University of Miami Watsco Center

Nov 19 - 20, 2021

By: Gino R. Campodónico | Sep 9, 2019

Ever wanted to pedal through paradise and support an important cause at the same time? Well, dust off your bike gear and get ready for one of the most inspiring and picturesque rides of your life. Founded in 2003, SMART Ride is a two-day charitable journey from Miami to Key West’s AIDS Memorial and is considered the largest bicycle ride in the Southeast United States dedicated to raising funds for those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Returning on November 15 and 16, SMART Ride will celebrate its 16th anniversary with a relentless passion to create awareness around the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic and a strong determination to meet fundraising goals. SMART Ride has raised more than $10.5 million for a variety of HIV/AIDS support groups in Florida since its inception, engaging nearly 550 riders annually and growing.

“Smart Ride is special when it comes to fundraising rides because 100% of the funds we raise go to beneficiaries of our choosing. Pridelines in Miami has been making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth since the early 1980s and I am proud to support them,” says David Ardelean, a SMART Ride Team Captain for two straight years. “There’s a ‘love bubble’ that happens during the ride, and that keeps me coming back year after year.”

Ardelean, who has participated in SMART Ride for the past six years, describes the “love bubble” as a beautiful bond between riders. “There’s a shared sense of comradery when you cycle with friends. It’s not a race, it’s a ride,” he says. And nothing enhances a memorable ride with new and old friends than Miami’s gorgeous views and landscapes.

Riders can expect stunning backdrops even on training rides leading up to the big day. Team training rides take place all across Miami, ranging from Key Biscayne’s five-mile Rickenbacker Causeway, known for its unparalleled bay and city views, to tranquil shaded paths provided by tropical hardwood hammocks found in South Miami. Coconut Grove’s Peacock Park is another popular spot for riders thanks to its beautiful canopy of trees and lovely views of Biscayne Bay. When it comes to prime team selfie locations, Ardelean credits Palmetto Bay’s Deering Estate, the grand 1920s-era home of Charles Deering and all-around cultural gem listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as a favorite. “We make it down to Deering Estate and we take group shots over on the dock every single time!”

After months of total body conditioning at the gym and team training rides, SMART Ride participants look forward to meeting fellow riders from near and far on the big day. Riders come from all over Florida; as far south as Key West and as far north as Jacksonville. Same goes for visiting out-of-state riders who come from places including Hawaii and Georgia.

“SMART Ride takes place in November, so you’ve got the best weather possible,” says Ardelean. Riding for a good cause is enough to get most people to hop on a bike, but Miami’s subtropical climate is another great incentive to join the movement and sidestep chillier temperatures for our neighbors in the north. Riders can expect temperatures in Miami to be in the mid to high-70s during this time of year.

On the day of the event, hundreds of SMART Ride participants meet at sunrise at the University of Miami’s Watsco Center to begin the two-day, 165-mile ride to Key West making pit spots along the way and spending the first night in Duck Key. This year’s theme, “Pedaling to Paradise,” is a nod to the ride’s physical location of Miami and the Keys as well as the notion that those living with HIV/AIDS can achieve a life filled with bliss, love and support.

Victor Diaz-Herman, CEO of Pridelines, one of the many beneficiary organizations, explains, “Paradise can exist when those living with HIV/AIDS have all the support and resources they need. The support from SMART Ride is helping to ensure that this paradise is attainable for Pridelines and those we serve.”

“Cycling under palm trees, alongside Caribbean breezes in an effort to STOP AIDS is how I pedal to paradise,” adds Ardelean.

On day two, a joyous celebration erupts once all riders have made it to Key West in the early afternoon. Riders are treated to a thrilling parade with cheering crowds down Key West’s famed Duval Street. The parade leads to a closing ceremony at the moving AIDS Memorial located on the White Street Pier, but the fun continues well into evening with parties at the Bourbon Street Pub.

Click here for glimpse of this incredible experience and prepare to get excited for SMART Ride 2019. For those considering hopping on a bike, Ardelean encourages people to just “Do it!”

“You will be changed for good as a result of it. The fun people, stories and experiences you’ll have will stay with you for years to come,” he says. The SMART Ride is the perfect opportunity to experience South Florida while making an impact on the lives of so many. The journey will take you through some of Miami’s most beloved neighborhoods, including Coral Gables, South Miami, Pinecrest and Homestead.


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