Far different from the stereotype of obnoxious Cubs fans, a horde of Chicagoans led by team owner Todd Ricketts will roll into Milwaukee on Saturday as global do-gooders.
Combining bikes and baseball, the group of 650 will pedal 100 miles from Wrigley Field to Miller Park and raise roughly $300,000 for World Bicycle Relief, a charity that distributes heavy-duty bicycles in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ricketts and his siblings, the offspring of TD Ameritrade founder Joseph Ricketts, bought a majority interest in the Cubs in 2009.
Todd Ricketts was already owner of the Higher Gear Bike Shops in Wilmette and Highland Park and a member of the board of directors of World Bicycle Relief.
“As a kid, I didn’t have a bike, so I’ve been somewhat obsessed with it as an adult,” Ricketts said.
F.K. Day, a founder and vice president of SRAM Corp., founded World Bicycle Relief with his wife in 2005.
SRAM is the world’s second-largest maker of bike components, and the charity Day created ranks 12th on Barron’s list of the most effective philanthropic organizations.
“World Bicycle Relief programs have a simple resonance with cyclists,” Day said. “They get the impact of walking vs. riding.
“For us to be able to communicate the importance of transportation enriches their experience on the bike and possibly motivates them to get involved with bikes in developing countries.”
Day recognized the lifesaving potential of bicycles during a trip to Sri Lanka following the tsunami in 2004. A visit to Zambia in 2006 solidified his belief that providing heavy-duty, easy-to-maintain bicycles to people in third-world countries could change lives.
“To millions of people in Africa, a quality, sturdy bike is the difference between getting to school, getting health care, making a living or not,” he said. “It is a simple, yet powerful tool that can help lift the most in need out of poverty.”
The specially designed bikes weigh 53 pounds, can carry 220 pounds on the racks and have auto-grade tires. The charity trains one mechanic for every 50 bikes distributed. Day will pedal one of the bikes he designed on the 100-mile trip to Miller Park on Saturday.
To date, 75,000 of the bikes have been distributed in nine countries. A donation of $134 is enough to provide a bike.
The rapid growth of the Wrigley Field Road Tour confirms Day’s theory about the concept resonating with cyclists. In its inaugural year, the ride drew 150. It will have four times that number on Saturday.
Dan Grant, a private wealth adviser from Wilmette called it his favorite charity ride.
“This is one where you start at an iconic place, Wrigley Field, you get to ride through the concourse and come out through the gate at home plate,” said Grant, 48. "Then you ride up to Milwaukee and watch the Cubs play.
“Everybody is there for the same reason to get on your bike, support a good cause and have fun.
“It’s not the brood from Chicago coming into heckle. It’s a very respectful crowd.”
It’s also a tired one.
F.K. Day and Todd Ricketts celebrate at the Miller Park finish line.
Photo courtesy of Ben Jenkins
Some of the speedsters in the group, including U.S. pro criterium champion Rahsaan Bahati, will leave Wrigley at 8 a.m. and reach Miller Park by 1. The larger groups of riders will roll into the parking lot closer to 3:30, take a bus to the downtown YMCA for showers, then return to the ball yard.
After the game, the group and their bikes are bussed back to Wrigley.
Ricketts said he envisions expanding the baseball and World Bicycle connection to other venues, but a Miller Park-to-Wrigley trip is not in the mix.
Even though he owns the team and the stadium, Ricketts explained: “We’d never get night games on Saturday at Wrigley.”