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Hilton Head On Two Wheels

The Beach Bum
What is twelve miles long, five miles wide, looks like an old tennis shoe, and has ten-thousand bicycles?  Answer: Hilton Head Island South Carolina!  Its funny how island residents tell how many tourists are on the island:  They don’t check hotel registers, restaurant parking lots or the beach; they just look at the bicycle rental shops to see how many bikes they have left!  During times it’s hard to see the front doors of the bike shops through the rows and rows of beach cruisers waiting to be rented.  During busy times on Hilton Head, most bike rental shops look like they just finished their “lost our lease” sale!

It’s no wonder biking is so popular on Hilton Head Island:  There are over fifty miles (no one knows exactly how many) of paved bicycle trails on the island.  In fact, there are over fifteen miles of bicycle trails in Sea Pines alone!  Add to all these miles of trails, the fact that Hilton head is a very flat island and bicycling becomes appealing to folks that haven’t tried to pedal in years.  Then, there’s also the opportunity to ride on the beach!  After all, why do you think they call them beach cruisers?  Hilton Head beaches are set apart from a lot of other Atlantic beaches by one thing: they are easy to ride bicycles on!  The sand, between the high and low water marks is incredibly hard, for beach sand.  Even though it is still plenty soft and cool to enjoy with bare feet, it’s also firm enough to support bicycle, and rider, without hardly leaving a mark.  Even better, there is twelve miles of this remarkable white stuff to ride on, with lots of “watering holes” along the way.

Visitors don’t get bored by the selection available at Hilton Head bicycle shops either!  The single speed, wide tired, twenty-six inch, single seat beach cruiser is, hands down, the most popular bicycle on the island.  Gears are just not necessary when everything is flat and everyone is just out for a leisurely pedal, so multi speed bikes and racing bikes are seldom seen on Hilton Head.  There are any number of attachments available for the cruisers as well, including:  attachments that add an extra seat, pedals, wheel and handlebars; giving the bicycle the appearance of being a tandem bike with the back seat built for a child.  There are little trailers available for toddlers, dogs and cargo, as well as the usual baskets, luggage racks and child carriers.  Tandem bikes, toddler bikes (with or without training wheels), adult tricycles and even those crazy “Flintstone Mobile” looking things with two sets of pedals and seating for four passengers!  A quick glance through the yellow pages reveals twenty-eight businesses advertising bicycles for rent.  Aside from those twenty-eight there are numerous resorts that also have their own bike rental concessions and dozens of rental condos, cottages and villas, which come complete with two wheeled transportation.  The “best guest” estimate of the number of rental bikes available on Hilton Head Island is slightly over ten-thousand!

There aren’t many rules affecting bicyclers on Hilton Head, but there are a few “guidelines” everyone should keep in mind.  First of all, please obey those little stop signs on the bicycle paths; it is incredibly difficult for motorist, trying to turn off or onto busy roads, to pay attention to the traffic signals and the other vehicles, as well as bicyclers and pedestrians!  Bicycles don’t necessarily have the right-of-way: they are expected to obey signs and signals just like automobiles do; please don’t become “road kill” while your on vacation!  Please be aware of other bicyclers and pedestrians on the pathways;  Few bikes,  and even fewer people are equipped with rear view mirrors; it’s common courtesy to call out, “passing on your right” or “passing on your left”; to let someone know you’re coming and keep them from stepping out in front of you.

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