Big Wheels, Big Heart:
Pedaling Toward a Better World
or, No Fair Riding Slower Just to Get a Better View
by Heather Hewett
Have you ever thought, even just for a moment, that you might like to end the
routine of kickboxing classes and yoga
with a real challenge? Say, something as impressive as a marathon or a cross-country
bike trip? Before you banish that daydream, would you do it to raise money for
a good cause? And if that's not enough incentive, would you do it to meet people
and find romance?
Countless groups organize athletic events that will challenge your body and
let you to raise money for your cause of choice. You've probably seen brochures
for the Avon 3-Day Walk or the
American Cancer Association
Walks. If you want something on wheels, there's the 150-mile MS
Bike Tour and, for the truly brave, the American Lung Association's Big
Ride Across America.
if you're looking for the best combination of physical challenge and social
interaction, nothing can beat the AIDSRide.
There are five AIDSRides in the continental U.S., plus the AIDS
Vaccine Ride in Alaska and the Paradise
Ride in Hawaii. This event brings together people who have committed themselves
to biking a crazy distance in order to raise money for the treatment and cure
of AIDS. This means that the people you'll meet will be have both a social conscience...
and killer thighs. It's the perfect opportunity to conduct a surreptitious search
It's Almost as Easy as Riding a Bike
You don't have to be a biking demon to do an AIDSRide. Plenty of novice
bikers (including famous people) have signed up. You do need to be able
to commit some of your weekend to long training
rides, but that's not a bad thing. They're organized by ride leaders, and
there's a level for everyone, from absolute beginners to advanced riders.
Tale of Two-Wheeled Romance Number One
On one of the last training rides before the Boston to New York AIDSRide,
Chris spotted Susi in Piermont, NY. After the AIDSRide, they started dating
and got married in Piermont. Some of their wedding guests biked the 25 miles
to Piermont from Manhattan.
Without the AIDSRide, Susi doubts that they would have started
dating. "For the first time since I was younger, I had the excitement and
the freedom of training on the open road. I was so confident," says Susi.
"It was the best summer of my life."
Adventures in the Outback
One of the best things about doing a big event like the AIDSRide is that you'll
find new geographical horizons. There's nothing like leaving your own stomping
grounds for meeting new people and there's nothing like an AIDSRide for providing
you with the motivation to do it. Recently, my training schedule propelled me
off of Manhattan and across the George Washington Bridge. All of a sudden the
entire Hudson Valley was mine to explore.
You've never checked out those surfers
in Cali? Sign up for the California AIDSRide and you'll see practically
the whole darn state, from San Francisco to L.A.
Want to meet someone with a Southern drawl? Sign up for the DC
ride and look for your Rhett
Butler or Scarlett O'Hara on wheels.
Meet Some Bikers... of the Non-Harley Variety
AIDSRiders come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and orientations. Because
the Ride draws from a wide selection of the population, you'll have your pick:
straight, gay, bi, bleeding heart liberal, Log
Cabin Republicans. There are athletes, non-athletes, and converted couch
But all AIDSRiders tend to be open to challenges and new experiences. Generally,
everyone is friendly, outgoing, and energetic. If not, the collective energy
inspires everyone in this direction. The sense of making good on a hugely enormous
commitment (biking several hundred miles for several days, depending on which
ride you do) brings people together very quickly. And the bonding potential
is out of sight.
Here are several strategies to help you meet people during training and during
the Ride itself.
Fundraising: Don't be scared off by raising money. In fact, the fundraising
is a great way to meet new people. It's also an excuse, if you need one, to
get back in touch with friends or exes. Your noble purpose is sure to impress,
and quite a few people will want to get back in touch with you. Even that old
college flame who dumped you will look on with awe.
Social events: The entire AIDSRide is a singles scene in disguise. All
of a sudden, your empty calendar is full. You're going to parties with free
food and drink (Tanqueray gin, what else?) and freely exchanging telephone numbers
and email addresses with other single riders. You're dropping by ice cream socials
where you can kvetch
with other bikers about the cars driving in the bike lane. You're attending
evening seminars on how to change a tire, in which you'll be able to check out
the local bike shop's biker babes and studs. You're going to picnics that put
your company barbecue to shame. Friendly strangers actually want to meet you!
And it's all for a great cause.
During the Twin Cities
Ride, a friend of mine participated in an evening of matchmaking where people
filled out forms that specified their gender and the gender of the person they
were seeking. "The choices were endless: straight female, bi female, straight
male, bi male, transgendered female, transgendered male, lesbian and gay male,"
she says. "I was overwhelmed by the possibilities."
your new bike gear: Ever wonder why bikers wear those crazy, skin-tight
outfits? It's because they have great bods. And you, too, will be able to wear
your new, sexy clothes with attitude. Although you could buy
most of your gear online, the Big To Do suggests that you go try it on in
person. The social potential is much greater in three-dimensions. Plus, you'll
make friends at your local bike store, which leads us to...
New places and a new attitude: Sign up for the AIDSRide and suddenly
you'll be going places you've never gone to before. It turns out that bike shops
are great places to meet other newly enthusiastic bikers, not to mention the
very cute bike mechanics who will fix
your flat. You'll learn how to talk about your recently acquired gear like
a pro, and strangers will start asking you for your opinion on this year's Tour
de France. Your newly developed self-confidence (and killer biker thighs)
will enable you to stop that cutie on the subway who's reading Lance
Armstrong's biography, "It's
Not About the Bike." (You have to raise money, after all, right?)
On the Road: Every weekend, you'll have countless training rides to
choose from. There are beginner training rides where no one else has been a
bike since second grade either. And on these rides, the best way to stop thinking
about the pain in your quads is to talk to the person next to you.
You'll be surprised by how easy it is to start conversations and how much there
is to talk about: road conditions, when you're stopping for lunch, what your
butt is feeling like. And unlike, say, the bar scene, the pressure is off. An
open road and the whole day in front of you provide a ripe setting for extended
philosophical meditations. Whether or not you find your soul mate, you'll have
fun in the process.
Next: Finding a Tent Mate, More Tales of Two-Wheeled
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