Having grown up in central Florida, I’ve come to have an intimate knowledge of the backroads, trails and rides that make this part of the country a unique cycling experience. You won’t find this terrain anywhere else in the world!
One of the first things people think when you say Florida and cycling together in the same sentence is that it’s flat. Don’t be fooled by the general “flatness” of the state. While most of the state is a giant sandbar, there are a few select areas where the hills can be quite challenging! The other, more nefarious partner to the flatness is the wind. It won’t matter which direction you head, there will be wind. Usually lots of it. A quick glance at the dates on these rides will also show riders something to consider: large, organized rides in Florida generally take place in the early Spring or late Fall to take advantage of the milder (by Florida standards) weather. This means less thunderstorms, less humidity and less heat, but don’t worry, each of these rides can push you to your limit in their own way!
Miami to Key West
Our first stop brings us to the most popular ride that people from outside of Florida ask about. Miami to Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States. This 140 mile, 2-day route is undertaken by thousands every year, in a variety of different organized rides, the most popular being the Tour of the Conch Republic presented by local Miami area cycling club Everglades Cycling Club. This awesome route starts at the Homestead Motor Speedway and follows a scenic route that links up with A1A and heads south into the Gulf of Mexico, offering ocean views, lots of wildlife, and sun. This ride is typically done as a two-day rolling party, much like our local Seattle to Portland ride and ends at Mile Marker 1 in beautiful Key West.
Horse Farm Hundred
Next, we head north to the Gainesville area and the backroads of Marion county for the Horse Farm Hundred. These roads are covered by beautiful canopies of moss as you roll pass endless horse farms, miles of white wooden fences, manicured pastures, and million dollar thoroughbreds training while cruising along on hundred-year-old roads.
St. Petersburg Spring Classic
The Annual St. Petersburg Bicycle Club Spring Classic is a staple amongst cyclists in central Florida. Held each Spring on the farm roads of Manatee County, this ride offers 4 distances and varying speeds for all riders. Generally considered one of Florida’s season kickoff rides. Definitely one of the biggest and funnest rides on offer!
Gran Fondo Miami
Even though it’s only been around for five years, Gran Fondo Miami has quickly established itself as a ride not to miss. With a route that showcases the heritage and history of Miami, this ride offers three distances and everything riders have come to expect with a gran fondo: excellent routes with pro support and SAG stations and the always popular post-ride meal.
The Horrible Hundred presented by the Florida Freewheelers has cemented its place in Florida cycling lore as quite possibly one of the hardest one day rides in the state. In a land of flat roads, this century ride takes in every major hill in central Florida. Leaving out of Clermont, just west of Orlando, if there are any hills in the state, they’re here. Sugarloaf Mountain at a whopping 315 feet is the highest climb in the state and around the corner is Buckhill Road and these are just a few of the names of local climbs that strike fear into the cyclists that frequent them. This ride a must do if you are visiting the Orlando area.
Mount Dora Bicycle Festival
The biggest and oldest bicycle festival in Florida is the Mount Dora Bicycle Festival, now entering its 43rd year, just outside Orlando, shares many of the same roads that the Horrible Hundred and others use. A long weekend of rides in varying distances, difficulty levels and plenty of in-town events and amenities await those looking for a weekend about the bike. Fall in love with central Florida’s views, weather and hospitality in a quaint antiquing town that welcomes over 1,500 cyclists each October for a celebration of two-wheeled human power!