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.
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.
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.
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.
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