Bears on Bikes: ‘You’re riding your bicycle from San Francisco to L.A.?!’

Twenty-three members of the UC Berkeley campus community plan to ride as the Cal Team in this year’s AIDS LifeCycle — a week-long cycling event to benefit HIV/AIDS services and promote HIV/AIDS awareness. Members of the group will report back daily from the road, sharing highlights of the day’s ride with NewsCenter readers. We begin their first-hand coverage with an overview from Cal Team co-captain Christine Shaff, communications manager for the campus’s Facilities Services unit (and an AIDS ride veteran). A report about the Day 1, San Francisco-to-Santa Cruz leg, will appear on Monday.

BERKELEY — When asked if they’re really cycling from San Francisco to L.A., “yes!” is the resounding answer of UC Berkeley’s AIDS LifeCycle team. This year’s crew of 23 is counting on their weeks of training and preparation to get them all the way down the coast next week. Each cyclist has also raised at least $3,000, which goes to support the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. On Sunday June 6, they’ll be joined by approximately 2,600 cyclists and volunteer support crew, a.k.a. “roadies,” from all over the world in a seven-day, 545-mile journey down the Golden State.

Our team of Golden Bears is comprised of five undergraduates and five graduate students, nine staff members, three alums, and one friend — almost all of them doing the ride for the first time. Tackling a huge personal and physical challenge is motivating. There are other sources of inspiration, as well.

Undergrad Eric Trautman, a chemical biology  major who just completed his second year at Berkeley, recently had a friend test positive for HIV. Seeing the effects of this virus on his friend’s life motivates Eric to join the fight against AIDS/HIV. Through his experiences inside and outside the lab, Eric hopes to make the search for a cure his lifelong mission.

Cal staffer Hank Field, who has worked in the campus office of Environment, Health & Safety for almost 22 years, lost a cousin to AIDS 20 years ago. Since his cousin’s death, he says, “I always wanted to do something to make a difference in promoting prevention or a furthering research for a cure for HIV.” When a co-worker asked him to join this year’s AIDS LifeCycle 9 ride, “I said ‘yes.'” Hank calls the ride “a perfect combination of desire and ability and making a difference.”

Hari Phatak, a Ph.D. student at the Haas School of Business, is one of the returning members of the Cal team. Hari rode last year and decided to try working as a roadie this time. He will be part of the advance set-up team, which lays out a temporary tent city for the riders, one day ahead of their arrival at each stop.

New alum Nicole Schnieder, who just graduated from Cal with master’s degrees in city planning and public-health nutrition, has a professional interest in the AIDS LifeCycle. She hopes to help make cities healthier by promoting bike lanes, grocery stores in neighborhoods that lack them, and other urban improvements. Nicole has been learning a lot about bike lanes over the past few months of training — and looks forward to investigating the pavement on the way south.

"Roadie" Christine Shaff takes a call on an AIDS LifeCycle ride.

Devin Wicks and myself, Christine Shaff, are co-captains of the Cal team and AIDS LifeCycle veterans. I’m a Cal alum and staff member in Facilities Services; I recently received a Chancellor’s Public Service Award for a decade of volunteer service to fight AIDS. What keeps me coming back is the chance to support the San Francisco AIDS Foundation as well as those who are challenging themselves to ride or volunteer for the week. I’ll be a roadie “captain” in charge of bike parking.

Devin, another Cal grad and the director of fitness operations at Recreational Sports, tried roadie-ing last year. Devin has decided to cycle this time —  his sixth year with AIDS LifcCycle. Compared to being a roadie, “It’s a much easier way to spend the week!” he claims.

You’ll have the chance to hear from Cal cyclists next week — as they make their way south toward L.A. — thanks to wonderful web teams at both the UC Berkeley NewsCenter and the AIDS LifeCycle. Members of the Cal Team will describe what brings them to this event, what they learned in preparing for it, and how the ride is going.

The team is very proud to represent UC Berkeley and sends thanks to the Cal community for its support of our efforts. Anyone who would like to send our riders or the entire team a message of support during the week can do that though the AIDS LifeCycle website.