Sweaty Summer Bicycle Rides in Tampa

hill warning on Upper Tampa Bay Trail, Tampa Florida It is a privilege to live in Tampa. Tampa has gorgeous scenery, numerous attractions, pothole-free roads, and mostly outstanding weather.

Tampa summers are brutally hot, with cataclysmic afternoon thunderstorms. Tampa is the sweatiest city and lightning capital of the United States.

Bright sunshine before the storm, propels Tampa to the top of the National UV Index.

It did not rain today. Tampa Heat Index reached 100.

I wrote about this last year, comparing Tampa’s heat to a Bikram Yoga class.

I do not stop to stretch and watch egrets this year. I moved ten miles from Bayshore Boulevard, and I have not been stretching. I just set a reminder to stretch :)

Over 200 Parks and Facilities are available in Hillsborough County.

Tampa only has 350,000 residents. There are many amenities, because Tampa is a popular vacation destination. I found a delightful eight mile path, two miles from my current address.

Upper Tampa Bay Trail

covered bridge on Upper Tampa Bay Trail The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is hidden in residential neighborhoods. Tampa converted two sets of abandoned railroad tracks, a landfill, and empty land along the Channel A canal, into a remarkably beautiful trail.

My late buddy Larry taught me that the best time to ride a bicycle, is when you would rather stay home. I find a route and stick to it, unless I am riding to an event like Cyclovia.

I also maintain a schedule. I am always glad that I go out, when I do not feel like riding.

It is important to have a route in mind, so I can ride on autopilot. A regular route also helps me gauge my speed. I removed my speedometer after I was injured trying to make it rise about the 40 MPH marker on a hill. Injuries take longer to heal when you are over 60.

It is better to ignore the speed, and ride for pleasure and exercise.

It is best to find a route over undulating hills, with panoramic views of forests and streams and benches, water fountains and clean bathrooms. Florida is flat. But there are hills on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail.

Best Hills in Tampa

pedestrian ramp over Gunn Highway. Tampa, Florida

The biggest hill is the pedestrian overpass over Gunn Highway. I usually stop after the climb. I rest watching traffic, enjoying a breeze and drink.

There are few long, sloping hills near the abandoned landfill, which is now a mowed field. A sign informs visitors that trash used to be recycled on the pristine meadow.

Shady Spots

bridge under highway. Upper Tampa Bay Trail. Tampa, Florida The “steep hill” warning leads to a cool underpass, adjacent to a stream.

A shady urban tree canopy covers the trail after the Gunn Highway ramp. It is a popular resting area.

Several coolers of water with paper cups, and (I think) two water fountains are available. Litter baskets are next to the coolers. Everything is clean and safe, including the public bathrooms. Super expensive graphite bicycles pass me.

I used to ride laps around Central Park in Manhattan. Nothing was safe or clean.

I do not carry a lock, so I bring my bicycle into the bathroom. But other riders usually offer watch it for me. Should I trust them?

Visiting the Upper Tampa Bay Trail

The Upper Tampa Bay Trail is busiest in the morning, before Tampa’s heat leads sensible people to air conditioned rooms.

Tampa says the trail is 7.25 miles long. It seems longer, because there are several paths. I have not ridden on all the paths, because I find a route and stick to it. I will explore them when it is not brutally hot.

Water

I did not notice the coolers and cups until my fourth or fifth visit. Do not rely on them. Electric water fountains are miles apart.

I carry two 20 ounce drinks on my bicycle. One bottle is frozen. I need three bottles, if the temperature is above 95. I refill one from a water fountain.

Please bring something to drink.

Insects

Florida is the land of insects, but I do not need insect repellent to ride a bicycle. I recommend insect repellent for walkers. The Upper Tampa Bay Trail has wooded areas and a path along a stream, which are likely spots for swarming insects.

Rain

I expect a daily Summer thunderstorm between 3 and 5 PM. It varies. Check the weather report.

I was caught in a shower last week. Clear skies turned gray in a flash. At least the rain is warm.

Sun

Tampa, Miami and Honolulu usually occupy the top three spots on the National UV Index. I am not science whiz, but I expected a desert city to be sunnier than Tampa.

It took me a year to get used to the sun. I was debilitated after my first few Summer bicycle rides in Florida.

Cover yourself with sunscreen. Bring a towel, if you are walking.

Helmets

I stopped wearing my helmet. It is too hot. I could spend $200 for a cool Florida helmet, like the ones worn by the expensive bicycle riders.

Both daughters want me to wear a helmet. However, they have never gone for a bicycle ride with Dad, to see what I do.

I wore a helmet in Lexington, Kentucky. My helmet protected me when I hit low tree branches. I wore the same helmet a few times in Florida.

There are no cars on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. I ride there on the sidewalk. I see no reason to ride in a little lane on the road, next to cars, when I can ride by myself on the sidewalk. I stop to pickup tree branches and debris.

It is your head. Ride on the sidewalk. Stay away from cars. Obey traffic signals.

Wear a helmet, if it makes you happy.

An Urban Oasis in Tampa

The Upper Tampa Bay Trail has wooded areas, a path that follows a stream, bridges, underpasses, and a few hills.

Horse lovers can ride on an equestrian trail, near a small horse farm.

A twenty mile ride is enough for me. However, Tampa’s brilliant architects are connecting the Upper Tampa Bay Trail to the 41 mile Suncoast Trail.

I am looking forward to my next ride on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. Add it to your itinerary, if you are planning to visit Tampa.