My first time being in the Florida Keys was for the start of my East Coast, Key West to Canada, bike tour. It is a beautiful place and definitely would like to go back and enjoy more of it!
While there is plenty to see and do in the 100+ miles and various different keys, biking is a great activity there. In Key West especially, you will see tons of people out on bicycles. For both avid cyclers and once a year cruisers, the keys are a great place to pedal around.
For those wanting to get some distance on their wheels, there are multiple things you want to be aware of and prepared for before setting off.
There is a lot of different ways I could go with those two words, but what I mean by them is in terms of how many miles are you riding each day, and where are you staying. Unless you are okay with paying hundreds for hotels and resorts, you’ll want to plan ahead and make your reservation!
I am not much of a planner, for instance I booked a one way flight to Colombia just 2 weeks before leaving and a one way back from Peru for 6 weeks later with only my first hostel booked. There is something about being flexible that makes travel all the more exciting. So having to plan ahead was difficult for me.
For the Keys and this bike ride I kind of planned ahead to the best of my doing. I had planned, but not booked my campsites until a couple days before and it bit me in the butt on my third nights stay. I wasn’t able to get into the campsite in Marathon, FL at Curry Hammock State Park as they were fully booked so I had to pay $100 for a hotel room since there was not another campsite for another 30 or more miles.
It is also smart to plan ahead with how many miles you will be able and willing to do a day so you know around which Key to find a campsite as not all Keys have places to camp unless you are really good at stealth camping.
I live in Florida, and Florida only has one season: summer. The Keys especially, most of the year is going to be sunny and warm so bring your sunscreen! I learned the hard way on day one. While I started the bike ride off with sunscreen, I quickly sweat it off and went to sleep burnt and afraid to get back in the sun the next day.
With the hot weather and the high UV indexes, you’re going to be sweating and you’re going to need to reapply possibly multiple times each day.
Along the route, there are multiple mile stretches with no shade, so keep oozing that bottle and drinking plenty of water as well.
While there are some real nice bike paths so you don’t have to ride on the shoulder of the road, there are also some bumpy, torn up, and dead end paths as well. I got caught a few times on what looked like a great off the road path only to find out a half mile later it’s all torn up. While it’s usually easy to hop back onto the road, it throws off your speed and energy and can frustrate you.
There are also a handful of walking/biking bridges that are either completely closed or closed halfway. Not all can you tell from the start of the bridge. I was again caught on one bridge having to turn around and hop on the shoulder to get across the bridge.
If you are starting in Key West, you’ll have to drive over all those bridges before hand, so keep an eye on the bike paths along the way and keep tabs on which bridges are closed so you don’t have to guess wrong.
You’re going to have to ride along the shoulder of the road many times if you plan to ride through all the Keys. You’re also going to want to enjoy the scenery and take in the salty breeze. Unfortunately the chances of you getting a flat tire rise the more your head is raised looking around.
I found that I had to be aware what was on the ground in front of me more than I would have liked. The shoulder of the road is littered with nails, screws, scissors, and all sorts of objects sitting waiting for a tire to pop.
Make sure to keep you’re head on a rocker so you’re not on the side of the road in the sweltering heat trying to change a flat tire.
Also, if you’re on a bike path watch out for those island squirrels as they are super quick and will dart in front of you and lunge themselves into the brush to get away from you. Usually they are pretty good at seeing you come and you can just laugh at how quickly and ungracefully throw themselves over bushes or through fences.
This one doesn’t really fit the topic, but I think it’s important to mention. If you’re doing this ride for fun, the last thing you want to do is just ride, eat, and sleep. There is so much beauty along the Keys and being able to spend time off the bike relaxing will make you’re rides even better.
So at the end of the day, if you got your place of stay booked, you’re not burnt, you didn’t have to change a flat tire or turn around due to a closed bridge, and you have time and energy to relax and enjoy the area you just rode to, then that’s a great riding day in the Keys.
Let me know in the comments below if you would add anything or if you have any questions about biking through the Florida Keys!