Washington, D.C. - April 30, 2012 - In 2007, Leonard Wright weighed more than 250 pounds and could barely bicycle a quarter-mile before lying in the grass, gasping for air. Now, the 66-year-old Florida resident is slim, fit and every morning he gets up and rides more miles than his age. What's Wright's motivation? The Get Up & Ride National Bike Challenge.
The National Bike Challenge (nationalbikechallenge.org) is a new, nationwide initiative to inspire and empower millions of Americans to ride their bikes for transportation, recreation and better health. The friendly, online competition -- sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, Bikes Belong, Endomondo and the Kimberly-Clark Corporation -- kicks off tomorrow, May 1, and runs until August 31, 2012.
The goal: To unite 50,000 bicyclists to ride 10 million miles in communities across America.
The Challenge is simple, free and open to everyone. Sign up as an individual or as a team, log your miles, share your stories and encourage others to join you. Smartphones users can download the free, GPS-enabled Endomondo mobile app to record travel distance and automatically upload their miles. Riders will compete for prizes and awards on the local and national level, including a Grand Prize trip through California wine country from Trek Travel.
Even before the official start, the Challenge has engaged thousands of participants. During the warm-up period from February to April, more than 12,000 residents from more than 500 cities nationwide registered. Collectively, they logged more than 1 million miles and burned nearly 35 million calories. By encouraging healthy living and active transportation, the Challenge provides an innovative tool to address the nation's obesity epidemic and save American families money as gas prices skyrocket this summer.
Leonard Wright is certainly leading the way - the retired General Motors worker won the warm-up period with the most miles logged. "I've been riding for years, and I was looking for something to get me motivated," he says. "When I saw the National Bike Challenge, I thought, 'This is something I can do.' And anyone can do it. I'm involved with a number of other senior physical fitness groups and I always encourage people to try biking because it's so easy."
In addition to encouraging individual riders, the Challenge provides a free and engaging wellness tool for businesses. It's already proven successful: During the pilot run last year, employees from the Kimberly-Clark Corporation embraced the Challenge and logged more than 182,000 miles. Recognizing the tremendous resource to boost employee health, more than 3,000 companies and nonprofits have already signed up for the 2012 Challenge, including Facebook, Verizon, Mars, Harley Davidson, IBM, Texas Instruments and National Geographic.
"Verizon Wireless is a leader in promoting a healthy culture for our employees," says Melissa Worley, Health and Wellness Coordinator for Verizon's Bellevue, Wash., campus. "We offer bike lockers and showers for commuting employees and also advocate bicycle education by hosting safe riding classes on campus. Participating in National Bike Month and the National Bike Challenge is part of that healthy culture and a great forum for creating community, health and friendly competition between our campuses nationwide."
"The National Geographic Society supports biking both for recreation and as a part of our daily commute, so we're proud to participate in the National Bike Challenge," said National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey. "The Society provides resources and incentives for employees who bike to work, and a number of staff, including me, enjoy a regular lunchtime ride."
For added incentive and to promote bicycle advocacy, the Kimberly-Clark Foundation will donate 10 cents to the League of American Bicyclists for every mile logged during the competition.
Sign up at www.nationalbikechallenge.org. Join us at facebook.com/nationalbikechallenge and follow us on Twitter @BikeChallenge12.