It started as a mission: Two friends determined to make it from Washington, D.C., to the Delaware shore by way of only their bicycles, in 1999.
Now, with the Bike to the Beach charity for Autism now entering its 10th year, B2B is expecting nearly 700 riders from both the D.C. and Baltimore areas to make the 120-plus mile trek to Dewey Beach this Friday, July 29.
“We have five destinations and six city starts now, but this is our largest one,” said B2B Marketing Communications Coordinator C.J. Cross.
Like many of the event’s regular riders, Cross started out not knowing many other participating cyclists. After seven years, however, that’s all changed.
While there are certainly those competitors who take off, wheels spinning, in the early light of the Capitol morning when the race gun goes off at 5 a.m., and arrange their own rides across the Bay Bridge instead of taking the B2B chartered buses in order to reach the edge of the Atlantic by as early as 10:30 or 11 a.m., Cross said that, for many participants, the event is a social one.
“The majority of people tend to enjoy the ride,” Cross explained.
“As people go along, they kind of find the other riders that go at their same pace and pair up in groups. I’ve made some great friends — I’d say about two-thirds of our riders are repeat riders. It’s one of those things were you’re gonna make some great friends and you’re gonna come back every year after that.”
With roughly 500 riders departing from D.C., and another 150 expected from Baltimore, the groups will converge in Annapolis before being shuttled safely across the Bay Bridge, only to saddle up again.
It’s there that they’ll meet some riders from beyond the bridge, including Bethany Beach triathlete Rick Hundley of Focus Multi-Sports and others, who will join the core group for the ride into Northbeach in Dewey.
While there will be water stops every 15 or so miles along the way, after gathering for a group photo between 5 and 6 p.m. (depending on finish times), riders are then invited to enjoy post-ride perks, including refreshments, “swag” giveaways, games and prizes sponsored by the North Face, a live band and even a massage therapist.
Last year, the D.C. ride alone raised nearly $500,000 for charity groups including Autism Delaware and Autism Speaks, through registration fees, donations and riders raising money through their own charitable efforts.
“Every rider that signs up is expected to raise about $500,” Cross said, noting that, throughout the year, participants will organize events such as happy-hours, yoga classes and bike rides to help foot their contribution to the cause. “The average rider raises about $1,000.”
While it’s too late to sign up for this year’s ride, Cross encouraged those interested in joining for next year to come out on Friday to see what it’s all about. There is, however, one more 2016 race left on their docket, starting in Boston, Mass., and finishing in Newport, R.I., on Sept. 3.
B2B will also be adding a Texas race (Houston to Galveston), to go along with already established races, including those in Florida and New York.
For more information on the Bike to the Beach, or to volunteer, donate or sign up for next year, visit www.biketothebeach.org.