MILTON — Santa Rosa County has an abundance of outdoor activities for residents and visitors to enjoy. One particular activity that is growing in the area is bicycling groups.

In Milton there is Blackwater Cycling, said member David Murphy.

"We are not really a club in that we don't pay dues and we don't have a structured leadership," Murphy said.

The club is set up more like a large gathering of 20 to 60 friends who love to ride and socialize.

"We have rides every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m.," Murphy said.

The routes, planned by Murphy and member Ernie Conner, are based on distance, and intensity of the ride.

The group meets at the Milton Truly Spokin store near the start of the Blackwater Heritage State Trail, Murphy said.

Murphy and Conner said they love riding in Santa Rosa County because there is less traffic and many paved roads.

"We have been riding up here for about 20-years and the local drivers are used to seeing us on the roads," Murphy said.

Blackwater Cycling has riders from all occupations. We watch out for each other, especially new riders, Murphy said.

"We don't drop people," Murphy said, meaning they don not leave anyone behind on their rides. He added that an experienced rider would be paired with the inexperienced riders.

All of our riders start together and eventually form smaller packs of riders with similar fitness conditioning, speed and riding experience.

Mark Woolson, owner of the Truly Spokin bike shop, advises new riders to go to a reputable bike store in order to enjoy their biking experience.

The type of riding you do determines the type of bike you need. If you ride a road route on a mountain bike you probably will not enjoy the experience and not come back, Woolson said.

Road bikes have skinny tires and frames and are for paved surfaces. Mountain bikes are large with big tires for rough terrain.

A gravel bike is strong but lightweight with special tires for gravel trails and hiking trails.

"The gravel biking market is exploding, and Santa Rosa County has miles and miles of gravel roads," Murphy said.

There is also a hybrid bike that combines features of the mountain and road bike. These are only four examples of thousands of specialty bikes out in the market.

Woolson also recommended riders get measured for a bike that fits them best as comfort is key on long rides.

Woolson said entry-level road bikes are in the $600 range while mountain bikes are in the $400 range.

For more in formation, follow Blackwater Cycling on Facebook or call 850-512-3711.