- By: Greg Tromba
- October 16, 2019
Get ready for a great and open-hearted event that spans the entire Florida Keys. Hosted by TSR Adventures Inc., The SMART Ride 2019 will be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 15-16. The cycling fundraiser generally attracts 400 to 500 solo riders, 250 volunteers, and multi-person teams of people ranging in age from 18 to 70-plus.
Some of this year’s team names include “Team Flat Tire,” “Bikesexuals” and “Slow Spokes” (not only are they charitable, but they have a great sense of humor).
Bicyclists navigate the whole Florida Keys island chain along scenic Overseas Highway and Heritage Trail routes during the 160-mile-plus Miami to Key West charity ride. Although it’s a gorgeous trek, it takes a lot of dedication to make the journey, as well as weeks of training (or even several months for some).
Participants from Florida to Hawaii join in as they pedal their way south, raising money for Florida AIDS service organizations. Each rider commits to raise a minimum of $1,250 in donations — however, the average cyclist raises over $1,800!
Now in its 16th year, the event has raised nearly $11 million with an incredible 100 percent of proceeds distributed among various AIDS service organizations throughout Florida. The SMART Ride is the second-largest AIDS bicycle ride in the U.S., and the only one to include the nation’s southernmost city.
Riders will roll out Friday, Nov. 15, from the University of Miami’s Watsco Center at 1245 Dauer Dr. in Coral Gables. The ride begins at sunrise with the first scheduled 100-mile trek to Hawks Cay Resort located on Duck Key (with rest stops approximately every 15-20 miles).
The cyclists will spend the night at the fabulous Hawks Cay (for some well-deserved rest!) and resume cycling the next morning, traveling some 65 miles southwest to Key West. Once all the entrants arrive, a 4-mile police escort and parade around Key West is scheduled for 2 p.m.-ish (just a reminder to readers that we do operate on island time).
The closing ceremonies will be held at the Truman Annex pier on East Quay Road (not at the AIDS memorial as in past years). It is always so heartwarming to see how many Keys residents, and visiting family and friends, turn out for the ceremonies to congratulate riders, crew and volunteers. It’s also usually a very emotional occasion since many of the SMART Ride participants are, or know someone who is, impacted by HIV/AIDS.
After the closing event, Key West rolls out the red carpet and ramps up the post-ride festivities throughout the day Saturday, with PAR-TAYS galore at some of the island’s leading LGBTQ venues. Then Sunday’s plans call for an aquatic adventure with a quintessential Key West sunset cruise. Participants can trade in their wheels for sails with a relaxing, picturesque evening aboard one the Fury’s comfy catamarans.
Registration for the 2019 SMART Ride is currently closed — but interested people can be added to waitlists for riders and crews. And if you’d like to be part of next year’s event, registration for the 2020 SMART Ride will begin Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019.
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