The 2018 AIDS/LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles is more than eight months away but there’s no better time to prepare for the 7-day ride than now.
The first official training rides of the season will take place on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Lake Balboa Park for people who are planning to participate in the 545-mile ride or just considering it. People of all skill levels are welcome and some demonstration bikes will be available for those who don’t have one.
“Newcomers can get started on some short routes and dip their toe in the water and get comfortable on the bike,” says Cailin Lafontaine, director of AIDS/LifeCycle’s Southern California Office. “It’s also an opportunity to meet other members of the community and start building a support system.”
For more experienced cyclists there will be a 20-30 mile route while newcomers can opt for a shorter route of less than 15 miles. The shorter ride begins after a bike skills clinic.
“There’s a three-point safety check to determine whether you’re ready to get on the road safely and soundly,” Lafontaine says. “If you have shoe clips, we can show you how to clip in and out of the pedals safely, how to shift, how to signal when passing someone or stopping at stop signs.”
Among those who plan to take part in the kickoff is 31-year-old Jason Rodriguez who will be riding for the fifth time.
“The kickoff is good because when you first sign up, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” Rodriguez says. “Once you do the kickoff and the training rides, it gives you a clearer picture and understanding of who does it, how many people do it and what the impact truly is.
“You understand more what the commitment is, you learn about the bikes, about the gears, the shoes, the pedals and choosing the right clothing so you can ride comfortably and not hurt yourself,” Rodriguez adds. “It’s very specific which is good.”
Marilee Spencer, 26, will be one of the first-timers at the kickoff ride.
“I’ve thought about doing AIDS/LifeCycle ever since cycling became a big part of my life in 2014,” Spencer says. “Cycling really helps with my emotions and I’m getting better at it. I haven’t done any long road rides so I’m really excited for this. It’s going to be a be a big challenge.”
Lunch will be provided and community partners will be on hand at a small festival after the training rides. Discounts will be offered by the partners and there will also be a used gear swap.
“The kickoff ride is open to people who are registered and people who aren’t,” Lafontaine says. ‘So many people participate because they are committed to ending AIDS, not because they have experience cycling. We steward people through the whole process of training and fundraising so they’re ready for the adventure.”
The 2018 AIDS/LifeCycle will take place June 3-9. The annual event is jointly produced by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
This year’s ride had 2,800 participants from nearly every state in the union and 17 countries who raised an incredible $15.1 million for the HIV/AIDS-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
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 39,000 will become infected this year.
In the seven days it takes the riders to reach Los Angeles, more than 500 people in the United States will become infected with HIV. One out of every eight people living with HIV nationwide is not aware of their status.
Since 2002, when AIDS/LifeCycle first began, participants have raised more than $236 million and completed more than 58,000 journeys on bikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles
The kickoff event begins at 7:15 a.m. at Lake Balboa Park located at 6300 Balboa Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91406.
Go to tofighthiv.org to RSVP.