Support gender equality by joining International Women's Day ride

Get your bikes out of the garage for an early March ride that is all about solidarity.

Lombard rider Dawn Piech, founder of International Women's Day Together We Ride event in 2020, hopes for another big turnout for her event this year, even though it will be virtual.

With 140 participants last year, including D.C., 18 states and four countries, Piech aims for 175-190 riders, despite 2021 shutdown restrictions.

"International Women's Day Together We Ride is a day of unity across the world as we ride together in support of gender parity and equality," Piech said.

"We can all be a collective symbol of hope and solidarity, our bikes serving as the medium for connection."

Greg Bertsch, Eric Roys, Dawn Piech, and Kirsten Dennison support the International Women's Day Ride in Richland, Wisconsin. Courtesy of Dawn Piech

How can one join? Unlike typical rides, this event doesn't involve a single group, single location or single day. The free "ride" is scheduled over three days, March 6-8, ending on International Women's Day.

Riders bike when, where and however they prefer. They are only asked to post an outing photo on the International Women's Day Together We Ride 2021 Facebook page or via email to

"The event is more flexible during COVID-19," added Piech, "including indoor rides, allowing all distances and three days. We hope this gives people flexibility, so that they feel comfortable."

2020 participants only chose from 100, 50 or 25-kilometer distances.

With support from Randonneurs USA, Piech (recently elected board member) launched her vision of "a virtual bike ride around the world to celebrate International Women's Day and to raise awareness for the work being done to create an equal world."

"I contacted the Driftless Randonneurs Regional Brevet Administrator Greg Smith for help promoting my idea to get national involvement. Extremely supportive, he helped me get the word out to Randonneurs USA regional leaders. From there, the event blossomed very quickly, including outreach to Chicago area cyclists and some clubs.

"I wanted to make people aware that, in some countries, it is still illegal for women to ride a bicycle, ... that the bicycle is a catalyst for women to rise out of poverty, ... a tool to bring freedom to females in developing countries, breaking down transportation and safety barriers historically keeping girls from accessing education."

Elmhurst Bike Club riders Grace Doyle, Roberta Rehor and Kim Messina show off their 2020 ride patch. Courtesy of Kimberly Messina

Like last year, the Elmhurst Bicycle Club and Sheri Rosenbaum of the Trek Bicycle Store of Highland Park Women's Group plan rides again. Weather permitting, Kimberly Messina, EBC secretary and advocacy co-chair, will lead a 20-mile ride March 6 to Toni's Patisserie, a woman-owned Hinsdale cafe.

A second ride Sunday, March 7, may also occur. Check the EBC website for more information.

Rosenbaum's TrekHP rides will be virtual with several components.

• GPS routes of different distances and start locations (including near TrekHP) available in early March based on weather and trail/road conditions, with safety the number one concern.

• Zwift Meetups available for indoor trainer riders.

• A chance to win raffle items open for all women posting ride photos.

Make your own goals:

Speaking of ambitious goals.

My recent column on biking goals elicited various reactions. Meant as suggestions for goal-setters like myself, it offered a smorgasbord of choices in case you are ...

• tired of your old goals,

• can't think of one,

• considering your first goal.

One anonymous reaction: "I'm a no-goal rider. Tracking miles ... takes the fun out of it." Another smartly noted goals are personal, meaningful to the individual. No argument there.

Some, like Palatine's Al Olson, offered specifics: "I'd like 100-mile legs, able to easily ride 100 miles in a day."

Others, like Glen Ellyn's Carrie Provost, mentioned her unfinished 2020 goal. To avoid stir-craziness last April, Provost, concert orchestra director of the Youth Symphony of DuPage and ex-Wheaton resident, revived a DeKalb girlhood project: Biking to every street in town. Back then, she and her sisters only reached the "L" streets.

This time, logging 1,500 miles on her 2020 Wheaton "alphabet rides," she hopes to finish her list in 2021. Currently at "Stoddard Avenue" alphabetically, she's headed to "Yvonne Lane."

Riding to Antarctica:

Elgin's Keith Newell sets a 1,500-mile goal every year. Logging 8,000 was a real stretch. He logged 3,300, his longest distance ever, in 2012. When friends tried imagining that distance, Newell provided a visual: Road mileage from Nova Scotia to San Diego.

Final leg of Keith Newell's 8,000-mile goal - crusty snow on the Fox River Trail bridge at South End Park in West Dundee. Courtesy of Courtesy of Keith Newell

The 2020 shutdown forced many like Newell, a customer service rep for a scientific instruments company, to work from home.

"After that first day, I really needed to get outside on my bike," he said. Having experienced biking pleasure on a workday, "I wanted to get out every day."

By July 10, 2020, he'd shredded his 3,300-mile personal record.

What next? Newell searched - Lima, Peru, was only 3,810 nautical miles from Elgin. After Lima disappeared in his rear view mirror, Newell "looked at Rio de Janeiro, 5,337 flying miles away. After that I thought it'd be great telling people that I rode to South America's southern tip, 6,779 miles away."

According to close friend Randy Holt, Newell reached Tierra del Fuego by early November.

"While the weather remained warm, Keith set a new goal - King George Island, Antarctica, which he reached in December."

Newell didn't stop, noting, "I never thought I'd make it to 8,000. No Antarctica landmarks were exactly 8,000 miles away. They were either a couple hundred miles shorter or longer.

"It came down to the last week and a half in December. I still needed 26 more miles, so Dec. 30, I left Elgin's Borden Library heading north. Pedaling was tough because of the frozen snow crust. I decided when I got to the next street crossing, I was going to head back.

"Then I saw someone had shoveled the trail from Covey Street to the connecting trail over the bridge to South End Park. From there, I rode Dundee side streets until I reached 21 miles. I then headed back."

End of story? Not quite. "To make 8,000, I still had to ride around the Borden Library block a few times in the dark."

Goal for 2021? "We'll say Lima, Peru, again."

Cycling Shorts:

That same Sheri Rosenbaum, cycling industry influencer, writer and advocate, offers tips and tricks to planning your next cycling adventure at a March 10 Ride Illinois webinar, "Route Planning for Cyclists." Sheri will cover road, gravel and trail route planning.

• Join the ride. Reach Ralph Banasiak at

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