Would you ride your bike 300 miles for a cause you believe in?
Climate Generation has a wonderful partnership with Climate Ride, a non-profit organization that organizes charitable hikes and bikes to support environmental causes. Their events raise awareness about climate change to support more than 100 nonprofits on a local and national level.
This August, we’re honored to have Danette Knickmeier fundraise and ride on Climate Generation’s behalf, through the San Juan Islands. I sat down with Danette to hear about her passion for action on the climate crisis and why she’s chosen biking as a way to spread the message.
Climate Generation (CG): How did you get involved with biking for climate change solutions?
Danette Knickmeier (DK): Sometime around 2012, I saw a tiny article in a magazine about an event I’d never heard of—Climate Ride. Having participated in several other charity rides in the past and always having great experiences, I knew instantly I had to do it. I’d been a treehugger and serious cyclist for many years, so I knew these would be my people. There were only a few rides to choose from back then, and since I’ve long had a special place in my heart for the west coast, the Northern California ride was an easy choice. I had the option of choosing up to five beneficiaries, so I picked a few cycling organizations and Climate Generation (the Will Steger Foundation, at the time) which I wasn’t familiar with, but it was based locally by me in Minneapolis and had a mission I believed in.
CG: What other charity rides have you participated in?
DK: I rode in the Minneapolis to Chicago AIDSRide in 2001 and was a volunteer crew member for another one of their rides that same year on the east coast. A few years later, I rode in the Minnesota Red Ribbon ride with an amazing group of people I’d met on those previous AIDSRides.
CG: Biking this many miles in one go – it sounds intimidating to the average rider! What was your first Climate Ride experience like?
DK: It was so much fun! I connected with another solo rider who needed a place to stay the night before the ride started. We shared a hotel room that night and became instant friends, even though I was old enough to be her mother. We rode together and pitched our tents in close proximity so we could chat and crack jokes after the fun and exhaustion of the long days set in. We experienced incredible scenery every day. We started in the fog and mist of Humboldt County, California, then rode through the great redwoods, down Highway 1 (with a memorable stop on the coast for Oysters), up Mount Tamalpais, and finished with an epic jaunt over the Golden Gate Bridge. There were programs every night with entertainment and discussion about climate change. And the people were amazing, just like I knew they’d be.
The support provided by Climate Ride is fantastic. When you register, they assign you a ride ambassador who sends you all sorts of fundraising and training tips, itineraries, packing lists, Q&As, and whatever else you need. And they’re always available to answer any questions you have. During the ride, the staff makes you feel like royalty. They feed you home cooked meals, carry your gear from town to town while you’re riding, and they’re just a phone call away if you have any mechanical or physical issues on the road. They’re all about their riders having fun and staying safe.
CG: Why did you decide to do another ride?
DK: From the day I finished the California Ride, I knew there’d be another one in my future because I had such an amazing time. My new friend and I discussed doing a ride in Boston the following year, but life got busy and it never happened. When the San Juan Islands ride was announced, I heard the west coast calling my name again and planned to ride in 2020. Then COVID happened and two years vanished. And here we are in 2022, seven years after my first one.
Also, I’m extremely concerned about the future of our planet. I discovered my love of the outdoors in high school when I joined the Backpackers Club. As a little kid, I always played outside, but camping was different. It was so peaceful in the woods and I loved sitting around the fire roasting marshmallows and goofing around with my friends—something I still enjoy a great deal.
But over the years, I’ve watched us become a nation of drivers, unknowingly polluting our air as the oil industry buried what they knew about the devastating effects of CO2. Slowly the truth is being revealed and the younger generations are taking notice. And the more we teach them about climate issues, the more empowered they’ll become to make change. They deserve to have a clean planet and an unencumbered relationship with the outdoors, just as I’ve been lucky enough to have.
CG: We’re grateful that you’re biking for our mission. Why did you choose Climate Generation as only your beneficiary this time?
DK: After choosing the Climate Generation in 2015, their staff reached out and I got to know them all. I still strongly believe in their mission and have continued my support for them over the years through volunteering and personal donations.
Climate Ride is my way of supporting them in a much bigger way and I’m so proud to be able to do it.
Currently I’m about halfway to my fundraising goal for Climate Generation and I still have about three months to get there. There are so many causes in the world that need funding, and I’m so grateful when someone chooses to support me, my ride, and this mission I’m on to make the planet a better place for everyone.
CG: So for those who are intrigued at the idea of biking for the climate, can you give any tips on doing the Climate Ride experience? How long have you been cycling?
DK: I’ve been commuting to work and doing long road rides for fitness for about 10 years, but I’ve been riding casually much longer than that. I had a rough patch in my mid-20s and on a particularly bad day, I grabbed my old Schwinn Varsity bike from the basement, pumped up the tires, and escaped a bad situation for a few glorious hours. A few days later, I started a major life transition and never looked back. To me, cycling became synonymous with freedom and it’s been a huge part of my life ever since. I rarely drive and for a few years, I was car-free. I used public transportation and HourCar and rented a car when I needed to travel long distances. Even though I drive a Prius C now, my golden rule remains: Never drive when you can ride your bike.
For anyone considering doing a Climate Ride, my advice is to talk to someone who’s done one (I’d love to chat with you), and spend some time on climateride.org to learn about the rides. If you’ve got a friend who likes to ride, see if they’ll join you—training together can be fun and you’ll keep each other motivated. As for fundraising, it can seem intimidating, but I’m always amazed at the support I get when I do one simple thing: just ask.
If you’re interested in supporting both Danette’s upcoming ride and Climate Generation, head to her fundraiser webpage to learn more! All donations will be matched!
Danette Knickmeier moved to the Twin Cities in 1999 from her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, where she still visits often (with her bike in tow, of course). She works as an account manager and writer at a marketing agency in Minneapolis. Besides cycling in her free time, she enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, yoga, and spending time at the North Shore.