Biking South Florida tailwind
Ever since my Fargo days cycling in the upper midwest (North and South Dakota, Minnesota) I came to enjoy long tailwind rides. I did several 400+ km rides up there in two summers:
Most of these rides were North-South, all of them on regular highways parallel to an Interstate Highway, most of them using a Greyhound bus for the upwind (return) trip.
Back in South Florida I did a few significant tailwind rides:
The first one involved an Amtrak train ride, the second one an overnight Greyhound bus ride plus cab ride, the third one a private vehicle, the fourth one I cycled back (using my recumbent).
For somewhat shorter distances around Palm Beach I have scouted a few routes which can be done using public transportation.
A1A between Palm Beach and Miami Beach, up to 70 mi
This route is good for winds from N or S. I usually drive from my home in Palm Beach Gardens to Palm Beach (~20km) and park along the Intracoastal in the vicinity of the Palm Beach TriRail station. The route follows A1A and has little traffic down to Deerfield Beach. From there to Fort Lauderdale traffic is a bit heavier. Further South one has to ride around the port in Fort Lauderdale to connect with Dania Beach. As one gets closer to Miami Beach there are more traffic lights and it is generally less pleasant.
One advantage of this route is that there are many options to cut it short by using any of the TriRail stops along the way. South of Fort Lauderdale one has to ride quite a bit West to get to the TriRail, some 10-20 km with often heavy traffic. Good spots to connect are in Boca Raton (Spanish River / Yamato Rd), Deerfield Beach (Hillsboro Blvd) and Fort Lauderdale (Broward Blvd). In Miami Beach one can ride to downtown Miami and then take the SkyRail to connect with the TriRail.
I have done shorter variations of this ride perhaps a dozen times. The most convenient access points for shorter versions of this ride are in Boca Raton (Spanish River Blvd) and Fort Lauderdale (Broward Blvd). Due to the scenic ride along the Ocean, the lack of traffic and the convenience of multiple TriRail returns it is my favorite tailwind ride in South Florida.
On Nov-20, 2016 I rode from our home in Juno Beach all the way down to the Miami Beach Inlet, a total of 85 mi (138 km). See photos of that ride here.
Belle Glade to Wellington, 25 mi
This is a comparatively short ride, but offers a very convenient transport mechanism, namely the public bus going out to Belle Glade and South Bay on Lake Okeechobee. The Palm Tran Bus Route 40 connects Wellington on the East with Belle Glade on the West. The buses have a bike rack in the front, which eliminates the need to pack the bike in a box.
When there is a strong E or W wind, this is nearly ideal, as there are almost no traffic lights and except for a few miles slightly diagonal the entire distance is oriented exactly East-West. There are sugar cane fields and it is wide open, ideal for strong winds to pick up a bike rider.
I rode this twice in a week in Jan 2016, with winds around 25-30 mph, reaching average speeds around 28 mph. Again, short and very intense, a good way to test some new equipment or just to have fun.
Belle Glade to Miami via Hwy 27, 70 mi
This route is an option for NW or SE winds. It combines two public transportation segments, the TriRail and the Palm Beach bus system. For NW winds, I drive to the Wellington Green mall at 441 / Forest Hill Blvd. From here I take the bus No. 40 out to Belle Glade. The bike can be put on a rack mounted on the front of the bus. The bus takes about 45 min to drive out there, and the one-way ticket costs all of $1.50
From Belle Glade it is a relatively short 5km distance West to South Bay. From here State Road 27 leads diagonally down through the Everglades Conservation area towards Weston and Miami. It is a great stretch of long straight road through the middle of nowhere. Be prepared to see nothing much but sugarcane fields and swamp land.
After about 65km SR 27 intersects with I75. From here one can ride straight East towards Fort Lauderdale, either to cut short or if the wind is more westerly (WNW instead of NNW). There is a SR80 parallel to I75 but it still is a bit intimidating to ride on these big highways, for example to get across the huge intersection with the Sawgrass Expressway.
The alternative is to continue down South on SR 27 on the Western edge of Weston and then diagonally SE towards the Miami airport. (I haven’t done this section yet, so I don’t know the traffic and shoulder conditions here.) Here one finds the southern TriRail terminal at Hialeah Market. Keep in mind that on weekends the TriRail only runs every 2 hours, so planning ahead and timing is important to avoid a lengthy wait.
One takes the TriRail North to Lake Worth road. Here one can either get on the bus N0. 62 or just cycle the 12 mi back to the mall. While there is a shoulder, Lake Worth road is quite busy and won’t win a beauty contest. I used to ride it a lot when living in Wellington, but one can certainly opt for the bus again.
This route combines bus (East-West), cycling (NW-SE) and TriRail (South-North) to a triangle course which will allow a tailwind ride across 70 mi of mostly farm and swamp land without much return hassle. Check these photos of this ride on Jan-30, 2013!
Sebring to Okeechobee to Palm Beach Gardens, 100 mi
This option offers a roughly 100mi long and almost continuously straight route either NW or SE. I rode this once on the long ride from Orlando to Palm Beach Gardens. It would have been the ideal route for the days after hurricane Sandy had passed us and brought 25mph WNW winds. Around Okeechobee one can use variations to ride along the levee on Lake Okeechobee, which is certainly more scenic and a welcome change. Either connect back to SR 710 (Beeline Highway) after just 8 mi (using C15B, SW 126th Blvd) or after about 20 mi (via Kanner Hwy SR 76) which would add about 10 mi.
Amtrak is running a train called Silver Star along this route, covering the distance between West Palm Beach and Sebring in 1 h 50 min. The Amtrak has a luggage car which accepts bicycles without boxing them, which is great. The train only runs twice a day, which somewhat restricts same-day return cycling. Lastly, the stop in Okeechobee does not allow access to the luggage car, and since mid-2017 they don't service the luggage car in Sebring anymore, either.
But it can be done. On Apr-30, 2017 I started from home and rode up to Okeechobee (~ 100 km) with a good SE wind. However, there were also a few rain showers, and once I got to the train station, I found out that the Amtrak train was 3.5 hours late. As it is coming down from Boston, it has plenty of opportunity to pick up some delays... So it seems best to first ride the train and then ride back home with NW wind, as the Amtrak train in the morning departs from Miami and is usually on time. Check out these photos from a fast 6 hour, 112 mi (182 km) ride on Oct-29, 2017. The first 2 hours I covered 44.8 mi (72.5 km) for an average speed of 36.1 km/h (10 m/s) and didn't drop the speed below 30 km/h once, much less stop. That was hectic, but also exhilarating.
Jacksonville to Juno Beach, 275 mi
For either N or S winds one can obviously follow the Atlantic Ocean Beach all the way up to the Georgia border. If you had a retrieval car following you, it would be easy to just have the car follow I-95. With self-driving cars this might soon become an option!
There is one public transportation option: The Amtrak SilverStar or Meteor train. Leaving from West Pam Beach, the track goes to central Florida via Okeechobee and Sebring, then Lakeland, then past Orlando up via Palatka to Jacksonville.
You have to have strong wind either N or S and must be willing to ride pretty much all day to cover this entire distance. I had been contemplating this route as a possibility for years. Finally in early March 2018 the weather factors aligned and I rode this from N to S. See the full trip report here.
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