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The road connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles is 545 miles long with breathtaking views of hilly vineyards, hidden towns and pine-covered cliffsides beside the shimmering Pacific. And for seven days each year, thousands of cyclists travel the route to raise money in an event called AIDS/LifeCycle.
Since it began in 2002, over 58,000 AIDS/LifeCycle riders have helped fundraise more than $236 million to fund HIV and STI testing and screenings, medical care, prevention services and more for the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. This year alone, the ride has raised more than $15 million.
This year’s event — taking place as we type — is hosting 2,200 riders and 600 “roadies” (road crew and support staff). They hail from 18 different countries and range in age between 18 to 97. Each participant rides individually or in teams with names like Coast Busters, The Flirty Dozen or Lady and the Tramps — some wearing matching costumes or all red, the color of the AIDS Ribbon, on the fifth day of the ride.
Together, the riders and roadies consume 18,800 gallons of water, a combined 7.7 tons of chicken, vegetables and oatmeal and use 1,500 tents and 16,000 packets of “butt balm” (a lubricant used to reduce chaffing).
The ride helps forge lifetime commitments to help raise HIV awareness, and the camps help riders and roadies bond, forming lifelong friendships and sharing experiences from the road as the cyclists traverse anywhere from 43 to 109 miles each day — burning 3,410 calories per rider per day.
According to AIDS Lifecycle, in the seven days it takes the riders to reach Los Angeles, more than 500 people in the United States will become infected with HIV. Considering that one out of eight people living with HIV are unaware of their status, the services offered in San Francisco and Los Angeles can literally be the difference between life and death.
Below we have pictures from the first four days of the ride. The pics include shots of flag bearers from the first day’s Riderless Cycle opening ceremony inside the Cow Palace of Daly City; the Day 2 ride from Santa Cruz to King City (over 100 miles away); pics of riders enduring the infamous Quadbuster, a steep 1.3 mile incline, and posing on top of tanks as they passed (for the first time in the ride’s history) through the National Guard military base Camp Roberts; and Day 4 pics as they reached the “Halfway to L.A.” point.
Check out these pics from the first half of AIDS/LifeCycle 2017:
Photos courtesy of Alex Schmider, Georg Lester, Elizabeth Minor and Ryan Jones