Each year bicyclists traditionally navigate the entire Florida Keys island chain along scenic Overseas Highway and Heritage Trail routes during the 165-mile Miami to Key West trek known as The SMART Ride. Hosted by TSR Adventures Inc., the 2020 cycling fundraiser will be held Friday through Sunday, Nov. 20-22.

The annual event generally attracts 400 to 500 solo riders, multi-person teams of people ranging in age from 18 to 70-plus, and 250 volunteers. Some of this year’s colorful team names include “Fluffy Bunny Butts,” “Hot Wheels” and “Bikesexuals” (names that are actually giving me some great ideas for hilarious Halloween costumes!).

While the event is usually a two-day charity ride, this year’s participants will have three days to accomplish their goals. They can also choose to bike, walk, run, swim, kayak or engage in any physical activity of their choosing — in Florida or anywhere across America. The only requirement is that entrants’ favored physical activity must be done in any metric of 165 — thus the hashtag #HOWDOYOU165 campaign.

Fundraising superstars from Florida to Hawaii typically join in the ride, raising money for Florida AIDS/HIV service organizations including A.H. of Monroe County Inc. (serving the Florida Keys). Each participant normally commits to raising a minimum of $1,250 in donations. However, that requirement has been waived for this year’s event. The organizers are still confident that the riders will go above and beyond their goals, with past year’s contributions averaging $1,800 per person!

Now in its 17th year, the event has raised nearly $12 million, with an incredible 100 percent of proceeds distributed among various AIDS service organizations throughout Florida. We are very proud of our Florida SMART Ride event, which is the second-largest AIDS bicycle ride in the U.S., and the only one to include the nation’s southernmost city.

While the 2020 SMART Ride has a reimagined format, past year’s riders are shown here gathered at Key West’s AIDS Memorial.

The 2020 Smart Ride will be more critical than ever for the Florida health agencies it benefits. In the past six months, they have lost over one million dollars in funding due to cancellations of events and fundraisers caused by COVID. Also, the demand for housing, food and medical assistance has risen dramatically in recent months.

Key West will still roll out the red carpet and host SMART Ride festivities throughout the weekend at some of the island’s leading LGBTQ venues for those who choose to participate in the Keys. (If your plans include an overnight stay, please don’t forget to call your favorite LGBTQ hotel and ask about fall values.)

The cost to register and participate in SMART Ride 17 is $35. Whether you ride or choose another challenge, the charge is the same. The registration fees help to cover the costs of putting together The SMART Ride, which operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit.

If you’re unable to participate, please consider sponsoring one of our wonderful “165er’s.” You can also keep up on all of the latest event updates and cheer on everyone’s fundraising accomplishments on the event’s Facebook page.

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