Move over canoes, kayaks, and SUPs and make room for water bikes!
I dont’ know about you, but as a Tampa Bay resident it’s exciting to see downtown Tampa finally take advantage of its supreme waterfront location. There are tons of new parks and cool places to eat, museums, and now it seems like there is always a festival of some sort happening at Curtis Hixon on the weekends. Well get excited because there’s a new watersport in Tampa Bay and they’ve set up shop right on the downtown Tampa Riverwalk. The Tampa Bay Water Bike Company has come to town. I was lucky enough to try it out over the weekend with my teenage son and our new dog. I love being on the water and I’m excited to experience something like this in the downtown setting. With the riverwalk project underway, the water bikes couldn’t have come at a better time!
I first learned about the TBWBC through a fortuitous tweet! They announced to the world that they were preparing for business and I was the very first retweet! It looked weird and strange, but it also looked like so much fun. I had to try it. As a thank you for being first to welcome them to Twitterverse, I got a free ride! I’m all about helping spread the word about small businesses and enjoying the outdoors so I was über excited to share with everyone just how awesome this experience is. The best part….you can bring along your dog for the ride!!
Surprise! Yes, we are now pet owners. We adopted a rescue doggy in December, named Dallas. If you are a part of this family then you have to be adventurous because that’s how we live. This would not only be a great new adventure for my son and I, but a new adventure for Dallas as well. This is the first of what I hope will be many pet friendly adventures featured on the blog!
Truth moment: I was initially a little intimidated when I saw the water bikes, mainly because the very thought of tipping over and going into the river downtown terrified me! I love kayaks and I’m finally very comfortable in them, but I’m not so keen on canoes because I feel like I’m going to tip over. I also like the idea of the stand up paddle board but I wasn’t very good at it when I tried it. I was a bit worried that I might suck at this too.
As we approached the Tampa Bay Water Bike Co. floating office at the dock behind the Tampa Convention Center, my excitement overtook any fears that I had. It was a perfect morning with the downtown Tampa skyline in the backdrop and the waters calm and still. This was going to be a fantastic day.
When we arrived, Amanda the co-owner, greeted us with a warm and friendly smile. She explained all of the rules and regs, we signed the paperwork and most importantly she explained what to do in the invent this went horribly wrong – they have a small boat to come to your aid and you are provided with an emergency whistle. We selected our life vests and we were ready to roll, well glide, um float? You get my drift. (see what I did there). Be advised, they only have one doggy life vest and its for a very small dog. You will need to bring your own if you think your dog needs one. We opted to just hold his leash while he was on the platform.
Amanda’s first instruction was to hop onto the board. Yea, so that didn’t happen. I didn’t budge. Amanda was great about easing my fears. She hopped right on and gave it a bounce and assured us that we wouldn’t tip over. I took a leap of faith and climbed onto the platform and then onto the seat. It didn’t feel like I was going to tip over at all. It was a very chilly morning with temperatures in the 40s (F) so I was dressed in layers and I wore my furry boots. This made it a little difficult to get them into the pedal stirrup. Other than that, it was super easy to mount it. You also have a drink holder for water. She got Jay and Dallas situated on their water bike and then we were off.
We decided to pedal down toward Curtis Hixon Park so that we could see downtown. What a view! The views of the city from this vantage point were gorgeous. It was also neat to see the different tags along the river from the various row clubs that come to town. You will also get amazing views of the University of Tampa from the water so have your camera ready.
Yes, you actually have to pedal like a real bike and yes it burns like a riding a real bike if you’re out of shape like me. However, you really don’t need to pedal very fast because the water will carry you. It’s a nice leisurely pace. The steering is probably what took the longest to get the hang of. It can only do 45 degree turns so you have to plan the direction you are headed in. You won’t be popping wheelies on these water bikes. If you do misjudge a turn, you can always pedal backwards and adjust.
Our doggy, Dallas, was so nervous when he first stepped onto the water bike platform. Poor little guy. He just looked really uncomfortable and unsure initially. However, after about 10 minutes he seemed to get more at ease. He enjoyed the ride just looking and observing with his tongue wagging and ears perked up.
I pulled up very close next to my son’s bike to give him my camera. Dallas tried to walk over on to my water bike but I pulled off not knowing he was halfway onto my bike. Poor little guy fell into the river. He paddled and kept himself afloat and my son had to pull help him back up onto the platform. Good thing he was wearing a body harness, so the leash wasn’t around his neck.
We were allotted one hour and it flew by. We did stop quite a bit to take pictures but I really enjoyed the route we took. Next time we would take one of the other routes toward Davis Island or Bayshore.
We had a lot of fun enjoying the great outdoors and riding the river. Definitely add this to your list of fun things to do in Tampa Bay. You’re getting in a little exercise too so it’s a win win. Many thanks to Tampa Bay Water Bikes Company for such a great morning. I can’t wait to bring the Outdoorsy Diva and Friends Group back to ride with me next time and I look forward to conquering the biyaks!
Outdoorsy Diva’s Tips for Riding the River:
1. Book your time slot in advance. Mornings tend to be a little less hectic on the water so I preferred feeling like we had the river and the channel all to ourselves. They take walk-ups but they are still the new kids on the block. Once everyone knows, you may find that they are all booked up.
2. Wear whatever you’re comfortable in. Unlike kayaking, with the inevitable chance of splash, you will not get wet on these bikes unless it’s by choice. There’s no splashing up onto the bike. If you manage to tip one over then you are part orca or blue whale….it’s pretty hard to do. I would probably advise against wearing a bulky shoe, like the boots I wore to make it easier to get your foot in the stirrup.
3. They are located behind the Tampa Convention Center across the bridge from Jackson’s. Check the TCC event schedule ahead of time so that you know what your parking options will be. The convention center garage was full because of an event so we parked across the bridge at Knight’s Point. It’s just a short walk back over the bridge and a great chance for photo-ops.
4. Don’t let the term “bike” intimidate you from this experience just because you don’t know how to ride a real bicycle or because you’re not a fitness guru. It’s really not that physical and you don’t have to do the balancing. So no excuses…get out there. There is a weight limit for the bikes so be sure to read the FAQs.
5. If you are bringing your dog you should plan to bring your own dog life vest for them if you feel it’s needed. If you are going to hold their leash, I recommend having them wear a body harness instead of tethering the leash around their necks.
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“It’s only the great outdoors…what are you afraid of?”