The 2019 AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles may be more than eight months away, but the kickoff training ride for the epic 7-day journey to raise critically needed funds for HIV/AIDS-related services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center will take place on Saturday, October 13.
Whether you’re already signed up or just considering joining AIDS/LifeCycle, the first official training ride of the season at Lake Balboa Park will have something for everyone.
“People from all fitness levels do the ride.” says Cailin Lafontaine, director of AIDS/LifeCycle’s Southern California Office.. “There are so many reasons why people participate. It’s a powerful personal physical challenge and a great way to know you are impacting the future and ensuring people have the care that they need. It’s also a great way to see California.”
The 2019 AIDS/LifeCycle will take place June 2-8. The annual event raises critically needed support for the HIV-related services at the Center as well as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
Among those who plan to take part in the kickoff ride is Maryann Hernandez, who is new to AIDS/LifeCycle.
“I’m in my 60s and this is my first time riding,” Hernandez says. “A friend of mine has a team and has been very inspirational so I’m doing it. I just bought a new bike and it’s beautiful.”
She will also be riding in the memory of two men: A friend who died of AIDS-related complications decades ago and Gilbert Valenzuela, a Center staffer and devoted AIDS/LifeCycle volunteer who passed away earlier this year.
“Gilbert loved being a part of AIDS/LifeCycle,” Hernandez says. “Everyone involved is so upbeat and that’s what I need in my life right now. I love being around good people and being part of a good cause.”
Nick Carter, a former AIDS/LifeCycle cyclist, will be participating this year as part of the volunteer medical transport team. He promises that anyone who gets involved will be glad they did.
“There is a camaraderie that develops among everyone that we call the ‘love bubble,’” Carter says. “We start in San Francisco and work our way down the coast and go along as a great big family—as people who care for each other and care about the cause.”
He adds: “It is such a bonding time. There are people I’ve met through AIDS/LifeCycle who are now my social circle and the training rides are a chance to see all my friends every week.”
For more experienced cyclists at the kickoff, there will be a 20-30 mile route; while newcomers can opt for a shorter route of less than 15 miles. There will be a bike skills clinic for anyone who hasn’t been on their bike yet and may be unsure or uncomfortable. The skills clinic covers such topics as appropriate shoes, gears, how to brake safely, how to clip in and out of your bike pedals, and how to do a safety check of your bike. It also covers choosing the right clothing to ride comfortably and not hurt yourself.
Despite the remarkable progress that has been made since the first reported cases of HIV in 1981, the epidemic is far from over. Currently there are 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS nationwide and an estimated 37,600 will become infected this year.
In the seven days it takes the riders to reach Los Angeles, more than 700 people in the United States will become infected with HIV. One out of every seven people living with HIV nationwide is not aware of their status.
The kickoff event will begin at 7:15 a.m. at Lake Balboa Park located at 6300 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91406. Lunch will be provided.