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Ride Reportage: Tampa Bike Olympics

After oogling Tampa's Swelter Cycling all winter, when they announced Tampa Bike Olympics, I decided to hop on a plane and head down.

I came in early to observe the locals in their natural habitat. Thursday Swelter co-leader Steve Ayers took me on a personalized tour of the city along wit

h his friend Matt who had also flown in from San Deigo, which included a Thursday morning "Slonuts" ride from Spaddy's Coffee to Supernatural Foods (where I would end up eating about 60% of my meals, it was so good). A quick pop over to City Bike Tampa where I got to meet more IG people in real life and scope what a solid Surly Intergalactic dealer is like in person. After a pit stop to pick up a frame (which Matt would ride around with on him the rest of the afternoon) we swung by Black Radish all vegan grocery store and they make a dang good vegan cuban sandwich. More scoochin' and scoping and over to Blacklist, which was one of the highlights of the trip, they make their own brake pads and shoes and in general had a veritable treasure trove of new and vintage bikes. Ended the night at a local watering hole c.1949 where I met the other half of Swelter cycling Jon Sedor, and others in their core group like Allie and Micah.

Friday before the scavenger hunt started we took a drive over to St. Pete to check out some more shops like The Bikery. I am amazed that Tampa bike shops are so well stocked. I'm fairly used to shops only having the bear essentials and having to order anything else, but these shops were all filled to the rafters with cool and interesting parts, accessories and a general non-douchey vibe exuded all shops in town.

At 4pm, the festivities officially began with a 20 hour Scavenger hunt. Luckily I was able to team up with Jorge, proprietor of Bike Haus that I had met the previous day at Slonuts, and I was able to tag along with him, Austin and Josh for the next few hours as we went on a whirlwind tour across the city including getting a tattoo, stair rides and "dropping" into the old famous Tampa landmark the Bro Bowl. As the sun was setting we made our way to Davis Island for picaresque PBR's on the beach as the amber hues swirled beyond backlit

Jorge at Davis Island

sailboats and it was at that moment that I realized I had gotten every penny I spent on this trip back just to catch that view. As we tore back through the city we added Justin, Sarah and Karina to the pack, holding lanes and dodging cars, it was a great night to be on a bike. The evening was rounded out knocking out more items on the hunt and wound up at a funky VFW karaoke night which is really not something I expected to be on the itinerary for the evening, but leaned in.

Saturday was mainly focused on the "olympic" events after everyone in various states of sobriety picked up what remaining scavenger hunt points they could and met up at The Hub, a downtown Tampa institution. Jorge was a good person to start following considering he wont the Scavenger hunt "by a country mile" finding over 70 murals around Tampa in addition to hitting all the challenges. Technically I came in third but due to an accounting error it was not made official. But I still know the score....