Wild Florida: Bikepacking the Spanish 520 (Video)
“Wild Florida” is a new video from Robert Schaefer that documents his time riding the Spanish 520 in Florida as his first bikepacking event. Find a brief writeup from Robert, some screen grabs, and the entire 30-minute video here…
Designed and organized by our friend Karlos Bernart, Cross Florida: The Spanish is part of a growing number of Florida based bikepacking events and routes. It’s a 520-mile coast-to-coast route from Fort Desoto to an east coast finish at St Augustine. It follows a mix of singletrack, forest roads, doubletrack, grassy trails, bike path, and pavement. There was a grand depart in January, with two route options to choose from: a 520-mile odyssey and a 420-mile option.
Wild Florida is a documentary-style video from Robert Schaefer highlighting his foray into bikepacking, how he prepared for the event, and his experience during the race itself. The video provides a detailed look at what the route offers and should serve as an invaluable resource for anyone thinking of giving it a shot. Watch it below and then scroll down for a reflection from Robert.
Words by Robert Schaefer (@schaeferadventuresfl)
At the start of 2022, I gave up my car and started my own business. This forced me to either bike or run to my office, and as I got more interested in cycling—which turned into my interest in bikepacking—owning my own business made it a little easier to structure my life around training for a bikepacking race.
As 2022 wore on and I was cycling more and more, I was thrown down the rabbit hole of bikes, gear, and everything in between. I searched for bikepacking races in Florida and quickly found SingleTrack Samurai (Karlos). He is probably the premier route maker in Florida and hosts and organizes many bikepacking races, rides and tours.
Of all the rides and races listed on his site, I signed up for the Spanish 520. In January 2023, the Spanish 520 started in St. Augustine at Castillo de San Marcos and wound southwest about 520 miles and ended at Fort Desoto. Fort to Fort. The whole experience was humbling. I thought I could finish in under three days. I finished in about four and a half days.
Florida is not what you think it is. Whole sections of the state are virtually untouched. Other parts that were developed or mined are now being reclaimed by the wilds. There are hills. Lots of them. Put those hills all together and mix in sleep deprivation, and I was convinced I had left Florida. This was not what Floridians know Florida to be. On the third night, which was the coldestone at around 35 to 40 degrees, in a dark and quiet forest, I experienced a solid hour of biking downhill, which I never thought was possible in Florida.
I was attacked by a dog, chased by more dogs, waded through bogs and swamps, bushwhacked a good bit, got lost a good bit too, questioned what I had gotten myself into often, was detained by a fish game and wildlife officer for using some trails after sunset, ate a lot of terrible gas station food, and met a lot of good people along the way.
I learned some hard lessons, like don’t rely on an emergency bivvy. Take a sleeping bag. I couldn’t sleep a wink because I was so cold. I also pushed too hard without any sleep, whereas the two people who did complete the course in under three days would stop often and take power naps. I guess this is a skill and one I need to work on. It was everything I hoped for, I encountered many things I feared, and would do it all over again if given the chance.
One final note: the Spanish 520 is only 500 of about 3,000 miles of routes SingleTrack Samurai has mapped out. Florida has a lot to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked by bikepackers, especially during the winter!
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