person under the age of 16 is required to wear a helmet, but adults might consider the use of one as well, especially when it comes to high speeds, heavy traffic or hilly terrain. Be prepared for evening rides with a bright, white head light and a rear red reflector as well as a rear red tail light. Riding around at night without lighting is simply not safe, and it’s also illegal. Sometimes it helps to double up on your headlights with a head lamp, in particular for dark trails that are secluded from city and street lights. For example the trail on Fort Morgan Road, at night can be pitch black and very intimidating. Riders should not wear headphones; all senses should be engaged in the ride. You may see plenty of bikers riding the sidewalks down 59 to the public beach, but technically, bikers are not allowed to ride on the sidewalks in Alabama. In Florida, however, they are, as long as you yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks, and give an audible signal before passing pedestrians.
If you’d like to rent a bicycle, there are several shops that can help, including Infinity Bicycles out of Orange Beach, Beach Bike Rentals in Gulf Shores, in Perdido Key and Pro Cycle and Tri out of Fairhope. We spoke with Bill Gable, owner of Infinity Bicycles, about which local trails are the most popular. The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail out of Gulf State Park was top of the list. The trail system is 10 miles long and composed of 6 trails, each with their own distinct ecosystem. He also mentioned the latest extension, Coyote Crossing, which connects the Backcountry Trail with the 6 miles of trail along Fort Morgan Road. If you’re interested in biking further down the peninsula, you should know that it’s very dangerous, since there is no bike trail, and traffic is often going very fast around the curves of the road. Bill did say that once you get to Martinique or Kiva, the road becomes substantially safer as traffic is much less this far down the peninsula. A great option for those who are up for it is to bike from these areas down to the ferry. It’s only $5 one-way to ferry with your bike over to Dauphin Island, and exploring will be much easier on two wheels. Infinity Bicycles also hosts two weekly ride-a-longs on Saturday morning. Riders can choose from a 30-35 mile road ride, averaging around 17 mph in speed, or a leisure, no-drop ride, where the ride is only as fast as the slowest rider. The road ride is at 7:30 a.m. and the leisure ride is at 10:30 a.m. If you would like to participate, they ask that you call ahead to let them know you’ll be joining. They also recommend a bike in good working order (although you can rent bicycles from them as well), a helmet, water, and ID, a spare tube, nutrition and emergency money. They can be reached at 251-974-1727.
Another biking event you can catch this month is the 29th annual Tour de Beach, with over 400 cyclists expected to participate September 20-21. The two-day ride has 25, 45 and 75 mile options, with rest stops set up in key areas like historic Fort Morgan and Mullet Point Park in Fairhope. Riders are asked to raise at least $200 to benefit the Alabama-Mississippi Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS is a chronic disease of the central nervous system. To register or learn more, visit bikeMS.org or call 1-800-FIGHT-MS.
Looking for a place to stay? We have vacation rentals in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, and Fairhope, Alabama as well as Perdido Key, Florida. Be sure to check out our rental specials; they’re updated weekly!