Through the toughest of CA roads and the most demanding terrain AIDS/LifeCycle riders still make time for each other.
Starting on June 5, Sean Suydam has a tough road ahead of him, literally. He and his bike named "Walt" will travel for seven days and 546 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles as a participant in the Annual AIDS/LifeCycle event.
This demanding physical charity is something he enjoys doing, but his happiness doesn’t just come from raising money.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation co-produce the endurance bicycling event every year. The money raised goes toward educating people about AIDS and providing support for those already living with the disease.
Last year thousands of cyclists raised $16.7 million for the cause.
Sean has been riding in the AIDS/LifeCycle charity for nine years; this will be his tenth. His San Diego team named “Mo’s Universe” is sponsored by the popular local nightclub and eatery Urban Mo’s.
“They are amazing sponsors and so supportive of what we are doing,” he said. “We could not ask for someone better. You will often find the team at Mo’s eating, drinking dancing and having a good time if you do see us come on over and say hi.”
Chris Shaw, owner of Urban Mo's says the team is doing an amazing job, "They currently have raised $195,000 for this year’s event. That is an amazing amount of money, their dedication and commitment is so inspiring to me and we are so proud to be involved with so many great individuals."
Sean wants people to know that the cause is very important to him, but wants to emphasize that there also is a personal benefit, “The ride is so much more than just a charity ride, it’s a family.”
He says that there are around 200 riders in the San Diego area, some have teams such as The Pork Peddlers, or the Bearded Ladies. While others prefer to make the tour on their own, Sean on the other hand loves the comradery and opts for the company of his support group.
“Riding with a team is not required it just makes it more fun, it’s not easy to go ride 70 miles alone, so that’s why the teams come about.”
Sean says he’s been a Training Ride Leader since 2008. This responsibility is shared by many in San Diego; they make sure that the training schedules and rides are coordinated for the local cyclists. Sean does this task from a place in his heart.
“For me it's part of giving back to a larger community,” he says. “I had lost a few friends to AIDS in the 90s and then in 2003; we had a family friend that lived in Montana who lost his battle with AIDS, and in Montana at that time, they didn’t have much in the way of support groups. So it was shortly after that I started to get involved with a few smaller HIV/AIDS organizations. In 2006 I road in my first AIDS/Lifecycle and found what we call ‘The Love Bubble.’”
“The Love Bubble,” Sean explains is not a physical thing, but something that is experienced during the exhausting and demanding times of the ride. It’s a feeling of acceptance by everyone peddling with you even when you're tired, grumpy and in a lot of pain.
“People are kind they take the time to say good morning, stop to help if you have a problem give you hugs if you have a bad day,” he says, “You wait in line with them to do just about everything: eat, drink, bathroom, showers. What is the most amazing is that those people that are HIV-positive, get an environment that they can feel completely safe, be open without the fear of rejection, scorn or hate.”
These riders, he says, sometimes create their own teams, such as the PosPeds (www.pospeds.org) who have small flags attached to their bikes that show their status which they fly with pride.
Sean's journey will begin on Sunday, June 5, after the opening ceremonies at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. At 8:30 am he and his bike "Walt" will begin the first leg of their trip; an 82 mile journey to Santa Cruz along California Highway 1.
With each turn if his crankset and pedal, he is helping to support the millions of people living with AIDS around the country.
His dedication to the cause along with the closeness from the community will push him closer to the finish line.
"These are just some of the reasons I ride," he says, "I could go on and on, but the best way for people to find out about more about it is to go to www.aidslifecycle.org and then come on out and join us next year."
AIDS/LifeCycle 2016 will take place June 5th - June 11, 2016. For information click HERE.