“…know that you are helping to feed so many people in western Massachusetts.”

Maeleah Carlisle

Cyclist and Springfield City librarian, Maeleah Carlisle, shares her experiences as a first-time participant in the 2017 Will Bike 4 Food ride to end hunger. She also offers advice and encouragement to this year’s group of new riders and anyone who is considering taking part.

This year’s Will Bike 4 Food takes place on September 30 in Hatfield. All proceeds will benefit The Food Bank.

How did you hear about Will Bike 4 Food and what made you decide to participate?

A few folks at my church were doing it and I also saw a posted flyer. It looked like it would be fun to do; however, the first year I wanted to do it I didn’t have a bike. I looked into renting one, but it was too complicated, so I decided not to do it.  The next year came around, and I said, “you know, I really want to do this. I’m going to get a bike and figure this out.” I did. I not only helped raise money for The Food Bank, but I also discovered I love biking.

There are so many important causes to support, why are you riding to help end food insecurity in the region?

I believe food is a very basic necessity. I know there are different circumstances that can suddenly make people not be able to afford food for their family. I like supporting The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts because it partners with so many agencies, so I feel like my money is staying local and yet reaching many people. My church is also one of the sites for the Mobile Food Bank, and I’ve seen the lines of people and how appreciative they are of this service.

How did you prepare for the ride?

I exercised at the gym and lifted weights; rode my bike on flat roads and rail trails to make sure I could do the distance and then graduated to city and country roads with hills and valleys. I also road my bike in Forest Park to practice riding up hills. The first year I rode my bike, I also had the support of my friend to help me get used to riding on a road — what to expect and tips for riding longer distances. He rode with me to make sure I could do the 25 miles.

How did you go about fundraising and what was the process like? 

I had a multi-prong approach. I emailed some family and friends that didn’t live in the Springfield area. Then I sent another email asking friends locally to donate and gave them the link to donate online. I also asked people I knew at the gym where I worked out. Lastly, I asked for support from people at my church. They are always very supportive. I felt weird asking people for money, but most people were very happy to give and donated generously.

Were you nervous about riding?

I was worried about a lot of things. I had not ridden a bike in a long time. I was not sure I would feel comfortable riding on the road. My friend challenged me to ride 25 miles instead of 10, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it. I wasn’t sure how I would find a bike that “fit” me and the logistics of storing it since I live in a 3rd floor apartment. When I signed up last year, I signed up later, so I was agreeing to raise $250. If I didn’t raise it, it was going to come out my pocket, and I was really nervous about that. But I thought, this is for a really good cause. I am just going to have faith that it will work out. I decided to focus more on [the fact] that it could be a really fun, new experience and to trust the process each step of the way. I could figure it out. The amazing thing, with the support of my friends and my church, I did!

What were the best things about taking part in Will Bike 4 Food?

It’s a fun event. It supports a local need, and it’s a very well-organized event. You sign in, tell them how many miles you are riding, and give them the money you have so far if you got cash and checks. Then you wait for the allotted time for your group to go, and you ride. There are stops along the way to get water or snacks. They have people driving by checking on you to make sure you’re okay and at the end is a great meal with awesome food. Plus, you get a great t-shirt!

What words of advice do you have to encourage other people to sign up, fund-raise, and get ready for ride day?

  • It’s a lot of fun. If you have a friend to train with you and ride with you, it makes it even more enjoyable. But if not, it’s still fun to be with all these other people who are also riding.
  • Don’t worry about the fundraising. Just ask your friends, your family, your neighbors. They will all want to support you and it’s for a great cause. All the donations start to add up and before you know it, you will make your goal.
  • For the day of the ride, just plan to get there early so you can relax, unload your bike, register, and be ready at the time your group is scheduled to leave. Drink lots of [plain] water so you are hydrated before you get there, and drink water with electrolytes as you ride, especially if it is a really hot day. I brought a few snacks to have handy on my bike as well as water, but I also supplemented it with the water and power bars at the water stations, especially toward the end of the ride. Check the weather and just dress accordingly. Breathe, relax, and enjoy the ride. It’s not a race, so you can enjoy the ride along the way and know that you are helping to feed so many people in western Massachusetts.

There is still time to participate in the 2018 Will Bike 4 Food. Learn more.