Bike Rides for Charity: Our seven step plan
Award-winning travel writer and experienced charity rider Carole Edrich guides us through planning for a charity bike ride, from picking your charity to prepping your kit.
"It’s difficult to beat the buzz that comes from cycling to help others, which is why I do at least one charity bike ride every year. I’m not the only person to do this, as can be seen from the huge variety of charity adventures, trips, sportifs, trails and challenges available to those interested. I’ve written this guide to help you decide which charity ride is best for you, and how to get ready for the ride.
Find out more about Carole at the foot of this blog post.
Decide on your charity.
Maybe you’re passionate about a charity, in which case the choice will be clear. If you’ve decided you want to do a ride to help someone but are not sure who, take a look at the charities supported by Rutland Cycling as you might find a good match there. Since this is my guide I don’t need to be impartial, so why not consider helping the organisation I support? Cyclists Fighting Cancer is a small charity that provides bikes and trikes to children who have been affected by cancer and their families too, when appropriate. If you’ve still not found a good match, take a look at my blog post on choosing a charity or trawl the website Charity Challenge, which has a good selection and easy search process. If these conventional ways of charitable giving don’t satisfy you, another option is to ask people to take a ‘simple green action.’
Decide on your challenge.
Choose something realistic (this is something I’m not too good at myself). While it's great to aim high, keep it within your cycling ability and make sure you'll be able to complete it. If there’s a chance you won’t complete it, make sure that you have enough support not to suffer by not doing so and that you’re not sponsored for completion either. If you're an advanced cyclist or feel like you'll be able to put in the required training and preparation then you might want to try a long trip. There are hundreds of such exciting cycle challenges available, such as crossing Africa, 100-mile sportifs, taking a long ride around the UK or classics such as London to Paris or Lands End to John O’Groats. Consider who might be going with you – Rutland Cycling supports a number of charity rides where all ages can participate. In these it’s that everyone’s cycling together that makes it such fun. Depending on your situation and abilities, a route around your local town, city or region can just as much of a challenge and an achievement in itself.
Plan your training.
The training you need will depend on your level of fitness, the type of ride you’re considering, what you’ll be carrying and on the weather. Most cycle charity rides have been designed for people of average fitness who are willing to prepare by training hard, so bear this in mind when you make your choice.
If you’re not a regular cyclist, build your mileage up gradually as this will decrease likely injuries. Look to develop the speed at which you cycle, it’s this cadence that helps develop cardiovascular capacity, and will help you get a good base level of fitness. If you’ve been a sporadic cyclist, start building a more regular programme into your routine and develop your fitness from there. If you’re cycle fit and commute to work regularly or do regular rides, consider incorporating a few longer distance rides into your cycling and you should be fine. If you need advice, visit a Rutland Cycling shop and have a little chat with one of their cycling experts.
Plan and get your kit.
This all depends on what you’re doing. A bike ride around Rutland Water doesn’t need much, and if you’re hiring a bike, you can rely on the people at Rutland Cycling to make sure you’ve got what you need.
Consider how much luggage you will be taking and whether you’ll need to carry all your water or buy it along the way. Do you need tools, a pump and pedals? Long distance riders do much better with clip-in pedals and cleats, so if you decide to go that way make sure you’ve practised before you leave. What sort of saddle and tyres do you need? I was converted to Kevlar tyres in Argentina where thorns lie like caltraps on the roads and punctures are frustratingly all too common. Plan to pack light and bring essentials. The rest is up to you.
Set up your sponsorship.
The easiest ways to gather money are online, with sites such as justgiving.com and virginmoneygiving.com. They allow gift aid reclamation from those in the country and simplify the administration, although they do take a fee. Alternatively create your own sponsorship form, taking pledges before and money after, or just get people to put money in a box.
Tell your friends and family, your colleagues at work, people wherever you go. Consider telephoning the local paper, as they’re always looking for stories. Once you’re able to take donations or pledges any publicity you can get makes sense. Use facebook, twitter and other social media and see if there are any online sites that might take your story as well.
Go for it – and keep talking!
Don’t think that it’s all over once you’ve started, or even once your charity ride is done. Keep talking about it, tell people of your experiences. You may get more donations and will help your charity by raising its profile too.
Learn from my mistakes
I’ve always believed that it’s unfair to ask people to sponsor me for something that comes easy so I find a ride that will be extremely challenging, but that that I think I have some chance of hitting nonetheless. When I went through chemotherapy, riding anywhere at all was an achievement, so I tweeted the time I was able to spend on the bike every day to raise money for Cyclists Fighting Cancer. Before getting ill, I cycled through all the vineyards of Argentina for MENCAP; a 3,500km trip uphill that took me 4 months. I wish I had known about Anna’s Hope Challenge the year after chemo as it would have been a perfect combination of fun, challenge and charitable endeavour for me at that time. A year after chemo I only just managed to ride down Mt Teide (Europe’s largest mountain, in Tenerife) and made myself ill as a result. Last year (two years after chemo) I rode from London to Trim in Ireland for Cyclists Fighting Cancer. This year I started working towards an Etape du Tour, but have realised I’ve probably taken on too much and am looking at something else that I can do instead. Learn from my mistakes and make your charity ride choices more realistic.
The trick is to do something you enjoy that stretches you, that you can complete, and that catches your friends’ and colleagues’ imagination. That will encourage them to donate.
One final piece of advice
You’re reading this because like me you love cycling. Don’t forget this, or arrange a challenge that might jeopardise your pleasure. Wherever you go, be considerate to others and above all, have fun!"
Carole Edrich is an award-winning travel writer and experienced charity rider. She was recently presented with the first Adrian Dewey Award for ‘the person who has overcome the most on a bike for the benefit of others’. She tweets at @CyclistOnChemo and @C_E, her personal photo blog is at www.moblog.net/Dhamaka and her website at www.webwandering.com