This Friday, 16 March, Tim Johnson and 25 riders will kick off a 500mi ride from Boston, MA to Washington, D.C. for the second annual edition of Tim Johnson’s Ride on Washington. The ride ends at the US National Bike Summit where Johnson and company will spend the week talking bikes on Capitol Hill.
The goal of the invitational ride is to raise funds for Bikes Belong, and raise awareness of the benefits of cycling, both to the environment and citizens’ health, in the US.
“We all have a [common] interest in how we’re perceived as riders,” Tim Johnson told BikeRadar. “The subsets that exist within cycling don’t exist to anyone outside of the sport. So it’s really important that we put our best foot forward and get together to try to make sure that we have the best opportunities for our future. There are kids out there that don’t live in places like Boulder [CO] or New England where there are established cycling clubs, and ways to get into the sport. There are places where mom and dad don’t want their kid to ride outside because it’s too dangerous, and that’s what Safe Routes to School does [makes safe places for kids to ride]. It’s what your local bike path can do — it gives people a place to ride.
“If we want cycling to grow, we need [opportunities] to be better,” he said.
SRAM and Volkswagen share title sponsorship of the 2012 edition, and the second annual event set a lofty goal of raising $100,000 for the cause; each of the 25 riders are asked to raise $2,500 to participate, and additional donations can be made to the general cause.
Despite kicking off Friday, the event will continue to take donations on Bikes Belong’s behalf. “The fundraising will continue through the National Bike Summit and we’ll actually keep it open until the end of March,” said Johnson.
The 5-day bike ride starts with a sendoff at Boston’s City Hall Plaza, continuing to Hartford, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore before ending at the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C., on March 20.
Johnson created the Ride on Washington after first attending the National Bike Summit in 2010. Organized in just six weeks in 2011, Johnson gathered six other riders, raising $25,000 for the first edition. “Last year, we threw it together so last minute; it took the past year for it [the ride] to evolve into something we really could fundraise with,” said Johnson. “The $100,000 figure is kind of arbitrary, in the way that it was definitely big enough that we didn’t think we could do it, but now that our event hasn’t started yet and we’re well over halfway there — I think it’s definitely possible.”
Johnson working the crowd after a 100mi day
This year, Johnson invites you to support the mission by making your own pledge, and he also wants to invite you to join him in riding the last five miles through the center of Washington, D.C.
Johnson and his peloton will travel between 50-130mi in daylight and darkness, and whatever elements mother nature presents. Last year, temperatures varied from 14 to 55 degrees, with variable rain and snow — add in varied riding surfaces, from smooth, bike friendly paths to pothole riddled city streets, and it was a challenge, to say the least. “Last year was nuts,” said Johnson. “We were riding all day long, finishing in the dark — daylight savings wasn’t our friend last year — and we were running it as a normal training ride; stopping at gas stations [for food], we got lost a few times, we definitely pushed ourselves on the bike each day.”
Johnson brought together a mix of riders for this year’s event, ranging from professional cyclists and triathletes, to executives from the cycling, music, and financial industries. He hopes the ride, and summit, will inspire them to become cycling advocates in their own way. “The ride that we’re doing is a legit ride,” he said. “It’s well over 100mi on a couple of the days; there’s a lot more climbing than you’d ever imagine in a state like Connecticut. We’re going to be pushing ourselves as athletes on the bike, but we’re also riding somewhere. We’re not doing a loop, we’re not going for our favorite training ride and ending up at home to put our feet up and recover.”
Johnson said his fellow participants have no idea what they’re in for, in terms of the physicality of the ride. “We’re riding at a tempo similar to what we would always do at training camp with any of my road teams,” he said. “And for a lot of these guys, that’s all new. They’re used to doing a 30mi hammer session, but instead we’re doing a slow burn — 30mi in and you still have [3/4 of the ride to finish].”
“You’ve got to talk to Richard [Fries, co-promoter of the ride and development advisor at Bikes Belong] he ate half a pizza in the shower [last year],” said Johnson. “He was so smashed. We rode in inches and inches of rain into Philly; we parked our bikes inside the kitchen entrance to the hotel, and we get a whole large pizza each… Richard brought it upstairs, walked into the shower with all of his clothes on and just sat under the hot water fully dressed eating the pizza — he was so wasted.”
Richard Fries hopes the weather is better for the 2012 Ride on Washington
To end each day, event sponsors will host receptions attended by local dignitaries and cycling enthusiasts — imagine the effort that takes after riding 100mi in freezing rain then eating half a pizza in the shower. Inspiring? We think so.