By Karen Kefauver, Spin City
A pesky hip injury wasn’t going to get in the way of Greg McPheeters’ upcoming bike tour. In fact, it motivated him to take care of it and get more physically fit before he starts the Climate Ride — a five-day, 292-mile tour in Northern California.
The ride starts Sunday in Fortuna in Humboldt County and ends at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The mission of the ride is to raise money for projects and organizations that work on climate change, clean energy, active transportation, sustainable infrastructure and public health.
McPheeters is one of a dozen local residents who have formed a Climate Ride team called Bike Santa Cruz County. In addition to rigorous workouts, the team participated in fundraising. Each cyclist was required to raise $2,800. The team collectively raised $44,710, exceeding its goal of $35,000. A portion of those funds support Bike Santa Cruz County and other beneficiaries. Bike Santa Cruz County promotes bicycling through advocacy, education and community building.
The cycling team has been training together for months to build strength and endurance in preparation for riding 40 to 60 miles a day during the Climate Ride.
Three weekends ago, the team rode to San Juan Bautista. It’s 80 miles round-trip. This past weekend, it rode up Swanton Loop, then through Bonny Doon and up Smith Grade.
“That was about 40 hilly miles. I was definitely tired, but I’m fine. I’m ready,” said McPheeters, 34.
The Northern California ride is one of 10 biking and hiking events offered this year by Climate Ride, a nonprofit organization that uses sports to “inspire and empower citizens to work toward a new energy future.”
After riding and settling into their campsites, the cyclists can listen to guest speakers — specialists in topics like bicycle advocacy, glacial melting and sustainable farming.
“One of the coolest things about the ride is it is environmentally focused and draws people from interesting fields from throughout the country,” said Amelia Conlen, the director of the nonprofit Bike Santa Cruz County and the team captain for the Santa Cruz group. “I met and rode with professors, solar advocates, ocean researchers and farmers.”
She attended the Climate Ride last year, along with Santa Cruz residents Steve Lustgarden and Connie Gabriel-Wilson. All three look forward to the 2016 edition. About 150 riders total are expected to participate in the pedaling adventure. In particular, Conlen enjoyed making new connections.
“Another part of why it’s an awesome ride is there are all levels of cyclists,” said Conlen, 30. “One girl rode for the first time only three months before the ride. There were also groups who raced and who were hammering through each day. I got to know most people because there was always someone going my pace.”
At least one Santa Cruz cyclist, Nils Tikkanen, plans to push himself, even opting to ride a century one day. An experienced road racer both with UC Santa Cruz and Team Bicycle Trip, Tikkanen, 34, currently races on the track.
“Track racing does not translate to five-day tour fitness, but years of riding and my 40- to 50-mile semi-regular bike commute to work will help,” he said. “I’m excited to see new sights and not have to carry 30 pounds of camping gear.”
The scenic route will surely help propel tired legs and lungs.
“We start in the Avenue of the Giants, go through the redwoods, up and over the coastal range to the Mendocino coast,” Conlen said. “Then we cycle down the coast and come inland at the Russian River Valley. We head back out at Tomales Bay to Point Reyes and end at the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Ultimately, the event is about local community.
“There’s a synergy that builds amongst people involved with different organizations. You can go on the ride, take your time and learn about issues that are important and how to make changes,” Conlen said.
Karen Kefauver (www.karenkefauver.com) is a freelance writer and avid cyclist who covers sports and travel and is based in Santa Cruz. Her Spin City bike column appears monthly and was launched in 2009.