North American Epic 8,000km bike tour kicks off in May

Coast to coast ride will benefit Trips for Kids

Known for its epic tours around the world, the Tour d’Afrique is holding a coast to coast ride across North America to benefit the Trips For Kids non-profit organization next spring.

This North American Epic bike tour will cross mountains, prairies, plains, Great Lakes and even the mighty Mississippi. It'll begin on 29 May 2011 at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and end 92 days later in St John’s, Newfoundland. Entry will cost US$9,950 and the ride will be fully supported.

The North American Epic bike tour is partnering with the international charity Trips For Kids to raise money and awareness about their programs that help at-risk youth. The riders and staff of the 2011 tour will make donations to several Trips for Kids chapters including those in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia; Chicago; Pontiac, Michigan; Marin, San Francisco; and Tallahassee, Florida, operated by Ken Foster of Bicycle Tallahassee.

“Each chapter is run independently and responds to the needs of their community so their needs are different,” says Paul J McManus, tour and foundation director at Tour d’Afrique. “We'll donate bikes to some chapters, money to others. But we feel like the bigger impact we can have is in helping to raise awareness about what Trips For Kids is doing to help at-risk youth, promote safe cycling in schools and provide kids an opportunity to get into cycling who otherwise wouldn't have the chance.”

Getting bikes to kids who wouldn't otherwise have the chance to ride is one of the key goals of Trips For Kids, which now has locations around the world. The group says the impact that a bicycle can have for a child is something that is often not understood.

“A bike is not only an economical and environmentally friendly form of transportation that could become a standard for a whole new generation of kids, but it also provides them with an opportunity to be outside and hopefully closer to nature,” says Eric Goldman, executive director of Trips for Kids. “This is significant when addressing the challenges of at-risk youth who don't necessarily have access to bikes or opportunities to be in nature.

"Every child should have a bike or at least an opportunity to ride one on a regular basis, preferably in a park or other open natural space. Mountain biking is the perfect combination and provides kids with lessons in personal responsibility, achievement and environmental awareness. That is what we do at Trips for Kids.”

For next year’s event, the organizers of Tour d’Afrique will donate at least one bike (or the equivalent in funds) for each rider on the tour. They'll also encourage and assist the riders in their own fundraising efforts. During the 92 days the tour will visit each chapter along the 4,971-mile (8,000km) route, to make donations and to raise awareness about the great work being done by Trips for Kids

“In the past riders have raised as much as $30,000 as part of their adventure,” says McManus. “Riding for a cause adds another element to the entire tour that enriches the whole experience.”

Part of the experience is seeing so much of the country, and while North America may seem less exotic than some of the group’s past events, there are still challenges. While there's better infrastructure along most of the route, with access to food, medical attention and plenty of well-maintained roads, there are others hazards such as traffic.

“One concern is riding in and out of some of the bigger cities like Chicago or Detroit,” says McManus, who adds that route planning is still ongoing. The organizers are continually making small changes to improve the route, find accommodation and make connections in the communities that the tour will travel through. “We'll be scouting every inch of the route early next year and one thing we'll certainly focus on is how to get safely in and out of cities.”

McManus says the group will try to work closely with local bike clubs and co-ops to help identify routes that are safe and interesting. “We have a lot experience running expedition length tours all over the world so we're good at dealing with some of the more common problems and reacting to unexpected ones," he says.

To donate or participate in the North American Epic bike tour, visit the Tour d’ Afrique website.

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