100 Miles: Key Largo to Key West by Bicycle

Five of us rode from Key Largo to Key West in February.

Matt and Ken Steinhoff at the End of the 100-Mile Florida Keys Ride

If you’re talking about a serious touring-type ride, the ride TO Key West was enjoyable (the operative word is FEBRUARY).

If you want to do serious riding, Key West isn’t where you want to be. If you want to putz around on a rented cruiser or a beater bike to keep from having to find a parking spot in a tiny town that is in total gridlock, then Key West is your spot. Bikes, mopeds and other small transportation vehicles are readily available. (The bikes even come with D-cell flashlights strapped to the handlebars for night riding. Probably to give the drunks something to aim at.) It’s a tourist town/Bourbon Street wannabe.

There is ample shoulder, bike lane or bike path the whole 106 miles, except for a few hundred yards at Bahia Honda. Even though the shoulder is fairly narrow and traffic is running 45 to 65 mph, I never had a close brush. There is enough utility biking in the keys that the local motorists are very bike-aware. A car would pull out onto the bike lane to get on the road, see us, then back up to clear the way. Most of the time they’d give us a friendly wave or a greeting.

Matt, Wally and Mark with their bikes on a Bridge on the way to Key West, Florida

We encountered our first certifiable a-hole in 106 miles about 100 yards into Key West: a Hummer full of college kids who deliberately pulled out to block the bike lane just as I approached them.

My Keys advice in June would follow your N’awlins advice: find a cool spot and hunker down. It was a hot ride in FEBRUARY. It would be a killer in the summertime. I had a couple of friends who rode it in July. Took ’em four days with all the stops they made to jump in the water to cool off.

In 1980, I spent a month in Key West as a photographer covering the Cuban Boatlift. Like I’ve posted before, the sun in Key West is exactly twice as bright as it is in West Palm Beach, FL. By light meter reading, the sun in West Palm Beach is twice as bright as the sun in southern Ohio. Use your sunblock accordingly.

If you want more details about the Keys ride, lemme know. (By the way, the beaches in Key West ain’t all that great.)

Mark Steinhoff Lifting His Bicycle in Victory

28 Replies to “100 Miles: Key Largo to Key West by Bicycle”

  1. Your page was referred to me by Adventure Cycling on questions I had related to riding Key West to Key Largo. She said you rode in 2001. We want to do this in Feb 2010. Since you rode in 2001 I was wondering if anything has changed (for the worst). Is is it still a nice ride with mostly bike paths? We have gotten some mixed reviews on other websites.

  2. Tina,

    Key Largo to Key West is on my list of places to revisit, hopefully before 2010. I’ve been waiting for the temperatures to get reasonable.

    When we rode it, there were a few segments with separate bike paths, which are nice because they isolate you from the constant roar of traffic. Since then, I’ve been told that more have been added.

    The whole route from Key Largo to Key West has good shoulders, except for a short stretch that is easily sprinted.

    It’s not my favorite ride, but it’s one that everyone should do just to say they did it.

    I’ll probably start about 20 miles or so south of Key Largo when I do it next time. I wanted to get in a century on that first ride, but the area around Key Largo is like riding through strip malls with all the ugliness.

    Seven Mile Bridge and some of the others are well worth the ride.

    Keep in touch. I’ll try try to get you an update.

  3. I was planing on doing a Keys Ride update this year, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to sneak it in before it gets too hot.

    I’d love to post a ride report and some pictures from your trip if you want to send me something.

    Have a good ride – take lots of sunscreen.

  4. Several of my friends and I have been thinking about doing this ride from Key Largo to Key West. We’d like to fly in and rent bikes rather than drive, since it would be about a 30 hour drive for us one way. Any chances of renting some good bikes, perhaps in Key Largo for this? If so, can you recommend some good places to contact?

    1. It’s been a number of years since I did that ride. One of my brother’s buddies rented a bike here in West Palm Beach, where I live, for the trip. I’m not sure about renting a bike in Key Largo. Key West has lots of bike rentals, but they’re mostly beaters for around town.

      1. Is there a certain place you could recommend to rent from there in West Palm Beach? I would like to contact them and get an idea of how much it would cost for 4 of us to do it.

        1. Dawn,

          I Googled Bike Rental West Palm Beach and got several hits:

          My kid is fond of http://www.oymbike.com/

          Palm Beach Bicycle Trails Shop caters to folks who want to ride the Palm Beach bike trail on cruisers, but I think that might be where my kid’s friend rented his road bike for our trip. A couple of my friends have bought used rentals there, so so they may have some road bikes available.

          If the Bicyclery doesn’t have rentals, ask for Tom. I bet he can help you find some place. Nice folks.

          Let me know if you strike out and I’ll do some calling around myself.

  5. visiting key west in march. found a road bike rental. wondering what it is like going north 50miles then turning round for my century??? good/bad idea???

    1. March is still OK, temperature-wise. When I’ve ridden it, we’ve started in Key Largo and done a straight century from MM 100 to MM 0 in Key West.

      The prettiest part of the Florida Keys, in my opinion, is the Middle Keys. The north end is too much like urban strip mall riding; the last miles into Key West were boring to me. Key West is just a mad house.

      Other than heat, your biggest problem is wind. On an out-and-back, you’re going to have a headwind one way or the other (unless you get REALLY lucky and have it shift so that you get a headwind both ways.).

      Drink lots of water, slather on the sun screen. You probably heard me mention that the sun in West Palm Beach is twice as bright as the sun in Athens, OH, based on actual light meter readings. The sun in Key West is twice as bright as the sun in West Palm Beach. Do NOT assume that since you don’t burn when you’re home in the Midwest or even the South that you won’t burn in the Keys. Take it from a guy who learned the hard way covering the Cuban Boatlift in 1980.

  6. really just looking for exercise in between hammock naps so headwind will be perfect. yes sunscreen will be key thx for the info. if you ever bike up wisconsin way just ask for best routes. shamoditus@gmail.com

    1. Exercise? What’s that?

      Have a blast. If you’ve not done the Keys, they’re worth doing at least once so you can cross them off your list.

      1. Hey Ken. Sounds like you live just north of me in West Palm. I live in Boynton and I am thinking of going for the century ride sometime soon.I training locally now and started also doing the local Off-road path up your way in Pinehurst (LOTS of FUN!!)I’d like to ask a few questions about the century trip. If you’re open to a phone call let me know. otherwise email exchanges are fine. I go to Sugarloaf often and always interested in biking partners. (my wife is not into biking)


  7. my wife and I will ride from key largo to KW. we will ride 50 miles stay in a hotel, and then make it to KW. Spend two nights in Kw and then repeat our return journey. My concern is our return . Is there a prevailing head wind? No worries, just wondering

    1. The only thing you can count on is that you WILL have a headwind sometime. You MAY have a headwind all of the time. I don’t think I’ve ever done a ride where I had a tailwind the whole time.

      It all depends on the weather patterns on any given day. Wish I could be even more vague, but it’s always a crap shoot. Good luck. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

  8. I was thinking of cycling from Key Largo to Key West & back this Friday or Saturday (the 27th or 28th of May). Anyone wanna come? Anyone know where to rent a decent road bike near Key Largo?


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  10. If you guys are interested, there is a wrestling club in Islamorada that does fundraisers several times a year where they offer a SAG support vehicle, water and food stops on a one day Century Ride. They will take you and your bike back to Islamorada or Key Largo. You can kick around Key West for dinner and come back that night. It’s limited to 6 riders and geared towards riders who can make the ride in 6 to 8 hours.

  11. Just returned to Scotland from vacation in the keys. I would like to return and hire a bicycle and cycle from Key Lago to Key West. Any tips would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.


    1. Jim, I own Key Largo Bike Tours and Bike Shop. We rent Jamis Road bikes and allow our customers to put their pedals and saddle on if they like. We also run Century Rides once a month. They are Sag supported and offer lunch and hydration stations. We give rides back to Key Largo or if you want to stay the night in Key West, we can get you the next day. Otherwise, you can just rent the road bike.

      1. Hey Mark: Looking to do a century ride in Februray 2013 from key largo, some folks in my group may do a half. do u have any planned supported rides that month? if so, what date.

        if not, can you help w/ a non supported ride in the way of rental bike?.


  12. Great post, I love the pics. I have a design blog that posts articles about finding design inspiration through travel. I would love to include your Key West image with the bridge in one of my posts. Of course, I would credit the image to you and link it back to your site. What do you think?

  13. if your doing this ride and want to leave your car in Key Largo, rent a bike and be picked up in Key West, contact Mark at Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours 305-395-1551.
    We did the ride and Mark picked the 4 of us and our bikes up in Key West and drove us back to our cars at his shop..
    Mark is a wealth of knowledge on the Keys and will certainly give you tips to make the trip to Key West most enjoyable..

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