This is the first in our series of profiles for National Bike Month of  bicycle riders and why we ride. Above photo is Todd Standish (right) and his teammate on the New Bear Republic ALC team, Jim Touchstone (left). Enjoy!

Todd Standish, 52, a fine artist and illustrator (and also the designer of our Cloud Nine Artists’ Series helmet), is a bike commuter from way back.

ToddStandishProfile3But when Todd moved to San Francisco in 1989, he had never ridden a bike.

“I just didn’t learn when I was a kid and once you are five or six and don’t know how, it’s more of an embarrassment that you try to hide,” Todd said.

At the ripe young age of 27, Todd decided to learn to ride – and to do so in the rather tough city terrain of San Francisco. He got used to city traffic and city cycling by riding from his apartment in the Mission to work,  errands and play.

ToddStandishprofile2After a decade of transportation riding, Todd became a parent, and suddenly, he needed a car. For awhile, it seemed like his biking days might be behind him.

Yet, suddenly single last year, and with his son at home only part time, Todd decided (also rather suddenly) to train for the Aids Life Cycle (ALC) ride. A seven-day, 545-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The ALC ride is a huge community event and the only fundraising bicycle event in California organized by non-profit agencies that directly benefit from money raised by participants.

“It was more of an emotional decision to do the ALC,” Todd said. “I had just gotten back from Interbike and Eurobike and being surrounded by the bike community. I might have had a few blind spots about what I was getting into.”

Namely, the need to train physically to endure the 80+ miles of riding each day for an entire week  and lots of hills. In addition, Todd had mistakenly assumed that any bike – his 25-year-old TREK mountain bike – would do for the ride.

In training rides, Todd felt alternatively defeated and doubting, and strong, capable, and up for the challenge.

Todd's choice of Nutcase helmets for his 545-mile ride.

Todd’s choice of Nutcase helmets for his 545-mile ride.

“Being part of a team, facing the same challenges with everyone so encouraging is a good feeling,” Todd said. “Also biking out in the beautiful hills is very different from fighting traffic distractions. There are a lot of Zen moments when you feel really free and you enjoy nature.”

That bike joy is important to Todd, but for his re-introduction to riding, he is also clear that his reasons to ride are originating with a cause he deeply believes in and is passionate about.

“Being a gay man in the last 30 years – well you can’t help but have had AIDS touch your life somehow,” Todd said. “On rides when I let my mind wander, I think about people I’ve known and people who have died, and also people I know now living with HIV and I know why I’m riding.”

In earlier times, Todd was an AIDS activist and contributed his art and graphic illustrations for different organizations including ACT UP and Queer Nation, and says he went on marches and protests.

“But marching doesn’t work very well these days,” he said. “The best way to support causes you believe in is to keep the funding going and keep the issue in people’s minds.”

While Todd is riding for a cause, he’s also looking forward to the actual 7-day ALC event and beyond that, to enjoying road rides just for the pure joy of the scenery and the cycling.

“The time commitment for training is big, and I do miss having weekends,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to the ride – at rest stops there is fun and entertainment, and I’m looking forward to Red Dress Day. I didn’t used to think I actually could ride 80 miles in a day. Now I know that I can.” 

Nutcase Helmets helped sponsor Todd’s first ALC ride with a donation and the helmets which he’ll wear on the ride from May 31 – June 6. To make a donation to Todd’s ALC ride please click here. Watch “Why We Ride,” a short video about the ALC, here.