Ever since I got my fat tire bike a year ago I’ve been thinking about doing an epic ride on the beach…like 20 miles or more. After all, fat bikes are built for soft surfaces like sand and Florida’s beaches are world-class. Right? Truth be known, I probably should have titled this Biking the Beach; My Misadventure. Yeah, it didn’t go quite as planned. The good news is that I learned a lot from my mistakes.
My first mistake was listening to fat bike riders who advise to lower the tire pressure below 10 psi — some as low as 5 or 6. Maximum is 20 psi on my tires. Less air pressure = harder to pedal. This I know. In fact, it became intolerable. My 4 inch wide tires would have been fine at max pressure on the packed sand near water’s edge.
My second mistake was not taking information I had seriously. Initially, I wanted to ride the entire length of Canaveral National Seashore, but found out that the backcountry stretch (Klondike Beach) is open only to foot traffic, with a permit. Having mulled over my options, I decided to see about riding south from the city of Cape Canaveral, past Cocoa Beach to at least Patrick Air Force Base. Exercising due diligence, I pulled up Google maps to check for obstructions or obvious restrictions. I even used satellite mode and zoomed in. Here’s what I saw near Patrick AFB:
So, that’s a front-end loader doing beach restoration work. As I recalled, Hurricane Matthew ripped up Florida’s east coast pretty good a few months ago, requiring long stretches to be rebuilt. Except the rebuilding doesn’t actually restore it to pre-storm condition. It just makes the beaches usable again and /or protects property from further damage. This video shows Monster Matthew doing his thing:
From Cape Canaveral until a bit south of Cocoa Beach the ride was really nice down near water’s edge where the sand was hard packed, except I should have stopped and pumped up my tires. As I continued south I noticed my tires sinking into a wet, soggy sand — despite being quite deflated. Quickly the treads filled with the heavy, muck-like sand. I was into a restoration area. Looking ahead, it seemed to stretch on as far as I could see.
Adding insult to injury, I underestimated the relentless sun at the beach. I specifically picked a cool day, but the sun quickly became brutal and my temperature shot up as I fought my way down the boggy beach. I meant to pack a small, collapsible umbrella for a shade break. Didn’t. Ah, but all that nice, cool ocean water was right there. The water was even super calm. Except I knew that if I got in the water, I’d get sand in my shorts. Wet sand. Wet sand in shorts = very bad bike ride. Mental note: Bring swimsuit and towel next time, too.
So, I walked my bike up to the dry sand and tried riding, but it was incredibly soft and my tires remained caked with wet sand — only now with a dry sand crust. It didn’t take long to decide it was time to bail out and return north along A1A. Soon the sand flung off my tires, but the low air pressure made both pedalling and steering more difficult than I would have liked. And still not a spot of shade to be found. Until…
Brevard County’s Lori Wilson Park opened up on my right, huge shade trees on a manicured lawn beckoning. My spirits soared, finding this oasis. I found the perfect spot, pulled out my water and snacks, then kicked back for a few minutes. Once refreshed, I pumped up my tires — no small task, but so worth it — and sailed back to Cape Canaveral.
I think I’ll stick to riding off-road single track, dirt roads and paved trails for my long rides. Biking the beach sounded a lot more romantic than it turned out to be, if I’m to be honest. Even without my misadventures, the scenery doesn’t change much. Sure, you see different birds, maybe even sea creatures, but pretty much lots of sand and ocean. Mile after mile after mile. If you do decide to try a long beach ride, remember my lessons and prepare accordingly. Or rent a beach cruiser and stick to shorter rides where the sand is well packed.