Lakewood Ranch’s Brad Block spends his summers in Wisconsin where he loves to cycle.
But compared to biking in very flat and hot Florida, it is a different kind of cycling.
Block said in Wisconsin, he likes the challenge of having to push himself up a hill, before enjoying a break when he gets to coast down the other side.
That will be behind him, though, as Block is welcomed home to Florida with the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club’s CycleFest Nov. 5.
He said his main test in the Lakewood Ranch area event will be much different than the Wisconsin hills. While some might expect the heat to be the main difficulty, Block said it is the wind.
He will be just one of hundreds of cyclists who will test their stamina on courses that cover 100, 62, 36, and 16 miles. The rides start from Main Street at Lakewood Ranch and the event is limited to 850 riders.
The different routes give each rider a chance to create their own personal challenge.
“It’s just about getting out there and riding,” said Lakewood Ranch’s Tom Leonhardt, a member of the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club who will volunteer at CycleFest. “It’s like any athletic endurance, whether it’s running, rolling or biking. The more you do it, the better you get, and the longer you can go. You can’t bike once a week and hope to get better.”
Block and Leonhardt said it’s a supportive atmosphere at CycleFest where riders encourage each other to challenge themselves to cover their optimum distance.
“If you have a group of people who will encourage you, then you can with continuity, regularity and consistency, achieve speeds and distances you would not realize,” Block said. “There is a lot of mentoring that gets done in (the bike club).”
Cycling can be an activity many riders take up after years of pounding their legs as runners.
That was the case for Leonhardt. His knees needed a break after being an avid runner, so 40 years ago, he started cycling. Now he rides with the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club's fastest cyclists.
Both Leonhardt and Block said cycling has been a great way for them to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Block always has loved biking. He remembered begging his parents for a bike as a child, and he cycled all through high school. He returned to the sport after his children were born and “became serious” about it 20 years ago.
“Some people are almost born a cyclist,” he said. “I’ve heard similar stories from a lot of people. It’s in your blood. It just becomes a way of life after a while.”
Block rides with the “Steers and Beers” subgroup of the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club. He said the average age of the group is just under 70 years old. He said cycling helps people physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.
Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.