West Orange Trail Bikes and Blades

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Posted 2023-02-27 by Gail Clifford MDfollow

Winter Garden, Florida, a lovely little community northwest of Orlando, established in 1903 as you can read on the fountain in the picturesque town square, commemorated at their centennial celebration, remains perfectly situated to explore by bicycles, easily rented from "Bikes and Blades." The bike rental location, found off an access road, provides easy entry to bike paths in either direction. For the occasional cycling enthusiast, especially one that hasn't been on a bike in a while, Bikes & Blades provides a lovely alternative to loading your own bike into your vehicle and going to another part of town for a new bike path.

Bikes and Blades helped establish the West Orange Trail as a popular biking destination. The trail was converted from an old railroad corridor in the early 1990s, and Bikes and Blades was one of the first bike rental and tour companies to operate on the trail. Its success has helped to bring tourism to the area and has provided employment opportunities for local residents.

The company has sponsored numerous biking events, like the annual Tour de Cure, which raises money for diabetes research. They have also provided free bike rentals to local schools for field trips and hosted charity rides to support various causes.

We chose comfort bikes (think the seats in your spin class with extra padding), had our seats properly measured and adjusted by Bikes and Blade staff, John, and were on our way. While the first intersection is a bit of a harried crossing with traffic if everyone is paying attention in the light of day.

The popular West Orange Trail, a 22-mile paved bike trail that runs through several cities, offers stunning views of Florida's natural beauty. The trail is well-maintained and offers easy access to shops, restaurants, and parks along the way.

During construction, you'll ride across clearly marked detours to reach the paved path that can easily accommodate four bikes astride. Be warned, this is the same path the school children take on their way home so plan your day accordingly.

The average temperature during the winter months is in the 16-20C range (60sF), which is perfect for outdoor activities like biking.

Reaching the nature preserve at the Oakland Nature Preserve (no bikes allowed) provides an easy break point if you hadn't ridden for a while. You're not after the world record after all, though several active cyclists are visible throughout the path.

Continuing from the Nature Preserve, you'll pass into the little town of Oakland. Within it, you'll see an old train building, a church, and brick buildings that stand from the beginning of the last century. Their well-kept yards portray the pride of place they hold within the community.

Beautifully manicured lawns, well-maintained homes, and sculptures dot the bike path as you pass walkers and other cyclists. In front of the community center, you'll see a sculpture that may remind you of one of the insects from Disney's "A Bug's Life." The "cloud cycle" reminds me of a giant cricket.

Scan the ground, though, too, as you may miss a playful pair of gators, carved from an old tree stump, making their way towards the lake behind. Keep in mind that, with lakes in the area, live alligators could be present.

As you cross into Winter Garden proper, you'll move from the rural West Orange Trail to the central path through town. hosts regular biking events and has a strong cycling culture. The locals, clearly accustomed to cycling visitors, sit around the fountain, at the tables and chairs or, for the lucky ones, the swinging bench. There's a splash pad for kids not far away and plenty of retail therapy buildings and restaurants. Biking is a great way to explore the city and all it has to offer while getting some exercise at the same time.

The Chef's Table at the Edgewater, described as intimate and decadent by one who's been there, allows you to enjoy a fixed menu, a 3-course meal, in this award-winning restaurant.

The Hangry Bison remains a popular place at the Saturday Farmer's Market as well as a local and tourist favorite.

Ms. Bee's is a local treasure on the far corner, supplying fun treats across the street from the train station sporting an old but impeccably preserved fire engine along with an old train car.

The place that should make you stop is the old theater. Still active with movies and Broadway-style shows (Rock of Ages playing currently), it's worth a visit.

It was time to return our bikes (check the website for closing times) and parting did seem like a sweet sorrow. The ride back to Bikes and Blades was fast and John was waiting for us when we arrived at 4:52p (they close at 5pm).

I really like the convenience of Bikes and Blades with a great location, multiple paths to travel, a sense of safety along the way, and plenty of interesting things to see along the way. I'm looking forward to returning to explore the opposite side.

About the facility itself: Bike and Blades has restrooms on the far side of the building (left side as you're facing it from the parking lot), plenty of parking and overflow parking sections, rocking chairs overlooking the highway and benches for sitting and waiting for your crew to assemble.

The bicycle equipment is impeccably kept. The workroom is light and airy and the staff friendly and helpful.

Bikes and Blades helps preserve the history of Winter Garden by offering guided tours of the city and the surrounding areas. The tours highlight the city's rich history, including the citrus industry and the role the railroad played in the city's development.

If you're in the west Orlando area, do yourself the great service of renting a bike for a few hours or the day, and ride through sections you just can't get enough of when going by car.

I like how easy it is to get everywhere from Winter Garden - but downtown most of all. I'll be back to visit, hopefully often.

93916 - 2023-06-12 01:05:16


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