Charity Bike Rides: a Great Way to Spend a Weekend

Just in case you need an excuse to saddle up every weekend from now until Thanksgiving, there is none better than cycling for a cause. Charity bicycle rides have already begun in earnest throughout the U.S., and as usual they are drawing large crowds of supporters and families cheering on each rider for a good cause.

Entry fees, fund raising efforts and sponsorships raise money for a host of causes that we hold near and dear – cancer research, diabetes research, heart disease research, pet rescue and many more. Luckily for weekend warriors participating in charity bike rides, absolute six-pack fitness is not required, since these types of events are not competitive. But that is not to say you shouldn’t train for a charity bike ride – you should. The good news is, conditioning rides in preparation for charity bike rides are a great way to enjoy cycling regularly, and to avoid some serious pain – you know, the kind that makes you curse yourself for thinking you could do this without training in advance.

Many cyclists like to ride in pairs, which facilitates training and camaraderie that fuels success. Riding with a friend is reassuring, especially for new riders who aren’t fully indoctrinated to the cycling lifestyle of spandex and flat tires.

charity bike ride to conquer cancer
image courtesy of Lam Chihang

Success is also more likely for cyclists who are committed to the cause. While some cyclists are happy to commit to charity rides for a wide range of beneficiaries, others will seek out events geared toward a specific cause. For so many charity bike riders, their mission is to raise funds and awareness of a condition that affected them personally; the loss of a mother to breast cancer, the loss of a child to leukemia, or a family history of heart disease. There are cyclists who are also committed to making the world a better place for abandoned pets and wounded wildlife. Charity bike rides have been formed to save historic buildings from demolition, to augment school supply costs, and to help feed impoverished children.

It’s a good idea to do your homework before submitting your entry fees to see how your chosen charity handles its funds. Sites like provide insight on more than 5,500 charitable organizations to make sure your fundraising efforts are well distributed.

There are plenty of ways to psyche yourself up for a season of charity rides, but it’s still a good idea to set goals for yourself. Once your goals are established you can plan a realistic training schedule, and give yourself time to gather sponsor commitments.  Check area cycle shops or cycling organizations for charity ride training events, which are held routinely in most cities. The rule of thumb for a 25-50 mile charity ride is a five week training plan, and 10 weeks for a 100 mile ride.

If you commit to the training program, you can make it to the 100 mile marker, but there will still be challenges. Your body may have a bit of a muscle spasm fit, you may have three flat tires in your first 10 miles – you’re human, and *stuff* happens. One episode of unpleasantness can sometimes turn into a cloud of self-doubt, which may be your biggest challenge to overcome.  Pay attention here, we want to help you succeed.

Even the most experienced riders can get off to a crummy start. Listen to your body, especially in the first 20 miles of your ride – remember, this is not a race. If you’re gasping for breath trying to keep pace with faster riders, cut it out! Lay back, ride at a pace that would allow you to carry on a conversation. You have a long ride ahead, save your energy.

Before you make it to the 40 mile marker, you might find yourself in a ready-to-quit state of mind. This is when you really need to self-motivate and focus on achievable goals. Set your sights no further than your next rest stop, and fuel up with energy bars. Once you arrive at this destination, begin prepping for the next goal – which will be your next rest stop at mile marker 60.

This is usually the point in a ride in which your posterior goes into full on revolt – it is calling your mother bad names, wishing earthquakes, famine and pestilence on your brain for putting it through such a venture without allowing it a vote in the decision. If you have ridden a 100 mile charity bike ride, you know I am not exaggerating even a little here.

Provided you have already installed the most accommodating bike seat, use chamois cream to prevent chafing, and wear the best padded bike shorts money can buy, you will need to make further accommodations to appease your pained and angry buttocks; ride out of the saddle as much as you can. Your pre-charity ride training should include out-of-saddle practice for just such an emergency.

By the time you reach the 80 mile marker, you have pretty much established the fact that you can, indeed, finish this. Your back and shoulders may be disagreeing with you, but who’s in charge here anyway? That’s right, you are the road master. To appease your aching back and shoulders, change hand positions on the handlebars frequently to distribute stress in your joints. Wear riding gloves that offer the right level and placement of padding to keep numbness at bay. Most importantly, stop and stretch when you need to.

The greatest thing about a 100 mile ride? Completing it! It’s an incredible accomplishment for body, soul, and the charitable organization you’re supporting.

If you’re a charity ride newbie, start small – 5-10 mile rides. Work up to a 100 mile ride, no need to jump the gun.

charity bike ride
image courtesy of Lisa Adamson

Below is a list of just a few of the upcoming charity rides across the U.S. in 2013:

American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure: 80 cities, 44 states nationwide. Check the website for your city and state.

American Lung Association: visit the website for charity ride information.

  • Reach the Beach (Oregon) — Ride starts in four locations: Portland (100 miles), Newberg (80 miles), Amity (55 miles), and Grand Ronde (28 miles). Date: May 18, 2013.
  • Ride Around the Sound (Washington) — A one-day charity ride features five different lengths within a scenic loop around the southern Puget Sound, ending with a ferry ride to the finish party in West Seattle. Rides of 100, 88, 75 and 45 miles, and a family ride. Date: Sept. 14, 2013.
  • Big Ride Across America – A seven-week, fully supported cross-country bike tour that starts in Seattle, June 17 – Aug. 3, 2013.
  • Autumn Escape Bike Trek (Massachusetts) – A 160-mile bike tour along Cape Cod from Plymouth to Provincetown; a two-day, 105-mile option is also available.  Dates: September 27-29, 2013.

Breakaway from Cancer (California) – L’Etape du California incorporates two stages of the Amgen Tour of California to raise money for cancer research. Mount Diablo –  April 28, 2013, and Escondido — May 11, 2013.

Cycle for Life (Cystic Fibrosis) – A one-day bike ride with several mileage options. To find an event, visit Aptalis CF Cycle for Life. There, you will find about 50 rides (updated for 2013). Check early to register.

Habitat 500 Bike Ride (Habitat for Humanity) – 135 charity cyclists tour a different area in Minnesota every year, visit and help at Habitat for Humanity worksites. Dates: July 14-20, 2013. 

MS Bike Rides (National Multiple Sclerosis Society) – more than 100 bike tours across the U.S. Here’s a map with all the MS bike rides. Among them are these tours in Pacific Coast area:


Davis Phinney Foundation charity bike ride
image courtesy of Davis Phinney Foundation

Davis Phinney Foundation (Parkinson’s Disease) – Raises funding to help support those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.. In addition, cyclists can form their own challenge bike rides to raise funds for Parkinson’s disease.

  • Ride Ataxia Bike rides benefit Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. Dates for 2013: Portland – Sept. 21, NorCal (Davis) – June 1, Denton, TX – March 23, Channahon, IL – July 21, Blue Bell, PA – Oct. 13, and Orlando – Nov. 3.
  •  Ride Ataxia NorCal — Options of 15, 30, or 50 miles. Benefits the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance. June 1, 2013 
  • Ride Ataxia Portland — Rides of 6, 12, 25 and 50 miles on Sauvie Island, about 10 miles northwest of Portland. Sept. 21, 2013.

    charity bike ride
    image courtesy of Apterygial

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