There are plenty of reasons to enjoy cycling: get fit, enjoy the outdoors, spend time with family and friends, or achieve a goal of riding a specific distance in a certain amount of time. Cycling is great exercise. A 130-pound person can burn 470 calories an hour cycling at a moderate pace – and have fun while doing it. What if you could do all the above while helping those in need? If you enjoy riding your bike and have a desire to make a positive difference, cycling for a cause is the perfect fit.
Many charities use cycling events to raise funds and awareness of their cause. On any given weekend, anywhere in the country, you can participate in a charity ride either solo or as part of a team. Charity rides can be organized by the benefitting organization or a community group (a Rotary club, for example) raising funds on behalf of several organizations. Charity rides cater to every skill level from a short “fun ride” to a 100-mile “Century ride” and beyond. Whether you want to fight hunger, raise funds to support the cure of a disease, honor a loved one or save the environment, there is a ride for you.
Generally, organized rides have multiple corporate and individual sponsors with the revenue offsetting the cost of putting on the event and hopefully adding to the net proceeds. Riders pay a registration fee that often includes a commemorative item (a water bottle, jersey, etc.); this fee should also cover event costs and support the organization. If it is important to you to know how much of your entry fee is going toward the cause you wish to support, be sure to inquire beforehand.
Each rider (or team) is required to do fundraising in support of the organization, or if the ride is organized by a community organization proceeds may be earmarked to a number of entities. Prizes are often awarded to the top fundraisers.
There are two types of courses: “open,” meaning you will be riding with vehicular traffic, or “closed,” where traffic is rerouted away from cyclists. The course will have “SAG stops” where you can rest, enjoy a variety of snacks and have access to facilities. Some rides also will offer support vehicles that patrol the course to offer assistance.
While charity rides are an excellent way to build your riding skills, there are a few things to consider before signing up: You will be riding on the road with a large number of other cyclists of various abilities – be sure you are comfortable in this environment and have a knowledge of hand signals and riding etiquette. A helmet will be required, and your bike should be in good working order.
For those who want an experience beyond a local day-long event, there are rides covering multiple states: the seven-week cross-country Big Ride Across America raises funds and awareness for the American Lung Association. Over a period of 48 days, participants ride almost 3,000 miles from Seattle to Washington, D.C., passing through 12 states along the way.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers more than 100 multi-day Bike MS events across the country each year, raising critical funds for the organization.
The 8th Annual Ride 4 Ronald to be held on Oct. 15 here in Lake Nona is a great way to experience cycling for a cause. Proceeds benefit the more than 2,000 families who turn to the three Ronald McDonald Houses located in Lake Nona and Orlando each year for no-cost lodging while their critically ill children are hospitalized. Riders of all ages can choose from routes ranging from 3.5 to 60 miles.
Cycling for charity is a win-win for you and your favorite cause, so give it a try. Like all things cycling related, you’ll find yourself coming back for more.