Often bicycle touring cyclist and bike tour websites promote
to raise money for a
charity or cause. This is usually done by posting a blog or web site about
the trip and including a
page describing a charity. Often there is a button for visitors to donate money or a link
to the charity where visitors can donate directly.
I am not talking about
charity events like the MS 150 where cyclist pay a entry fee, either from
personal funds or asking others to sponsor funds, then riding in the event and
having a good time knowing most of their entry fee went to a good cause. I am also not talking about getting
sponsors to supply bikes, gear, or funds for your bike trip; this is discussed on
our sponsor page. This
article generally discusses an independent bicycle tour where the cyclist post a
journal or blog about their trip and hopes the interest the trip also brings in
donations or creates publicity for the charity or cause they like.
supporting vs. promoting (You could do both)
I think it is important to distinguish between promoting and
supporting a charity or cause Promoting is trying to draw attention to the
topic and supporting
is when you give actual money or volunteering. We do not promote a charity with our
ongoing tour but we do support
many with cash donations. Through the sale of our books, advertising on our site, and
sales we earn a meager living. We have a
quarterly budget set aside to donate to various charities. The point is
that you do not have to display an organizations logo on your web site or jersey
to give back to society. A common thing we hear from the people operating
the organizations we support is web site hits and social network buzz is fine
but money is the most useful in their efforts to help. I am sure a lot of
people who promote a charity on their travelogue also donate to it.
Believe it or not promoting a non profit group or charity
while bike touring is controversial in some circles
with camps on each side of the issue. I believe it stems from an over
exposure to cyclist on charity rides in the bike community
I will try to summarize each
position below but please keep in mind it is impossible for me to express each
sides views adequately or even impartially.
bicycle tour for a cause
Arguments for for promoting a charity include:
- Even $1 raised for a good cause is a good thing and
occasionally there have been some big success stories, where a lot of money or
awareness was raised, especially when
cyclist have had a personal involvement in the cause.
- Riding for a
cause is often seen by the bicycle tourist as a way to give back to society
through the publicity they generate from the excitement about their trip and
- Sometimes the goal of riding for a higher causes is the only
way to get a potential bike tourist on the road. We have met people who
had not ridden a bike in years until they were recruited by a church group or
friends to join their fund raising ride across a state, province, or country and
rediscovered cycling. This is a great example of a win/win arrangement.
- If you are on tour and don't promote a cause (like us) you will
likely, at some point, get email, forum comments, asking why you do not promote
a charity. We have had a handful of such comments, almost always from other
bike tourist. So, adding a cause to your tour will go a long way for your public
The "Anti bike tour for a cause"
- Several years ago the late great Sheldon Brown wrote about
how the idea of biking for charity grew from Bike-a Thons of the past.
- A common complaint is there are simply too many bikers
pushing a charity on their bike tour. I have no way of tallying statistics
but I would bet that a good majority of people we meet on bike tours are raising money
or awareness for something and too much of anything dilutes the purpose. It is interesting to watch them meet on the road and
promote their various charities and causes to each other. Many, after
learning how common it is become a little embarrassed and downplay the idea a
month into their trip.
- Bicycle touring is a fun recreational sport that doesn't
I once heard it put this way, in a campground from another touring cyclist, "If I were to take a
14 day cruise (ship) around the Caribbean and post a blog about it should I be asking people to
donate money to a cause. Bike touring is fun, not a hardship."
Obviously every touring cyclist has different goals and not all tours are like
vacationing on a cruise ship. I think the point is that cyclist
choose to tour in their free time. It is not like building a house for the
poor or working in a soup kitchen to feed the hungry. It is a fun and
personally rewarding endeavor even if it is grueling.
- Some will accuse you of taking some of the money for
yourself. While most bicycle tourist would never dream of diverting funds
to their own pockets I am sure some have. It is the case where a few scam
artist have cast a shadow of doubt over anyone legitimately raising money for a
- I have heard from a few that a possible downside to bike
touring for charity are various commitments and responsibilities to the
organization but I have not heard this first hand or know of a concrete example. I
am sure a few exist, but for the most part, I think this idea of added
responsibility is speculative.
Most of the time I think cyclist go to a service like
justgiving.com and select a charity from a list, put the donate
button on their blog and do not have any commitments after that. They may
voluntarily do more, and many do a lot more, but I do not think it is a
I personally do not see anything wrong with promoting a
charity or cause with a cycling tour but also do not see it as a requirement.
How could raising even a small amount of money or awareness for a good cause be
wrong? On the other hand it should never be expected that all bike tourist
have a cause or that bicycle touring for pure fun is selfish in any way.
If you are thinking about raising money or awareness for a cause I think it is
important to make sure your heart is in the right place and you are not doing it
to promote your trip or attract gear/money donations for yourself. The
goal should be gaining attention to the cause not the other way around. If you
do not promote a cause then it is important not to criticize those cyclist who
do and vise versa- especially in a public place. We should all get to do
our own thing.
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