The Future of Saddle Challenge

Astute Spokers will notice that this March there is no Saddle Challenge. We’ve had the Saddle Challenge every year since 2002 and beginning in 2003 it became a fundraising event for Project Inform. Last year Saddle Challenge commenced and mid-March the beneficiary, Project Inform, closed its doors and ceased operation leaving Saddle Challenge without a substantial purpose. The monies gathered eventually were gifted to the club and were used to purchase a one-year club membership in RideWithGPS.

After the end of Project Inform the club board engaged in a discussion about whether SC should or could continue and if so, what form would the event take. The club has for much of its history engaged in fundraising for the LGBT community. The club ran the first AIDS Bike-A-Thon for ten years (1985-1994), and during the existence of the California AIDS Ride (CAR) and the beginning of the AIDS LifeCycle many Different Spokes members participated and led training rides. Then we began Saddle Challenge and then from 2012-2016 member Chris Thomas ran Double Bay Double—although generously the club got credit—for the SF AIDS Foundation. So SC has been the last remnant charity fundraising event the club sponsored. Although Different Spokes formed as ‘merely’ a LGBT recreational cycling club, from the beginning there was a sense that the club should give back to its community.

Is there a future for Saddle Challenge? Originally it was just a friendly in-club competition to encourage members to start riding after the winter. Is that something the club still needs? Probably not. As a charity fundraiser SC takes place at a suboptimal time of year because during March it can still raining a lot such as in 2018 when it rained virtually every weekend. If SC remains primarily a fundraiser, then it would do better to take place later in the year when members are riding more.

Who should the beneficiary be? The board has talked about a LGBT beneficiary as being a natural affiliation although it did not rule out the possibility of a non-LGBT organization. We’ve had some discussion about raising funds for non-profits focusing on LGBT youth. Outcycling in NYC sponsors a LGBT youth section called Fearless Flyers that provides cycling as a healthy alternative activity for queer youth. This not so coincidentally also encourages membership of young people at a time when most clubs are aging up.

The board would like to engage in a discussion with members about whether or not Saddle Challenge should continue, particularly as a fundraising event that the whole club can get behind. What are your thoughts? Do you think the club should put on a fundraising event? What form should it be and who or what should be the beneficiary?