Cycling in the Keys is far easier without the strenuous inclines, and all next weekend, you can race the wheel right off your bike all while raising money for a necessary cause.

FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe) is a local, volunteer organization committed to fighting at the state and federal levels for equitable windstorm insurance rates for Monroe County residents. Founded in 2006, they are the only grassroots organization that remains committed to ensuring Keys residents, who often have less representation in Tallahassee than other counties across the state, aren’t slapped with excessive increases in insurance rates each year.

Six months out of the gate, the organization quickly proved their worth.

The members of FIRM were able to help repeal a proposed 25 percent residential windstorm premium increase for Monroe County and went on to further reduce residential rates from Citizens Property Insurance Corporation for Monroe County by over 30 percent. Increases in these rates have remained at a maximum of 10 percent per year, another victory FIRM fought for and won during the 2008 Florida legislative session.

FIRM was the first organized group of community activists to bring these windstorm inequities to the attention of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation; to Florida’s Legislature, Cabinet and Governor; and to the Florida delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. They have also been instrumental in educating homeowners regarding the insurance mitigation and crediting process.

Organizers will only be able to continue their efforts if they are able to cover their costs of research, travel and lobbying expenses, so FIRM is holding its first fun, family, and competitive annual cycling event November 5-7, to be held in Key West.

This unique event, offering cyclists both race and criterium events sanctioned by USA Cycling, could potentially be expanded to include races held concurrently throughout Monroe County.

FIRM’s 2010 Ride/Race Weekend will include a Friday night race to a bar, a Saturday morning 40 mile and 15 mile bike fun-ride, a family poker run ride and bike fun-races for young children on the White St. Pier.

Saturday evening will feature dinner by Michael’s; a lively evening of music by Lenore Troia and friends; a silent auction, raffles and friendship at West Martello Tower.

The weekend will conclude on Sunday with four hours of bicycle racing, called a criterium, on a closed loop around Higgs Beach. Organizers anticipate Key West’s first criterium to prove an attractive draw for spectators.

“Since this is the first race of its kind in Key West, we do not know how many cycling enthusiasts will enter the rides, but we have investigated other criterium – 15 and 40 mile events in Florida – and found that entries range from 200 to 400 people,” said FIRM Executive Director Annalise Mannix. “We believe that a race in Key West may have up to 80-100 non-county entries in its first year. The Saturday FIRM Rides will start immediately following the Zonta 5-K Run so the bi-athletes among us can get some added exercise and fun!” 

For registration forms or more information about the FIRM Fun Ride, visit To help sponsor the event, showcase your business and support FIRM’s mission, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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