Why You Should Ride in Local events like El Tour

Are you ready to ride?

This November, Tucson will be hosting the 36th installment of El Tour.  I frequently hear from cyclists who don’t ride that the El Tour de Tucson just costs too much money.

I get it!

I get that it can be really challenging to pay someone else simply to ride my bike in my home town.  With all the other expenses in life, some days it is challenging enough just to keep my bikes maintained – a few hundred dollars for one day of cycling is difficult to justify.  I don’t need a medallion.  I don’t need SAG stops.  I just want to ride my bike.

But, I LOVE El Tour and I can’t imagine a year not riding in it.

Tucson has been receiving phenomenal recognition locally and nationally as a cycling destination.  Just last month, BizTucson’s cover page, as well as over 20 pages of content, focused on cycling.  Bicycle Magazine, The Travel Channel, USA Today, Forbes and many other national publications have all ranked Tucson amongst the best cycling communities in the nation.  The League of American Bicycles recognized Tucson as a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community.  El Tour is just one component of cycling that has lead to Tucson’s growing fame – the Loop, Mt. Lemmon, the mountain biking trails, the city bike lanes, government support, and amazing cyclists are all part of our success.

Without question, El Tour has lead the way in getting more people on bikes in Tucson than perhaps any other individual factor.  For me, my time on the road bike is directly connected to the desire to ride in El Tour again and again.  As a high schooler, I remember the first time I saw the ride go past.  It was AWESOME! I thought that someday I would like to try the ride.  It took being a spectator for nearly 20 years before I finally rode in my first El Tour – I have not missed a single year since.

Now I am looking at riding in El Tour from a different perspective – that of both a cycling advocate and a community philanthropist.  While the entry is expensive, your entry fee isn’t just paying for closed streets, SAG support, and a finisher’s medallion, it is supporting a Tucson cycling institution, bringing more attention to bikes, and raising desperately needed funds for local and national charities.  El Tour riders have engaged our elected officials, business leaders, and tourism, have raised tens of millions for local charities and tax revenue for local businesses, introduced people to Tucson and put us on the world map.  El Tour is a sustainable concept where increased rider numbers encourages better cycling facilities in our community.  More routes mean more revenue for all businesses, more tax dollars, more money for roads and trails, and more cycling infrastructure for all of us.

I believe El Tour has been a central component in Tucson being so highly ranked nationally – the event is working for all of Southern Arizona.  Unfortunately, putting on rides like El Tour is becoming more and more challenging.  Everything costs the promoters – from police, and barricades, to insurance premiums and staff, there are hundreds of needs and expenses.  The Perimeter Bicycling Association of America, who puts on El Tour, is not getting rich – PBAA is just barely surviving each year and the future of our El Tour is questionable.

I write this, to ask you reconsider riding in El Tour this year.  Your entry fee isn’t about a one day ride – your entry fee is about  supporting and fueling cycling in the Greater Tucson area.  Your fee is bringing recognition within Tucson that we ARE a cycling community.  Your fee is about the other 364 days of riding in Tucson and ensuring that this golden age of cycling becomes the platinum age both locally and nationally.

I spent the better part of a decade climbing out of debt.  I understand if you just don’t have the money to justify an El Tour entry.  Between paying for medical bills, feeding your family, paying your mortgage, you, like I, sometimes can simply not in good conscience justify paying anything to ride in local community events.  There is another way.  If your situation is like mine was those years ago when I longed to be an El Tour rider, then please consider riding for one of over 30 local charities El Tour supports.  Find a charity that supports a cause for which you have a passion and ride in their name.  In raising funds, you get a FREE entrance into El Tour.  By doing so, you can ride in this amazing event, support two charities, and guarantee the future of El Tour.

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