SANDPOINT – When a good idea turns into a grand ride, there’s a great chance that the event is going to raise money.
That’s how things have turned out for the CHAFE 150 long-distance bike ride. The tour covers some of the most impressive scenery the region has to offer, rolling, as it does, over 150 miles of road that forms a sort of road rally rectangle over a hefty chunk of North Idaho and Western Montana.
“The route was just waiting for this type of ride,” said Brad Williams, the local rider who brought the race concept back to Sandpoint. “There aren’t too many places like this.”
His travels and bike treks kept driving home a singular point – communities around the country were hosting bike rides that were raking in the dough for good causes. And, Williams couldn’t help but notice, they were doing so in places that were much less gorgeous than our fair city and its adjoining locales.
“I’ve done a lot of these things, particularly the Rat Pod ride in Dylan, Mont.,” he said, calling out the 130-mile, mountainous route that starts at 5,000 feet and climbs to 8,000 feet by the finish line. “It’s not for everybody, but it fills up every year and pulls in a tremendous amount of money.”
About $300,000, to be exact – a figure that got the rider’s attention when he first was inspired to stake out the CHAFE 150 route in 2008.
Now entering its sixth year, the fundraiser first was sponsored by the Panhandle Alliance for Education as one of the primary funding mechanisms for its “Ready! for Kindergarten” early childhood education program that prepares children for a strong start in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. As of this year, the Rotary Club of Sandpoint has picked up the reins, keeping the focus on students, but with a new spin.
“This is the first year that Rotary is sponsoring the event,” Williams said. “The funds are still going to the Lake Pend Oreille School District, but they’re going to students with Autism.
“There seems to be a real need there,” he added. “It’s a great cause and I don’t think Idaho has funds to support it.”
As of late last week, approximately 200 riders had registered for the 2013 running of CHAFE 150, scheduled for next Saturday. With a week to go, the event should equal or top 2012’s record participation of 250 riders. Last year, the ride raised about $20,000. Coming into this year’s event, the sponsorships already equal that amount, with a good prospect of drumming up considerably more by the time the ride gets underway.
“We already have $20,000 in sponsorships,” said Williams, explaining that most of that amount has been pledged by local businesses. “But we also have a few riders who have been able to raise $5,000 or $10,000 on their own through sponsorships.”
Nearly two-thirds of the riders are from out-of-town, Williams pointed out, which creates a favorable economic impact on local business.
As in past years, the ride offers two points of entry – the main event that begins at Sandpoint City Beach and traverses the entire, 150-mile course, and a shorter ride that starts in Troy, Mont., and runs for 80 miles. In either case, riders can count on some of the prettiest terrain the Northwest has to offer.
“The reason I wanted to start this ride to begin with is the route,” Williams said. “It’s such an amazing route.”
At least one national group agrees with him, based on a recent accolade from the endurance athletics website Active, which named CHAFE 150 as one of the top “ultra-distance” rides in the U.S.
The complete, 150-mile trek starts Saturday at 6:30 a.m., with riders pedaling from Sandpoint to Bonners Ferry on the first leg. From there, they ride from Bonners to Troy, Mont., where the 80-mile group joins in at 9:30 a.m. The route then travels south along the Bull River before turning west on Hwy. 200 through Clark Fork, Hope and back to the finish line in Sandpoint.
“The average time for the 150-mile ride is 10-12 hours,” Williams said. “But the very fastest riders will be in by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m.”
The CHAFE 150 has gained notice for quality, both in the route and the support network along the way. Five rest stops are spaced evenly on the road, with each volunteer crew working to outdo the rest in terms of the hospitality, food and beverages served. The competition results in an annual award for the most popular stop on the ride.
“There’s a traveling trophy that gets awarded to the best rest stop, based on rider votes,” Williams said.
Complementing the care provided by rest stop crews, CHAFE 150 provides five vans stocked with mechanical support, repair supplies and medical personnel, as well as a motorcycle escort that zips around to spot trouble.
“If anyone is having any sort of difficulty, we’ll have people to them quickly,” said the ride founder.
Although not a race in the strictest sense, the CHAFE 150 is a timed, Gran Fondo (meaning: “big ride”), with each rider’s results factoring into the Tri-Sandpoint total times for those who also choose to take part in the Long Bridge Swim in August and the Scenic Half-marathon in September.
Along with sponsoring the actual ride, the Rotary Club of Sandpoint will host an after-event party at Lakeside Park near City Beach as riders roll in between approximately 2-8 p.m. Complimentary food, beer, wine and live music will be on-site for riders and the public can take part in the party and enjoy the food and beverages for a small fee. All proceeds will be rolled into the CHAFE 150 fundraising tally.
“Rotary has done a lot in taking on this event,” said Williams, who belongs to the Sandpoint chapter of the organization. “It’s big project and another example of community service.”
For more information on the ride, or to register for the event, visit CHAFE 150 on line at: www.chafe150.org