Charity rides are where you give money to go on a supported ride with a few dozen to a few hundred other philanthrocyclists like yourself. These feel-good events will let you spend tax-deductible money on important stuff and you get to go on a no-worries ride through usually fantastic scenery and what's even better -- you don't have to bring your own food.
This Saturday, May 10, World Bicycle Relief kicks off the summer charity ride season in Mill Valley with an easy quintessentially California pedal through the hills.
To learn more about what's billed as the quintessential California ride, I talked to Brooke Siezak, of World Bicycle Relief, the nonprofit that's putting it on. She told me that there is still space on the ride, but registration is limited to only 100 riders, so if you want to ensure your spot, get to the website ASAP. The ride is a suggested donation of $134. But that money doesn't just pay for your energy bars and complimentary swag.
Proceeds from the ride go primarily to provide bikes to those who need them in rural Africa. "Access to reliable transportation in places where people typically walk everywhere can radically transform the trajectory of someone's life," Siezak said. "With the increased efficiency that a bicycle provides, people can accomplish life-changing things. World Bicycle Relief provides bikes to students and health care workers through study-to-own and work-to-own programs. "
"Students who used to walk many miles to school and who would often arrive too tired to study, once they have a bike, they are able to commute to school quickly and arrive ready to study. Health care workers are able to visit several patients a day and provide better and more consistent care with the use of a bike. And, entrepreneurs (farmers and builders) who buy the bikes, see an increase their productivity and profits."
If you can't find the time to make it to Mill Valley this time to ride around Muir Woods on this lovely route, you can throw the World Bicycle Relief fund a few dollars online.
World Bicycle Relief is just one of many charity rides going on this summer. Some fill up fast, like the Levi's Gran Fondo that happens later this year. Others let you show up the day of the ride. Some ask you to raise funds, others will just take your money. Regardless which ones you ride, they're good motivation to get out and ride, and provide an opportunity to ride with plenty of other cyclists of all skill levels. Here are a few of the big ones coming up in the next few months that might be worth putting on the calendar:
• Ride 4 A Reason takes place May, 17. The route is from Oakland to Sacramento and the proceeds go to enrichment programs in Oakland public schools.
• The Gene Cerise Memorial Coast Classic Bike Ride, in Cambria, CA on May 31 benefits youth programs in the area.
• Bike For Breath, in San Mateo on July 21 benefits Breath California.
• Napa Valley Ride to Defeat ALS takes place September, 27.
• The Breast Cancer Awareness California Bike Ride will take place October 5-13 starting in Yosemite National Park.
Of course, that's just the beginning. With rides benefiting everything from local conservation efforts, to medical research happening all year round, it's easy to find somewhere to dump your excess cash for a good cause. For more ideas you can check out this list, which doesn't have links for some reason, or this other list, which is very internet circa 1998.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.