Think you can cover 545 miles of California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, on the seat of a bike? If so, there’s still time to register for the AIDS/LifeCycle noncompetitive bike ride, June 2-8.
L.A.-based visual artist André Goeritz has a reason to believe anyone can do it: He himself was overweight and out of shape when he undertook the challenge in 2008. During his six months of training (riding 10-12 hours per week), he lost 40 pounds and gained inspiration to keep going—even returning to tackle the ride again in 2010. He shares what makes this grueling event worth the effort.
The route is famous for beautiful scenery. What was your favorite spot?
Day Four, Paso Robles to Santa Maria, is visually spectacular. Views from the top of the “Evil Twin” climb are incredible—especially from the vantage point of the second hill.
How about accommodations?
You camp in a tent with one other person. The organizers provide everything: huge shower trucks, amazing meals. You just bring a sleeping bag. Each morning, you throw everything on a truck, and it’s waiting for you at your destination. They assign spaces, so you have neighbors and start to form a little community.
You do lots of long rides. What’s special about this one?
The diversity. Over the course of the week, you meet so many different people, from all walks of life, that you’d never meet otherwise. Anybody who does it finds people to hang out with.
Still, it’s a lot of work. Any fun involved?
Day Five there’s a lot of climbing, but all the quad pain is forgotten because it’s “Red Dress Day.” Originally, riders wore red jerseys to support those living with HIV/AIDS. This tradition morphed into everyone throwing a red dress over their regular cycling garb. I added yellow pigtails to my helmet, going as Pippi Longstocking.
What moment stands out in your memory?
The candlelight vigil held on the last night, remembering all those who have passed from AIDS. Candles were handed out, and everyone headed to the beach. We formed a circle, lit the candles and stood in silence for about five minutes. It was incredibly moving.
What does it take to finish this ride?
A commitment to challenge yourself to go beyond what you think you can do. But know that there’s a great support system around to give you all the help you need.
Participants must raise $3,000 each, which goes toward ride support and two nonprofits: the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Visit AIDSLifeCycle.org for a full route map and more information.