This past week I found myself talking with friends about the pros and cons of different places to ride around the metro Miami area. I finally concluded that the difference between cycling in urban, suburban, and rural areas is essentially the contrast between routes and destinations.
The more urban the area, the more diverse the destinations you have to pick from for your rides. The more rural the area, the more numerous the pleasant routes you can pick among for rides.
Urban routes are a challenge. You have to know traffic patterns. There can be a lot of stop-and-go because of traffic lights, stop signs, and traffic circles. But urban rides have a wealth of parks, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, places of interest, and landmarks to serve as destinations and rest stops. And there are more structures and landscaping that block the wind and provide shade.
Rural routes have a different set of challenges. Shade is harder to come by, and wide open spaces mean little protection from the wind. While there are more long stretches of uninterrupted road and more low traffic roads, destinations are fewer and often have to be fabricated. A convenience store where you can get ice, water, and Gatorade. A fruit stand or grocery store if you are lucky. Any state or county recreational facility. You have to get pretty creative sometimes.
So what is our favorite Miami area ride? Well, if I made a list of my favorite urban bike rides in Miami, the ride to Hollywood from Coconut Grove would be near the top. We like going to the Hollywood Broadwalk beach. The ride is long enough (50 miles) to be satisfying. The route is pleasant: A handful of small bridges to cross. Beautiful highrise buildings. Glimpses of beaches. Glittering morning sun on the ocean. Mansions and small older buildings and homes. Strips of retail shops. Ocean front parks.
Traffic is light on Sunday mornings making it a perfect time for a ride by ourselves or with a small group of friends. There are lots of groups out on the Hollywood route on Sunday, so you can count on seeing friends along the way.
We ride all summer in Florida's heat and humidity. Urban, suburban, and rural areas all work for us. They each have their challenges and virtues. Wherever we ride in the summer, it is going to be hot and sweaty.
I can handle sweaty summer pedaling as long as I can look forward to an occasional ride to Hollywood, crossing from island to island along the way, shaded by the glittering highrise buildings, cooled by the ocean breeze, watching the morning sun on the ocean and intercoastal, and happily enjoying the best of Miami...by bicycle.