Endurance Unleashed: My 72-Hour Atlanta to Key West Cycling Odyssey

Defying Limits and Embracing Endurance

Kevin Meldau
7 min readNov 13, 2023
Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A.

Embarking on an 820-mile bicycle trip from Atlanta to Key West is no small feat. It’s the kind of adventure that pushes the boundaries of physical and mental endurance, leaving you with a tale that’s both insane and epic at the same time.

A Slimmed-Down Crew
Two months before the ride, our team faced a dilemma. What started as a group of six riders with support staff was now down to just two of us. It was a make-or-break moment. Do we forge ahead as a dynamic duo or call it quits? We chose the former, a decision that would set the tone for an unforgettable journey.

Our crew making the Atlanta to Key West journey wasn’t just a random assembly. These folks hailed from the far reaches of Iceland, and we had a history. The year before, we all (8 riders) teamed up for a wild ride around Iceland’s ring road (820 miles), and we pulled off the whole ride in just under 48 hours.

No fancy introductions or formalities — just a bunch of biking enthusiasts, drawn together by a shared love for challenging the norm on two wheels. So, when we found ourselves pondering whether to tackle this trip with just two riders, the memories of our Icelandic escapade nudged us forward. It’s amazing how a crazy ride around an island can forge connections that last. And in the end, those Icelandic roads paved the way for this adventure that was not just about miles and exhaustion but resilience and the kind of camaraderie that feels like home, no matter where you are.

Atlanta to Key West (via Jacksonville)

1. Atlanta to Macon: Hitting the Road
Kicking off our grand cycling escapade from Atlanta, we were basically just stoked about the uncharted territory — like, where exactly are we going again? Cruising through Georgia’s countryside, the ride to Macon unfolded like a sitcom pilot, complete with our profound observations about, well, trees and stuff.

2. Macon to Jacksonville: Florida Bound
Rolling into Florida like we owned the place, our route dragged us through some charming towns and the oh-so-typical sights of the Sunshine State. Embracing the mix of cultures and hitting the occasional road bump, this leg of the journey had more plot twists than a telenovela. We might’ve even spotted the elusive real-life Florida man in his natural habitat — speedo and all!

3. Jacksonville to Daytona: Coastal Vibes
Coasting down the coast from Jacksonville to Daytona, we were basically living the dream — sea breeze high-fiving us, and ocean views giving us that “are we sure we’re not in a postcard right now?” vibe. It was almost enough to make us forget about the sunscreen we forgot to put on. Almost.

4. Daytona to Miami: Urban Navigation
Rolling through city chaos like we were born to do it — Miami, we’re looking at you! Navigating urban jungles was like trying to salsa dance on a bike, but hey, we mastered the art of dodging traffic with style.

5. Miami to Key West: Wrapping It Up
Hitting the homestretch, we pedaled our way through the Florida Keys like a couple of pirates looking for the ultimate treasure — Key West. The scenery was so jaw-droppingly gorgeous; even the pelicans were jealous. Reaching the southernmost point felt like winning a slow-motion race, and it was the perfect finale to our not-so-epic-but-still-pretty-awesome journey. We didn’t need a finish line; we needed a piña colada.

Key West

The Bikes: Trek Speed Concept SLR 7 AXS
Our trusty steeds for this epic adventure were the Trek Speed Concept SLR 7 AXS. The sleek design and cutting-edge technology became our partners in conquering the miles. As we pedaled through the diverse landscapes, from cityscapes to coastal roads, these bikes proved to be more than just machines — they were our companions through every uphill struggle and exhilarating downhill rush.

The choice of our road companion played a pivotal role in transforming our journey into an unforgettable odyssey. This road bike isn’t just a piece of equipment; it’s a game-changer.

First and foremost, the sleek design and cutting-edge technology of the bike immediately caught our attention. It’s not just about looking good on the road; it’s about efficiency and performance. The aerodynamic frame made getting into an aero position easy, making those long stretches more manageable and less of a battle against resistance.

The precision of the AXS electronic shifting system made gear changes smooth and instantaneous. When every pedal stroke counts, having a reliable and responsive system can be the difference between conquering a hill effortlessly or feeling the burn more than necessary.

Comfort matters, especially when you’re covering 820 miles. Our bikes struck a perfect balance, absorbing road vibrations without compromising on speed. The endurance geometry ensured that even after hours in the saddle, we weren’t sacrificing comfort for performance.

Fueling the Journey: Navigating the Fine Line of Nutrition
Embarking on an 850-mile bicycle trip demands more than just physical endurance; it requires a keen understanding of nutrition to keep the pedals turning and the energy flowing. Striking the right balance between being well-fueled and not weighed down by excess became a hourly ritual.

Our nutrition strategy was a delicate dance. Every 40 minutes, we made a pit stop for a quick intake of energy-boosting snacks — a handful of nuts, a granola bar, or a banana. These frequent refuels prevented us from hitting a wall (known as ‘bonking’) and ensured a steady stream of energy throughout the day.

Yet, we knew that sustaining ourselves on the road wasn’t just about constant nibbling. Our major pitstops were reserved for hearty, nutrient-packed meals. Three times a day, and even once in the middle of the night (normally around 3am).

The real challenge, however, lay in finding the balance. It was about consuming enough to keep the energy levels up without overburdening our bodies with excess. Too much, and the next stretch of road felt like a slog, the weight of a heavy meal dragging us down. Too little, and fatigue would creep in, threatening to derail our progress.

In the quiet moments between bites, we had to listen to our bodies. It became an intuitive process — understanding when a quick snack would suffice and when a proper meal was essential.

Navigating the Night: Wrestling with Sleep
Starting out on this adventure, sleep felt like a distant friend. The excitement and buzz of hitting the road kept our minds wide awake. It was almost like our brains were on caffeine overdrive, making the idea of catching some shut-eye a bit of a joke. The road stretched out, and our minds were stubbornly resistant to the idea of settling down.

Atlanta to Jacksonville was difficult! The struggle was real, but not against the road or the bike. It was us against our own stubborn minds. The night was calm, the stars were out, but our brains were on a caffeine comedown, refusing to acknowledge the fatigue creeping into our muscles.

But, oh boy, past Jacksonville, things took a turn. Exhaustion hit, and it hit hard. Falling asleep became less of a negotiation and more of a natural surrender. Sometimes, it was like our bodies had a secret pact with the road, and the moment we closed our eyes, the road itself cradled us into a quick slumber — sometimes in as little as a minute. This is when the ride actually became enjoyable as our bodies were getting rest.

In the end, the journey wasn’t just about conquering miles; it was a gritty tale of our minds wrestling with the need for sleep. When undertaking these rides, it’s rarely the body that gives in and stops you; it’s usually the bikes, or the lack of sleep that puts an end to an adventure.

Pushing Through the Fog: Confronting Delirious Tiredness on the Road
In the realm of long-distance cycling, there comes a point where exhaustion transcends the ordinary and enters the territory of delirious tiredness. It’s a state where the lines between determination and weariness blur, and the road ahead becomes a surreal journey through the fog of fatigue.

As we pedaled on, there were moments when the body, pushed to its limits, seemed to send distress signals to the brain. Delirious tiredness set in, and the challenge wasn’t just physical; it was a battle to keep the mind engaged when all it wanted was to shut down.

Confronting delirious tiredness meant navigating a mental landscape where clarity was a scarce commodity. The road, which had been a companion, turned into a winding, disorienting path.

So, how do you force your body to continue when your brain is signaling a shutdown? It becomes a game of mental jujitsu — a delicate balance between acknowledging the weariness and finding that reserve of grit buried deep within.

In those moments, the mind becomes both ally and adversary. It’s a paradoxical dance where the sheer determination to push forward clashes with the overwhelming desire to surrender to the comfort of rest.

The Epic Conclusion: A Story of Two Against the Odds
By lunch time on the third day, we rolled into Key West — two riders who had weathered exhaustion, conquered sleep deprivation, and pedaled their way through doubt. The decision to continue as a duo turned out to be the catalyst for an epic tale.

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Kevin Meldau

Cherish life's extraordinary moments, one story at a time.