Gravel Grinding, South Florida Style

Fakawi South Florida

For local cyclists, going off-road isn’t as daunting as it sounds

Jimi Toural, 43, who lives in Southwest Broward County and works at his family’s office supply business, has an adventurous side.

The modern-day explorer and founder of the South Florida Fakawi Gravel Grinder biking event likes to blaze trails. Years ago, he’d convince fellow off-road cyclists to explore unknown trails around Markham Park in Sunrise. Often, they’d look around and ask, “Where the f*** are we?”

His off-road adventures gained followers, so in 2010 he decided to post an event on Facebook.

“Seventy people showed up the first year,” Toural says.

In 2019, the Fakawi celebrated 10 successful years. About 1,100 people showed up to ride 30-, 50- or 85-mile trails along the Florida levee system and in and around Markham Park. The tradition had always been to grill after the ride. Today, Toural continues the tradition with food trucks, bands and essentially a postride party.

Toural hadn’t announced the date of his 2020 event when we interviewed him, but he plans to limit next year’s event to the 30- or 50-mile ride options.

Toural develops the courses each year. Sometimes the trails are pretty well maintained by local government. Other times, Toural and friends need to go out with their chainsaws and Weed Eaters to make the paths rideable.

Fakawi has taken on a life of its own, Toural says. “Some of the top cyclists come out and compete, and then you have people who are out for a nice group ride and they enjoy it just as much,” he says. “It appeals to everyone and includes everyone. It’s nice to see that kind of community.”

A BIT ABOUT GRAVEL GRINDING

  • Gravel riding has become the rage among cyclists who want to avoid busy roads but don’t necessarily want to ride technical mountain biking paths.
  • “It’s a good middle ground that really anyone can do. You don’t need an expensive high-end carbon light bike to enjoy it. But you have to find the gravel roads,” Toural says.
  • There aren’t many maps that steer riders to dirt or levee roads, but most locals only need to travel west to find them. In Boca Raton, the levee runs parallel to 441, for example. Toural has taken the off-the-beaten-path trails to the Keys and Florida’s West Coast.

This story is from our September/October 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.