Pedal Power

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Experience the joy of touring the islands on two wheels.

By Amber Lanier Nagle

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Some describe the overwhelming sense of freedom and exhilaration reminiscent of their childhoods. Others revel in the wind tousling their hair and the sunshine warming their shoulders as they coast on two wheels. Nothing compares to hopping on a bicycle and pedaling from one place to another. It is one of life’s simplest and most glorious pleasures and, at Sea Island, biking is just another component of the laid-back beach culture that continuously captivates members and guests.

“With about 8.5 miles of flat, bike-friendly paths and lanes, cycling is by far the best way to see Sea Island—to experience the homes, geography, waterfront and culture,” explains Fred Collins, a tour guide at Sea Island’s bike shop, Pedal. “You can’t possibly get the same experience by car. And with the 2-mile path now linking Sea Island to St. Simons Island, cyclists have easy access to [St. Simons] 40 miles of bike pathways, too.”

Guests can bike the entire length and circumference of both islands without riding on the road. Along the way, they can more intimately encounter the shimmering waves of the Atlantic, the clusters of stately palms, and the towering live oaks draped elegantly in Spanish moss. They can pull over, park their bikes, breathe in the salty air and experience the Golden Isles’ panorama—up close and personal.

“One popular bike excursion is the trail that winds to the north of St. Simons,” Collins explains. “It’s a beautiful ride that takes cyclists to two historical landmarks, Christ Church and Fort Frederica National Monument.”

History abounds at every turn. At the site of Christ Church, John and Charles Wesley preached under the oaks in 1736 before returning to England to help found the Methodist Church. The original church was built in 1820, but was partially destroyed by Union troops; the present, Gothic-style structure was built in 1884. Established in 1736, Fort Frederica was the southernmost outpost that secured Georgia’s future as a British colony.

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The bike trails that meander southward on St. Simons have a different flavor. “They end at the Pier Village shopping and lighthouse area,” Collins says. “The lighthouse goes back to 1872 with 129 steps that climb to the top. The A.W. Jones Heritage Center is next door to the lighthouse, and the Pier Village offers all sorts of fun activities, restaurants, souvenir and specialty shops, and a popular fishing pier.”

Each week, Pedal offers four guided tours that range from 9 to 18 miles. Those who prefer the freedom of freewheeling without a guide can pick up a self-tour map at the bike shop.

People who haven’t straddled a bike in years need not worry: Biking is a relaxing activity on Sea Island. The terrain is flat, with no hills for a 100-mile radius, except for the bridges to the mainland.

“Our bikes are easy to use,” Collins explains. “We carry 10 different models in four different sizes for both men and women. Most of our bikes are single-speed cruisers with coaster brakes and comfortable seats. And yes, we offer child carrier seats, trailers for children up to 80 pounds, and small bikes with or without training wheels.”

Pedal also offers an adult tandem bike—a bicycle built for two—and an adult tricycle for rental to Sea Island guests. Experienced cyclists who want to get out and really hammer the roads can rent 27-speed Trek racing bikes in three different sizes with a variety of pedal systems.

Aside from the pure joy of pedaling around the islands, cycling and other forms of exercise work the muscles, boost heart health and help bodies release those feel-good endorphins that make people happy.

Jim Sayer, executive director of Adventure Cycling Association, lauds the health and wellness benefits of biking.

Sayer describes cycling as “one of the highest-yield, lowest-impact kinds of exercise around. We constantly hear people say that cycling has helped them lose weight and boost their self-esteem. … It’s easy on their bones, joints and backs, and … it’s great for their spirit.”

It’s true—there’s something uplifting and purely organic about riding a bike. And with an abundance of sites to explore and miles and miles of smooth bike paths and lanes on Sea Island and beyond, it’s time to hop on and get rolling.

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Tips for the Road

Wondering how to prepare and what to take along for the ride? Fred Collins, tour guide at Pedal, offers a few suggestions to make riding around the island a more pleasant experience.

Dress casually, in light-colored clothing.

Wear comfortable shoes that protect your feet—tennis shoes are preferred.

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen, consider wearing a hat or helmet and sunglasses, and take water along for the ride (baskets can be affixed to rental bikes for convenience).

Take your cellphone in case you need to call the bike shop for assistance (and to take photos).

Bring a map to help guide you.

Carry cash and/or a credit card to purchase refreshments or unique finds along the way.

Contact room service for a packed picnic basket that fits perfectly in your bike basket. Picnic baskets can be customized but typically offer water, fruit, a sandwich of choice, potato salad, chips and a chocolate chip cookie from the bake shop—perfect for a break along the bike path!

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