Cyclist Susan Evans, whose Island Bike Tours is increasingly popular here, says she’s had few problems with drivers and cyclers trying to share the same space.
“We’re mostly on the sidewalks and in the bike lanes, so we’re very safe. But I tell my tour groups to stay single file in bike lanes. But there are a lot of driveways, so they have to bike defensively.”
Susan and her business partner, Island Bike Shop owner Matthew Walthour, began the tours in 2009.
“During my college years, I worked at the Marriott and did bike tours there. Matthew and I would bike every day. One day I said, ‘We’re crazy; we should be doing this (as a business.)’ I knew every square inch of Marco. I know the history and I’m inspired, so we said we’d do it.”
We asked Susan about guiding tourists and, in many cases, locals too.
“Mostly our clients are tourists, but in the beginning I had some locals that had been coming down for decades. They were so excited. That’s when I knew I had something. “It’s easy to impress tourists. They are coming from upstate New York in January, for example, so it’s not hard. But it’s great to have a local say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never been on these trails before, I had no idea I could see the wildlife like this.’
“People run around in their cars and they miss a lot. When you’re on a bike, you see, feel, sense, and smell. It’s totally different.”
The nature is especially popular with many visitors who take the bike tours, from burrowing owls to bald eagles to bougainvillea, from some of Marco’s great neighborhoods for humans and gopher tortoises alike. Well, not alike, but equally interesting.
One of the tour itineraries includes sunset at the beach.
“We’re very flexible and are happy to design custom tours for groups,” Susan says. “Tell us what you want or we can make some nice suggestions.”
Susan’s tours use beach cruiser style bicycles.
“They have a nice, casual, upright riding position with comfortable seats. They’re also easy to pedal and to brake, for beginners as well as for the avid cyclist.
“Our tours are designed at a recreational level and the pacing is moderate.
Many of Susan’s customers, when asked their opinions of these island bike tours, seemed as passionate about the experience as Susan is in delivering it.
“We enjoyed it so much two years ago that we recently went again,” says Cindy Wyatt, who lives in Birmingham, AL. “It was just as great the second time around.
“It’s low intensity and the pace would be appropriate for most people. Susan is a wealth of knowledge about Marco, including its history and the wildlife.”
Cindy’s husband Steven agrees.
“We had a great time, seeing things off the beaten path. We had dinner at a place we never would have found on our own.”
Other tour takers agreed.
n “It was a very fun day, seeing wildlife and learning about the island’s history.” Michael Bliss.
n “I’ve been coming to Marco Island for years but saw things on the bike tour like never before.” Patti Carollo.
n “Susan kept our twelve and thirteen year old kids engaged and interested throughout the entire trip.” Steve August.
Susan says some seasonal people take the tours more than once.
“It’s a nice experience. They take the tour and then when their friends come to visit they take the tour again.”
She got the inspiration to start her Marco bike tour service while she was on an organized adventure bike trip in Europe a few years ago. It included some stages of the Tour de France in the Alps and Pyrenees mountains.
To book bike tours, phone Susan at (239) 348-5667. Website: www.islandbikeshops.com.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. Email: email@example.com.