Naperville ride to support opioid recovery goes virtual

Bicyclists and supporters of people in recovery throughout the country can participate in a new virtual version of the nonprofit organization Pedal4Life's annual HeroInMe ride.

The in-person ride to support a bicycling program for recovering opioid users has taken place in Naperville for the past three years, but its typical crowd of 85 to 150 is too large for safety during the COVID-19 era, Pedal4Life founder Ira David Levy said.

Yet the needs of people in recovery from opioid addiction are too dire to cancel the fundraising event, Levy said.

They could be at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection because of years of drug use, and they could be at risk of relapse because of the boredom, stress and isolation inherent in following stay-at-home orders to decrease virus transmission, he said.

So the ride will go on as scheduled June 7 - but at a lower cost and with a remote format. Participants in the "solo, socially distanced" ride can log on to watch a virtual opening ceremony and yoga stretch session, then head out to pedal a distance of their choosing from wherever they are, Levy said.

"We really feel it's important to make sure that our cause remains vibrant and to enlist as much help as we can," he said. "Across the country, we still have millions of people who are in recovery who need to know that they're supported."

Instead of the typical entrance fee of $65, the ride this year costs $5, which Levy hopes will entice more participants to join.

Riders also can choose to follow along with one of three virtual spin classes led by instructors from Lakeshore Athletic Club and Fitness Formula Clubs, if they have a stationary bike at home.

Funds raised from the ride will benefit Pathway2Home. The six-week program connects clients of Banyan Treatment Center, who are recovering from opioid addiction, to empowering talks, group bike rides and bicycle repair clinics. Participants who complete the program get to keep their bike and safety gear, and become eligible for work with the "Pedal America" TV show, for which Levy is the creator, executive producer and host.

Pedal4Life recently received sponsorship funding from Boeing, which Levy said will allow the program to expand into the Washington, D.C., area. A partnership with the Active Transportation Alliance in Chicago also will allow for future programs to help children of people who are battling opioid addiction.

To register for the HeroInMe ride, visit

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Pedal4Life founder Ira David Levy, right, takes a break with patients of Banyan Treatment Center in Naperville, which helps recovering heroin users, during the first ride of its new Pathway2Home program in 2017. This year's ride will be virtual so participants can ride from wherever they are to adhere to gathering size guidelines to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Courtesy of Pedal4Life
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