Friday Group Ride #192


My first 50 mile ride was a fund raiser for the Brain Tumor Society. I was new to proper road cycling. Up to that point I’d contented myself with riding the city or knocking around my local trails, but after one of my close friends began dating a woman who was both a former top-level racer and a brain tumor survivor, I began to embrace the idea of doing more with the bike.

Doing more meant riding longer, faster and better under the tutelage of this new friend, and also learning how the bike could help other people with just a little effort and organization. And of course that first 50-miler opened my mind to the idea that I could explore new vistas of endurance and freedom from the saddle.

I don’t recall how much we raised on that first ride. I remember the weather being beautiful, having a lot of fun, and meeting a lot of cyclists more experienced than I was. It drew me deeper into my infatuation with the bike.

I did that ride a few times, and then later I managed part of a cross-country bike trip for brain tumor survivors. By then I was what I would consider a serious cyclist, and driving the van, making the sandwiches and cleaning the water bottles cut against my pure desire to be out on the road with them, riding. Despite that, I learned even more about our sport in the context of what it takes to support a team of riders, and I saw some beautiful parts of our country in the slow, purposeful way of a group traveling one mile at a time.

You might classify all of that as charity work, but in dozens of very real ways, I was the one benefiting. The work, and the riding, were simply the means by which I learned and explored facets of cycling I had been unaware of previously. That money and awareness were raised for a very good cause made the thing karmically whole.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how often do you do charity rides? How often do you raise money for charity rides or give money to riders planning to do charity rides? And if it’s not part of your cycling life, what prevents that from becoming a part of it?

Image – Riders at the start of the Pan Mass Challenge

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  1. MattC

    I’ve been fundraising (year round, slow but steady income) for LIVESTRONG for five years now. Got involved with the Fat Cyclist back when his wife Susan was fighting cancer (she lost that battle during my first year of fundraising). Just went to my sixth LIVESTRONG event/ride this past June (the first year I actually did two of them). Yes, I know right now LIVESTRONG isn’t very popular for a lot of people…but I believe the man and the organization are two vastly different things, and continue to support the organization. Also the friends I’ve made on our ‘team’ keep me wanting to come back year after year. The LIVESTRONG staff and volunteers are top-notch! It’s my favorite supported ‘ride’ every year!

  2. Andy

    Fundraising on the bike is a great way to indulge several passions, from more training to great people to supporting what’s close to your heart. I do 3-4 a year and contribute tp half a dozen more. I’ve managed to shift pretty completely from $65 club rides to LiveStrong, MS, pediatric cancer, cancer survivor support and cancer research. LiveStrong and the MS folks could write books about how to have a great charity event, and the locals are so dedicated and sincere that minimal food and haphazard road markings are ok with me.

    I completely agree with MattC re: LiveStrong (6 years of Philly, Team fundraising prize 2009 & 2010). In fact, I think it’s the best public thing the guy ever did. Now that they don’t have so much by way of appearance fees and chartered planes it may help the bottom line.

  3. Nelson

    While I only do one one fundraising ride a year (Make-A-Wish WAM 300 mile ride) I help organize 2 the Tour de Taylor and the Race for Wishes.(including other runs, 5k, 10k, marathon through out the year). I find that charity riding speaks to a broader group and, like yourself, can inspire and motivate people to get on the bike more and more. The WAM ride is the one that gets me on the bike at the end of Feb and keeps me on the bike as long as light allows.

    I personally prefer the organizational/administrative side of charities and that is where my heart lies. I strive to make the reason you show up to my events more than just ‘supporting’ the cause…you have an AWESOME time doing it too.

    Great post & hits close to home…

  4. Les.B.

    I find not a challenge to riding at night. I love riding at night.

    The spookiness of hearing things I can’t see. Riding Palos Verdes Drive with its ocean “view” on a moonless night, hearing waves crashing somewhere in that darkness. Branches rustling in the wind, some distant wildcat yeowling.

    The sounds of the bike are more prominent. The whole of the cycling experience seems more intense.

  5. producifer

    I’ve ridden 3 of the Pablove Across America rides and they have all been extraordinary experiences. Part fundraising freakout, part personal discovery, part road bike fantasy camp. I now know a lot more about pediatric cancer research, endurance cycling & my own body’s capabilities/limits than I ever thought I would. 3 of the best weeks of my life. Highly recommended.

  6. John

    Great post! It reminds of me of how I got started. I did my first century on a hybrid bike for the American Diabetes Association. I did my second century a year later as part of the same ride but that time with a road bike. That helped me with the confidence to try the local group rides.
    Later my wife & I did the 24 Hours of Booty events. And the past two years I did the Garrett County Gran Fondo.
    As winter approaches, I’ve been kicking around ideas for events to train for in the coming spring. One thing I’ve lamented in the past is the amount of time training takes away from the family. Luckily my kids are getting to the ages (8 & 10) where it’s easier to go for longer rides. And my wife approved the purchase of a used tandem this past summer! So I’m thinking of various events we could do as a family. I can imagine us training together, rolling along some weekend morning. My 8 year old, riding with me on the tandem, will see his big brother drink some water. The 8 year old will scream at me, “Attack him! He’s finished, go! Go!” That’s how they roll.

  7. Savvycyclist

    I’ve always avoided charity rides, I wanted riding to be fun not work but last year I got involved with the “Ride to End Polio” as part of the El Tour de Tucson. Best ride ever! I’m doing it this year with my wife on our tandem and looking forward to meeting all of my fellow Rotary members and having a great ride. Combining two of my favorite things, Rotary and riding have just clicked.

  8. Aar

    I do pay rides for the ride, not the charity. By “do” I mean either ride, organize, donate to participants or volunteer because I’ve done all of those things. That most pay rides benefit a charity is a heartwarming side benefit for me.

    If a ride is more about the charity then the ride, I generally avoid it. I do not like the over-produced, hyper-expensive, poser-centric nature of rides like that (gran fondos included). It strikes me that more money is spent on these rides than the charity earns. By that, I mean airfare, lodging, dining, etc. Further, these rides give tax shelters to the service providers for the events and since those shelters are frequently charged off at prices above retail, instead of at cost, they harm taxpayers. A side of me sees it all as a colossal waste. It’s all forgiven in the name of a “good cause”.

    I’m not saying that these events are bad and that they should be curtailed. In most cases, the causes are worthy – both of the funds raised and the PR obtained. Further, the host communities benefit from the lodging, dining and entertainment spend. If the ride is worth it (awesome route, friends riding it, reasonable cost, etc), I’ll ride it. I’m just saying that I don’t ride charity rides simply for the warm fuzzies of donating to charity because direct donation is WAY more efficient. Yes, I do occasionally make direct donations instead of doing rides when I like the cause but the event crosses the lines above.

  9. Michael Schlitzer

    We have a friend who was diagnosed with early on-set Parkinson’s Disease and we used to do Davis Phinney’s Sunflower Revolution in Cincinnati, OH each year. That was just about the last time we were able to ride with Scott before Parkinson’s took that away from him.

  10. mr

    I’ll be the curmudgeon here and note that charity athletic events offer far less bang for the buck to the charity than their typical fundraising efforts, oftentimes with less than 50c of every dollar actually going towards the charity’s primary aim, versus 75-80c and upwards for the most efficient charities.

    There’s nothing wrong with raising some money and having a little fun doing so, but I wonder if more people don’t do it for the ego boost as well, when it’d just be better to go on a long ride by yourself and write a check to a cause that matters to you. In this day and age of getting hit up at the office every time there’s a 10K, MS Ride, Avon Walk, etc, the true end users of the money are getting less and less of it, while t-shirts and sag wagons proliferate.

    I’d encourage people to review and to best understand where their funds are going.

  11. Les Borean

    But in a charity ride you are supposed to wrangle friends, co-workers, family and acquaintances to chip in to “support” your participation. Depending on how much wrangling one can do, the amount could be a lot more than the rider her/himself could afford to donate. Leveraging your mileage is what it is.

    Having said that, I’m not good at wrangling, so I do your option.

  12. vtrich

    Mr. is absolutely correct,…but the in his statement is “oftentimes.” There are a number of highly efficient and creatively produced charity rides, one just needs to do a little due diligence if they are concerned about that side of the equation. I did the Pan-Mass challenge several times a number of years ago and it’s pretty amazing how efficient an event can be with a strong, focuses and driven director.

  13. MRad

    A friend of mine walked into my office roughly 8 years ago and said he wanted to raise $10,000 for injured Marines and their families. He had a nephew that had recently enlisted and wanted to do something to show support. He came up with the idea of riding from Scottsdale to San Diego with a few friends. John Greenway, Paul Thompson and company have since raised close to $2m for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, the MARSOC Foundation and Knights of Heroes. I am ver proud to count myself a member of their ranks having done the ride 4 of the 6 years.

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