Year-round sunshine and some of the greatest scenery you can spot atop a bicycle saddle draws some of the Gulf Coast’s prominent business and community leaders to the trails.

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Rod Hershberger

As the founder of PGT Industries, Rod Hershberger helped equip buildings throughout the Southeast US with stormproof glass, ensuring a bright, shiny and safer future from a manufacturing facility in Venice. But he’s also a monster biker always looking to shatter his own personal bests.

YOUR GO-TO BIKE We live in paradise, so everyone should have a couple beach cruisers, but my primary road bike is a Cannondale SuperSix Evo with Envie wheels, a package put together by the great team at Village Bikes. And we keep a couple Cannondale mountain bikes in North Carolina.

LEARNING TO RIDE I don’t know the exact age, but we grew up in the Midwest. In the summer, the neighborhood kids would leave in the morning and be back for dinner. Wherever we met and hung out, we did so on our bikes.

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway is a nice safe place, and it’s easy to add in Casey Key and Honore Avenue to create a good ride. The group I ride out of Lakewood Ranch with, the Village Idiots, are a blast. A little farther from here is the Clermont area, which is great for hills and has light traffic.

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE  My son lives in San Diego, which has multiple beautiful scenic rides. We had to travel to Seattle a year or so ago, and we took our bikes over to Bainbridge and rode around the island. It was extremely hilly, quite challenging and a little rainy. We finished at a little local restaurant that served smoked salmon omelets that must have had 2-3 pounds of salmon in them. It seems like our favorite places to ride involve hills, food and/or beer in some order.

COMPETITIONS Quite a few triathlons and rides. My two favorites: the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon—the swim is epic, the bike ride is not that long but beautiful and challenging, just a great event—and, for a ride, the Team Tony Cycle of Life (COL) is fantastic—200 miles in two days, superbly organized, great support stops and a group of riders that believe in working hard while giving back. And it begins and ends here in our local community.

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL Finishing up a windy solo training ride to the end of Anna Maria and back, just north of St. Armands I found a crack on the side of the road just a little wider than my front bike tire and I was in the aero position when I saw it. So after a spectacular set of somersaults and some very attractive road rash, I could either walk seven miles home or get back on. Nothing was broken so I got back on. And my bike was only two weeks old at the time. Very thankful for a good helmet!

“WHY I DO IT”  It’s a great way to stay fit, hang out with like-minded folks and of course you have to stay hydrated (with your beverage of choice). Adding in some longer rides or races keeps it exciting. I ride with my wife, Elaine. It’s a nice way to slow down.

Roxie Jerde

President and CEO for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Roxie Jerde in her day job leads philanthropic initiatives in a donor-rich region. But since her frugal college days, she’s enjoyed cycling as a low-cost form of transportation. 

YOUR GO-TO BIKE  Trek Madone 5.2–always been a Trek gal.

LEARNING TO RIDE   I learned to ride growing up in the Midwest. My bike was also my sole mode of transportation at the University of Iowa. In my late 20s, I started riding with a group of women, then began training for triathlons in my 30s, which meant getting a new bike with a few more gears. I then realized how much I loved cycling and haven’t stopped riding.

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT   My husband Mike and I enjoy riding the Legacy Trail to Manasota Key and, from Marina Jack, riding the Ringling Bridge through Longboat Key to the end of Anna Maria Island and back. We are always amazed looking at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from the northern tip of Anna Maria. 

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE   Mike and I are training to do our 22nd RAGBRAI (Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). It is the largest and oldest organized ride in the world. Since the course changes every year, from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River, it keeps it interesting. We have also biked Glacier National Park in Montana, which includes one of the 10 most beautiful rides in the world, Going to the Sun Road. We have also biked Vermont three times.

COMPETITIONS I have done several triathlons and a few charity rides.

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL  My nastiest fall was when I came across a 100+-yard road covered in mud, which is like riding on ice. I made it almost through the mud when my back tire slid and I landed in the mud. Ended up with a not-so-fun groin pull. While I got back on the bike and was able to cycle home, walking was tough. I also had a fall a few years ago and broke my left wrist—first broken bone. All healed fine and I was soon back on the bike.

FAVORITE ACCESSORY   My blue dolphin “horn” on the end of my tri-bars.

“WHY I DO IT” I love being outdoors, cycling with my husband, having time to think and problem solve and getting some great exercise!

Mike Lasche

As executive director of Bicycle Pedestrian Advocates, Mike Lasche spends a lot of time dealing with public policy around cycling, but he does it because of a passion for the sport. So what’s he ride?

YOUR GO-TO BIKE     I have 3 bicycles and a bike trailer. Two of my bikes are 1976 Raleighs—an International for touring and utility, and a Professional for speed. This lets you know that I am a dinosaur, as both of these are steel frames, which I like for ride and durability but which are rare today. I have another Raleigh, a 1990s MT-100 mountain bike, which I use for bicycle polo and trails. That bicycle is special because it is a test bike for a Patterson Transmission—a new front shifter that has no derailleur or chain rings, invented by Sam Patterson, my college friend who went on to invent the Grip-shift, which was on 80-percent of mountain bikes in the 1980s. My trailer is a BOB, one of those one-wheeled trailers. 

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT  I like riding out to the beaches. It is a thrill to ride our big hill, the Ringling Bridge.

LEARNING TO RIDE I was an Army brat. When I was four, my father taught me to ride a bicycle on the parade ground at Fort Bragg, NC. Then, we moved to Yongsan, South Korea, where I rode my bicycle with completely flat tires through old rice paddies, never bothering to inflate them because I didn’t know how or care to operate a pump. Many years later, I discovered that mountain bikers will purposefully deflate tires too, although not as flat as I did. I rediscovered biking when I became a student at New College and had to ride a bike for basic transport. What I loved about it was the freedom, independence and self-reliance. It is literally free to operate—no gas, no licenses, no insurance. And, you can ride on the road, off the road, on sidewalks, door to door, all over. This is a technology that I can understand and largely master. In one college summer, my brother in-law and I rode from Seattle to Vancouver to Victoria to San Francisco in 21 days, which certainly was a lifetime memory. 

COMPETITIONS  I am not much of a racer. I have done, and won, one triathlon. But mainly I am a utility rider, using the bike for transportation. I have played bicycle polo, but my version is on the grass, like the one they had in the Olympics in 1904, with rules against crashes. Not the version you see on asphalt basketball courts, which appears to be hockey on wheels.

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE   That would have to be Tuscany, Italy, where I toured for two weeks. Unbelievable history, jaw-dropping scenery, villages straight out of the 1500s—Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra.

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL  It was on the Old Dominion Trail in Washington, DC. I got distracted, crashed into my buddy riding ahead of me, and was knocked out when I hit the asphalt. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet. When I came to, there was that circle of faces looking down at me. After catching my breath, I got back on the bike but I was suffering short-term memory loss. As we rode home, I kept asking my buddy, “Did something bad happen back there?”

FAVORITE ACCESSORY My Ortlieb pannier. It allows me to carry notebooks, files and computers when I advocate for biking and walking. Otherwise, it carries food and even tennis rackets. Ortlieb is a German company and their panniers are very clever.

“WHY I DO IT” Bicycling suits my personality: free, independent, self-reliant, physical. Also, I am an environmentalist and the bicycle, far and away, is the most environmentally beneficial form of transportation—five times more efficient than even walking. Otherwise, it has become my life. I did a thesis on bicycle policy in 1985, then became a professional bicycle advocate and changed policies of Sarasota and Manatee counties and the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton, then became the state’s first bicycle lobbyist and passed a number of laws in the Florida Legislature. Now I run Florida Walks and Bikes, which operates on the state level, and Bicycle/Pedestrian Advocates, which operates locally.

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Jesse Biter

The software developer in Sarasota may be best known for running shared workspaces, like the recently launched Bold Cowork downtown. But if Jesse Biter’s not leaning over a laptop screen, he’s probably leaning into some bicycle handles.

YOUR GO-TO BIKE    S5 Ultegra Di2 

LEARNING TO RIDE   I learned to ride when I was young. I was biking myself around town when I was eight years old and to/from school from 3rd grade on. 

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT  I love the Legacy Trail but it’s a pain to load everything up and head over there. Instead, I ride from my condo, over the bridge and down Longboat Key. 

COMPETITIONS  I haven’t. With that said, I’m considering the Ride the Rockies. I have a lot of training to do before next June. 

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE  My favorite place to ride is in Aspen. The Rio Grande Trail goes from Aspen to Glenwood Springs—it’s 44 miles long. The trail is in great shape and it keeps me away from cars.

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL  I’ve been lucky so far. No falls, fingers crossed. 

FAVORITE ACCESSORY  My GPS. I like knowing how fast I’m going, how far I’ve gone, etc. 

“WHY I DO IT”  I cycle mostly for health.

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Jeff Schwartz

Jeff Schwartz, now the associate vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of Undergraduate Studies at Ringling College of Art and Design, has spent nearly 20 years on the campus, first teaching classes and later heading the Illustration Department. But he also draws strength for the sake of cycling.

YOUR GO-TO BIKE   I own six bikes currently; my daily ride is a Focus Izalco Max. My stable consists of the following: Focus Izalco Max; Giant TCR; Bill Davidson Impulse (steel bike I built in 1987); specialized Epic full suspension mountain bike; specialized Langster fixed gear track bike; Raleigh Technium Frankenstein single-speed cycle cross bike.

LEARNING TO RIDE   When I was four years old in Seattle, WA, I learned how to ride a Yellow Schwinn Sting Ray. In fourth grade, I made a deal with my stepfather that if I did not miss a single day of school, he would buy me a Raleigh Rampart BMX bike. I did not miss a day that year. My transformational bike ride was when I was 15. I was in a middle school class called Outdoor Fitness. Each day we would run, bike and do crazy challenge courses. That summer, I was one of 12 kids who was able to go on a cross country trip from Mercer Island to East Glacier National Park. This was a 15-day, 600-mile road trip all on a bike. No support vehicle, no helmet, no cycling shoes, no technology. It was an epic transformational experience and set up my love of cycling.

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT I love riding out to the Chicken Shack with my group, the First Responder Cycling Club. I take my son to Alafia River State Park for mountain biking. 

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE  I am from Seattle, and when I visit in the summer I love riding the North Lake Washington loop with my oldest friend, Lew Malakoff.

COMPETITIONS   I have competed in the Siesta Key Triathlon on a three-person team, Economy Tackle. I ride the bike leg and we have won two years in a row.

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL The most dramatic fall I had was on the maiden voyage of my Bill Davidson in 1987. I just finished building the bike, wheels and wrapping the handle bar tape. I took off down the street from my house on Mercer Island and took the first steep downhill way too fast. The bike slid out from under me and I slammed down on my right side. The bike took a hard hit, mashed the brake lever badly and scratched the rear derailleur. I still have a large bump on my thigh from the fall 30 years later. I got right up, got back on the bike after a careful inspection of my ride and heading off to meet up with my riding group. I was so bummed out to scratch my perfect Davidson.

“WHY I DO IT” I love to eat, so I cycle to eat. I joke that my Garmin computer counts how many beers or burgers I can have, not calories. It also centers me and keeps me even. It is my religion.

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Shaun Merriman

One of the most prominent bankers in the region, Shaun Merriman, market president and senior vice president at Center State Bank, also happens to be one of the Gulf Coast business community’s most avid riders. So why does he invest his time on the bikepaths? We asked.

YOUR GO-TO BIKE   I ride a Specialized Tarmac Pro Carbon Fiber frame with Bontrager Aeolus 50mm Carbon Fiber Wheels with SRAM Red Components.

LEARNING TO RIDE My first experience with pedals occurred at a very early age. I was riding without training wheels at age three. I’ve always been involved in cycling. My first real job was working at a Schwinn/Trek Bike Shop in my hometown of Wausau, WI at 14 years of age. I worked there until I graduated from high school. 

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT  I really love riding on the Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key. It’s a long stretch of road that has very few stoplights or stop signs, which allows for terrific interval training and wonderful group rides. The Gulf views are amazing. 

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE  In Florida, it would have to be the San Antonio hills just north of Tampa in Pasco County. It reminds me of my early rides in Wisconsin with rolling hills and amazing countryside view corridors. 

COMPETITIONS I’ve been racing bikes since I was 12 years old. I first started racing BMX, followed by mountain bikes and eventually a few road races here in Florida. My last race was the Florida State Cycling Championships in 2009, where I placed 15th overall in my age group. The weekly group rides out at Lakewood Ranch with the Village Idiots Cycling Group is all the “racing” I need to do at this stage of my life. I’ve been riding with the group since the very beginning, when we’d be lucky to have 10 riders show up for a ride. Today, there will be no less than 70 riders with varying skill sets with distinct group speed levels. It’s pretty awesome. 

FAVORITE ACCESSORY    I love my SRM Power Meter. It’s an amazing training and racing device. It measures the wattage at the pedals to help you gauge your overall power on the bike. Although a heart-rate monitor is important, measuring and managing your wattage is a better way to train. 

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL Back in 2010, I went down at 28mph during an organized century ride (100 miles) in the Venice area. The rider just in front of me overreacted to road debris and slammed on the brakes. In order to avoid a multi-bike pile up, I went for the ditch. I didn’t quite make it and slid on my backside on the pavement. The bike was fine. I had the SAG vehicle wrap my arm up and would finish the ride, but had to get six stitches in my right elbow afterwards. I was back on the bike in two weeks. I was lucky it wasn’t more serious. These injuries are just part of the sport. 

“WHY I DO IT” I just love getting on a bike and pedaling. It brings me back to my youth and the feeling of exhilaration and independence only a bike can provide at a very young age. The honest truth is that I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Fast-paced group rides with good riders is an absolute blast. Exhausting, but a blast. Your overall fitness level just improves when you ride. To me, it’s by far the best activity to stay in shape.

Mark Pritchett

As a leader at Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Mark Pritchett has helped lead the organization into more impact-focused giving. The thrill-seeker in his spare time can be found racing bikes down mountain sides at ridiculous speeds.

YOUR GO-TO BIKE   A Giant “Defy” road bike. I recently bought a Keiser m3i indoor cycle to work out when the weather or my schedule doesn’t allow me to get outside.

LEARNING TO RIDE   I was about six years old. My dad told me “no training wheels” for you, so I climbed on a two-wheel bike and my dad pushed me down a steep hill. I raced a wobbly 50 feet down the hill and then went head first into a six-foot-deep ditch. That was when I decided I needed to learn how to steer the bike and use the brakes. 

FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT   I dislike riding in traffic so I prefer riding along our local trails—Legacy Trail, Venetian Waterway. I also like riding down Manasota Key into Englewood and Boca Grande. 

FAVORITE FAR-OFF PLACE TO RIDE   I have two favorite far-off places to ride: Glacier National Park—leaving the US border into Waterton, Canada there is a long stretch of road where I hit 49 mph going downhill (I was trying to hit 50 mph). Yikes. The mountains, cool temps, wildlife and huckleberries are spectacular. Provence, France—riding with my girlfriend Gina Taylor among lavender fields, rows of sunflowers, vineyards, villages and local farms where the food and wine are unequaled.

COMPETITIONS In the early 1980s, I raced in the Bud Light Series (what is now Olympic races—mile swim, 40K bike, 10K run) and middle-distance triathlons (half-Iron Man). There were no wet suits for swimming. I rode a heavy, steel-frame touring bike, which weighed five times what my bike weighs today. I traveled across the Southeast on weekends and loved the cross-training benefits. Now I ride during vacations, for fun and to stay healthy.

YOUR NASTIEST SPILL On May 14, 2016, I hit a crack in the pavement and went flying into a utility pole. I broke my collarbone at the shoulder joint. Seven weeks later, I was back on my bike cruising in the Netherlands and Belgium. My scapula still cracks and pops, but my collarbone is great.

FAVORITE ACCESSORY I love my triathlon handlebars, which enable me to ride better against the wind and allow me to stretch my back when it gets stiff.  

“WHY I DO IT”  My girlfriend Gina Taylor is my inspiration and motivator for getting outside and riding the trails. We cycle primarily to stay healthy and to see the landscape with the wind in our faces.