When life gives you lemons, you sell them: Meet the Floridian farmer who rode 80 miles a day to sell his produce

Modern fruit farmer Rane Roatta is also a two-time gravel state champion with a custom bike as colorful as the fruit he sells

Fruit farmer turned gravel racer Rane Roatta
(Image credit: Rane Roatta)

Waking up at the crack of dawn to put in work, sweating in the hot sun, keeping nutrition top of mind and following a set schedule. All of those apply to athletes but they ring equally true for a fruit farmer. For 29-year-old Miami-based Rane Roatta, the life of a cyclist and that of a fruit farmer are intertwined. 

Humble Beginnings

When life gives you lemons, you sell them if you’re Rane Roatta. 

After spending his youth as a prodigious saxophone player, an early twenty-something Roatta realized the jazz life just wasn’t for him. 

“After I finished [school], I knew I could either move to New York City and struggle for a few years to try to make it big…but the 4 a.m. smokey jazz club final call life wasn’t for me,” Roatta tells Cycling Weekly.

 “I had always been passionate about health and plant-based eating, which brought me back to the Miami area where I started working on a small fruit farm.”

Part of Roatta’s job at the fruit farm was to take the harvested fruit to local markets to sell. The only problem was that Roatta did not have a car. 

“At the time, I was living in a shack in my mom’s backyard, my girlfriend had dumped me and taken the car with her and I didn’t have my license,” Roatta says. “I took my last bit of money and went to a local welding shop and asked them to build me an aluminum bike trailer so I could still transport the fruit.”

The shop produced an 80-pound metal trailer that hitched onto Roatta’s bomber of a bike. By the time he filled the attachment with fruit, the entire contraption weighed more than 500 pounds.

Roatta would ride nearly 80 miles roundtrip each day — after completing the manual labor of harvesting fruit and loading it into the trailer — to sell the fruit to local grocers and slowly emptying his 500-pound produce load. 

“It was the ultimate zone two training,” Roatta says with a smile. 

Farm Strong

Fast forward a few years and Roatta has since ditched the aluminum trailer and now operates his own farm, Miami Fruit, which provides a direct-to-consumer exotic fruit shipping service. Roatta still does much of the manual labor as well the business directives alongside his girlfriend. 

After spending years using a bike as a mode of practical transportation, Roatta wanted to see where else his bike could take him. 

He did two bike tours across the U.S. One took him south to north, the other east coast to west coast. 

After going long, Roatta turned to competition.

“I started my endurance journey in triathlon, but who likes to swim, right?” Roatta jokes. “I gravitated towards endurance sports because they’re a great outlet for the stress of the responsibilities in life. Cycling became my pressure relief valve for dealing with stress and learning how to manage my energy.”

And what place better to find reprieve than the sprawling, lesser-traveled network of gravel roads. 

The thousands of miles Roatta had biked while towing the weight equivalent of a healthy black bear helped him find immediate success in the gravel world. 

“[When I was selling produce] I had to keep my energy in check in such a way that allowed me to bike around all day with this trailer attached to my bike. It turns out that’s good training for an all-day bike race," he says.

Despite the arduous hours required to be a successful farmer, Roatta still finds time to squeeze in some 10-12 hours of dedicated cycling training per week.

Roatta calls himself a “professional amateur” and recently headed to Italy to compete in the gravel world championship, but a mechanical failure caused a race-ending crash for the fruit connoisseur.

Roatta was quick to shrug off the incident and returned to Florida to successfully defend his Florida State Gravel Champion title. 

A Cornucopia of Color

Rane Roatta's Cannondale Topstone

(Image credit: Rane Roatta)

Along with his unique story of arriving on the gravel scene, Roatta also has a unique, unmissable bike.

As a self-proclaimed  “professional amateur,” Roatta is not sponsored by Cannondale but worked with his local bike shop Max Cycle, a Cannondale dealer, to get his current steed, a Topstone Carbon Lefty.

The Lefty fork is already a headturner on its own but Roatta partnered with Dr. Curtis Bullock, a Portland-based pop art designer, to make his bike stand out even more.

“I found [Dr. Bullock] on Instagram and instantly liked his work. I wanted to support his art and get something flashy [on my bike] out on the roads," Roatta says.

Flashy, indeed. Roatta’s bike is a collision of colorful lines, stripes, doodles, and shapes. There is no other bike like it as no Dr. Bullock paint schemes are the same. 

“There’s an intentional playfulness in my work,” Dr. Bullock says. “Perfection is not the goal… if you have a colorful enough life and have enough happy, colorful things to look at, you’re not going to notice that one bad race quite as much - it’ll still suck, but it’ll suck less.”

Dr. Bullock, a former elementary school principal, uses a special matte spray paint to create his works of art and draws inspiration from the crazy patterns and shapes often seen on Pee Wee’s Playhouse. 

The artist spent about a week on Roatta’s bike and made sure to craft the multitude of patterns and colors such that there were no two similar colors or patterns near each other. 

“With Roatta’s bike, I chose a core color palette that reminded me of the 1980s and shapes that would clash and be weird but still be cohesive,” Dr. Bullock says “I kept [the design] super fun and looked for balance in colors and shapes across the bike in a way that would make Roatta smile when he looked down at the frame.”

With a bike as vibrant as the fruit Roatta sells, he is truly an unorthodox athlete who will only continue to put down roots in the gravel scene. Catch the freshly crowned Florida State Champion as competes at local Miami races throughout the winter months.

Thank you for reading 10 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Kristin Jenny
Freelance Contributor

Kristin Jenny is an elite triathlete based near Boulder, Colorado. Although most of her time is spent in aerobars somewhere in the mountains, she finds time to enjoy eating decadent desserts, hiking with her husband and dog, and a good true crime podcast.