Punta Gorda will belong to the Wheels and Wings Tenth Anniversary bicycle event again on July 14, when the popular bicycle event takes over Punta Gorda and surrounding environs. Thousands of cyclists over the past 10 years have attended this preeminent bicycle gathering in Southwest Florida. Enjoying the best riding, food, drink and the Tour de France on the big screens at our venue, Beef O’Brady’s.

The Peace River Riders have hosted this event each year, inviting bicycle riders from everywhere to come and enjoy our beautiful area. Four out of five attendees are from outside Charlotte County. They come, they ride, and they come back.

Starting with Wheels and Wings V, the event has grown to a two-day event. This year, we invite visitors to come to town July 13 for some special time on the bike.

At 7:30 a.m Saturday morning, we lead a group into the hinterlands of Babcock Webb for our annual Gravel Grinder: 30 miles on gravel roadbeds, nice soft sand and a few fields of … well, we’re not sure what they are, so bring your off-road bike. Into the backcountry they go to maybe meet up with a gator, wild hog, deer, sandhill crane, killer snake and all manner of strange and scary critters.

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., early arrivals can visit the pre-ride packet pickup to check in and pickup this year’s goodie. But as they say on TV, that’s not all!

Starting at 5 p.m., all the early arrivals will meet for the President’s No-Spandex Pub Ride. There are rules for this ride. They are: Anyone caught wearing a piece of spandex buys the president his favorite beerverage. Anyone caught in full spandex buys the entire group their favorite beerverage. This is a casual, 12-mile ride in and around downtown Punta Gorda, making three stops at the club’s favorite watering holes. Each year, the third stop of the evening has been a stop for food as well at a restaurant to be chosen later. In previous years, we’ve had as many as 50 riders checking out our fair city.

The main event starts at 7 a.m. Sunday, July 14. Check in and registration opens at 7 along with a light breakfast. (No, not eggs and bacon; more like donuts, coffee and granola.) Our friends at Beef O’ Brady’s make sure that the restrooms are open for our guests who drive in from long distances. The check-in and registration tables are manned by club members and any announcements that need to be made will go out to the riders.

By 7:30 a.m., the first of 300 riders will head out to follow marked routes of their choice. Distances of 15, 32, 50 and 62 miles will be laid out to showcase our area to our riders. Each year the routes change because roads get added, torn up or changed, so it’s always a new route.

After the riders head out, Beef O’ Brady’s shuts down, cleans up and preps for 300 very hungry riders who will be rolling back in a few hours. Last year, 3,500 wings and five kegs of beer (along with some vegetarian selections for our riders with that preference) were served.

But the day doesn’t end when the riders return from their respective routes. Yes, the wings smell wonderful — but there is one more challenge, should they desire. Our friends at the Punta Gorda Police Department set up and man Speed Trap Alley. The speed limit is posted at 25 mph and a radar trailer is positioned. From a standing start, riders have approximately a tenth of a mile to get up to speed and go through the radar at 26 mph. If they do, they receive a speed warning ticket from PGPD that looks great on a brag wall at home.

Now it’s time for wings and beerverages. The air conditioning will be on full to cool-down after a long ride on a hot day. Even better, the Tour de France will be playing on the big screens in the restaurant, so you can cheer (or groan) for and at your favorite Tour rider. Stay as long as you like.

The entrance fee for all the above is $55 until June 1, $60 after and $65 day of the event. All riders registered by June 1 are assured of a beautiful Wheels and Wings Tenth Anniversary jersey, 10 wings and two beerverages.

Wheels and Wings has graced our city for 10 years. The event contributes to the Do The Right Thing program run by the Punta Gorda Police Department to recognize children who make the right decisions. It also contributes to the Peace River Riders Grant Program to enhance and improve bicycle culture and infrastructure in Charlotte County. More information available on the Peace River Riders web site, PeaceRiverRidersBicycleClub.com

I think every bicyclist in the area should come to Wheels and Wings. Come for the ride, come for the event, come for the party. But even if you don’t plan to attend …

Did you ride your bike today?

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service — Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Service — and is an avid bicyclist. Contact him at adakeep@hotmail.com or 941-626-3285.

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