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We suck at bikepacking - Biking to Key West EP1


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Added by Darren in ROAD


Uncensored Version:
Next episode:
Alex's Day 1:
Alex's Pre Ride Video:

My Bikepacking Gear
Sleeping bag (Warm weather):

This, is mile marker 0 off route US-1. It symbolizes the Southernmost point in the continental US, but clearly the house behind it is further South. To me, the real reason to visit mile marker 0 is to drive through the Florida Keys. From downtown Miami, it’s an epic 3 hour drive, starting with skyscrapers and ending in 7 mile long bridges through the Caribbean—or the Gulf of Mexico depending on which car window you’re looking out of.

The final stop is Key West, and it’s worth the trip. If you like coconut trees, flip flops, and stiff drinks, you may find no better place. Of course, relaxation was the last thing on my mind when I agreed to pedal to Key West from my house in Fort Lauderdale. I’m pretty sure it was Alex’s crazy idea, and who could blame him? The poor guy has been off his mountain bike since November, when he dislocated his shoulder. A road bike adventure through the flattest state in the nation would be a piece of cake.

So we threw caution to the wind, did absolutely no research, and retrofitted our road bikes with racks and luggage. Alex had a lot of camping experience, and I went through a road biking phase a few years back. I was no stranger to high mileage. 200 miles in 3 days would be easy. So the goal for day one would be a campsite 90 miles away in Key Largo. As we set out from my house in high spirits, we had no idea how humbling of an experience this ride would be. Alex and I fell short of Key Largo by over 40 miles on day one. Allow me to summarize why that was the case.

Reason 1: Roady miles and bike packing miles are not the same. When you ride for training of for the sake of riding you choose your favorite route. We were forced to ride through Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Hallandale, all of Miami, and Homestead, encountering ridiculous amounts of stop lights, traffic, glass, and general treachery. City miles are slow and frustrating. We were moving at a snails pace, which leads into…

Reason number 2: The worst route ever. I used Google maps to plan a route and tapped the little bicycle icon. This is great for finding the closest bikeway, but terrible for finding directions. Rather than have you ride for a mile on a less than ideal road, Google would rather you get on a ferry. Sometimes it would want us to take a bikeway for a few miles, make a u turn, and backtrack a mile to get on another bikeway—this instead of just hopping over one median. For the record I now know the best route, but I can’t go back in time to Wednesday afternoon, which brings us to…

Reason number 3: A late start. We did some preparation in the morning and moseyed on down to the coffee shop. We didn’t start pedaling until around 11, since we wanted to wait until rush hour was over. I don’t know why it didn’t click that we’d be in South Miami during the second rush hour. Since my calculations were based on roady miles, I figured we’d be in the keys by then, but I didn’t account for all the stops, craploads of extra weight, and….

Reason number 4: Mechanical problems. For the record I did one thing right, and that was buy two really good brand new tires, and a reasonably sturdy rack with panniers. Alexander’s bike was f*cked. His tires were really old, and his rack consisted of 9 bungie cords and some backpacks. The only thing on his bike that worked consistently was the horn. Alex kept getting flats on his rear tire, and it took forever to take on and off the bike due to the rear rack. Between stops to fix the rack, multiple flats, and a detour to restock our supplies, we burnt through 2 hours of daylight, which brings me to…

Reason number 5: Bad luck, which I admit is sort of a cop out for bad planning. Google Maps led us to a really jagged and rough fire road, which was out of the question considering Alex’s tire issues. So we tried to find a way around it and found ourselves trapped. I was going to do it, but Alex was actually the voice of reason. He might have saved both of our lives. During the day, maybe. At night, it was sketchy.

So, 40 miles from Key Largo we decided to throw in the towel. Luckily, motels in Homestead are about the same price as tent sites in the keys. We were pretty bummed out, and admittedly doubtful that we would get to Key West on time. Both of us were on a time constraint, and the next day was looking grimmer and grimmer by the minute. After 50 miles of arduous urban pedaling, we needed something to boost our spirits.

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