Cal cyclists gear up for AIDS Life/Cycle 2015

“How far is that?” “How long does it take?” “How many miles a day do you ride?”

Those are the top three questions asked when you mention that you’re riding a bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles. They are often asked with a hint of incredulousness, which is understandable.

Each member of the Cal team for AIDS Life/Cycle, the event that will have us pedaling from S.F. to L.A., has his or her own answers. Veterans of the 545-mile bike ride might respond that Day 2 is more than 100 miles and Day 5 is the short day, at only 48. Those new to the event might tell you instead that it takes seven days to make our way down the state.

We will send photos and stories from our week on the ride, which begins early Sunday, May 31, at San Francisco’s Cow Palace. So check back for updates through the week. (Text continues below slideshow.)

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This year’s Cal team is one of the largest, with 30 cyclists and two roadies (the volunteers who make it all happen during the week). We are alumni, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, participating to raise money and awareness that HIV and AIDS still need attention.

“I’m riding in honor of the great Freddie Mercury of Queen, who was taken from us by HIV/AIDS at the prime of his life,” says cycling enthusiast Allen Leibovitch, a Cal alum who volunteers with Good Karma Bikes, helping homeless people in San Jose with bike repairs. For Christine Ho, a Ph.D. candidate in statistics, the ride holds a physical challenge and a psychic one: “fear of fundraising.”

AIDS Life/Cycle (ALC) remains the largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser in the world, and this year’s Cal team is on track to raise over $120,000 for ALC 2015. The cumulative total raised by Cal teams over nine years will cross the $1 million mark this year. Not bad for a small group from a public university.

What motivates Cal team members to ride, and what are they looking forward to?

“I ride so that others will not be infected with the disease, in the hope that we will not have to continue riding,” notes staff employee Harry Stark. Alumna Kirstie Whitaker looks forward to the event’s “Red Dress Day” and the sight of “so many glamorous men in red dresses. That will keep me smiling,” she says.

Staff member Emily Howard will serve the team as a roadie. “I lived in the Castro in the late ’70s early ’80s” and witnessed “the onslaught of the AIDS pandemic,” she says. “I’ve lost more friends to AIDS than I care to talk about.”

“With recent advances in medicine, an end to the HIV epidemic is possible in our lifetimes,” EECS alum Sam Kimbrel believes. “I look forward to doing the final, celebratory ride sometime in our future.”

The 2015 Cal team includes the following riders and roadies: Linda Algazzali, Jonathan Backus, Michael Barber, Youness Bennani, Austin Brewin, Simon Campo, Mike Dickman, Tiffany Dreyer, Tiffany Fields, Katie Fleming, Jonathan Goodrich, Tiana Hampton, Christine Ho, Emily Howard, Varun Jog, Sam Kimbrel, Pardeep Kuma, Allen Leibovitch, Anita Liboff, Marjori Maggenti, Ramona Martinez, Michael Melone, Randy Myers, Kathryn Quanstrom, Karen Rhodes, Adam Schwartz, Christine Shaff, Maryam Sharifzadeh, Harry Stark, Kristie Whitaker and Devin Wicks.

Follow the team as it files stories and photos from the road.