Key Biscayne is a narrow strip of small islands connected to the lower-downtown area of Miami via a large bridge known as the Rickenbacker. The Rickenbacker causeway has become a Mecca for road biking enthusiasts due to it’s wide bike lanes and amazing views, and today I’m going to take you on a journey through both space and time as we uncover some hidden history that may soon be gone, and some new biking activities many haven’t taken advantage of yet, to create a day where either the views or the biking will take your breath away.
First we’ll need to get you a bike (if you don’t bring your own), so let’s head over to Mangrove Cycles around 10AM to start the day. You’ll need a Mountain Bike – don’t let the wide bike lanes and flat asphalt of the causeway fool you – that is for cyclists, and we are headed to the woods. You’ll want a helmet and water bottle too, trust me. Even on our leisurely jaunt we’ll still want hydration and safety first, always. If you don’t have breakfast on the mainland before we get started, you can grab a healthy bite at KB Burgers just down the street, with smoothies/wraps abundant, and a casual, fitness-friendly atmosphere as well. We’ll back at KB’s for lunch so you may want to wait…
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Now let’s take advantage of the slightly-cooler morning weather and tackle Virginia Key Beach’s new Pro-worthy, but general-public friendly, Mountain Biking trails (helmet mandatory). It’s about 3.5 miles from Mangrove Cycles to Virginia Key Beach Park, so it’s a good leisurely warm-up before hitting the trails. Ask Mangrove Cycles to give you precise directions to the Mountain Bike trails before you head out.
The Advanced and Intermediate trails are very technical (I wiped out twice on the Intermediate trails and I’m a decent bike rider) so stay on the more relaxing green trail if you aren’t an advanced rider, and enjoy a hilly, wooded view that is very NOT Miami. Pine trees, raccoons, turtles, and woodland birds whisk you away from the beach environment, even though you are 100 yards from the sea.
On the way to the bike trails, you’ll have passed a sign that says “Jimbo’s” and you may have smelled Smoked Salmon and seen some colorful broken down cars and buses – that is where we are headed next, once we catch our breath. Jimbo’s is a historic Miami oddity, that may be closed this year after over 50 odd years in existence (the land it sits on is public, but due to “squatters rights” and so far Jimbo’s has survived through many attempts to take the land over).
Play Bocce Ball, sample some tasty smoked salmon (not your cold-smoked, thin-sliced, bagel variety – this is hot-smoked with hardwood in a brick smokehouse, and the flavor is intense, rich and savory). Have a beer if you want – the technical riding is done, and you are on vacation… Relax. Look around and you may recognize backdrops from almost every TV show shot in Miami – they all shot at Jimbo’s for one reason or another, since it looks like a deserted Island meets Caribbean Fish Shack meets Hippy Commune. If you take the short walk to the Northern end of the Key, you’ll see South Beach and the Port of Miami as well.
Since we are biking and it’s hot out, we’ll want to fuel up for the afternoon, so now we are headed back to KB’s for a small bite, since we still have some riding to do so we can hit the beach in Crandon Park. My personal favorite at KB’s is the Kaiser Burger but that may be a little heavy for biking, so I might opt for the Snapper Burger marinated in Lime Juice or a Frullato Italiano (fresh fruit and soy milk frappe) instead.
Next, we’ll ride to the beach in Crandon Park. Crandon Beach is very different from South Beach, with Crandon being way more expansive, secluded, and family-friendly. The water is shallower and with fewer waves, so it’s a perfect spot to soak in the sun while sitting in the water. During the week it’s very secluded and on the weekends it has a small amusement park for kids at the south end of the park, with a carousel and playground. I suggest riding the bike trail along the entire beach front until you find a spot you like, and then enjoy your afternoon, which will loosely resemble the Corona™ TV ad everyone would like to impersonate.
At this point, if you rode around Crandon Beach Park a little, you’ve probably gone about 9 miles. The tenth mile will be the ride back to Mangrove cycles. Take a final dip in the ocean, and then rinse off at the fresh-water showers at Crandon before heading back to return the bikes. I suggest packing a change of clothes (like khaki’s/collared shirt for example) so that after dropping off the bikes you can enjoy a sunset dinner at The Rusty Pelican and take in the views of the marina and the red sun setting over Downtown Miami and Brickell, before heading back to the mainland.
What & Where:
Rent mountain bikes at Mangrove Cycles (260 Crandon Boulevard Key Biscayne; 305-361-5555; www.mangrovecycles.com)
Eat breakfast or lunch at KB Burger (26 Crandon Boulevard Key Biscayne; 305-365-5399)
Mountain biking and Jimbo’s (4201 Rickenbacker Cswy Key Biscayne)
Eat dinner at the Rusty Pelican (3201 Rickenbacker Causeway Key Biscayne; 305-361-3818)
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