Culture

The Grind: Up for a challenge? Try 500km on December 30

WBR500 is raising money for World Bicycle Relief with a monster ride on Zwift.

The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel.

“If you tell someone you’re going to ride 14 hours, you’re an idiot. If you add a charity fundraiser, you’re an idiot with a cause.”

On December 30, Kieran Ronan and his friends plan to be idiots armed with a cause, pedaling 500km on Zwift as a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief. His statement above on the WBR500 captures the lighthearted nature of the long-term Nike executive, who like many of us has fully embraced the Zwift platform as a place to exercise, socialize, and challenge ourselves. You know, like bikes outside, but inside.

Kieran and I met last December doing a 200km ride on Zwift led by Tsu Iwabuchi in Japan.

“I just joined that ride at the last minute,” Kieran said. “I had never gone that far inside, and figured I would challenge myself.”

We enjoyed chatting with Tsu and others and we completed what was arguably a stupid-long Zwift ride, just because.

Fast forward through winter into the thick of COVID-19 shutdowns, and Kieran met a number of other folks on Zwift rides, and became a ride leader and a ride sweeper for many 3R and Ascender events.

“Zwift went from an exercise opportunity when it’s pissing down rain in Portland, during COVID, to something that fills in the gaps we weren’t getting outside riding together,” he said.

Nike executive Kieran Ronan is one of the leaders behind WBR500.

So why is a 500km Zwift ride in a gravel column? Three reasons: cookies, challenge, and Buffalo Bikes.

In past years, I’ve rallied local friends and foes for my annual Biscochito Ride on New Year’s Day, where we head out for 100 miles, often on dirt, and always with an ample supply of biscochito cookies from my home state of New Mexico. Doing 100 miles with a huge group this year is obviously off the table. But I know that plenty of gravel heads out there are as up for a challenge as ever. And December 30 is close enough to New Year’s, so what the hell? I’m in, Kieran, you maniac.

Second, a big part of gravel events is the challenge, right? For a very few, it’s ‘Can I win?’ For many others, it’s ‘Can I even do this? Can I finish?’ If 500km in one go doesn’t strike you as a crazy challenge, then I don’t know what to tell you.

And third, Buffalo Bikes are basically the world’s most durable gravel bike. Whereas you and I ride bikes for recreation — exercise, socialization, mental health, yes, but really it’s recreation — Buffalo Bikes go to folks who use them for transportation for the essentials of school and healthcare work. Kieran’s ride, WBR500, aims to donate 500 bikes, one for each kilometer.

The longest ride I’ve done on record was the gravel race formerly known as the DK 200. That was stupidly, stupidly long, at 331km. Granted, indoor miles should be easier in many ways, but…

Kieran did the virtual Everesting thing, because, of course he did. And he did the Leadville climbing challenge indoors. His longest ride inside at this point is 320km.

In any event, Kieran and crew have thus far raised $29,000 for World Bicycle Relief, including matching pledges. This amount is good enough for 197 Buffalo Bikes. He has an anonymous donor who will match any donations between now and the ride date, dollar for dollar.

Speedvagen in Oregon has put a sweet custom-painted bike up for auction by World Bicycle Relief and Stages Cycling donated an SB20 Smart Bike to be won by lottery from the pool of folks who fundraise $150 or more for WBR.

Kieran and the gang behind WBR500 welcome anyone to join for as much or as little of the 500km as they like.

Buffalo Bikes might not be the fastest options in Zwift, but they are the coolest.

WBR500 Details

Fundraising page:  https://give.worldbicyclerelief.org/WBR500

WBR500 Route: The Zwift Tempus Fugit route, over and over

How to join: Follow Global Time Zone captain(s) on the Zwift Companion App, and then on Dec 30 find them and select the Ride With option to join them on the Tempus Fugit route. There are currently two start times: 7 a.m. CET and 3 a.m. PST

Current ride leaders: 
– Morten Monsrud Neilson (Denmark) 07:00 CET
– Michael Ziock / Steve Cambria / Kieran Ronan 03:00 PST

Ride Details: Pace will be 2.2-2.5 w/kg on the front. Riders will be asked to add [WBR500] after their name on Zwift for identification. Rest breaks can be taken by stopping just before the loop turnarounds at either end of the out-and-back course. Then just use the U-turn feature to rejoin the main group as it comes back past.

Expected finish time: 14-15 hours

Strava Club: https://www.strava.com/clubs/wbr500