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Charity bike rides are a great way to own the road for a cause

Published April 27, 2013

The proper integration of bicycle lanes has been a hot topic in major metropolitan areas such as Toronto. But beyond the commuting debate, there is the issue of speed: we rarely can do more than 50 km/h on those streets.

So when someone says, “Let’s take over six lanes of two of Canada’s busiest expressways and turn them into a no-speed-limit joy ride,” it immediately becomes incredibly appealing.

Riding down Toronto’s Don Valley Parkway at full speed is an exhilarating thing to do. Same with the Gardiner Expressway. Whether riding a bike is something you do regularly or not, this should be on your bucket list if you have not yet tried it.

I am not advocating for breaking the law: the folks at the Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart have worked hard to make it legal — once a year.

With 13,000 participants, the Ride for Heart is the largest charity cycling event in Canada and will take place this year on June 2. The objective is to raise funds. A cool $5 million was raised at last year’s ride for heart and stroke research, education and advocacy.

The following week, about 5,000 riders will take to the streets and ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls, and back, in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.

Here again: big crowd, police escorts and partially shut-down roads, lots of fun, and millions raised for the Princess Margaret Hospital ($18.1 million in 2012).

While those two charity rides are among the largest, both in terms of number of participants and funds raised, they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the charity cycling scene.

Some rides have been organized for years, such as the Tour for Kids, Tour de Creemore or the ultra- exclusive Tour de Bleu (no less than $10,000 in pledges per person), while others are in their infancy — the Ride Don’t Hide event in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association, taking place in Newmarket on June 23, is a good example of that.

The concept behind the idea of a charity ride is pretty straightforward: ride your bike, raise funds, and yes, have a memorable experience.

Participating in one of these rides is uplifting: they are very social in nature and all of the efforts prior to the day (fundraising) and on the day (riding) support a common cause. Riding 25 km, 50 km or 200 km can be a hard thing to do.

But the pain and suffering on the saddle is still nowhere close to what a sick patient would experience; and this is the very reason why many put their helmets on and pedal.

Do your research, pick a cause and saddle up.

Riding is good for charity, good for your own health and it gives you the rare and fun chance to be an outlaw, within the law, for one day.

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