Fourteen students from Western Kentucky University are about to set off on a 3600-mile bike ride across the country, raising thousands of dollars to find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Biking from San Francisco, CA to Virginia Beach, VA will be no easy task, and we caught up with Gabe Hitz (President) and Jack Blair (VP) to hear about the journey, their motivation, and get insight into what they’ll listen to along the way!
AfterShokz: Tell us a little about yourself, your school, and your Fraternity Brothers
Bike4Alz: We are all members of the fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI at Western Kentucky University (WKU). Thirteen of the fourteen people going on the 2019 ride will be starting their junior year in the Fall, and we have one lone soon-to-be-senior. We're also all from Kentucky, except for Gabe.
AfterShokz: Why are you biking 3600 miles for Alzheimer's?
Bike4Alz: Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and almost every person knows someone who has been affected by the disease. Numerous riders have had grandparents, great-grandparents, close friends, or other family members who have passed away from the disease. There is currently no known cure for Alzheimer’s, so this makes our drive to bike every day even greater. There have been recent developments in Alzheimer’s research, which is encouraging to know we are making a difference.
AfterShokz: Who came up with the idea?
Bike4Alz: Bike4Alz's first mile came during the Summer of 2010. Our founder, Tyler Jury, experienced the pain of losing his grandfather to Alzheimer's. Tyler and five of his fraternity brothers, inspired by the recent death, crossed the country on bikes to raise money for Alzheimer's research. Their first ride raised over $60,000, and since then we've had five more rides and have raised over $300,000 towards finding a cure for this awful disease.
AfterShokz: How has the fundraising been going? What can people do to help?
Bike4Alz: So far, Team 007 (named after James Bond), has raised more money pre-ride than previous teams. We are on pace to be the most successful ride in Bike4Alz history and should reach our initial goal of raising $70,000 for Alzheimer's research. You can help Team 007 by donating through our Crowdchange or by going to the Bike4Alz website. On our website, you can also find our itinerary, if you're interested in meeting us along the way and making a donation in person. We’d love to meet you!
AfterShokz: What do you think your biggest challenges will be on the journey?
Bike4Alz: Previous riders have told us that the second week of the 10-week journey will be the most difficult. Coming off of being sore from our first full week of biking, we immediately hit with the mountain ranges in Eastern California/ Western Nevada. On our fifth day biking, we climb 12,000-feet in elevation and go back down it the same day. That will be a real test of our endurance, both mentally and physically.
AfterShokz: Tell us about your training up to this challenge.
Bike4Alz: Honestly, training hasn't been going as great as we'd like. Of course, we've been improving our diets, working out our legs, and running to build up our endurance, but there are only a select few of us who have been biking almost every day to get used to being on a bike for ten weeks straight. Some of us have only been on the bike a handful of times. We have recently completed a 42-mile trial run to work out the day-to-day aspects of riding and sticking to a schedule. Other than the trial run, the furthest any of us have biked in a single ride is about 30 miles. We'll be in for a rude awakening as we'll be averaging around 68 miles a day.
AfterShokz: What type of music will you listen to on the trip?
Bike4Alz: We have a lot of different taste in music among the riders so our music choices will vary by who you ask. We have some guys who love country, some who love rap/hip-hop, a bunch who like some 80's rock, and a select few who like heavy metal. I asked each rider to send in a song they'll listen to the most on the ride:
"In the Air Tonight" - Phil Collins
"The Boys are Back in Town" - Thin Lizzy
"All Night Long" - Lionel Richie
"Bless the Broken Road" - Rascal Flatts
"Bennie and the Jets" - Elton John
"Work Out" - J. Cole
"Monster" - Kanye West
"Safari Song" - Greta Van Fleet
"Sedona" - Houndmouth
"Bombs Away" - B.o.B.
"The Way you Move" - OutKast
"God's Country" - Blake Shelton
"The Rubberband Man" - The Spinners
"Don't Stop Me Now" - Queen
AfterShokz: If you could spread one message, what would it be?
Bike4Alz: Alzheimer's disease is something that affects all of us in some capacity. Every day we get on the bike, we ride for the people who can't. Although we aren't the ones who will find a cure for Alzheimer's, we do everything we can to raise money for the people who are in the lab researching and testing every day. We are so close to finding a cure; we want to #EndAlz in seven years.
AfterShokz: What inspires you?
Bike4Alz (Jack): I am inspired by my great-grandfather, JD Skaggs or Pop-Pop, who passed away from Alzheimer's when I was just a kid. Seeing the effect the disease had on him first-hand was something I will always remember. It's excruciating to watch someone you've known your whole life forget who you are.
Everyone on the ride has been affected by Alzheimer's, whether it be a family member or a friend. Each day we get up and on the bikes in honor of these people. We "Dedicate a Day" and ride the whole day for someone's loved one who has passed away from the disease — hearing personal stories about Alzheimer's puts into perspective just how important this ride is.
AfterShokz: What has been your greatest achievement?
Bike4Alz: This year, our level of sponsorships and fundraising is off the charts. We are having the most success of any prior ride, and are well on our way to hitting our $70,000 goal.
AfterShokz: What has been your greatest challenge?
Bike4Alz: Planning our day-to-day route and lodging has been by far the hardest part of our preparation. We are fourteen 20-21 year old kids who are planning everything by ourselves. From where we stay, to where we eat, to the route, we are the only ones behind-the-scenes doing the work. It is a very rewarding experience once we got it done, but this was definitely the most challenging part so far. I’m sure once we go through some mountain ranges this answer will be different.
AfterShokz: What do you enjoy most about your AfterShokz?
Bike4Alz: AfterShokz have been perfect for what we are doing. To be able to listen safely to cars around us and the other riders, while still hearing our music is amazing. I also love how I can answer calls and use Siri without having to get my phone out while riding. The lightweight, open-ear design is so comfortable that I often forget I'm even wearing headphones. The Bluetooth is also very beneficial, so we don't have to worry about wires and cords getting tangled while we ride.
AfterShokz: What’s next for you?
Bike4Alz: After the ride, I'm sure we're going to be doing a lot of working, sleeping, and relaxing to catch up on being gone for ten weeks. Our goal when we decided to do Bike4Alz this year was growth. We've had many successful rides, but Bike4Alz is still smaller and not as well known as we'd like. People within our school have never heard about us! We hope that within five years Bike4Alz will be recognized nationally and can raise at least $100,000 each Summer.
Follow along with the Bike4Alz crew throughout the summer and send them words of encouragement on Instagram: @Bike4Alz and Twitter: @Bike4Alz. Their website, Bike4Alz.org, will also keep you up to date on the happenings of the riders!