Erik Mathy isn't the kind of guy who talks about doing something…he's the guy doing something. His charity '1 Gear, 1 Cause' will be the recipient of the proceeds from Salsa's Minneapolis showing of the Ride The Divide movie. We thought you'd like to no more about him and his charity.
Kid: Tell us a bit about yourself?
Erik: My cancer saga started long ago. My Dad has lost 5 brothers almost a sister to cancer. When Uncle Richard, who was the first, was undergoing treatment it was Dad who spent weeks at a time with him. He'd take Uncle Richard to treatments, stay with he and Aunt Gerry, help out, cook…whatever was needed. It's what Dad has done to a greater or lesser extent for all of them, the most recent being Aunt Jackie in Seattle. I learned from his example. When people you care about are in need, you don't think. You do!
There isn't much I haven't done at this point. I've ridden from Seattle to DC for the American Lung Association to fight lung cancer. I've coached in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team In Training Program. I've helped run almost all the signature Lance Armstrong/Livestrong bicycle fundraising events from 2000 - 2009. Somewhere in there I've found the time to do the Great Divide Route (GDR) on a motorcycle as a cancer fundraiser, start raising my son and established a career as a geek.
Now it's time to saddle up once again for a trip down the Continental Divide. This time on a singlespeed bicycle, but as always to fight cancer.
Kid: I know you are originally from the glorious city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, but now live in not-too-shabby San Francisco, California…in 1000 words or less, describe the differences between those two cities?
Erik: I can do it in one word: Huge!
Really though, there are a great many things that I love about both Green Bay and San Francisco. Green Bay is a really friendly place with, at least to me, a small town feel. The farm fields and woods are gorgeous! It's flat but the wind coming off the Bay makes bike riding there challenging. That and the farm dogs. They help you work on your sprints! My family is still there, along with a great many childhood friends. I visit as often as possible.
San Francisco is almost the exact opposite. It's a big, cosmopolitan city with everything that comes along with it. The diversity is massive! So are other things like crime and pollution. There is always a trade off, you know? Being right on the Pacific Ocean it's got all the wind that Green Bay has, plus tons and tons of climbing. If you don't mind getting (very!) wet, you can ride year around here.
Kid: The Great Divide/Tour Divide route is not unfamiliar to you. Please tell us about your experience with it.
Erik: My cousin Scott Brendemihl was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in November of 2005. I found out on Thanksgiving in fact. At the time I was working in motorcycle shops and had the GDR in mind as a possible dualsport motorcycle trip. Scott's diagnosis changed that. I immediately decided to do the GDR solo as a cancer fundraiser for Livestrong, aka Lance Armstrong Foundation. The fastest time at that point was 11 days total for the 2,500 mile course. I made five days my personal goal with a start date in late July of 2006. I used a 1996 Honda XR600R with a Baja Designs street kit. My only backup was a satellite phone along with a passenger van being driven by my friend Poll Brown and my Dad. Every day I'd come off the trail somewhere around the 200 to 225 mile mark. Poll would gas up the XR. Dad would shove a PB&J in my hands, refill the hydration pack, give me fresh gloves/goggles and I'd be rolling in five to ten minutes.
We raised around $4000 for Livestrong and made the five day mark. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life.
Kid: What was the hardest thing about that motorcycle ride?
Erik: I was always on that ragged edge of disaster. When you're exhausted, riding 10 - 14 hours a day and going that fast it's easy to make a mistake. It's a simple matter to get lost, crash (which I did, once and yes, it hurt), break equipment, miss a stop point, you name it! There are a million variables that need to line up. At 25mph - 75mph offroad, they come fast and furious! You have to make huge decisions in a split second. The ramifications were being lost and late (best case scenario) or dead (worst case scenario).
Kid: How did you feel when you completed that journey?
Erik: Exhausted. Relieved. Triumphant. Full of incredible joy and love. In shock, really, that we'd pulled it off! Also sad and determined. On that last day Dad informed me that Uncle Lou had been diagnosed with cancer. We'd won a battle, but the war was still raging on.
Kid: You are preparing to take part in the 2011 Tour Divide race. Do you feel like your motorcycle experience on the route will help you much?
Erik: It will and it won't. At the very least, I feel like I know what the course has in store for me on the GDR portion. That takes a great amount of the guesswork out of it. On the other hand, things that were a fun on the XR600R are a huge source of concern on a bicycle. The infamous Great Basin is the best example. 140 miles of high desert. There may be water, there may not be. You never know. On the motorcycle it was amazing! I rolled through that thing in 5th gear, standing up on the pegs pretending I was racing in the Baja 1000 or Paris Dakar. It was incredible fun!
On the bicycle? Man! Don't even get me started on the 200,000 ft of climbing either, OK?
Kid: Why singlespeed?
Erik: Why not? OK, that's not an answer.
I've been riding singlespeeds for a long time now. There was a stretch where the only bike I had built up was a singlespeed. You just get used to them, I guess. I love the simplicity, the efficiency, the elegance of a singlespeed. And, of course, the challenge. My buddy Andrew always harasses me about my penchant to chase after Tough Guy Points. He's right, I can't deny it. I love the challenge!
Plus there are the tales of mud and mucked up drive trains from Joe Meiser. Singlespeeds don't worry too much about that. There is WAY less to break!
Kid: All of this boils down to your 1 Gear, 1 Cause effort. Tell us about it, how it started, and what you hope to accomplish through it.
Erik: For the last three years I've been the National Powerstop Coordinator for the Livestrong Challenge fundraising series. It was an amazing experience! After three years, though, I needed a break. It was time to stay home for awhile.
Yet I couldn't not do something to fight cancer. It wasn't possible. So I've decided to revisit the Tour Divide in 2011! My trip in 2006 was on a single cylinder motorcycle. The symmetry of going back on a singlespeed bicycle was too much to resist. Plus, as I stated earlier, I love singlespeeds. Doing it on a geared bike really never crossed my mind as an option.
I have several goals that all lead to each other. Physically, it's to finish. Not because I am super fast and want to win the thing. That's obviously not what I am about. I want to finish in order inspire other people to do something extraordinary for the world they live in. I want to give hope to folks who don't have any. I'm here to tell you that hope is worth more than anything to cancer patients and their families. It's completely intangible. You can't weigh, touch, see or smell it. Yet, for all that, hope is key to surviving cancer. If I can help give hope and maybe inspire some folks to do the same? Mission accomplished!
Kid: What would you like to say to all the people that happen to stumble upon this post?
Erik: I'd like to encourage everyone who is reading this to make the world a better place. Pursue whatever you are passionate about! It's my firm belief that every day folks like us can do extraordinary things for causes we believe in. In fact, we have to! It's nice when some famous person jumps in and all, but there are a few thousand of them to millions upon millions of us. No matter how rich or powerful they are, our superior numbers trump. If you hate cancer as much as I do, join the fight! If your passion lays in ending hunger or homelessness? Awesome! Get out there and get to it!
Be like my Dad and don't think! DO!
Erik's charity 1 Gear, 1 Cause will receive the proceeds from Salsa's Minneapolis screening of Ride The Divide. The screening is Tuesday, June 15th at the Riverview Theater. Attending the show means you aren't just in for a fun night and a great bike flick, but you are also helping fight the good fight against cancer. Advance tickets can be purchased online and are the only way you are guaranteed of having a seat. Tickets at the door also cost more so buy your seats now. Click the logo below to purchase. Wondering what Ride The Divide is all about? The film's trailer is also below.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.