A preview of the 16th annual CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo
By Damen Rodriguez | Photo by Jason Duchow Photography
The bicycle beacons of Sandpoint, Idaho, have been lit. Will you answer its call? Come one, come all to the 16th annual CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo, the highly celebrated and anticipated cycling charity event hosted this summer on Saturday, June 17. The ride is organized by the Sandpoint Rotary and made possible by upwards of 80 sponsors, six nonprofit organizations and 150 volunteers, some of whom take part in a year-round committee dedicated to providing the best possible experience for the participants. All proceeds will be dedicated to Lake Pend Oreille School District’s (LPOSD) “Book Trust” program, whose mission is “to help elementary school children with little/no access to books fall in love with reading and become lifelong learners. With Book Trust, students learn the power of choice and the pride of ownership, and students’ reading levels and academic performances improve, motivating them to succeed.”
“This is a ride, not a race,” declares the event’s organizer, Mel Dick. A Gran Fondo—Italian for “Big Ride”—seeks to challenge each rider to beat their personal records and compete with themselves rather than other cyclists. The CHAFE 150 offers a myriad of distance routes to partake in. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or simply enjoy being on two wheels, there is an option just right for you. This year’s participants can choose from the 150, 80, 40, 25, or the newly added 55-mile gravel route. “It (CHAFE 150) has evolved from a one-route, 150-mile ride the first year in 2008 with about 75 riders, to multiple routes with over 350 riders this year,” states Mel. Cyclists near and far voyage annually to Sandpoint to challenge themselves to the task of completing the 150-mile route, which loops around the Cabinet Mountains of Idaho and Montana. With a 6,500-foot vertical climb over the whole distance, this route offers poetic pause and invites each rider to graciously gaze upon the vibrant landscapes and teeming wildlife.
There are a multitude of qualities that separate the CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo from other similar cycling events. “The long-distance route, the stunning scenery, the professionalism, SAG (Service and Gear) services and the innovative ways of keeping up with the times” puts the charity event, Cycle Hard For Education (CHAFE) above the rest, according to the founder Brad Williams. Many previous participants praise the ride as “One of the best supported” and “The most looked forward to after-parties” for cycling events of this caliber in the nation. Another attribute is the use of CHAFE’s rider surveys, which aim to improve the event each year by taking the time to review each response. Recently, a once troubling portion of the ride, due to a lack of road shoulder, has since been re-routed to ensure each cyclist’s safety. Yet another great example of implementing feedback from previous riders and remaining innovative is the addition of this year’s gravel bike route. “Anytime you come up with a new route you have a whole new set of challenges,” states Brad. This means logistical coordination between the CHAFE committee’s organizers and various government bodies in order to provide a quality experience for each rider.
Each year the number of riders grows, as does the number of sponsors. CHAFE has a multi-tiered sponsor program of Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze sponsors amongst many more local supporters, all of which either donate funds, participate directly in the event or both. This well-oiled machine wouldn’t be possible without each of its proud sponsors. Like Media, whose mission is to impact communities in a positive way by creating content that will connect businesses with the local community, provides web hosting services for the event to ensure all those interested have access to the ride’s necessary information and registration. The presence of many other sponsors can be felt throughout the day.
The morning will begin at Sandpoint’s City Beach to check in, followed by a bountiful breakfast hosted at the lakeside Trinity at City Beach restaurant. If you plan on participating in one of the longer routes, you will be shuttled by buses provided by the LPOSD to your starting point in Troy, Montana. Litehouse will be transporting the bikes, and Sandpoint’s Greasy Fingers will be offering SAG services throughout the ride. A dedicated team of volunteers will greet you at scenic hydration stations while helpful Bonner General Health (BGH) staff standby for any first-aid needs. Other notable sponsors include KPND Radio, Bonner County Daily Bee, Kochava, Ting Internet, The Quill Family and RE/MAX, to name a few.
Both Mel and Brad (who has ridden every year except one) have an extensive background in and dedication to education. Since Sandpoint Rotary took over the event in 2014, the organization has since assessed proposals from various charities every three years. This year the selected charity is LPOSD’s Book Trust program, which provides young students access to owning their own books and improving literacy. “Each of the rides have helped support students in the LPOSD become some of the best in state in statewide testing scores especially related to reading,” according to Mel. Each month of the school year, Book Trust teachers engage their students in choosing books that connect to their interests. Anticipation builds as teachers place their students’ orders on Scholastic’s website and kids start asking, “Are the books here?” and “How many more days?” “When you see how excited the kids are to read their new books and have a desire to read, what more can you ask for? It's a game changer!” shares Annie Hendricks, a 10-year sponsor/volunteer. “Cumulatively, the ride has raised approximately $750,000,” reports Mel.
Annie, of Hendricks Architecture, and her family have been both sponsors and volunteers since Sandpoint Rotary took over the event. “We always man the Bull River stop in Montana. It's one of the trickier ones due to several factors; there's no water, electricity, cell service or parking really. You have to lug everything over there (water containers, coolers), and you have to remember Montana is an hour ahead too!” Annie shares. “For us the mission is certainly the main reason we participate. We fully support the Book Trust program in our school district, which may be my favorite cause to date. Having volunteered and been a substitute teacher over the last 17 years in the school district, getting books into young readers’ hands is a vital outreach to help our kids to not only learn to read but to love to read,” she adds. Mel reportedly rode with a first-time participant who raised $5,000, seeking to complete the 150-mile route and remained committed, encouraging each other until the finish line. Mel himself once suffered a neck, shoulder and rib injury 30 miles in to go on and finish the ride, fueled by adrenaline and nature’s majesty. Locals, visitors, sponsors, volunteers, first-time riders and returning participants each continue to make room on their calendars for the CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo for one reason or another.
If you have access to a two-wheeled pedal-powered machine and possess the desire for a challenging yet gratifying nature experience, look no further than the CHAFE 150 Gran Fondo. Riders, who are encouraged to form teams and spread the love for this charitable excursion, are required to raise a minimum of $50 for the cause. They are encouraged to set up their own fundraising page when they register and obtain support from friends, family, co-workers, etc.
They are also incentivized with prizes based on how much they raise, ranging from free registrations to a bicycle. All pertinent information and updates about this year’s CHAFE 150 ride and its cause can be found on their website, CHAFE150.org, along with the route maps and list of local supporters. Sign up now and join us this summer at Sandpoint City Beach to endeavor on this cycling expedition for education.