Cure cabin fever
Getting Outby Dan Hall
It's still colder than a penguin's rear outside, and you're ready to bust free from the trainer and careen through the boob-tube to a clement cycling paradise. When indoor-saddle time reaches the threshold of your tolerance, consider breaking away to a southern locale and jumpstarting the cycling season. What follows are destinations where the asphalt reflects happiness-inducing, sunny rays when it is dark and cold at home. Check out the end of the article for tips on renting a bike instead of traveling with your road bike.
San Diego, California: A winter cycling heaven
Smooth ribbons of blacktop flow through scenic deserts as well as coastal highways and mountainous byways—all a diminutive distance from the comforts of one of Cali's largest cities. With average highs reaching the mid 60s during winter months, San Diego will help you quickly ditch cold-weather blues.
What to bring:
Bring your fair-weather riding gear and a waterproof jacket —the winter months are the rainiest, but the storms pass quickly and the conditions afterward tend to be delightfully clear, so don't forget to pack your sunglasses.
Check out this San Diego local's site for all the information you'll need to cruise the pavement in and around San Diego. As a world-class tourist destination, San Diego has accommodations to suit everybody. Rent a car or catch a ride with a tour guide to the picturesque deserts or mountainous roads outside of San Diego, or ride right from your hotel room, cruise around the bay, and catch a ferry at the end.
Let a conductor do the driving. The passenger railroad network across the United States is perfect for traveling with your bike. Sure, it may take a bit longer then jet setting (the airport is 3 miles from downtown)—but the costs and aggravation associated with flying with your bike far outweigh the added time. As long as departure and destination stations have checked baggage (not all of them do), it is a breeze to travel with your bike from the chilly Northwest down the coast to San Diego.
Check out Amtrak's policy on traveling with your bike here.
Tucson, Arizona: An early season Mecca
Placid winters make Arizona a go-to for pros who want to sneak in early season training. With temps hitting the mid 70s, expect to break a sweat riding in fresh air, while your hometown spandex-heroes hide indoors. Quintessential desert roads and vistas peppered with saguaro and craggy mountain ranges await you.
What to bring:
Bring your road bike or cyclocross bike, and hit the back roads. If traveling with your bike is difficult, one of Tucson's many bike shops will cater to your rental needs. Dig to the back of your closet for your summer kit; you'll soon be riding in 70-degree weather. Arm and leg warmers are a good way to regulate temp on cool mornings without excess weight or bulk.
Photo Credit: David Jewel for Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau
By sticking close to Tucson, you'll treat your legs to challenging climbs, such as Mt Lemmon; check out MapMyRide.com to find rides for all skill levels in and around Tucson.
Take the ski rack off your car and install a bike rack. Although "The Mother Road"—Route 66—has been replaced by modern interstates, you can still follow its path from Chicago to LA and discover the history and excitement that made Route 66 famous. Retrace this legendary road's original path to Flagstaff, Ariz., where you can then head south on I-17 and then I-10 to get to Tucson. If you're on a tight schedule and meandering the west is out of the question, the many daily flights into Tucson International Airport will have you pedaling in sunny rays quickly.
Austin, Texas: Inhabited by music
There's probably a reason a certain seven-time Tour de France winner lives here most of the year. The mild and dry winters offer ideal riding conditions; expect highs reaching for the 60s during the day, December through February. When the sun makes its early trip to the other side of the planet, Austin's vibrant live music scene will keep you well entertained.
What to bring:
Pack the essentials for fair-weather riding we've covered so far, but bring layers just in case. If you plan on renting, check out the Bicycle Sport Shop for quality, high-end road bikes; throw a leg over one of these road missiles to refine your road-bike palate. Not only does this shop offer killer bike rentals, it also gives you the option to deck out your rental with high-performance wheels. You won't get stuck with a hybrid-geek bicycle here. Après riding, treat your tired legs to superior denim, toss a cowboy hat on your head, and hit up Austin's vibrant nightlife.
Bike maps for Austin are as abundant as its music, and MapMyRide.com has a plethora of rides posted that will get you to Austin's outskirts. If you're still unsure, hit up one of Austin's many bike shops for info on hot rides.
Fly into the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, and from there you have plenty of options to catch a ride downtown. If you jumped on an Amtrak to Austin, you'll end up just west of downtown where you can hitch a ride aboard a Metro Bus or hail a taxi to your hotel.
Tampa Bay, Florida: It's called the "Sunshine State" for a reason
The late months of winter are a great time to hit up Florida for clement cycling. The wet season passes after November, and a mild, relatively dry season rolls in for the rest of winter. Not only can you squeeze in some early season riding, you can throw in some beach time and get a chance to prevent a farmers tan.
What to Bring:
Florida Freewheelers cycling club has a large database of well-documented rides around the peninsula. To get to these ride destinations, rent a car or use the extensive light rail network. If you're not into looking like a pro billboard when traveling on public transportation, check out Cutter for some incognito urban cycling apparel that performs better than some pro kits. Check out the Suncoast Trail for a 42-mile ride outside of Tampa that treats you to quintessential Florida swamps and wetlands with accompanying alligators.
Biplane—oops, by plane ... Tampa International Airport (along with international airports in Orlando, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale) gives you plenty of flight options, and you'll find accommodations to make your stay memorable a short distance away. Amtrak operates between Boston and Miami, so you can ditch the Northeast's gray skies and head south with your bike to a sunny destination.
Photo Credit: Visit Florida
Renting a bike: Quick notes
Sometimes traveling with your bike can be more hassle than it's worth. Airlines do not care how fragile or expensive your bike is, and they charge an arm and a leg to transport it. Traveling long distances through adverse weather with your bike exposed on a car rack will knock years off of its life, and shipping it somewhere leaves you wondering, "Will it actually show up undamaged?"
Here is how to rent a road bike so that you won't long for your prized pony at home:
- Bring your own shoes and pedals; the large variety of choices makes it difficult for rental companies to stock everything.
- If you're not keen on wearing funked-out rental gear, pack your own helmet and gloves.
- Take a measurements of your saddle height, reach, and handlebar height
-----------------Length A: saddle height------------------
-----------------Length B: Reach---------------------------
Center of your handlebar to center of seat tube—horizontal
-----------------Length C: Handlebar height----------------
Center of the handle bar/stem intersection to the ground
Write these measurements down, and take them with you. Now you can have the rental provider dial in your loaner as close to your personal bicycle as possible—in a timely manner.