The AIDS/LifeCycle Ride is a charity event to raise money for services & awareness of HIV/AIDS. Riders from all over the world gather in San Francisco to make the 545+ mile ride to Los Angeles. During the week-long journey, bikers ride through California communities as a memorial to those who have succumbed to AIDS and to raise awareness for those with HIV/AIDS.
While I have been biking for 8+ years, this was, by far, the longest ride I had ever attempted. In preparation, I sought out new gear and on a recommendation from a close friend I picked up Cycle Glide®, an anti-chafing balm from Body Glide®. Having never used any of Body Glide®’s products I was hoping it could help me avoid saddle sores as well as any unwanted wear & tear from being in the saddle anywhere from 40-100+ miles for seven days straight. The day before the event I packed up and headed out to San Francisco to begin the long journey back home to LA.
ALC Ride Day 1: San Francisco to Santa Cruz, 82.5 miles of stunning coastal views.
We entered the Cow Palace early Sunday morning with friends and family members to cheer us on as we began the ride. The energy was palpable in the Cow Palace and we were feeling the sense of camaraderie as the thousands of riders were beginning to line up to set out on the ride from SF to Santa Cruz, a total of 82.5 miles. The weather, as expected in SF, was on the chilly side with an overcast sky for a majority of the morning. Midway through the day, at the approximate halfway point between San Francisco & Santa Cruz, our first communal lunch was served at San Gregorio Beach. The day of riding ended at Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz where we handed over our gear and were ready to shower up, set up our tents for the night and get some much-needed rest.
To my surprise, I had no signs of saddle sores or chafing after the 82.5-mile ride, so I was looking forward to getting back in the saddle for day two.
ALC Ride Day 2: Santa Cruz to King City, 109.2 miles long and flat through strawberry fields.
We had an awesome time in camp, I was a little hesitant with how smoothly things could go when there needs to be an infrastructure for 2,000+ riders and all their various needs but ALC did an amazing job! From the amazing food, gear and camp stores, and the wonderful staff always ready to help you stretch or to administer any first aid. It made each night after riding something to look forward to.
We started Day 2 bright and early. Heading out, I nearly forgot to apply my Cycle Glide® balm but luckily I remembered and quickly layered some on before setting out on today’s 109+ mile ride. As the morning fog slowly disintegrated to reveal the scenery of vineyards, and fruit orchards that stretched out in every direction, the smell of fresh strawberries from the nearby fields were in the air as we rode by. Though this was by far the longest full day ride on the itinerary we rode into camp with high spirits and no chafing or saddle sores at all! This route was easily the most memorable of the week and possibly my favorite.
ALC Ride Day 3: King City to Paso Robles, 66.7 miles beginning with the notorious Quadbuster.
While only about half of the miles we had covered just a day before, day 3 is notoriously the most difficult ride due to a rough hill we had to traverse, known simply as “Quadbuster”. It was long, it was steep, it busted our quads right open but the joy of reaching the top and hearing the cheers of our fellow riders and the many volunteers and supporters waiting there was well worth the effort!
After putting Quadbuster far behind us, we headed to our well-deserved lunch stop for the day in Bradley, CA. A small town of fewer than 100 residents, Bradley welcomes riders each year with a BBQ fundraiser. The proceeds go to the local school and are enough to cover the school’s art budget for an entire year! We left lunch feeling energized and motivated and ready for a shower at our campsite.
I nearly forgot (again) to apply my Cycle Glide® balm before heading out today. Not having to deal with any chafing or pain must have made it slip my mind, but I was quickly reminded after seeing the telltale bow-legged walk of a fellow rider in pain. Not wanting to have to deal with that, I quickly grabbed the Cycle Glide® balm out of my pack and headed off to apply it before setting out on the day’s ride.
ALC Ride Day 4: Paso Robles to Santa Maria, 87.5 miles – Halfway to LA & The Evil Twins
We had heard rumblings of this day throughout the camp and while talking to other seasoned riders but we were still apprehensive once we got to them on our 4th day. The Evil Twins are a pair of hills that ascend more than 1,000 feet over a 7-mile stretch. We conquered the first twin with little problem but getting to the top of the second proved more difficult than the first. After ascending the second twin we stopped as most riders do, to take some celebratory photos atop of Evil Twin #2 – the official halfway point on our return to LA.
Oh and by the way, it happened, I had left camp without applying Cycle Glide® balm. A few miles into the ride is when I realized and 70 miles and a pair of Evil Twins later I thoroughly regretted forgetting to wear it. By the time I had reached camp I was starting to get some gnarly chafing and saddle sores. The next morning, with a new day ahead of us, I woke up and head out to put on my gear – Cycle Glide® balm firmly held in my hand, determined not to make the same mistake I did the day before.
ALC Ride Day 5: Santa Maria to Lompoc, 42 miles
One of the most popular days of the ride is upon us, today is Red Dress Day! We wear red to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and are said to resemble a red ribbon on wheels as we depart camp in Santa Maria. This route is the shortest of all the days and offered us a well-deserved break after days of fighting the Quadbuster and the Evil Twins.
Lunch was served only three short miles from camp at Ryon Park in Lompoc. The energy was high as we realized there were only two days and 145 miles left on our journey. With upcoming rides through beautiful Santa Barbara & Ventura, we edged closer and closer to home and the finish line in LA.
While today was the shortest ride of the week, Cycle Glide® balm still helped with the chafing I had experienced the day before. The existing saddle sores I had were not exacerbated over the 40-mile journey and seemed less inflamed and sore after applying Cycle Glide® balm.
ALC Ride Day 6: Lompoc to Ventura, 84.3 miles – Safety Orange Day
Today is Safety Orange Day on the ride as the ALC crew promotes safety both on and off the road. The route today is long but breathtaking, as we ride along the 101 to PCH, the hills that line the coast are covered in wildflowers and the smell of salty summer air pushes us forward.
Night six of the ride is a very special one. The camp is located at San Buenaventura State Beach, a pristine sandy beach popular for swimming, surfing and of course biking! Aside from the beautiful location, camp tonight was sentimental; a candlelit vigil is held to honor loved ones lost to HIV/AIDS. While very emotional, the vigil is also inspiring as participants look around at thousands of others showing their love and support for one another.
ALC Ride Day 7: Ventura to Los Angeles, 60.7 miles to the finish!
The seventh and final day is upon us! We awoke with mixed emotions- happy to be heading home to LA, relieved to give our butts a break from the saddle, and excited to relish in the feeling of accomplishment that comes with crossing the finish line. But at the same time, saddened that our full week of living within the “bubble” of ALC is coming to an end.
After riding through beautiful Malibu and Santa Monica, soaking up the beauty of the beach and waves crashing onto the shore, we finally crossed the finish line in LA early Saturday afternoon.
All in all, I would have to say that the ALC/LifeCycle ride is an amazing and transformative experience. From the community that supports all the riders in and out of camp, the riders themselves for being so supportive and encouraging on every part of the ride, its an amazing feeling to know that what we accomplished over the past 7 days has helped hundreds in need, raised awareness for an illness that affects thousands, and saved lives.
Despite my one slip-up on day 4 we had a great ride and successfully traversed the 545 miles from SF to LA while raising over $6,000 dollars towards HIV/AIDs awareness.