SAN DIEGO -- Over 3,000 people will take the journey of a lifetime next week, bicycling nearly 600 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of the 11th AIDS/LifeCycle.
The ride, which raises money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS and is presented by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, includes participants from all walks of life.
Cyclists pledge to raise at least $3,000 for the cause in advance of the seven day bike ride, which concludes on Saturday, June 9 in Los Angeles during that city's annual LGBT Pride festivities.
Sean Suydam, owner of local IT firm Sephno Systems, Inc., is one of the many San Diegans who will participate in this year’s ride. As a training ride leader for the AIDS/Lifecycle Team San Diego, Suydam has been able to share information, tips, and advice with newer riders as this year will mark his sixth time on the ride.
Flying to San Francisco this morning, Suydam says that he still gets the same jitters each year in advance of the ride, although he has gotten the packing and other preparation down to a science.
“There is a point each year where I think to myself – ‘Can I really do this ride anymore’?” Suydam said. “But once the ride starts and I get a few miles into it, it’s all great again.”
Riders will meet in San Francisco this weekend and participate in an orientation tomorrow, with opening ceremonies taking place at 6 am on Sunday. Riders will begin their journey immediately after the program.
Those who will be in the Bay Area can attend the early morning ceremony which will take place at The Cow Palace.
Suydam, like many of the riders, does not consider himself an avid cyclist. In fact, he got involved with the ride because of a family friend who died of AIDS.
“I started participating in the ride because of a combination of things. My mom’s best friend died of AIDS a couple of years before my first ride,” Suydam recalled. “Then, I went to watch my friend participate in AIDS/LifeCycle 5 and I knew I needed to do something.”
After his first ride Suydam said that it was the incredible energy, love, and community that exists throughout the ride that brings him back year after year.
“This isn’t really a cyclist event – so many of us are not cyclists,” Suydam said. “We do the ride because of that community and a desire to help fight AIDS.”
Suydam said that on average he raises about $6500 for the event year, and expects to achieve or surpass that this year.
“I’m lucky because I have a list of about 40 friends that I ask for support from each year and they have always come through,” Suydam said.
Many riders do all sorts of different things to raise funds, including personal solicitations and fundraising events.
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News will follow Suydam’s seven day journey and post daily updates which will be obtained from him on the road. Check back daily to follow Suydam’s progress and learn more about the ride.
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