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Riders on AIDS/LifeCycle Bond During Trip From San Francisco to LA

Riders on AIDS/LifeCycle Bond During Trip From San Francisco to LA

<p>Riders on AIDS/LifeCycle Bond During Trip From San Francisco to LA</p>
courtesy KPIX

courtesy KPIX

How these two men found joy in training, connecting, and growing closer to other riders as part of the AIDS/LifeCycle.

By Kenny Choi, SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Each year, thousands of people from across the country and world come together to cycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

It's called the AIDS/LifeCycle. The annual event that raises millions for HIV and AIDS services. The riders look after one another, gently checking each other's helmets as they prepare to embark on their journey.

Luke Leonhard and Manuel Cardona aren't avid cyclists. But have found joy in training, connecting, and growing closer to other riders as part of a pre-summer tradition.

"The first year I met Manuel, I said 'Hey, let's do this ride together!' He was a little skeptical. He didn't even have a road bike at the time," said Leonhard.

That quickly changed, as the two connected on a deeper level. Not through the tech world they work in, but through the annual pilgrimage that takes them on the road for hundreds of miles during Pride Month.

"He got a road bike, got involved, and now he wants to do it every year. It's really a blast! And we become more connected every year we do it," said Leonhard.

Leonhard and Cardona, along with thousands of other riders together raise millions as they trek their way from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days, camping along the way and testing their limits.

"I love the passion of the people and the people who encourage you to do much better," said Cardona.

Some ride for loved ones who died of AIDS.

Leonhard and Cardona find motivation in helping support the biggest fundraiser for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the services they provide.

"Among the people SFAF serves is a very diverse group of individuals," said San Francisco Aids Foundation CEO Tyler TerMeer. "Some are accessing our sexual health clinic in the Castro who may or may not have access to insurance but are looking for a safe and culturally affirming sexual healthcare and medical visit."

That sense of purpose makes enduring the 545 mile journey that much more meaningful for Leonhard and Cardona.

Manuel says it's the spirited support he receives along the way that draws him back to peddle each year.

"Every time I get tired during the ride, I always wait for someone behind me to encourage me by saying, 'Hey we're almost there,'" said Cardona.

"The reason I come back year after year is the people. I've met so many amazing people on this ride. Everyone has a different story for why they're riding. It's exciting to be part of it," said Leonhard.

The mission is to end AIDS and the journey continues with caring people connecting along the way.

In 2019, 2,300 cyclists and more than 650 volunteers raised a record $16.8 million for the foundations. This year, the AIDS/LifeCycle ride raised $11.7 millions for people fighting HIV and AIDS.

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