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Cycling Routes Near Seaside/Watercolor and 30A

Discussion in 'All About SoWal' started by Bluesman, May 22, 2015.

  1. Bluesman

    Bluesman Beach Comber

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    Hello All!

    I am heading to Seaside/Watercolor for the week, and I hoping to get in lots of road miles as I am training for a HIM Triathlon. I am looking for some 30-50 mile routes.

    I was thinking that 30A early morning would be a good route, just out and back (either direction) 15-25 miles towards Destin or Panama City. But I landed here because Google directed me to a posting here from 2013, with many being unhappy with cyclists on 30A. Also tried Map My Ride but did not find anything on there.

    Any cyclists/triathletes among the board here? Any recommendations for good routes, roads/places to avoid, etc.?

    Thanks in advance for the advice. Looking forward to a week of sun, running, biking, and swimming!
     
  2. tsutcli

    tsutcli Beach Fanatic

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    It is roughly 18 miles from one end of 30a to the other before you get to 98 so almost anywhere on 30a would fit your requirements (15-20 miles round trip). You are right that cyclists on 30a are not appreciated and that is because 30a is a narrow, 2 lane county road with a lot of tourist/workmen/delivery traffic, morning, noon or night. Getting around a cyclist with the required 3 foot buffer requires going into the other lane when oncoming traffic breaks. This can take some time as there is always oncoming during most of the year anymore. Road rage will one day hit. My suggestion would be to bike on 98 as there is a bike lane designated and plenty of room for cars to pass.
     
  3. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Beach Fanatic

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    My suggestion would be to NOT bike on 98, especially not during a busy week. Try this:
    http://floridahikes.com/gayles-trails
    It's a few miles east of Rosemary Beach.
    Alternatively check with Big Daddy's Bikes in Blue Mountain for expert advice.
     
  4. Bluesman

    Bluesman Beach Comber

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    Wow, that is disappointing to hear ... 98 is pretty much the opposite of what I am looking for ... Unless I have my roads mixed up (I have been down to Seaside maybe 2-3 times but never brought my road bike) ... 98 is basically a limited access highway with traffic traveling 55-65 mph range ... I have seen bikes on that shoulder and feared for their safety. Certainly not the fun/scenic ride I am looking for ...

    Here where I live (SW Ohio), there are a number of great bike routes on country road and up in the Cape where we also vacation, they have a great rails-to-trails, although need to get out early to avoid the crowds. Are there really no comparable routes in the South Walton area?
     
  5. Bluesman

    Bluesman Beach Comber

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    Thanks NotDeadYet ... a couple of quick follow-ups ...

    1. Is Gayle's Trail paved? Looked on Google and seems like maybe it is mt. bike trails.

    2. While I was looking, I saw that 79 looks like it has a dedicated bike path, maybe five miles long. It would be 20 miles there on 30A and I could pick up 10 miles on an out and back on 79 perhaps.

    3. Is traffic bad on 30A even EARLY morning, like 6:00 a.m.? I know it gets congested in Seaside/Watercolor and probably other spots, but I have never really observed or experienced any cyclist/vehicle problem ...

    4. Seaside is usually loaded with cyclists, mostly cruisers of course, but I assume it had probably had a good cycling community built up as well. Are there any Seaside or 30A cycling groups that go out for regular organized rides?
     
  6. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Beach Fanatic

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    1. Paved, it's right there on the link.
    2. Well, not exactly. Check a map and locate Rosemary Beach. You run out of 30A there and get dumped out onto 98. Maps may be confusing because 98 is actually State Road 30. (The "A" is for alternate.) You can pick up the beach road again after a few miles but it's slow too and the bike path on 79 only starts a ways north. I believe the dedicated bike path on 79 is one of the loops you can connect to from the Gayle's trailhead. I wouldn't recommend biking to 79 even early because you would have to return either on 98 or on a very crowded 30A.
    3. Not too bad at 6, but by 7, yes. One hour won't get you enough miles, will it?
    4. Hook up with Big Daddy's. They are good people and the shop for the pros. The others are bikes for the tourists, beach cruisers. They will be slammed this week - maybe call them now. They have a web site.
     
  7. NotDeadYet

    NotDeadYet Beach Fanatic

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  8. Bluesman

    Bluesman Beach Comber

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    Gayle.jpg

    Thanks for the advice, NDY.

    I did check out the link ... If you drop in street view from Google Map, the portion of the trail they show (east of 79) looks unpaved, but just checked again and west is paved.

    I will definitely check out Robins and Big Daddy's.

    Thanks again!
     
  9. pennstater

    pennstater Beach Comber

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    30A at 6:00 AM is ok. You'll see cyclists in the roadway all day long. The heat can be brutal after 10 AM in the summer. I routinely go out at 6:00 AM and am comfortable in the roadway. Many sections are now posted 25 MPH. It is not narrow, has a good line of sight and even has a shoulder in some sections. I combine trail sections in low density areas with on road through denser Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside, Watercolor, Seagrove, Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach. It is not as pleasant as I would like, but not as bad as some have posted. Most drivers are courteous. But I've had more drivers harass me here than in Manhattan.

    The trail along 30A can be more hazardous than the roadway as motorists are prone to blow through the path from driveways and side streets stopping or slowing only at the roadway.

    I stay off 98 where the speed limits are as high as 65 MPH. But you can add miles by using trail spurs on many connectors between 30A and 98 like on 283 and 395.

    I like the ride along Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach as long as it is not Spring Break. Not much cross traffic west of 79. It's a newly paved roadway with shoulders designated as bike lanes. This requires a short ride on 98 but in a 45 MPH zone. It can be reached from the extreme East End of 30A. Good line of sight and few traffic lights. It's also possible to easily connect to the path along 79 and Gayle's trail which is totally paved but relatively short. The east end of Front Beach Road is more crowded but I have had no issues cycling to the old airport or for that matter the new airport.

    I've also ridden North of the 331 bridge on side roads. I did not like cycling over the bridge. But you could drive there and just meander around the backroads.

    No climbs here, but the wind can be as tough as a long climb.
     
  10. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Check with Big Daddy's Bike Shop in Blue Mountain Beach. They are presently riding all the forest bike paths and would have information you can use. My daughter and her husband just completed a 25 mile ride on Wednesday. Also she works there. I have been informed they also have maps available as well.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2015
  11. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Big Daddy's Bike Shop in Blue Mountain Beach for advice, for sure. Unfortunately, I do not believe our town is very road bike friendly. Off road though is another matter.
     
  12. Bluesman

    Bluesman Beach Comber

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    Hello All:

    Just circling back after 10 days in Watercolor/Seaside. For those who look up cycling info in this forum, here is my report ...

    * I biked 30A four days (Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday), about 20-35 miles from Watercolor. I mainly stayed on the road as the bike paths are full of walkers, joggers, and leisure riders, and most of the time.

    * I found that vehicular traffic roughly doubles every half hour from 5:54-6:00 a.m. forward. There were few vehicles on the road that early, and quite a few cyclists.

    * The route going east from Seaside through Rosemary) is about 8-9 miles. At least to me, there seemed to be more traffic (and more big contractor pickup trucks) along this route, and it is particular congested in Rosemary..

    * The route going west from Seaside through Blue Mountain Beach to the end of Route 30A was more enjoyable to me ... less cars, better views of the ocean, fewer "tight spots."

    * I found nearly all of the drivers to be courteous and patient. I was kind of expecting a battle zone out there, after reading through this issue in another posting, and it was just not the case. The only time that I had any issues was generally late morning morning (closer to 9 a.m.), with way more vehicles and, in particular, oversized contractor style pickup trucks with less patients with cyclists and slow moving traffic. I jumped on the bike path a couple times, especially on the final approach to Seaside.

    * Cycling on SR 98 would be like ride your bike on an Interstate Highway (or worse). I saw one cyclist on the 98 "bike lane," with cars and trucks whizzing by, less than 5 feet away, at 65+ mph! Terrible suggestion.

    * I did visit Big Daddy's Bike Shop in Blue Mountain Beach and, as noted, it is an awesome bike shop for everything you may need, whether you are buying or renting, need accessories, or looking for a cruiser or road bike. My brother purchased a new bike. The sales staff was knowledgeable, personable, and clearly enjoyed what they do. Great suggestion.

    My family and I had a great week, biking, hitting the restaurants (Cafe 30A and Watercolor Inn were awesome, but so were Bud & Ally's and the BBQ shack) and hanging out on the beach. So thanks.
     
  13. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    Great report! Thank you.
     
  14. Andy A

    Andy A Beach Fanatic

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    Thanks for the shout out regarding Big Daddy's Bike Shop. My daughter works there and thoroughly enjoys it. She says the customers are awesome!
     
  15. Jimmy T

    Jimmy T Beach Fanatic

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    Big Daddy's is the best bike shop in the area, in my opinion.
    Professional, courteous, knowledgable staff, who can help
    you with anything from a beach cruiser to a high-end road
    bike. Great bike mechanics. Awesome bikes.

    And Bluesman is right about 98. It's a very dangerous place
    to ride a bike.
     
  16. kwalsh0001

    kwalsh0001 Beach Lover

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    Bluesman, you have my sympathy. I'm in from Colorado, and I miss the 30 mile "back roads" and the mountain passes at 10,000+ feet(!).

    My recommendation. Drive (car) across the 331 bridge. About a mile after "landfall" on the northern side of the bay, look for Black Creek Road (Rte 3280) on your right. It's a relatively lightly-travelled road. You can cover 14.2 miles in one direction. At that point, it hits Rte 20 (a LOT more fast traffic). Turn around and retrace your route on 3280. One round trip is (duh) 28+ miles. Two round trips will give you 56+. Pack plenty of fluids--not many places to refill along the route.

    Stay off 30A and 98....!
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2015

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