What is the value of a bicycle? There is, of course, the market value of your bike, or how much you paid for it. But ask any cyclist, and especially a cycling advocate, and he or she will tell you a much longer story of the value of a bike.
Though new to the cycling scene myself, I've long been drawn to the simple freedom that a bike represents. And after a somewhat epic eight-month backpacking trip around the world (including a 900-mile walk through Japan), I've also become acutely aware of the symbolic power of personal tests of endurance. So when I stumbled upon Climate Ride recently, I knew instantly that this bike ride could be a powerful force for change.
, a non-profit founded by two avid cyclists and world travelers, organized their first charity bike trip from New York to Washington, D.C., in 2008. Over 100 people joined the 300-mile, fully-supported charitable ride that year to raise awareness about climate change and renewable energy. Since then, Climate Ride has expanded their offerings to include two annual rides: the classic Climate Ride NYC-DC and Climate Ride California, a 320-mile jaunt through the forests and vineyards of northern California from Eureka to San Francisco.
"Through the fundraising efforts of our participants, we have given away more than $300,000 since 2008 to organizations that are making an impact," said Caeli Quinn, co-founder and director of Climate Ride, in a recent press release. This year's Climate Ride NYC-DC (which I will be riding in) is supporting the work of nine visionary green organizations across the country, including Green America, 1Sky, 350.org and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
What makes this ride unique — besides the fact that it claims to be the sole charitable biking event dedicated to the health of our planet — is that it truly embodies its own mission. In trying to bring about a clean-energy economy and promote alternative transportation systems, the best tool is the bike itself: perhaps the cleanest and most efficient form of transportation there is.
As Bill McKibben of 350.org told Climate Ride, "Bikes are about the best symbol we have on this planet. They're universally used by rich and poor around the world, they're a big part of the solution to the climate crisis, and bikes are just plain fun."
The value of a bike is more than just how much its components cost or how quickly it can get you from point A to point B. The value of my bike (I've actually just begun building a new one) will soon include the number of people that have been inspired to take creative action in supporting renewable energy and climate change policy; the impact that riding 300 miles to D.C. has on Pennsylvania's Congressmen when I meet with them on Capitol Hill as part of the ride; and the connections that I'll make with other passionate Climate Riders between the Big Apple and the U.S. Capitol.