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Fundraising tips for first-time riders

Ready to become a road warrior?

When you sign up to ride with us across New York State, you’re committing to raising funds that pave the way for innovative cancer research and clinicals trials. Much like training for the 500+ mile adventure, becoming a fundraising master can also take practice.

The good news is you’re not in this alone!

Our Empire State Ride team is providing you with a wide variety of fundraising tools, including imagery ready for your social media feed, the ESR MyHub App and print materials like custom business cards. Read more about the fundraising tools available here.

As you’ll learn throughout your journey, your fellow road warriors can also be a great source of guidance. We asked registered riders in our private Empire State Riders Facebook group to share their advice for first-time fundraisers.

Rider on the road showing a sign of strength

Here’s a look at what they had to say:

  • Thomas F: “Start now by leveraging social and business cards!!!”

  • Shelley A: Start early … some will be happy to donate to your ride. Others need an incentive. If you can get a major prize, (TV, tickets to a game, etc.), then run a raffle. They love a chance to donate while having a chance to win something. Good luck!”

  • Dennis B: “Be creative – we are doing football squares, bowling. Some people are doing beer blasts. Key – be sure to tag people on Facebook when someone gives you a donation and thank them. That really helps your friends see it. Their friends see it, etc.”

  • Mark S: “A local brewery is letting me run a 50/50 during their trivia night!”

  • Steve M: “Some businesses will let you do a match event and donate a portion of proceeds to your ride. I did this twice with Chipotle. Invite friends/family on a specific night to get dinner at your local participating restaurant, and they donate 33%. Easy to do!”

  • Maria C: “My father said always just ask, 😊 You may be surprised, and I always keep my letters and cards with me. Ask everyone you know!”
  • Greg P: “March Madness contest. Get businesses to donate prizes. Then contestants make donations to ESR to get a ballot and play. We have a traveling trophy with names of winners from the previous 28 years.”

  • Chris H: “Don’t say their ‘no’ for them. If you don’t ask, then are you saying their ‘no’ for them. Don’t be shy. Don’t be discouraged by the no’s you get. But at least give them a chance to say ‘yes’ by asking.”

The back of a rider in an excelsior jersey at #ESR22
  • Marah C: “Tell everyone about the incredible event!”

  • Alan K: “You and your donors should check with their employer to see if they offer a company match for any donations made to ESR. My company will match up to $1,000 to any 501c3 charitable organization.”

  • Michelle Lynn B: “Always ask and give people the opportunity to give!”

  • Mark S: “If you do a 50/50 event, be sure to add a Venmo or QR code.

  • Jason M: “Be assertive. Lives depend on this mission.”

Want more fundraising tips? Check out last year’s advice to first-time riders.

Need more guidance?

Please contact the Empire State Ride team at 716-845-3179 or via email at empirestateride@roswellpark.org.

Let’s Get Started: Finding the Right Bike

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ESR Logo

This is part one of a blog series for first-time riders written by first-time Empire State Ride road warrior, Jenna. Join Jenna in learning the ropes as you prepare to ride 500+ miles to end cancer. 

“In a lot of ways, the Empire State Ride is the exact opposite of a race in that the people who are finishing at the end are getting some of the biggest cheers.”

I’m not a cyclist. But I have spoken with people who have done the Empire State Ride and heard many uplifting and inspiring stories. It has quickly become evident to me that the ESR journey is something special. So, I signed up as a first-time rider. Now, it’s time to get started.

As I prepare for my 500+ mile trek alongside new and returning riders, I know I have a long way to go. But I’ve started spinning regularly to build up to the beginner ESR training plan. I also swapped out my old Schwinn hybrid for a new-to-me road bike so that I can ride safely, efficiently and without injury.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned throughout my bike research:

There are many types of bikes out there: trail bikes, hybrids, road bikes, touring bikes; each one has a specific purpose. Road bikes are designed with speed and agility in mind, and their lightweight frame makes them ideal for tackling mileage when you don’t have to carry a ton of luggage (ESR takes care of that for you!). Touring bikes are built with a heavier frame and thicker tires to absorb the vibrations in the road. For long distances, a good endurance (not race) road bike is the best option.

Once you’ve figured out your bike type, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at bikes that are the right size for you. You can find sizing charts online to determine the right frame, but you should also think about your contact points (meaning your pedals, handlebars and saddle) and other factors like your top tube length.

If you’re new to the sport like me, you’re best to leave this part to the experts — which brings me to my next point.

Your local bike shops understand sizing better than anyone and can either a) get you set up with a new bike or b) make any necessary adjustments needed on your bike so that it fits you. 

Road bikes can be expensive. While it can be tempting to buy a cheaper bike from a department store, quality is important when riding 500+ miles. If you are looking to buy secondhand, make sure you’re doing your research and then take it in for a proper tune-up and fitting.

This one is especially important. Make sure that you have the right gear to go along with your new bike, specifically:

  • A CPSC-certified bicycle helmet. Make sure you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions and replacing your helmet every few years, because materials degrade over time. It’s also important to ensure your helmet fits correctly, meaning that it’s low on your forehead, the straps are evenly adjusted, and it does not swivel.

    If your helmet doesn’t fit, is older or has cracks in it, replace it.

    You should also consider investing in a helmet with a Multidirectional Impact Protection (MIPS) system. This technology is relatively new and was developed by specialists in Sweden to absorb shock and better protect your head. You can also consider WaveCel technology as another advanced option.

  • Front and rear lights. Empire State Ride takes place on open roads and trailways. Having a front (white headlight) and rear (red tailgate) ensures that cars passing by you will clearly see you as you ride along. Make sure you use rechargeable batteries or bring extras, as well!

If you’re just getting started with training or considering joining as a new cyclist, let’s get started together. Share your experience with us by email at empirestateride@roswellpark.org or on our social media pages.

The Road to Empire State Ride, brought to you by Port X Logistics: Behind the Scenes

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Meet the Team

As you’re getting ready for your 500+ mile trek across New York State, so is our Empire State Ride operations team.

Every facet of Empire State Ride is mapped out months in advance, though ever-changing details require operations to pivot as the journey demands. The team thinks of all the elements, big and small, so that when you’re on the road, you can focus on the ride rather than the logistics.

Meet Megan, Ashley, Katie and Tom — the operations crew that works year-round to make this adventure possible.

This is a photo of the Empire State Ride Operations Team

“It’s like a big puzzle, like math. You’ve got to go in and figure out solutions to the problems,” said Senior Special Events Operations Coordinator Megan Maslach.

And to make sure the puzzle that is ESR is put together by July, it takes planning — a lot of planning.

“It’s a yearlong process. Even as we’re at a camp, I’m already talking to the venue about next year,” said Production Manager Katie Menke.

Once the team returns home to Buffalo, weekly meetings pick back up in full force to prepare for the upcoming ride. Still, when the weeklong event actually arrives, flexibility is key.

“Our team is really good at working on the fly and troubleshooting. We do an incredible amount of planning, but so many things happen when we’re out there, and our team is just so good at improvising,” said Katie.

Operations Manager Tom Johnston says the biggest obstacle is keeping an eye on all the moving parts.

He added, “Every site is different, and every site has its own flavor and challenges.” 

Camp Life

This is a photo of Katie on the ops team speaking at Wagner College during #ESR22
This is a photo of several rows of tents, featuring the camp life at ESR.
This photo shows members of the ESR staff at #ESR22

In addition to the route itself, camp life is a key part of the ESR experience. Each camp has a rider reception and services hub, tenting area, dining and program tent.

Among her various duties, Katie handles campsite logistics. This includes “everything that goes into rolling into an empty field and building a small village for us for that day,” Katie said. She emphasized that it’s a team effort, with collaboration from members of the ops team, vendors, caterers and more.

While the existing infrastructure varies from one site to the next, riders will always have access to portable restrooms and a traveling shower truck. Booking those amenities is one of Megan’s many tasks.

“I enjoy figuring out what we need to make a space habitable for 350 people,” said Megan. “My favorite part is creating a one-day home for people at each spot.”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the camp life at ESR is that each site is set up and taken down daily as the group rides across the state.

“After the riders leave at around 7:00 a.m., we pack up everything. The tent company packs up 300 tents individually. They roll them up, put them in their trailers, drive an hour to the next place and unload them all,” said Katie. “They even use a leaf blower to dry them out. They inflate air mattresses, they put a camping chair next to each tent and, somehow, they’re ready to go by 2 p.m. or so when the riders arrive after a day on the road.”

Adjusting to Scale

The first ESR took place back in 2014 when founder Terry Bourgeois rode solo from New York City to Niagara Falls on a pursuit to raise critical funds for cancer research at Roswell Park. Over the last nine years, his passion project has inspired hundreds of people to get involved.

Today, there are more than 200 people who join ESR on the road each year — and counting!

“As the event has grown, we’re always thinking about adjusting to scale so that we don’t lose that family-feel, but we also are able to deal with the larger numbers and be more efficient,” Tom explained.

Despite the size of ESR, riders, staff and volunteers alike often use the word “family” to describe the experience. Maintaining the special sense of community that is unique to this ride is essential. “It’s a big production, so much planning goes into it. There are lots of nuts and bolts and moving parts, but somewhere in there is that personal connection,” said Tom.

In recent years, the team has managed all operations in house for ESR. While there’s always room for growth, they say the process has been incredibly fulfilling and successful — creating a kind of synergy with everyone involved.

“I think what’s unique to our event is that it’s not just a bike tour. It’s very much about the cause and about fundraising and about everybody’s stories,” Katie added, “And our team is able to bring those concepts together for our week-long ride.”

Join the ESR Community

Of course, everyone plays an important role in Empire State Ride, including you!

Whether you want to get involved on the frontlines of the adventure as a rider or behind the scenes as a volunteer, members of the ops team say it’s a journey you truly have to experience to understand.

“It doesn’t take seven days to cross New York State. It takes seven hours, but you stretch it out and you see things. You see small towns. You see families who come out to help us. You connect with the community,” said Tom.

And after a year of planning, pivoting and preparing for this one-week-event, the result is an unforgettable journey, with memories to last a lifetime.

This is a group photo of several riders at #ESR22

Rider Spotlight: Alan Kurtz

Meet ESR Road Warrior Alan Kurtz

Alan talks about the Hometown Challenge, overcoming obstacles and honoring 75+ loved ones

Alan Kurtz, 64, sits in front of a wall of race T-shirts, all cut down to squares and stitched together into a quilt that speaks to his lifelong passion. In front of them rests his road bike, a towel draped over the handlebars from his most recent ride. Running has always been at the center of Alan’s life. He’s completed seven marathons and qualified for the Boston Marathon — one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive running events. He ran the 26.2 miles with pride despite a sprained ankle. Later in life, he began competing in triathlons, which brought him into the world of cycling. Once he discovered Empire State Ride, the rest was history.

WHY EMPIRE STATE RIDE MATTERS

Image shows the back of Alan's custom jersey with the names of 75 people lost to cancer.

Like many, Alan has a personal connection to the cancer cause. He lost his father to cancer in 1984, and since then, he’s constantly sought out ways to honor his father’s memory. Walks and short races to raise money weren’t for Alan; he wanted something that would challenge him and combine his love of endurance sports. That’s when he saw a suggestion on Facebook for a 7-day bike tour. He clicked through, learned about the Empire State Ride and read that it supported clinical trials and cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He knew he had to become a road warrior.

In 2017, Alan embarked on a journey of a lifetime to end cancer, joining his fellow road warriors in tackling the 500+ miles from New York City to Niagara Falls. He’s been involved with the event ever since. Along the way, he has honored his father’s 56-year legacy, as well as a growing list of other loved ones affected by cancer: his mother who passed away in 2018, his mother-in-law who passed away in 2016, his father-in-law who passed away in 2020, his uncle who lost his battle in 2022 and 71 others affected by various forms of cancer.

Alan also honors his own battle with prostate cancer after receiving a diagnosis this past year.

With cancer affecting so many facets of Alan’s life, he knew he’d keep coming back to Empire State Ride year over year. Of course, life sometimes has other plans.

RIDING THROUGH IT ALL

A global pandemic, the loss of loved ones, hip surgery and other obstacles have kept Alan from joining his fellow road warriors on the road in recent years. But that hasn’t stop him from participating. He’s completed the Empire State Ride 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge multiple times, always finding new and innovative ways to cover the distance.

This past year, Alan rode up the eastern seaboard of his home state of Florida over the course of seven days. He charted out a course that traveled along the east coast from his home near West Palm Beach, finishing up just north of Jacksonville, booking hotel rooms each night along the way. His wife followed him on his journey, meeting him at preset rest stops (with nutrition and hydration) and the “finish line” in front of each hotel.

Along the way, Alan took in the sights, including a statue of a tin man, piglets, Daytona Speedway and a PGA tournament golf course.

“It was beautiful. I’ve seen many parts of Florida driving, but riding it just gives you a whole new perspective. You can take in so much of the scenery: the local developments and real estate, the river, along the Intercoastal Waterway and, of course, the beach. It was really just a great ride. I’m glad I did it.”

For the challenge, he had two jerseys designed. One jersey indicated that his “Sunshine State Ride” was in support of the Empire State Ride; the other included the names of 75 people who motivate and inspire him to ride, a list that is not comprehensive.

“They are not alone,” Alan says. “More than anything, they (and numerous others) are why I ride!”

ALAN'S ADVICE ON THE HOMETOWN CHALLENGE

The beauty of the 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge is that you can log the miles on your terms while still raising funds for the same impactful cause. You can ride anywhere in the world and break up the miles however you choose during the month of July (or beyond).

“If this is a cause that you really believe in and you want to do something about it but can’t afford to go on the road, the Hometown Challenge is your best opportunity to do it,” Alan says. “It’s not that hard if you put your mind to it.”

Here are some of the great benefits you’ll get when you sign up for the challenge:

  • A private Facebook group with fellow riders to connect, share advice and ask questions
  • The new ESR myHUB app
  • Access to experts, including a fundraising coordinator, cycling coach and more
  • Fundraising tools to help you meet and exceed your personal goal
  • Challenge to track your miles during the month of July
  • Rewards to celebrate your milestones
  • A team of other cyclists from around the world, ready to take on this adventure with you

“ESR, to me, is not only about the challenge; more importantly, it’s about the cause. Figure out what you’re comfortable with, get dedicated, get motivated and get out there and do it,” Alan says. “You will get better, you will get more comfortable, and you’ll be able to go farther. It’s not about speed, but you will find yourself going faster, and you’ll find yourself just loving it.”

JOIN ALAN AT THIS YEAR'S RIDE — IN PERSON OR VIRTUALLY

Coach Charlie Livermore: Pedaling Efficiently

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Coach charlie LIvermore on Pedaling

This is a short version of a much longer talk on pedaling that Charlie will present at the ESR. The aim of this blog is to give you a simple technique you can practice to improve your pedaling efficiency.

Training for 2023 ESR requires lots of time at an easy, conversational pace (endurance intensity). Athletes often find this important piece of the training puzzle boring and repetitive. It’s too “easy” to keep your mind focused on the workout execution and counterintuitive to the old “no pain, no gain” cliche. But there’s no better time to practice your pedaling mechanics and improve your cycling efficiency than during those 60’ to 6-hour endurance rides. The smoother and more efficient you can train your pedaling stroke, the less energy you require to maintain your power or speed — and who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Think of a pedal stroke in the same way you might think of a golf swing, tennis swing or swim stroke. It’s a complex series of muscle activation of the hips, gluteus and leg muscles to act on moving the crank in a circle to create maximum torque. The longer you can create torque around the pedal stroke, the better. This is referred to as the duty cycle.

In the image below, you can see what the duty cycle of an efficient cyclist looks like compared to the duty cycle of most recreational cyclists.

On the left, the efficient cyclist starts applying tangential force when the crank is behind 12 o’clock (green) and ends at about 7 o’clock (pink). On the right, the duty cycle starts at 1 o’clock (pink) and ends before 6 o’clock (green).

A graph that shows the pedaling range of advanced and everyday riders.

It’s clear that there’s much more time in the duty cycle of an efficient cyclist. If you think about what’s happening on the other side of the crank of a short duty cycle, there’s a whole lot of time where there’s no force on the pedals at all. This results in the bike decelerating, forcing you to reaccelerate with every pedal stroke. If you have a hard time keeping your speed in a headwind or on a climb, you most likely have a short duty cycle.

So, how do we practice and change our pedaling efficiency? It’s really easy in theory, but it will take some time to adjust. Human are programmed to walk not pedal, and we are essentially applying walking biomechanics to pedaling, which looks like this: push down, wait for the feedback when our foot feels the floor, and then begin the process with the other leg.

To change that, we have to avoid reaching the floor and stop thinking about pushing down. Instead, think about pushing across the top and sweeping back before you feel the bottom. You don’t have to think about pushing down. That will happen naturally.

A graph that shows the pedaling range of advanced and everyday riders.

Quick tips

Things to think about and work on while practicing efficient pedaling technique:

  • Pedaling in the saddle is a two-joint action: hip joint and knee joint. No need to act on the ankle joint. No ankling.
  • Walking is a two-joint action: knee joint and ankle joint. We are not walking.
  • Think about pedaling from the hips, not the feet. Unless you’re sprinting, you should never feel much pressure on your foot against the pedals.
  • The push over the top starts by activating the muscles that extend the hip — the gluteus and rectus femoris.
  • The bottom sweep starts by activating the hamstring to close the knee joint. Try to feel your heel pulling back against your shoe.
  • To begin this technique, first focus on getting the sweep right. Try pedaling exclusively with the hamstrings (posterior chain) to activate and program this part of the stroke.
  • Imagine staying close to the top and the bottom of the circle. Do NOT overextend your leg on the downstroke or lift it too far over the top on the upstroke.
  • You are not pedaling in full circles! The pedal stroke is from 11 to 7 on a clock. Don’t overuse your hip flexor to “lift the leg.”
  • The advanced version of this technique is to synchronize the push over the top with the sweep through the bottom.

Thanks for reading!

Coach Charlie

Fundraising made easy: connect your dashboard with Facebook

Fundraising $3,500 is a challenge, but when armed with the right tools and attitude, it’s easier than you think. 

One of the best tools to help with your fundraising is integrating your online fundraising dashboard with your personal Facebook page. This allows you to easily spread the word about your fundraiser and track your progress. You can also send updates on your progress, making it that much simpler to reach your goal. Additionally, your friends and family can donate when scrolling through their newsfeeds. The best part? Your progress will be reflected in your fundraising thermometer, both on Facebook and on your Empire State Ride fundraising page, so people can stay up to date on your journey. 

Here's How to Connect Your Fundraiser to Facebook

Log in to your fundraising dashboard.

Access your dashboard through the Empire State Ride website, by clicking “log in” in the top right corner. Open Facebook in a separate tab and log in.

Locate the blue box and click "Edit Fundraiser Content."

Locate the blue box in your dashboard that says, “Raise Money Directly on Facebook.” In that box, click, “Edit Fundraiser Content.”

Facebook integration image of blue box

TIPS

  • If mobile doesn’t work for you, try connecting on a desktop and make sure that pop-ups are not blocked in your browser.
  • Edit your Facebook content, including your title and story, before connecting to Facebook.
  • When you’re ready, click “Save and Connect Fundraiser to Facebook.”

After being redirected to Facebook, follow the prompts to connect.

  • If you’ve used Facebook fundraising for the Empire State Ride before, you will not receive any pop-ups. Instead, you’ll receive a notification on Facebook saying your fundraiser is live. On your fundraising dashboard, the blue box button will change to say, “Go to Facebook Fundraiser.”

Promote your fundraiser.

Promote your fundraiser on Facebook by sharing or inviting people to your fundraiser to start receiving donations. 

image shows a facebook dashboard

This tool will allow you to spread the word about your fundraiser, engage directly with donors and reach more people than you ever thought possible. 

If you choose, you can also integrate Facebook through the ESR MyHub app. Read more here.

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