Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Charity Bike Rides - A Waste of Time?

Matt Seaton, writing on the Guardian's Bike Blog, asks whether there are too many charity bike rides.

"I am all for raising money for charity," says Seaton. "But I balk at being required to be impressed by something that many of us do most weekends anyway."

Charity Bike Ride - A Waste of Time? (Photo: Andrew McCargow)

His argument continues: "Why should anyone make a donation to charity because you've ridden 50 or 60 miles across some nice countryside? Given four or five or six hours, virtually anyone can cover the distance. It simply isn't a physical achievement worth recording; it is, so to speak, a walk in the park."

I have to say that I disagree with Matt on three counts:

1. Cycling 50 or 60 miles is a sizeable physical achievement for most people - the majority of the population would seriously struggle with London to Brighton without sufficient training.
2. I'm willing to see anything that encourages people to get out cycling - and raising money for charity is a great motivator when you feel like giving up on a dark and wet February.
3. I don't think anyone said that charity events had to be life-threatening in their seriousness - sitting in a bath of baked beans isn't exactly physically demanding. As long as they raise money - as well as issues...

Having done a couple of cycle rides for charity (Land's End to John O'Groats and Birmingham to the Mediterranean, both around 1,000 miles) the charitable element was certainly a help in motivating me and gave the rides a sense of purpose (although mine weren't organised rides, just me and a bike). And I raised about £4,000 along the way for some very worthy charities (MS, Motor Neurone Disease and Alzheimer's).

I didn't intend to do the Land's End ride for charity, but my wife Clare suggested that as I was doing it, why not use the chance to raise some money?

Land's End to John O'Groats - Raised £1,500

What I can agree with Matt on is that charity fatigue can start to set in, with seemingly endless requests for sponsorship for relatively trivial distances (especially when I seem to be expected to sponsor people for a 5k run what they sponsored me for a 1,000-mile cycle tour!). And I don't look for sponsorship for every tour for that reason - the next one I do will probably be America Coast-to-Coast in about 10 years.

Of course the most annoying requests are the 'Climb Kilimanjaro' type Matt mentions where the donations go towards paying for someone's trip. I've never taken a penny towards expenses from people's donations - why should I get a free holiday?

But I disagree on Matt's broader point - long may charity cycle rides continue!