On May 31st thousands of cyclists will take off on a seven day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS, as part of the annual AIDS/LifeCycle. Among the teams this year is Tour de Tight, a quartet of riders that includes two current Vancouver residents and two others with connections to our city.
Tour de Tight consists of Los Angeles resident Mark Jacob Chaitin (photo above), his boyfriend and former Vancouver resident Dave Giglio, plus two current Vancouver residents, Tom Hsu and Todd Evanger. As part of their fundraising efforts, they will host a fundraiser in Vancouver on Saturday, April 25.
In this Q&A, we asked Chaitin what led him and his group to participate, what they are doing to ready themselves for the ride and what’s in it for Vancouver residents who attend their fundraiser.
How is it that some of your team is from Vancouver? How do you all know each other?
My boyfriend Dave lived in Vancouver for a while before moving to Los Angeles. Two of the team members are from Vancouver and have stayed connected with Dave. We’re excited to be in Vancouver this weekend. It’s a beautiful city, with amazing people.
Is this your first time participating in AIDS/LifeCycle?
This is the first time for every member of our team, Tour de Tight.
What made you want to get involved with this particular fundraiser?
I first heard about the AIDS/LifeCycle two years ago when I was in San Francisco and ran into a group of riders the day before they were starting the ride that year. The idea of biking down the coast of California sounded insane to me at the time, but it planted a seed of something that I wanted to accomplish. When my boyfriend and I started dating, we both brought up wanting to do the ride, and I’m excited that we now get to do this adventure together., I’m choosing to invest in the AIDS/LifeCycle because I am excited by new challenging physical goals and going on new adventures, but the impact this fundraiser in particular has on the community is pretty incredible.
It’s a pretty grueling 545 miles over seven days – how do you get ready for a ride like that?
I’ve been training for a few months, as well as researching and reading anything and everything I can on cycling. I’ve been talking with our other team members and other riders from previous years and trying to pick their brains on tips for a successful ride. The organization is amazing in the community that it builds as part of the ride. There are group training rides organized, where we ride about 50 miles each week. We’ve also go a few of our own rides down the coast here in Los Angeles, and we’ve been ramping up our training by adding spinning classes each week. In Vancouver, Eastwood Cycling Sanctuary is being very generous by arranging a special event spin class and donating the money raised from the class our fundraising efforts.
Have you ever ridden that far before?
I’ve made the 545 trek in my boyfriend’s Jeep before, does that count?
What are you most looking forward to in the race?
Already as part of the AIDS/LifeCycle we’ve been welcomed by a generous and supportive community. I’m looking forward to being on this journey with 2,500 other riders, staff and volunteers, and getting to know the stories of the other riders as we travel down the coast.
What kind of bike do you have and how long have you been cycling?
I live a very active lifestyle and definitely focus on fitness, however I haven’t been cycling for that long. I think out of all the team members, who have done triathlons and been avid cyclists, I have the least amount of experience on a bike. I was riding a stationary bike for a while five5 years ago as part of physical therapy and recovery from a sports injury. Now, I regularly do weight lifting, swimming, running and rock climbing, but I’m enjoying the new physical challenge of cycling.
This is even my first road bike. I have a giant Defy bike, and I feel incredibly lucky to have it. As a great example of how supportive the community is an extraordinary rider who has been part of the AIDS/LifeCycle before just bought a new bike, and is gifting me his old bike. I like that this bike has been on the ride before, and it carries the energy of those previous rides. His donation definitely reminds me that this thing is bigger than me, and that the cause has such a rich history. This is an expensive sport, and I would be unable to participate without his generosity. I’m amazed at the warmth and kindness of the people involved with this organization. It’s overwhelming.
You have a fundraiser coming up in Vancouver – what do you say to people in Vancouver about supporting a fundraiser that benefits two California organizations?
That’s a great question. The funds we raise do go to support the HIV/AIDS services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation; however the services go to individual people who are living with HIV/AIDS. One thing I’ve been reminded of as being part of this ride is that there are things out there that are bigger than myself. There are riders from all over the place who are participating in the AIDS/LifeCycle. This is a global issue, and the AIDS/LifeCycle riders raise awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS, not just in those communities in California.
Today I think the impact of something like the AIDS/LifeCycle can have such a wide range through social media and international teams such as ours. We’re riding not just for those individuals in the communities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, but in honor of those who have died due to HIV/AIDS, and for the future generations who I hope will no longer be affected. The AIDS/LifeCycle says on their website that “ultimately we ride so that someday we won’t have to.”
The Tour de Tight Fundraiser takes place at Wil Aballe Art Projects (105-1356 Frances St, Vancouver) on Saturday, April 25. Visit the group’s Facebook event page for more information. For more information AIDS/LifeCycle visit http://aidslifecycle.org.