Long Distance Charity Bike Rides: Serious About Fundraising

charity bike ride

Long distance cycling is considered extreme, the average joe-citizen is out of breath just thinking about a 25 kilometer commute. When you raise the the bar and start to rack up hours in the saddle, you begin to impress other riders too. But if you want to go the distance you’ll find that it’s not an easy ride… and that is exactly why long cycling distance is a particularly good challenge for charity fund raising.

In Australia, charity bike rides have become a real institution over the last decade, shifting from the soloist efforts or small groups to professionally planned and managed big group tours. The Tour de Cure, Bridge to Bridge and the TourXOz are some of the established multi-day charity rides which now attract a select group of riders capable of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good cause.

group ride australia

The idea for TourXOz was conceived in 2010 when work colleagues Gary Denman and Neil Jackson joined a cycle trip from Perth to Sydney raising money for the Smith Family. In 2013 they gathered a big bunch of friends and colleagues on the same trip, but this time they were raising money a cause much closer to their hearts. Their charity of choice was the Black Dog Institute which tackles mental health, undertakes medical research and provides support for sufferers. The recent sad news of the passing of champion Australian cyclist Stephen Wooldrige at age 39 is a tragic reminder that mental health issues affect a large proportion of the population. Statistics suggest a quarter of Australians are living with the symptoms of a mental illness but many don’t seek help.

In addition to raising money, the TourXOz ride also raises awareness for the Black Dog Institute in the press and among the communities through which the ride passes. In 2015, the ride expanded and 90 riders cycled from Adelaide to Darwin but this time with professional tour management led by Kent Williams of Entour. Williams specialises cycling tours, in particular charity rides and takes charge of reconnaissance, planning, and assembles a support team including support vehicle drivers, doctors, massage therapists and cooks.

charity ride organiser
TourXOz organisers Stefan Jansen (1), Neil Jackson (2) and Gary Denman (4) with Kent Williams (3) of Entour 

For riders the professionally managed ride delivers an experience which is close to a professional road race, complete with the exhaustion of hours in the saddle along, niggling aches and pains and a restless nights sleep in a outback motel rooms with a handful of other grumpy riders. The early morning starts shock the system into another 160km which hardens the resolve and contributes to hard-earned stories and anecdotes when it is all over.

The modern day charity cycling tour is more than a bunch of men and women cycling hard for a good cause, on top of press and awareness they are an important capital injection for the charities. The TourXOz raised $400,000 in their 2015 ride from Adelaide to Darwin, The Captains Ride by the Steve Waugh Foundation has set a $1 million fundraising goal for 2017 which goes to grants towards cures for rare diseases. The well-known Tour de Cure operates various rides across the nation and since 2007 has raised over $30 million which have gone to over 266 projects which are seeking to cure cancer.

charity cycling australia

One of the reasons that the fund raising from charity bike rides is so successful is that many of the riders have a corporate background. Cycling is still the new golf so riders can leverage their passion for cycling while raising awareness and cash for a worthy cause. Well-connected and influential riders attract other influentials and corporate sponsors.

On the charity rides you are sure to spot a few fancy bikes. You get to leave your puncture repair kit and pump at home because the mechanical support will give a fast wheel change. As a hot tip, deep profile aerowheels don’t work very well when the wind picks up and you still have 120km to ride. But in contrast to a professional race, no one is out to win the race because it is a group effort and the fit and experienced riders support the slower and less experienced. It is as though everyone is on the same team with the same goal so is immensely rewarding, even if it is hard.

long distance cycling

Step up to the challenge and sign up to a charity bike ride. It is even better when you get colleagues or cycling buddies involved and can join forces in training and raising money with a Bunnings sausage sizzle. Some of the established rides can be sold out, past riders get the first choice to secure a spot. You can also try some of the many shorter one or two day charity rides or find a worthwhile cause and embark on a journey to create your own big charity bike ride.


Up-and-coming long distance charity rides:

The Captains Ride November 2017 through Tasmania (booked out) website
TourXOz 2017 from Perth to Broome website
Tour de Cure Multiple Rides in 2017 website
2018 Bridge to Bridge from Brisbane to Sydney (2017 booked out) website
Zoo2Zoo October 2017 – Sydney to Dubbo website
1200kms for kids October 2017 – Sydney to Brisbane website
RMHC Ride for Sick Kids South Australia November 2017 in South Australia website

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About The Author

Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a professional design business, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.

9 responses to “Long Distance Charity Bike Rides: Serious About Fundraising”

  1. Antony Daamen says:

    I’d love to do these rides but as a ‘normal wage earner’ it is hard for me to justify 100’s of dollars for an entree fee + needed to raise x amount of dollars.
    So I ride the ‘Great Cycle Challenge” Same principle except you can do it from home, and it is for free 🙂

  2. For long tours, you will pay thousands from your own pocket which cover costs and in addition often have travel costs (flight) and cost of any extra.

    Typically you have an obligation to raise a certain amount of money (and if you fall short, you make up the difference.

    If it becomes a cost that it too high, then it is fair to say that it may not be right for you. However if you view it as a type of holiday – you save up and will have a brilliant time, you have to work hard on the bike, but have a massive reward of contributing to a worthy cause – this provides the satisfaction from this commitment and joining a big group of others on the challenge.

    There are one day rides such as the MS Sydney to the Gong or other formats such as home trainer challengers – find what is right for you.

  3. Gary says:

    I agree with what Antony said. Cheaper to go and stay in a country pub, and pump out the kilometres – and yet still chat to a local in a craft shop when buying a postcard, or when approaching a farm house to ask for water – and being greeted well, unexpectedly.

    And if people are so charitable with their time (one of the lines no doubt used at a speech for any charity ride), why not volunteer in a nursing home every 2nd Sunday instead?

  4. Rodney Olsen says:

    I’ll be leading around 30 cyclists on a ride from Perth, WA to Newcastle, NSW in September/October 2018. We’ll be raising money for highly vulnerable children in various parts of the world. http://rideforcompassion.com

  5. Calvin says:

    Not a fan. If you did a little research on the percentage of funds that actually make it to the cause, you’d choose your charities a lot wiser next time. I’ve not seen a cycling event that even gets close to 25% of the fund going to the end cause. Mostly swallowed up by the event fees themselves and then admin of the charity itself.

    On riders, most have to take the risk of ridiculously high pledges. The rest of them are doing it because it’s fun with the charity as an add-on, with the rest of them not even giving a squat about the charity part (around the bay vic for example most don’t even know it’s a charity event). /endrant

  6. Calvin, take some time to read the article. The charities listed require the rider to pay the ‘event’ costs which cover all of the costs.

    This is separate from the fundraising money – all money raise from the TourXOz goes to the charity. On that ride (which I have done myself) rider also attend events such as educational workshops to understand more about the cause and during the ride actively take part in other events to support the efforts – some are awareness events which get media attention and some are directly with people affected.

    The pledges are high… and I worked hard to raise double and am proud of this achievement and knowing the effect that this has.

    By all means have a look at the charity and event and make sure it is doing it correctly and transparently – have a look at the Tour de Cure for example, they have an open book and on their website you can see where every single dollar of their finances goes.

    • Sian Holway says:

      I am heading to Australia from England in November 2018 and intend to cycle from Melbourne to Sydney to raise money for my local Riding for the disabled group at home in Devon. Any suggestions of people who may want to join me or decent/cheap places to stay/camp? And even more importantly, lend me a bike!?

  7. Rod says:

    Must admit the Tour De Cure Signature Tour Mackay to Cape Tribulation looks pretty cool…

  8. Sian, I think a lot of planning will help and there is a co-op in Melbourne and perhaps some other community oriented groups who may be a logical connection to support with a bike.

    You could also Pitch to Reid Cycles as they are an Australian brand who are also selling in the UK so if you were to ‘give back’ in terms of having them as a main business supporter and using social media etc, then this could be of interest and provides a win for all.

    Otherwise for a bike, you may have to buy, it could be second hand but again, if you identify like-minded groups, they may be able to provide some support or organisation such as locating a bike and even organising stops on the way. It means you become a ‘promoter’ of sorts to draw attention to the worthy charities, but can garnish the support of communities during your travel who can assist with accommodation.

    If you wing it, I am sure you will have a good time, though could be a bit harder. As a tip, take safety seriously – specifically with great lighting for high visibility on the roads.